With a career quickly exploding and gigs piling up for this relatively new and suddenly quite busy singing queen, now is the best time for a chat with Vanna Deux!
Thotyssey: Vanna, hello! Happy Saturday! How was your weekend?
Vanna Deux: My weekend was great! Very busy, but great. Looking forward to a much needed “day off” tomorrow. (I use quotes because I’ve still got rehearsal at night.)
Rehearsal can mean anything for you, because you’ve got so much going on right now. Is this for the Boots Halloween show?
It is! That’s a big weekend for me: between “Lady Liberty: Witch Hunt” on the 28th and that (The 7 Deadly Sinisters) on the 29th, mommy is all booked up!
We’ll get to those in detail in a bit. I was wondering how it was filling in for that Saved by the Bell 80s show last Wednesday… that looked fun!
An absolute blast! Lot 45 is a great venue and about a block from my house, so my feet weren’t DYING at the end of the night. I did a Thundercats number (remember that amazing TV show from the 80s?)
I lived for that! So you’re living in Brooklyn… is there anything about the Brooklyn drag scene that appeals to you?
Absolutely. I’ve lived in all five boroughs (yep, even Staten Island.) and I’ve never found a more diverse, weird, incredible group of people than the Brooklyn queens. Drag as an art form is pushed to its boundaries here. Being around so much creativity is inspiring. It always makes me feel like there’s more that I can be doing and that I can’t be complacent. Truly an incredible energy to be around.
It’s safe to say, though, that so far in your young career you’re more drawn to the Broadway-influenced Manhattan style of drag.
Of course. I always have been and always will be a Broadway Broad. I’ve been doing theater as long as I can remember – I actually have an MFA in acting! I feel much more at home with a Sondheim ballad than I do with a high energy dance number.
Where’s your hometown, and how long have you been theatrical?
I was raised near Baltimore, Maryland (insert Hairspray jokes here). I’ve been in the theater for about 20 years now, actually. My cousin and aunt were always involved in the theater. I did a summer camp when I was 7 after seeing [them] in a show. We did a production of Annie Jr. (I was a very glamorous “Dog Catcher”) and I’ve been hooked ever since!
So you came to NYC in pursuit of stage rolls?
Originally, yes. You know, passions change and evolve. I’m still very interested in theater, but I think you can’t hyper-focus your entire energy on one thing, so I started branching out into lots of different things.
How was Vanna Deux born?
Vanna was originally born up in Boston. I was doing a weekly show (as a boy) at the American Repertory Theater, where I was was concurrently getting my masters, called The Donkey Show. It’s an incredible adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set in a disco. The producer of the show approached me and two of the other cast members, and asked if we wanted to do a drag night on Pride, and poof: Vanna is born (albeit with a different last name).
Amazing! How did that come about?
[Host] Marti Gould Cummings has been a friend of mine for years, and she saw I had done drag a few times. So she asked me to come compete! It was demanding – 8 weeks, with a new number every week! Loads of work.
What was the best thing that came out of that experience for you?
Oh wow, so many amazing things happened. I raised $120 in one number for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute during week 7 – that was pretty amazing. Also, I won a pair of gorgeous white leather pumps from Alice Ripley when I won Broadway week. And, I won my own weekly show at The West End for being runner up!
I think it’s alright so far. I do feel like they’re trying very hard to stay super relevant, but that’s not exactly what people are looking for. We don’t need them to reinvent the sitcom; just do what you did before, and everyone will love it!
What’s your viewing party like?
Really cute: low key, in the front bar at The West End. I do a couple numbers and have a new guest every week. We do trivia and fun Will & Grace-themed games on commercial breaks. It’s a small space, but the crowd is always very supportive!
Another interesting thing you’ve done lately: Dragaret, one of the final shows in the Metropolitan Room, alongside Cherry Poppins and Bijoux, written by Michael Bradley Block of Theater in the Now. This was part drag show, part cabaret musical revue. How did you enjoy that experience?
It was great. Michael and I met after a night of the Ultimate Drag Pageant, and he asked if I could sing. I said I can, and he asked me on the spot to fill in for another queen who had dropped out. Working with those gals and Michael was such a dream – he has total trust in girls that he loves, so he let us kind of do what we want. Such an exhilarating blast. Bijoux, Cherry and I have become really close because of it too.
Well, you and Bijoux and tons of other queens and performers are going to grace Boots & Saddle on October 22nd for “Enough is Enough,” a Gays Against Guns fundraiser that Michael and I are co-producing. It’s going to be a huge, all-star lineup of new and seasoned talent in drag and burlesque and all genres. We’re so honored to have you! What’s your stand on what gun laws should be like in this country?
I am constantly baffled by the fact that there are people in this world that support the gun laws that are currently in place. No human should be able to wield that much potential to end human life in that way. The laws were put into place when guns were not what they are today – you couldn’t kill 49 people in under two minutes. The laws are ridiculous, but the NRA has its hand around Congress’ throat. If politicians weren’t so ready to accept money, then we as a country wouldn’t have to worry about being shot when we go out to public places. The laws NEED to change.
Hear hear, loud and clear! Well, it will be great to you have performing next Sunday. The lineup of talent is amazing, and I can’t wait to give away some of these prizes to the raffle winners!
It’s WILD. I’m so excited!
Then on Saturday October 28tb, you’ll be at the Ace Hotel competing in the Halloween edition (”Witch Hunt”) of the Lady Liberty Showdown! You must be getting a fierce holiday look and number together now, right?
I am. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s going to be insane when it all comes together!
And now this is interesting: October 29th, you’ll be back at Boots for 7 Deadly Sinisters, a Halloween drag show where you and several other queens give us your drag take on the 7 Deadly Sins! How did this all come about?
Yes! I’m very excited for this one! It’s actually EIGHT queens total, which is wild. Seven sins and a hostess. It’s me and a bunch of my sisters from Ultimate Drag Pageant, plus a few girls who we love. Cicatrix and Kendra de Rey approached me one day with an idea for the show, and I said I’d love to.
And of all the Sins, why are you Pride?
They assigned the sins, but I’m thrilled I got pride. I’m actually taking it in more of a vanity context, instead of pride (they’re synonymous in terms of the Seven Deadly Sins). It’s going to be a blast! We had our first choreography rehearsal for it yesterday, and it’s going to blow everyone’s socks off.
Anything else coming up for you?
Loads of things that can’t really be talked about yet. You know how it is – don’t jinx it by saying it aloud!
Fair enough! Okay, lastly: what is the worst thing about drag today for you, and what is the best?
This sounds super cheesy, but I truly love all of it. Sure, drag hurts. It stinks when only eight people show up to your gig for which you spent hours and hours preparing. Corsets pinch and saw at your sides. You squeeze your giant feet into heels that are three sizes too small for you. Your lashes fall off mid song. Someone doesn’t know to not touch your face, and your makeup gets messed up.
Vanna Deux hosts “Part Deux,” aka the “Will & Grace” viewing party at the West end on Thursdays (9pm this season). Check Thotyssey’s calendar for other scheduled gigs, and follow Vanna on Facebook and Instagram.