This petite country gal turned big city broad is known in NYC nightlife for her charming squeak, winning smile and super-femme looks. But she’s actually more of a fully realized character than merely a heightened version of herself in the way that most drag personas are. Learning to live with tragic loss has only made her stronger, and her ongoing drag evolution ensures that she’s a consistently exciting entertainer to watch. Come to the flip side with Miss Flippe Kikee!
Thotyssey: Wassup, Flippe? Did you catch the Tonys the other night?
Flippe Kikee: No! I’m a bad drag queen. I grew up with a great love of film, so I’m a Screen Queen! I appreciate theatre, I just don’t keep up with it. That night, me and Jupiter Stone were actually at a screening of Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like it Hot. We’ve dubbed ourselves the Boozy Blondes, so Marilyn is our muse.
You’re in good company, I didn’t see it either. I was watching Twin Peaks! And by the way, I recall that you make a great Marilyn. You were in full Monroe geish several years ago at the old Boots & Saddle, breathily cooing “Happy Birthday” to Honey Davenport.
OMG! I remember that. Drag is all about character acting. Flippe is a character; I put a lot of thought into her personality when I thought her up. Doing other people like Marilyn or Britney Spears, who I channel a lot, is a chance for me to delve into a non-Flippe character. Marilyn’s voice is the most fun thing ever as an actor. It’s so light and playful, yet sexy. You can say anything and get away with it as Marilyn.
So, how would you describe the character of Flippe?
She’s one-half ingenue, one-half ballsy broad. I grew up in the south, surrounded by strong-yet-elegant women, so I try to have that. My mom was very that, and also playful… even innocent, in a way. I try to give Flippe that same balance. Whimsy, wisdom, whiskey and a dash of fireball for spice. That’s what Flippe is made of.
Delicious! I have to say that I have seen a lot of drag queens in my day, but you were the first to actually give me pause as to whether or not your were a cisgender lady! I am sure you’ve gotten that a lot.
I used to get it more. I’ve actually taken steps to heighten my drag aesthetic a bit to clear up that confusion. But then, I also don’t mind the question. Drag is all about crossing and blurring gender lines. So honestly, if the audience questions that, it’s the biggest compliment ever! To clear it up definitively, I am a boy–I’m just pretty at it.
Also, it doesn’t help that I have the voice of a Kristen Chenowith wanna-be Muppet. But that’s another story.
You dealt with a lot of unhappiness and tragedy in your youth.
Tragedy yes, unhappiness no. I had a generally pretty good childhood, especially considering I was a pretty femme boy in a conservative small town. All of that shifted in my early 20’s, when both of my parents passed away. It was definitely a dark time, but it was also a catalyst for growth. I had to grow up, like, overnight.
Part of that involved moving to NYC. I had always wanted to, but just didn’t. Losing my parents was a wake-up call. Life is short! I miss them every day. It’s been 10 years, and I’m tearing up writing this. It never leaves you, the loss, but neither does the love. I’m more me now, living here, doing what I do because of them–because of their presence, and their absence.
I’ll never not talk about it, because I think it’s important to remember. It makes me proud. They are my war story. My scars. I actually got a pair of tattoos in honor of my Mom and Dad this past New Year. So, I literally now have scars.
Sorry, that got really deep. This is when I’d take a shot and make a joke on stage!
Keep it real, queen, that’s why we love you! And it takes an incredibly strong and wise person to come through that, and be such a source of light!
So, on some level were you always an entertainer?
I’d say I was always a character. I can actually be quite shy, unless I’m comfortable with people. So I tended to be the quiet kid that just thought things, yet didn’t say it. But with my friends I was the first to crack the joke, or put someone at ease.
I think that’s why I do drag. I need the costumes, the makeup, the wig. It’s my armor. When I’m all dolled up there is a level of distance, of safety. I get a pass. Out of drag I’m very non-Flippe–unless I’m with my inner circle. It’s a self-duality that works with the duality of drag.
That sounds like it could be difficult to navigate sometimes, though.
For the most part, I don’t overthink it. It’s a natural shift that happens. The second I’m in pumps and a wig, Flippe just comes on. There is definitely a process that helps, but I think it’s subconscious. So much of drag, like any art, is instinct. I just trust my instincts–my “voice”–and it just happens.
Which I’m fine with. I could never be Flippe 24/7, she is exhausting. But, she is a great outlet for [my boy self] Charles. It’s very cathartic.
How long have you been doing drag, exactly? Were you at it before you came to New York?
Actually, no. I never did drag before NYC. A lot of people have said that my look has a touch of Southern Drag, but I think that’s just a product of growing up there.
I started dressing drag in 2010. I didn’t see myself as a performer–I thought I was more the host/personality. That didn’t last long; my first show, I was a co-host with Honey Davenport. She made me a performer, if only by giving me permission that I wasn’t giving myself.
You can’t work with someone like Honey and not become a better performer. About a year into our show (2013ish), I got my own solo show. It was at Boots and Saddle–or as I think of it now, Boots Camp! I learned a lot about performance, work ethic, delivering consistency, and true sisterhood. I think I’m lucky that I started in that kind if environment. I know drag can be intense and catty from stories, but I’ve really not been a part of that.
I once heard some other queen declare that your first drag name was Flippe Burger!
LOL! I’ve never heard that. That sounds like attempted shade. But as long as people are talking about me, it’s all good. Plus, I mean, I definitely have some meat on my bones. And I do love a good burger!
Who doesn’t? I liked your Boots & Saddle presence. You had that solo show, and you had the show with Honey and Kareem McJagger, and you DJ’ed some of the other shows. The rapid turnover rate for drag shows at that bar has become kind of notorious. Do you think that’s, I dunno… strange?
