It’s only been nine months since we last spoke to this drag queen, but so much has changed in her life since then: new gigs, a huge competition she slayed, a whole new name, and meme superfame. Let’s fall down the Gilda Wabbit hole (!) one more time!
Thotyssey: Hey Miss Gilda, how are you?
Gilda Wabbit: Hi Jim! I’m great today–grateful that it isn’t forecast to snow anymore, and excited to be chatting with you.
How was your St. Patrick’s Day?
My St. Paddy’s was lovely, thanks. I have some friends visiting from Kentucky, so we explored downtown Manhattan together.
Are they impressed by your Big City Ways?
They seem most impressed by how blasé I am about everything. I told them that once you become a drag queen, nothing phases you. You’ve seen it, or done it, all before.
So, okay, we needed to catch up. The last time that Thotyssey spoke to you, you had just started your very first weekly at the Albatross after coming off of the New York’s Next Top Drag Queen competition, and your name was Beverly Leslie Sills. Now so much has changed! Lets start with your name… what inspired the change to Gilda?
It all started when I quit my day job! I was at this place where I couldn’t do more drag without quitting my job, but to make drag a career I needed to do more. So I called my mom and she said, “You went to New York to follow your dreams. Why the hell are you managing a restaurant?!” So I made the leap, and while I was flailing around in bed one night riddled with anxiety, I realized that “Beverly Leslie Sills” was a terrible name for me. Too long, too complicated, too obscure, and most of all I felt limited by it!
I’d been sitting on the name “Gilda Wabbit” for about six months (I thought it was gonna be the character I used for children’s shows!), and she was finally ready to come out. The transition was nerve-wracking but vewy, vewy satisfying.
Oh, Emi Grate! No matter where I go, she and her glitter brows haunt me. Even though our show at Boots & Saddle is monthly now, she twirls into my house at least once a week demanding tacos and permission to touch my butt.
I’m glad that you two are still at Boots in some capacity, I thought your Thursday night show was fun! Do you know when you two will be back, or is that all being worked out?
You are getting gigs and shows everywhere now. Was “So You Think You Can Drag,” the huge annual drag competition you took part in this past season, a big game changer for your reputation? And now that you’ve had some time to reflect, what do you make of that whole experience?
“So You Think You Can Drag” was absolutely a game changer for me! I built a whole new audience, I got to work with a ton of new girls, and I think I showed off pretty well most weeks.
The most important thing, though, was that it taught me so much about drag. I was up against experienced queens and young bucks alike, and trying to keep up with them pushed my creativity and my work ethic. I wouldn’t be half the Wabbit I am today without it. And if [host] Paige Turner ever tells you she wants to do an All-Stars season, you let me know, okay?!
Since you started drag, how has your overall “act” changed? What do you do more or less of, or what do you do differently?
I do a LOT more comedy now than I used to. When I started, I was reacting to my life in the world of opera where I always played comedy characters. I did a lot of serious music or sexy music, trying to distance myself from the cartoon that I truly am. I still do serious and sexy, but now I’m embracing the goofball inside of me as well. I also save the operatic singing for specific moments in my show. It’s like a really clean death drop: most girls can’t do it, but if I do it all the time it loses its impact.
With everything else that’s happened in these few short months… you are now a meme! More than a meme, you are a postergirl! It’s funny, when I first saw that picture of you on the subway I smiled and thought it was cute. I had no idea it would be such a big thing! I guess living in NYC really is a bubble from what the rest of the country sees and thinks, isn’t it?
Isn’t it crazy?! Thank RuPaul that I changed my name before the meme happened! I will say, though, that I think it’s the rest of America that lives in a bubble. That’s why New York is the city where a tired drag queen can “man spread” next to a woman in full modesty garb, and a Guinean immigrant will be inspired to take their picture! I mean, c’mon, this couldn’t have happened anywhere else.
Werte you, like, a little creeped out at first that this pic you didn’t know was being taken of you in a public place started circulating?
Nah, it clearly wasn’t intended to be creepy or invasive, so I was excited instead of turned off. Besides, I’ve wanted to be famous since I was four years old! Thanks to Boubah Barry, the photographer, I got a taste of that for fifteen minutes.
More like 45, at least! How does it feel to be The Future That Liberals Want?
Fucking great! The boys on Grindr don’t want me, so I’m grateful the liberals on Twitter do.
