Let’s talk “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” small town life, Star Search, having a witch for a drag mom and being Gym Bar’s very first (possibly) drag hostess with the incomparable Miss Loretta Stone!
Thotyssey: Hi Loretta! How does your life feel today knowing that there will be a little less Kimora Blacc in it?
Loretta Stoned: …Who? I kid. Ya know, I think she left a bad taste in people’s mouths. There’s a difference between confidence and arrogance, and unfortunately she seemed to fall towards the latter. Fishy is great, but when you have bitches that look fierce AND have other talents… your fishiness is a little less impressive.
Having said that, I watched Untucked and it was really nice to see her humble herself and show us a side we hadn’t got to see.
It was a learning experience for everyone, though. Kimora taught us that “only ugly girls stone,” and Cynthia taught Kimora what an adjective is!
Hahaha! We’re all learning new things! It’s like when I was a Big Buddy in high school. I’d love to see her wrap her head around a dangling participle.
I’m sure that head’s been around many things that dangle!
Okay, we’ll get back to the Drag Race in a bit, cuz you are hosting a viewing party after all… but first, let’s learn more about Loretta! Where’s your hometown?
Girl, I am from Perry, Iowa. Land of… I don’t know. Corn, I guess.
Oh wow! What was that like?
Rural. No, it was fine. Ya know, being a gay kid in the Midwest certainly wasn’t the easiest thing. Christ, being a gay kid anywhere isn’t the easiest thing. But there is a close mindedness and unwillingness to learn about knew things that is really prevalent in middle America. So it wasn’t all hayrides and jello salad. That’s a lie, there was a ton of jello salad. But I come from good people. Also, thank god for community theater!
Cheers to that! What were some of the shows and roles in that theater that you remember partaking in… and did you always want to be some sort of performer/entertainer?
The first role I ever had was in a play called The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, about this woman trying to put on a retelling of Christ’s birth (I know, I know), but these trashy, latchkey kids get in the way. I was, of course, one of those kids.
And then I went on to play Tommy Djilas in The Music Man. Let’s just say I was cast as a shithead frequently. Or a curmudgeon…art definitely imitating life. And I would say once I started performing, I definitely decided that was a path I wanted to pursue. Which is what brought me to New York.
Did you get a chance to do any stage work here?
I actually quit acting pretty much as soon as I graduated from my conservatory program. I realized that you have to really fucking love it because the industry is ruthless, and just something I didn’t want to be a part of. I’m sure the fact that I was still in the closet and didn’t know where I fit in (in life and in the industry) had something to do with it.
But yeah, no I actually didn’t perform for five years after graduating. And then I did drag for the first time, and that ended my self imposed dry spell.
How did drag come about for you?
I really probably have talked about this queen so much she’s going take out a restraining order, but Bob the Drag Queen really changed my life. She was the MC for a friends birthday years ago, and that was the first time I had ever seen her.
Then I started regularly going to her Monday night show at Barracuda. Bob really opened my eyes to what drag could be. I used to be scared of drag queens. Maybe scared isn’t the right word… Intimidated? They’re strong, unapologetic gay men who own their sexuality, and I don’t think I had found that in myself yet. But I could be having the absolute darkest day, and I would go to Bob’s show and I forgot all of my shit. Even just for 90 minutes. But that had a profound effect on me. And I started thinking… I could do that.
And I watched my drag mama take New York by storm, and I was just very inspired. And then I talked about it ad nauseam for about a year, and finally made myself put a date on it and told everyone I was going to do it on my birthday. I knew that the only way I would finally get myself to do it would be to set a date and tell people. No backing out that way.
Who’s your drag mama?
That would be the incomparable and wicked Judy Darling. Good witch my ass.
We love Judy! So, what exactly was Loretta’s first outing like, and ultimately where was her first performance?
Loretta’s first outing was on my 27th birthday, almost a year ago. I made my first ever mix, which I’m still really proud of. All of my friends came. Even my mom and sister flew in for it. It was a really special night.
My drag mother had a show at Barracuda that night, and that’s where Loretta debuted. She also beat my face for the first time ever… it’s when I learned that my sweaty ass needs something far stronger than a glue stick to hold these brows down. By the end of the night I was a mix of Bette Midler and Peter Gallagher.
Man, that night was so cool, now that I’m reminiscing. So many special people came out and cheered me on. Tons of love in that room. And it’s still one of my absolute favorite places to perform.
I’m guessing you do Star Search often to harness those skills and get your face out there, and probably lots of the other weekly and monthly competitions. Are these always fun for you, or is the constant competition stressful?
Yes, Star Search was the next thing I did after my debut. And I did it consistently for several months. It was really what got me out there and comfortable performing. Like I said, Barracuda is a special place and getting to perform there once a week, even though it was a competition, was great.