I don’t find the turnover strange. Shows come and go, time slots shift. It’s part of performing. I was there for almost three years. It’s easy to stop evolving when you are in one place too long. I embrace the change.
What was a personal highlight of your time there?
Drag suicide, hands down. So much of drag involves intense preparation. So, sometimes it’s good to just let go and see what happens. Honey and I (and later Kareem) always embraced the Kiki of this improv moment. I also found numbers that I otherwise may have never tried. It’s one thing to surprise the audience–but when you surprise yourself, that’s s great feeling as a performer.
Lots of queens hate drag suicide!
I think the queens that hate it are afraid to look a fool. I am a fool. I have no shame. It’s 30 seconds, I can let go for that long! Plus, it is like improv–you have to be able to roll with the punches. I’ve worked with queens that were intimidated by it. I always said the same thing: “We are men in dresses, it’s not that serious.”
On that note… there seems to be a lot of squabbling and hurt feelings in nightlife lately–a lots of silly fights and shade about nothing. Has the Trump presidency just driven everyone completely crazy?
I kinda know what you mean, but gratefully I’m not really a part of it. I see statuses and comments on occasion, but honestly I just keep pumping down my lane.
I think that the political climate has made some people feel unheard, so they are venting in social media. The problem with that is, a Facebook post is a conversation opener, and most of times these queens don’t want a conversation. They just want to spout their opinions. Opinions are like lip syncs: we all do it, but some are sloppier than others.
True! I just watched a cute video you made a few years ago, a song parody homage to Buffy. Are you a Buffy buff?
I adore Joss Whedon, and still have a big girl-crush on Sarah Michelle Gellar. Buffy is defintely one of the greatest kick-ass girls of all time. It’s funny, I did the Buffy video for Halloween that year. This past one I was Supergirl, and I’ve done Princess Leia a few times. Apparently, Girl Power heroines are my thing.
And you made a cute appearance in The Paisley Fields’ video for “How Low” recently. Was that fun?
Well, I got to dress up in my most Dolly Parton look, there was free food, and I got to be a film actress for a day without having to memorize lines. It was pretty great! Plus, I love The Paisley Fields’ music. That’s a great part of being a queen in NYC: all the other artists I get to collaborate with.
You sing a lot in your shows, and you competed in two seasons of “New York’s Next Top Drag Queen,” which is an all-singing competition. Were you always a singer?
Yes, to my parents regret, as a child. I was always singing. In the car, in the shower. Anywhere. I love music so much. It provides such a common ground for people. We can’t agree on much, but we can agree about Beyoncé!
I only did lip sync numbers for a while–then a few people heard my voice and pushed me to try live numbers. It was another case of me waiting for permission from someone before giving it to myself.
Now I like to do both. I’d never only lip sync, and I’d never only sing live. I’ve been hosting karaoke for over a year now, so the live singing is handled. I’m about to launch a new show in July (details to come) so then I’ll have the chance for lip syncing and drag suicide again!
Rockbar is where you’ve been the Thursday night karaoke queen this whole time. What’s the key to being a good karaoke host? Not everybody can pull it off!
You can’t take it seriously. People are very vulnerable singing in front of others. You have to be able to make them feel safe. I remind everyone every week, “This is not a competition. And, it’s definitely not an audition, ‘cause I already have the job!”
So I just try to keep it fun. I’ll try songs I’ve never done. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. But when they see me not sound perfect, it makes them feel safe to get up there and sing, for fun!
Also, side note: starting July, karaoke is moving to Tuesdays.
Something else is coming up at Rockbar before that change… next week, in fact: The Big Gay Pride Drag Show on Tuesday, June 20th! That’s where all of Rockbar’s house queens, and some special guests, perform a massive show and raise funds for Planned Parenthood. First of all, how much do you enjoy being part of the Rockbar family?
So much! I really love everyone that I work with, queens and bartenders alike. There isn’t drama, we just all have fun together. I work the slot with Joey, my favorite bartender ever (though my liver won’t agree)!
And yes, the Big Gay Pride Show! I’m so excited to be a part of it. I don’t get to see all the others girls a lot cause of schedules. So it’ll be nice to have a big Rockbar family show.
There’s a pretty good chance that I am debuting as a drag queen that night, as I’m co-hosting it with Rockbar manager Jason and Queen of Everything Witti Repartee. Any advice for me?
Have fun! No matter what you do. If you aren’t enjoying it, no one else will. It’s really the only must. After that, just do what feels right for you. Every queen has an opinion on drag, but that’s just their opinion on what drag is for them. Your drag–whether you’re a pro, a Halloween queen, or just a one timer–should be all yours! I know it sounds cliche, like “Just be you,” but,sometimes cliches are true.
Thank you for that wisdom, I’ll do that! In other drag news, the Drag Race Final Four is still the Final Four! Who’s your pick for this season’s winner?
I really love Peppermint. But honestly, at this point they are all impeccable. They each serve such different POV’s that I’d be happy with either of them. I’m more about the Drag, less about the Race!
I agree completely! Okay, so finally, here’s my new favorite closing question: what is the very worst thing about drag for you… and what’s the best?
The worst is shaving. I hate it. I can deal with everything else, but if every inch of hair left my body I’d be so happy. Maybe I should start a Gofundme for laser removal!
The best part would have to be the freedom. It’s art that I get to self-produce. I can be whatever I want to be for four minutes: the girl next door, a siren, a femme fatale, or just a tenor in a dress. I love that. The only rules are mine. That, and the free booze. Bottoms up, Tops in!
I’ll drink to that! Thanks, Flippe!
Flippe Kikee hosts karaoke at Rockbar on Thursday nights currently, and Tuesday nights starting this July. (10pm). For updates on new shows and appearances, follow Flippe on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.