I think everyone can agree that drag is a lot like many other industries in the city these days: lots of newbies coming out of the woodwork, but a decreasing number of established places where they can do it. So, your generation of queens has had to get creative with gig-hunting. How did you do it?
It’s all about connections and networking! [My co-host] Gina Tonic knew a waiter at L&W Oyster Co., where we host our weekly drag brunch on Sundays. The manager had been hunting for a queen, Gina reached out, we all had a meeting, and the rest is clam chowder and mimosas.
With our Tonic Bar gig on Tuesdays, I’d slept with one of the bartenders who then came and saw my Albatross Bar show, and he suggested me for a “Rainbow Night” they wanted to host. Whether your connections are professional or carnal, get out there and make ‘em!
Work and Werq!
So, what’s it like performing for the Sunday East Side brunch crowd? Are they a very different animal from your other audiences?
The East Side brunch crowd just isn’t used to drag! They have to be carefully taught, so we’ve built a script into our show to explain what’s happening, and to encourage them to tip without accosting them. We’re like gentle drag priestesses, queering their Sunday morning one step at a time.
Do you like oysters?
I’m not a huge fan personally, but I do recommend the Lobster BLT. It’s to die for!
And what’s the best Gayme to play at your Tuesday night show at Tonic?
I’m really partial to Drinktionary! It’s like Pictionary, but you have to take a drink every thirty seconds that the audience doesn’t guess what you’re drawing. We got this lovely gentlemen totally smashed last week! Hope you’re better at your day job than you are at drawing, Gregory.
Glad the the new gigs are off to a great start. And meanwhile, your Monday night Albatross family is still coming out for Broke Ass Bingo. How did they take to your name change and meme fame?
Everyone was cool with the name change except for my favorite bartender, Artem! But once I made the switch official, he came around. As for the meme fame, they were all super excited of course! Albatross and its patrons are family to me–they treat me so well.
That’s why I’m so excited to be hosting the Drag Race viewing party there. Friday’s are gonna be fire!
Leeeeeeeet’s talk about Drag Race. First of all, when you first heard about the shift to Friday nights (and VH1), were you like, “this sucks,” or “that’s cool?”
I love VH1! I’ve been a fan since I was in middle school, and watched all of the fabulous music videos they showed in the morning. I think it’s always been Drag Race’s goal to push this part of queer culture into the mainstream–the move to VH1 is cementing that. And what a great move when so many of my NYC sisters are on?! I’m thrilled for them all to have such a wide audience.
I know I sound like the commercials, but this season actually looks like it might be one of the most exciting, and relevant. Who are you most psyched to see?
I’m really excited to see the NYC girls of course: especially Sasha Velour, who I’ve gotten to work with a few times! She’s so smart and so thoughtful about her content. It’s very inspiring. I’m also hype for Jaymes Mansfield, who is bringing something so fun and different to the show. I love a good character queen.
Do you have any thoughts on contestant Charlie Hides’ Laquisha Jonz character that she’s recently retired amid controversy that is was blackface and racist?
I don’t actually know much about it! I’ve seen pictures of her as the character, but haven’t searched for videos or anything. It’s clear, though, that blackface isn’t okay. I’m curious to see if it gets talked about on the show–you know Drag Race thrives on controversy.
That’s for sure. Well, should be a fun viewing party!
What else is going on?
Other than my regular gigs, I finally got booked in my home state (thank you internet fame), so I’ll be invading Kentucky in early April. I’m also gonna keep hustling here in the city, so you can keep up with me on social media! I plan on being everywhere, so I hope to see you around soon.
Glad to hear it! Okay, lastly: Since you now have a new name, this might be fitting: What would the title of your autobiography be?
Who Framed Gilda Wabbit?: A Tail of Two Identities! Or something like that. We still need to workshop it!
Oh I love it already! Thanks again, Gilda!
Gilda Wabbit co-hosts “Sisters Drag Brunch” with Gina Tonic at L&W Oyster Co. on Sundays (11:30am). On Mondays she hosts “Broke Ass Bingo” At Albatross (9pm), and on Tuesdays she and Gina host Gayme Night at Tonic Bar (8pm). Gilda’s back at Albatross on Friday nights to hosts the RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party starting March 24th (8pm). Follow Gilda on Facebook, Instagram. Twitter and YouTube.
Previously: Gilda Wabbit / Beverly Leslie Sills (6.27.2016)