This hilarious young Tri-State queen has created a hugely successful drag night for mixed audiences in Jersey, featuring performances from some of the best entertainers in the biz. And you’re just as likely to find her these days turning the party in small town Jersey as you are NYC’s gay epicenter of Hell’s Kitchen, or in fierce Philly, or beyond. Let’s say Good Day to Astala Vista, baby!
Thotyssey: Astala, how are you?
Astala Vista: Hey Jim! I’m better than an orphan on adoption day!
You just worked a brunch, how did it go?
I did drag queen brunch at Cibo Philly this morning, and it was one of the best to date! A lot of guests brought their mothers out to their first drag brunch since tomorrow is Mothers Day, and they were living! It was really great to see a new audience enjoy what we do!
You and and your gurl Pissi Myles are queens whose drag covers a lot of ground, literally: three states of it! Does it ever feel overwhelming to be a Jersey queen, a Philly queen and occasionally a New York queen all at the same time?
90% of the time, it’s really great! Well, maybe 85% of the time [laughs]. I love traveling and seeing new places, so I really do enjoy that aspect of it… but being a Tri-State Queen definitely has its ups and downs! For instance, I could live without waking up by 6am to be in face and in another state by 10am for brunch. Oh, and those damn tolls!
I will say, though: when you have another traveling queen like Pissi to bitch about it with, it does make things a lot easier!
I can imagine the war stories you two share! And I wanna know how you came to be such a far-reaching queen, but first we better start at the beginning: where is your native land?
The big hair, long nails, and too much makeup had to come from somewhere! I’m originally from North Jersey: Perth Amboy, to be exact. I lived there until I was about 14, and than moved to South Jersey with my Dad to finish high school. They really are two different states! North Jersey was so fast paced and bumpin’….and in South Jersey, well… we have farms and abandoned shopping centers.
That must’ve been quite a culture shock!
It really was!
How did you occupy yourself during those formative years?
I’ve always been interested in the beauty industry, and spent a lot of my teenage years coloring all of my friends hair and destroying my poor parents’ bathroom. That led me into a career as a cosmetologist, which essentially jumpstarted Astala Vista! I don’t practice cosmetology like I used to, but it was a great introduction into the fabulous world of drag hair and makeup!
When did Astala first turn up?
Funny story! Astala’s debut was at my friend’s 20th birthday party, just four years ago. The theme was “The Roaring 20’s,” and there was no way I was wearing a boring old suit (or paying to rent one). So, just like any fierce and sassy gay teenager would do, I had to one-up the Birthday Girl.
I immediately called up my pal, who was already dabbling in the drag arts. I borrowed a wig of his, put together an outfit, and showed up in full 1920’s drag! Everyone was living for it, including the Birthday Girl, and that really motivated me to get started in the drag scene!
Were you immediately calling yourself Astala Vista?
I originally started off as Genevecia Dior (choices) at that party, but I hated it and knew it wasn’t going to last long. I wanted something that had the perfect blend of campy and cunty, but nothing was coming to mind when I would ponder. One day, when my friend was leaving my house, I was being cute and said “Hasta la Vista, baby.” I changed some letters around, and the rest is herstory!
Where did you originally perform in the scene, and who were the first queens you found?
This is were it gets fun. So, after going out in drag once–and having no performing experience whatsoever–I decided to jump on into the scene by doing Philly Drag Wars, a 12-week competition in the style of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I have to admit, the first time stepping out onto a stage with 200+ people staring dead at you was terrifying; but fortunately, my routine was well-rehearsed, and I was a big hit! I went on to taking second place for the entire competition to a queen with 13 years experience!
That was such a huge accomplishment for me, and it really helped jumpstart the booking process. I went on to working with queens such as Mimi Imfurst, Brittany Lynn, Bev, and a few other queens who gave me my start in Philadelphia.
How would you describe the Philly scene, for the uninitiated?
Diverse! From gorgeous pageant girls, to edgy queens covered in blood serving you Burn Victim Realness (love you, PrettyGirl), there really is a genre of drag in this city for everybody.
Philly is also a great way to get a start if someone is thinking about taking up drag. The city is full of competition-style type shows that really allow a new queen to flourish while they’re still getting their stage legs.
So, I guess you established yourself in Philly with that contest, and then brought it home to Jersey? How did you get yourself known in your home state? New Jersey drag is kind of all over the place it seems; it must have been a challenge to establish yourself there.
Oh dear, where to even begin? I could turn this into a college thesis, but I’ll try to keep it to a paragraph!
My boyfriend Jimmy is a tech wizard, and I’m not too bad at marketing myself. Together, we started an event production company called JB Productions. Our specialty is bringing drag to more “straight” venues, and we’ve had a decent amount of success in doing so!
In October 2015, we were able to produce our first show at a small bar in South Jersey. We sold out the venue completely, and we immediately sought out a larger space, where we discovered Landmark Americana in Glassboro. I hosted the first “Drag Me to Landmark” there in April 2016, and have been able to maintain a packed house every month!
Since starting “Drag Me to Landmark”, we’ve also started a monthly drag queen brunch at the Tortilla Press Cantina in Merchantville…
…as well as a show called “Beauty School Dropouts” that I co-host with Pissi Myles at Roxy & Dukes in Dunellen.
I genuinely love bringing drag to a new audience, and there’s no better feeling than a guest saying “I didn’t know what to expect tonight, but now I can’t wait to come back next month!“ New Jersey’s drag scene may be under construction, but we’re working hard to get it on the right track!