And I have to take a second to shout out the one and only Tina Burner, hostess of Star Search and one of the most generous queens I’ve met. She really has been a huge help in getting started. There’s a reason she’s the best queen working in NYC.
And other than Star Search, you name it I’ve probably done it, and there are pros and cons to the entire competition thing. On one hand, it gets you out there and at the end of the day, gives you the opportunity to perform. And perhaps for an audience you may otherwise not get to perform for.
On the other hand, a queen who may really need the money turns a number, but because someone else has more friends in the audience or what have you, the deserving queen may not win. Yes, it’s obviously about more than money. But let me tell you, I was unemployed for two months when I started doing these completions, and if it wasn’t for the tips and occasional win, I may not have eaten the next day. I was hopping turnstiles just to get to and from competitions because I didn’t have money for a Metrocard. So while it’s ultimately about the performance, the money can be a make or break day for someone.
Also, you’re limited to those five minutes, and don’t always get to show everything you have to offer. For myself, I’ve wanted to be on a mic shooting the shit with an audience, but unless you’re hosting a show, it’s not always an option.
How would you describe your drag, to those unfamiliar?
I guess I would call myself a comedy queen. That was how I saw myself when I first started, anyway. But it’s morphed into also being political. I want to make you laugh but I also want to make you think. And I want to tell stories. Honestly that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life: tell stories.
I’ve also been called a feminist drag queen. I think women are… superior. Women are the reason I’m still alive today. Drag in itself is a “fuck you” to gender norms and to the patriarchy, but I just want to take it a step further and comment on the injustices women face every fucking day. The way we treat women in this world is… appalling. And if this is a way I can voice my never ending support, then that’s what I’ll do.
Not that feminism is synonymous with superiority. That seems to be a common misconception. I just happen to think they are!
Drag can use more feminist warriors! But this must be said: lots of gay guys, including many drag queens, object to the whole bachelorettes-go-to-the-boy-bars thing. What do you think about that crowd, are you happy to see them in those spaces?
The problem isn’t just bachelorette parties. It comes down to whether or not–as one of my dear friends puts it–a straight, cIs woman can “hang” or not. And by that, she means: can you, a straight woman, come into our sanctuaries and not treat us like accessories? Are you here for the right reasons? And most importantly: are you tipping? Because queens will put up with a whole lot from a group of Sarahs and Britneys that are “Yas-queen-werk-bitch-slay-henny-ing” the night away if they’re compensating us properly.
But short answer long, the gay community isn’t here for you to entertain you. It’s not like a zoo, and you’re witnessing faggots in their natural habitat. I mean you are, but… you know what I mean. Queer people aren’t commodities here to be gawked at. Show the respect you want to get back. Otherwise, prepare to be read to filth.
Well said. Okay, Gym Bar! That’s a favorite neighborhood manly sports bar in Gay Chelsea, and I think as the host of the Friday night RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party, you might be the first drag queen with a regular gig there in, maybe, ever!
It’s nuts, right!? I think I am indeed the first which is so cool. It’s not traditionally a bar associated with the drag world, but…why not? I think you can be a sports bar and cater to that clientele but also to the drag fans; there is a crossover, believe it or not! Gays can like everything! And I think hosting a Drag Race viewing party is a great way to test the waters.
How did that gig come about?
I really have my dear friend and GYM Bartender Jeremy Shields to thank. He wanted to have a viewing party, and really wanted me to host, and he went to bat for me. But I also have to thank the management for taking a chance, too. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. I’m only about a year in to this drag journey, and to be given the opportunity to have a weekly gig is what we all hope for.
How has it been going so far?
So far so good! I think, naturally, it’s going to take some time for everyone to get used to, ya know, having my loud ass around and in their face. But it’s been great!
Who’s team are the people on so far?
Ms. Nina Bonina Brown seems to be a fan favorite at Gym Bar. Honestly, a lot of the girls get love from the people. She just gets it a little louder.
And who are you rooting for?
Obviously, I’m team NYC all the way, but I gotta say Sasha Velour werks. My. Shit. I only saw her for the first time live a couple of months ago and I was in awe. The bar was so quiet, and everyone was so enthralled with her. It was a really inspiring thing to see.
She is truly a thrilling live performer, I hope the show gives her s chance to show that!
Okay, any closing words?
I mean obviously, please join me at Gym Bar every Friday and we can watch our favorite queens do cool shit together! We’ll kiki, I’ll give you some shows and we’ll have a cute time.
More than anything, I just want to leave it with this: please, let’s just all be fucking kind to one another. We are living in a scary time and we really need to have each other’s backs. There’s a lot of hate in our own community, which just…sucks. We have to remind each other that a lot of people are rooting for us to fail. And we need to be able to look to each other, to our queer community, for help and support. So throw your shade, read a bitch when necessary, but remember who your brothers and sisters are.
Those are truly words we should all be living by! Thanks, Loretta!