With her likeness perhaps best known in a citywide campaign for Manhattan Mini Storage, this dynamic performer and designer is now getting all the gigs. And the titles, too–starting with last week’s win for the Miss Lady Liberty prelims! Read on as Thotyssey gets a hearty serving of Tipsy von Tart.
Thotyssey: Greetings, Tipsy! I saw a lot of you last Friday, where you won the weekly Miss Lady Liberty preliminary round at the Ace Hotel, and then you were living it up at the C.L.A.T. release party at the Copabana. Have you recovered from it all?
Tipsy von Tart: Haha! Clearly it’s taken me a few days to get my act together. I’ve been making the rounds, watching the shows, and furiously stitching a few new lewks….
It was quite a spectacular Elizabethan look you sported for Miss LL that won the night. Who made that?
I make most of what I wear! Everything from the wig to the ruff to the undergarments. I’m a crafty gurl, but given my Midwestern roots I’m also a thrifty gurl. It’s easy to spend $1000 and still look busted. It’s more of a fun challenge to spend $100 and look like a million bucks….or die trying.
Well, that gown certainly looked like a million bucks! Was that it’s debut?
I originally made it for Bob’s Halloween party, but I didn’t have time to finish it properly. So this was its second chance, and I’m still working on it.
Its evolution is thrilling! Watching you lip sync battle with Sullivan, who also went all out with that sea witch look, was really like watching some fucked up Tim Burton movie. Were you Living in that moment, or was there too much pressure to enjoy it?
I was more worried that I wouldn’t be able to move. It’s difficult to articulate the subtle emotional nuances of a masterpiece like “Loveshack” when you’re wearing a farthingale, but I was able to work it out.
Masterfully done! So, let’s get to know you for a bit. First off, you’ve already said you were a Midwestern gal… where, exactly?
I’m a Hoosier– good midwestern stock; born and raised in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Corn and porn.
And what were you like as a Wee Tipsy?
I don’t think I was ever “wee.“ I was this height in like 5th grade.
Well, at least you probably didn’t have to worry about bullies.
I was a gentle giant.
Were you always into the idea of being a performer of some sort, and/or a designer?
Yeah, I’ve always performed since I was a kid. Children’s choir, community theater, college, grad school: it’s all culminated to give me my lil’ unique aesthetic. Most of my design/construction skill is all self-taught: although I’m currently working on costume design at FIT… just to keep it tight!
Werk! Did you come to NYC to enroll at FIT?
Oh, Lordy. No sir. I moved to the city after grad school; I’ve been here for close to a decade.
Practically a native!
When did you decide to try drag?
I was actually an understudy for Jujubee when I was a first year at Harvard (clearly, we’re exactly the same type). We were doing a really cool version of Marivaux’s Island of Slaves, and she and her coven of Boston girls kinda gave me my first taste.
Whoah, so Jujubee took you out your first night as Tipsy?
She did. She painted me and we went to the opening night party with all of Harvard’s Illuminati in attendance. It was a great experience.
How did you drag name yourself?
I went through a few incarnations, but once I started getting cast in drag projects more and more, I made a concerted effort to find something that fit…..Tipsy Von Tart was the winner.
I still think about changing it eventually maybe, but after the Manhattan Mini Storage campaign it kinda stuck.
That was you in that campaign!? Oh, my! Did you really love your storage room more than your wife and kids?
I’m a subway celebrity! My and Dr. Zizmor, baby! Haha– I actually pitched them that tagline after my photo shoot, and I was shocked that they chose to use it! But I got an extra check, so it worked out–aside from a handful of hateful gender-studies undergrads that didn’t think it was funny.
The proudest day of my drag career was getting on the train one day to discover someone had graffitied a dick in my mouth–I mean, buy a girl a drink first, but I’ll take it. But no, there is no wife, no kids. Just a cat. And I really do need a storage room! I’m nearing Hoarder’s status. There is nothing quite like a sharpied falus in the face to let a gal know that she’s arrived!
So, I take it you’ve done your share of Star Searches and Beat Your Faces and Drag Wars, etc.?
Nope. Not really. I did a short-lived show with the internet’s Randy Rainbow for a while, and I’ve done a slew of hosting/MC private gigs (she gives good mic), but I’ve never really dipped my toe into the nightlife pool. This is kind of my coming out party.
What was it like working with Randy?
He’s a monster! No, we actually had a really great dynamic together. We have a similarly dry and dark sense of humor, so we played off each other well. He’s a smart cookie. And I’m so happy for his new found success!
So, you’ve really had an out-of-left field trajectory as far as drag careers go: internet and print marketing fame came first before the nightlife gigs. Was it difficult to adjust to doing numbers and all the stuff that bar queens do when you started making appearances in venues?
It’s definitely a specific kinda skill set! I don’t think folks give the nightlife queens enough credit. It’s hard work! I tip my wig to them.
I like to tell a story: through my look, through my numbers, on the mic– so only having three minutes and a pre-recorded mix in a crowded room of (sometimes) disinterested gays… it can be very challenging to get your point across. But at the end of the day, you’re there to be a fantasy, you’re there to be entertaining. It’s not about you at that point, it’s about the audience’s experience So you just try to give em a good show, while still doing you.
That being said, building your brand and earning a drag following involves defining yourself: is she a dancing queen, comedy queen, look queen? In this post-RuPaul’s Drag Race era, you have to do everything kinda well, but at least one thing excellently. I think I’m still finding who I am in that regard.
Well you’re on the right path! Do you have any planned appearances or projects you wanna mention yet?
I’ve already said too much! I have a few things cooking, but can’t reveal details just yet! Gotta stay tuned. Next up, Lady Liberty semi-finals on the 21st!
That’s gonna be amazing! Okay, last question: in light of last week’s episode of Drag Race, what would your Fairytale Princess name and theme be?
Oh gosh– you know, I haven’t watched the show in two seasons! Ummmm– that’s a tough one. I think I’d definitely be more of an evil sorceress than a pretty princess… maybe I’d be the princess who’s kind of in that transition place where she’s been wearied by the whole fairytale lifestyle, and is becoming increasingly jaded and callous. Her name would be something faintly bitchy and unsexy, like Clytemnestra, or Karen. Her theme would be selfishness… Oh shit, now I need to call my therapist.
You’re no princess, you’re an evil queen! Thank you, TIpsy!