This Dominican-born androgynous beauty made his mark on NYC nightlife vogueing his way across Escuelita as a member of the House of Ninja. Wanting a change, he gave full drag a try, and barely a month later is now engaged in two major weekly pageants. How is this even possible? Let’s explore Egypt and find out!
Thotyssey: Hello, Egypt, a pleasure to meet you! So, you debuted at Miss Barracuda last week. How did it go?
Egypt: It went great, actually… compared to what I thought it would have been. I was freaking out because It’s my first ever pageant, and I’ve only been doing full-on drag for a month now.
Damn! I assumed that you must’ve been extremely new because there are barely any pics of you in full drag on your social media.
[Laughs] Yeah, not a lot of pics at all.
Well, we better start from the beginning and see how we got to this exciting point! Where’s your hometown?
I was born in Dominican Republic
Did you live there long?
I was there until I was 9, and then moved here to New York. And I have been here [ever since].
When did performing begin for you?
I didn’t really do anything In the arts until I was in high school: 9th grade. I wasn’t the brightest, so I applied to a bunch of high schools. One of them happened to be a performing arts school, and they accepted me.
Prior to that, I was in a theater program which I didn’t really take too seriously. But when I saw the dance class at that high school, I really want to do dance.
What was your dance schooling like?
When I was in the theater program (it’s called TADA Youth Theater), they would give us classes here and there. One of them was modern dance, and it was improv. We had to dance with what we were feeling, and the teacher told me I should really look into modern dance… and I took that and ran with it.
So you became a part of the ballroom scene, which of course is a time-honored NYC nightlife tradition! How did that happen for you?
Yes, I’m in the House of Ninja. I don’t know if you remember Escuelita, but I used to go to Vogue Knights all the time. One day, [House Father] Javier Ninja saw me walking in my heels and said “you should join my house, I love your walk.” I told him to let me think about it… three months later I joined the house.
I did runway [at the balls]. It actually did feel like home, although it is a very crazy world.
Did you know much about the community beforehand, like from the ball scene 1990 documentary Paris is Burning?
Nope, not at all [laughs]. I didn’t know not one thing, not about runway. All I knew was Madonna’s “Vogue.” Which is what basically what anyone coming in knows. But it’s much more than that.
I have stopped going to events because of what it’s turning into. It’s not the same as before, from what I saw in videos. In the past two years, the more I’ve gotten to know the scene, it’s left a bitter taste in my mouth, and changed what I thought vogue was.
Where did things go wrong, do you think? Did later generations just lose that sense of meaning and art behind it? Or do people just not behave the right way at the events nowadays?
I do think that this generation has lost the sense of art; people’s egos are on a different level. I think ever since social media became such a huge factor, it change the authenticity of it all.
And also, the behavior–especially in New York–is horrible, you can ask anyone.
“Ninja” of course is one of the great traditional ball houses, and the Iconic Willy Ninja in the late 80s and early 90s was a vogue legend. Do you wish that his presence, and the work of other legendary leaders of the early scene, were felt more in today’s community?
I feel like if they were still here, it wouldn’t be like this at all. When the AIDS epidemic came in the 80s and 90s, it took so many pioneers. All that power was left up for grabs, and Willie was one of the last ones left. We just celebrated the 10 years of his passing with a huge ball in Paris. But the scene wouldn’t be the same if we still had all those great pioneers of vogue.
A devastating loss. So, I see that during your time in the ball scene, you adapted a lot of these fierce, androgynous looks.
My inspirations were Grace Jones and Leigh Bowery; I did that for two or three years.
I started doing Star Search back in September of last year, as androgynous.
And everyone was loving this fresh air that I was bringing to Barracuda that had not been seen there.
I didn’t win for a couple of months. I would come every Thursday, and I would get really mad at myself. And there was one day I said I can’t do this no more, and that’s the day I won. And I’ve won five times since.
Were you always going by “Egypt,” by the way?
Yeah. I always called myself that, because everywhere I would go people would say I looked exotic or Egyptian. I was thinking of changing my name when I did drag–but Egypt stuck with me, and it’s such a powerful name.
How did the recent decision to try full drag come about?
As an artist, you have to keep adapting… and if you don’t, you’ll fall by the waist side and be left behind. So I said to myself, “I’ll do this, but still keep my androgynous side with me.”
I was so scared of how I would look, and if people would know who I was. So many things went through my head, and I just said “oh, just do it.” And a month ago, I asked my drag friend if she could help me do my makeup, and she did it. And everyone loved it, so ever since I just started practicing my makeup, and every week I’ve gotten better.
With such little drag experience, it must’ve been scary to sign up for Miss Barracuda this year–that pageant in particular emphasizing out-of-the-box creativity and aesthetic mastery. What motivated you to dive right in?
Excuse my language, but I almost shitted in my pants [laughs]! I contemplated on dropping out, like, at least four or five times.
So like a month ago, Kari Kerning – last year’s winner of Miss Barracuda – came up to me after I competed at Star Search without even knowing me, and said that she really loved my performance. She messaged me [later] saying that I should really compete. I had so many conversations with her about how everything was done last year, and if I could see videos of the contestants so I could get a feel for it.
I’m taking it one week at a time with this, because being that I’m not a quote-on- quote “comedy queen,” I have to work even harder. And plus, I’ve never in my life been on mic.
At the very least it’s a master class of drag for you! Is it hard to get along or “click” with other queens who may have been at it a lot longer than you?
I usually get along with pretty much everyone, being that I’m in retail [where] I have adapt to every personality at all times. But at the same time, I won’t let them walk all over me, being that someone might take my kindness for weakness.
That’s a good balance! What’s this week’s challenge in Miss Barracuda, by the way?
This week is Gown and the Theme Movie. I’m bringing film noir to the Barracuda stage!
So, this should be taking up a lot of your time! Could you possibly have anything else coming up?
I’m going to compete in the Ultimate Drag Pageant [Wednesday nights] at the West End at the same time that I’m doing this. So, two pageants at the same time! Hopefully after doing these competitions, I’ll get more exposure and start getting booked.
Gurl! Wow. What made you want to do this one as well?
[Pageant co-host] Marti Gould Cummings contacted me, saying that she’s heard a lot of great things about me, and that I should enter!
These hostesses know how to find their girls! Well, I think it’s amazing that you’re doing it all. But when will you sleep? Ever?
No [laughs]! I have a day time job, too. But once I finish these pageants, I will take a week off from all this.
Break a leg, gurl! Okay, so last question: we’re about to see a whole lot more of Egypt, but what is something about you that we need to understand right now?
I’ll tell you this. I was getting a lot of backlash from a lot of queens when I started with my androgyny, and I kept winning, and I kept hearing “he needs wigs” and this and that. So I put the wig on and took on the challenge, and look at me now. I’m still slaying. So when anyone puts a challenge in front of me, I will defeat that challenge. I don’t back down: that’s one thing about Egypt.
SLAY! Thank you Egypt, good luck with it all and get some sleep!
Egypt is competing in two weekly drag pageants this season: The Ultimate Drag Pageant: Season 2 at the West End (Wednesdays at 11pm) and Miss Barracuda 2017 at Barracuda Lounge (Thursdays at 9pm). She can be followed on Facebook and Instagram.