What do you think the approach is to bringing drag to straight audiences? Does it involve changing what a queen would do in a gay venue?
In my experience, it absolutely did. The straight audience tends to be there specifically to see the show, not to just hang out and drink.
Mainly, I’ve noticed a straight audience expects a more “polished” form of drag entertainment. Performances had to be simpler in concept yet, executed very well: costumes have to be of a certain quality, etc. We’ve grown to have quite a steady following, so we have been able to push the boundaries a smidge more… but I do always keep in the back of my mind that there’s also first timers in the audience as well. It’s a tough balance, but it keeps my mind going, thinking of ideas to achieve it!
Speaking of polished drag, I must detour for a minute and gab about Drag Race, cuz gurl… those roasts from the last episode! A few were hilarious, others… not so much. Roasting is really fucking hard though, isn’t it?
It really is! I think the key, especially when you’re writing jokes, is to keep the energy high and the punch lines coming, which Miss Peppermint slayed at this week! It’s so easy to cross that line between funny and downright mean, and I think that’s really the biggest challenge of roasting someone.
Truth! You performed with the TURNt girls at Ritz recently… how was turning it with Drag Racer Aja?
Aja is such a sweetheart! At TURNt, she performed this sexy little salsa number that literally had the whole audience shaking their butts! I’ve gotten to perform with her a few times now, and I can’t help but stare in awe when she hits the stage. That bitch commands the room with her moves, and I’ve grown to become a real fan of hers!
You know, I’ve seen your name pop up in a few RPDR Season 10 cast wishlists… Jersey/Philly represent, just sayin’!
A girl can only dream! As much as it would pain me to leave my six kitties for two months, well…I’ll get over it! It’s truly my dream to spread drag on a larger scale, and that show would definitely give me the platform to make that happen! Claws crossed!
Werq! What’s it like to work with large “guest” casts of queens, and all those different styles and personalities, like at the Landmark show? Are these mostly girls you know beforehand?
Its really exciting working with so many different queens! Each queen has their own take on drag, and it’s a blend of refreshing and inspiring to see such different artist all give their 100% into what their providing on stage. I have met and worked with most of the queens we book, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions. For example, all it took was for me to see a video of Ritzy Bitz doing three backflips in a row, and I was sold!
She amazing! And she’s gonna be at the NYC invasion of Landmark this Friday, along with Maddelynn Hatter and Sherry Pie from TURNt, plus Pissi, and more! What made you decide to dip into the NYC talent pool for this month’s show?
They’re all so damn good! Pissi’s live singing, Maddelynn’s moves and sex appeal, Sherry’s absolute stupidity… each queen is going to bring something so different to the show this month, and I can’t wait for the audience to experience that! They say some of the best drag queens in the world are from NYC, and they aren’t kidding!
And tell me about your next show with Pissi at Roxy & Dukes that you mentioned earlier, “Beauty School Dropouts!“
The small town of Dunellen, NJ had no idea what they were in for when Pissi Myles and I arrived! Pissi is such a blast to host with, and I wouldn’t trade our monthly 2am White Castle trip for the world! Our next “Beauty School Dropouts” falls on May 25th, and you already know what’s for dinner that night!
This year’s Miss Paradise Victoria Courtez is guesting for that one, and you’ll be a guest for her show at Paradise on Fiday the 26th! Have you gotten to see Victoria perform yet?
Yes I have, and she was beyond fabulous! I’ve seen her perform at Paradise about a year back, and I lived for her! Than fast forward to her Miss Paradise talent performance… girl, I’m legit still gagging on that! We’ve tried to have her in a few shows, but our dates didn’t match up, we’re so glad it’s finally working out!
By the way I see pictures of you and your boyfriend together, and you’re so gosh darn cute. I can’t believe you’ve been together for five years, you look like babies! What’s the secret to gay nightlife love and happiness?
I’m gonna sound so cheesy, but the secret is literally no secrets. Since the beginning of our relationship, we could trade phones for the day at any time and neither of us would have to worry whether the other would find something. We built a strong foundation of trust in the beginning of our relationship, and it’s honestly only gotten stronger with drag. And the mutual love of cats was an added bonus!
Okay, what else is going on in the land of Vista?
Alright, one quick last shameless plug! My glitter obsession has hit a whole new level, and I’m now partnered up with LIT Cosmetics! If there’s a queen who needs to sparkle extra bright, be sure to use discount code “ITSASTALAVISTA” for 20% off your total purchase! Alright I’m done, back to you Jim!
Brand your Fine Glitter Self! Okay, in closing… what is the absolute worst thing about drag… and what is the best?
The absolute worst thing about drag is simple: it’s those damn tights! I swear, you rip a pair every time, and those suckers are $14 bucks a pop!
On the more positive hand, the best part about drag is seeing a room full of people start off as skeptical at the beginning of a show, and be drag fans by the end! I love being able to open people’s minds in that way, and hope that it carries over into other aspects of their lives. I feel I was meant to make First Drag Shows happen for people. It’s the most gratifying part for me for sure, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
The future is bright indeed… thanks, Astala!
Astala Vista hosts “Drag Me to Landmark” at the Landmark Americana in Glassboro, New Jersey on third Fridays (9pm), as well as a drag brunch at Tortilla Press Cantina in Merchantville, New Jersey on last Saturdays or Sundays (11am). She also co-hosts “Beauty School Dropouts” with Pissi Myles at Roxy & Dukes Roadhouse in Dunellen, New Jersey on last Thursdays (7pm). Follow Astala on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.