Better known to some as burlesque sensation Twinky Boots, this dynamic performer can drop a moving ballet on stage with as much gorgeous precision as he can drop his pants for a sexy striptease. From Broadway Bares to the Hard Rock Cafe to the West End to the New York Boylesque Festival, you’d best hitch your post to this rising star right now: Chad Sapp!
Thotyssey: Chad, hello! Thanks for talking to us today! It was great meeting you and watching/hearing you sing at the Gays Against Guns Benefit “Enough is Enough” at Boots & Saddle Sunday night. What was that song?
Chad Sapp: It was called “Breathe Again” by Sara Bareilles.
It was beautiful. And afterwards there was a very emotional moment when you shared a story about a friend of yours who died in the Pulse attack. Were you planning to share that story, or did it just sort of happen spontaneously?
It just sort of happened. I had many connections to Pulse because I lived in Orlando for a little over a year, and had been back to perform there about 8 months before the attack with Miss Fame. But on Sunday night, something came over me about midway through my song that told me you have to say something about Pulse, because you have personal connections to it. If not to honor those who didn’t make it out of that tragedy, but to celebrate the organization trying to see to it that nothing like that can happen to our community again. I had too many stories to possibly share and had I kept going would have probably made the benefit about 7 or 8 hours long and would have been dehydrated from crying.
It was a beautiful moment that really grounded the point of the evening.
So how long have you been a singer and a performer now?
I started performing when I was 5 years old. I was chosen to do a part in the Christmas play at school because I could project enough to be heard, and wasn’t nervous to be in front of people. And I just stuck with performing for 27 years now.
But as far as singing goes, I have been doing that as far back as I can remember. I used to sing duets with my mother in the car anytime we would go places, and that’s where a lot of my vocal training came from. I grew up on country music, and had lots of top 40 pop music from the 90’s fed to me by my brother. So a lot of my early influence was singing The Judds, Reba McEntire, and then Michael and Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, George Michael, and Madonna…. until college, when I actually started training classically in voice and dance.
And this is Kentucky where you grew up, right?
Well, I was a military brat. So I was born in England, moved to Nebraska from there, and then once my father retired from the Air Force we moved back to Kentucky where my parents were from. So I consider Kentucky where I grew up since it has the most lasting memories for me.
Was growing up Fabulous in Kentucky a struggle for you, or did you figure out how to handle it?
I have always been kind of the “adapt to the situation” guy, and I don’t let other people’s opinions of me break me down. I was the first male cheerleader for my school systems middle school, so I obviously got bullied a lot for that. But I have the world’s most supportive family, and they let me explore and develop into the adult I have become without ever trying to squash any dream I have ever had. So that aspect was fabulous. But I also learned to downplay the gay, since I came from a very conservative section of the country. And looking back that part wasn’t so fabulous.
I bet it wasn’t. That’s the story of so many queer people who come to live in the city. Were you hoping to break into theatre when you came here?
I moved here originally because I had been dancing on cruise ships and doing smaller tier theater jobs, and was hoping to start moving up to some larger scale things.
Doing theater in New York is of course magical and rewarding, but it’s always such a hustle. How do you keep sane while pursuing success in that world?
Who says I am sane? Haha! I just try to do as many creative things as I can when I am not currently working on a show. I model on the side (both figure and photo), I choreograph and dance for drag queens (Sherry Vine, Miss Fame, Katya, Alexis Michelle, Ginger Minj, Pandora Boxx, Jackie Cox, Maci Sumcox, to name a few). And then I also started working more in film/TV (currently filming a web series for Project Boy TV called Bromosexual), and I also focus a lot of my energy and time on charitable work for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS, which is really where my Burlesque life began.
Tell me more about your burlesque persona, Twinky Boots!
So my burlesque life started as a cast member of Jerry Mitchell’s baby, Broadway Bares. I danced in my first one the summer of 2015. Which was also the 25th anniversary. At that show I met another dancer (Milo Pony) who invited me to see one of his shows with Bad Apple Boylesque. And by the time intermission came around, my friend who was in the audience with me turned to me and said, “you should be doing this.” With no hesitation I said “I should be doing this.” So that night I reached out to the founders of Bad Apple, met with them later in the week, and they decided to take a chance on me based solely on my enthusiasm.
But my name itself came to me from a different member of the troupe (Sloppi Chulo). I kept throwing around “twink” for a part of my name because even as I age, people still think I am much younger than I am. And he knew my connection to Broadway Bares, and offered up “Twinky Boots” as an obvious homage to Jerry’s other baby Kinky Boots, because of my love for Broadway.
The final decision on making that my name was the fact there was no one on Twitter or Instagram using that handle. So I snatched both up, and Twinky Boots was born.
Do you have any signature moves or numbers as Twinky?
It’s kind of become by signature that in every number I end in at least boots / footwear, if nothing else. But some of my memorable numbers include my “Twerkin’ in the Rain” number, my “Matrix” number and my “Grindr Date” number (which is also the first one I ever did).
Let’s talk about where we can see Chad and / or Twinky in the next few weeks! First off, you’re gonna be at the Hard Rock in Philly on Saturday, October 28th for The Rocky Horror Drag Show, with Mimi Imfurst and many more! Are you gonna play Rocky?
Yes, I am going to be dusting off my gold speedo and playing Rocky. It’s kind of become a running theme for my career to be involved with Rocky Horror in some aspect. I have at one time or other played every male role in the show, except for Eddy. I actually was involved with a production done through Drunk Musicals earlier this month where I played Riff Raff, which was probably my favorite role to play, aside from the time I played Frankenfurter.
I met Fifi about 3 years ago when our mutual friend Richard Scheiffer asked me to dance with them for her Miss Continental prelim. She is insanely talented and always GIVES A SHOW! So I am excited to werk with her on Sunday.
So my Halloween party will be a night of drag, burlesque, amazing vocalists, sexy gogo dancers and Dj Transaction spinning until 4am. We are offering up an amazing open bar deal from 10pm until 1am, all you can drink for $40. Plus like any great Halloween party, there will be a cash prize costume contest. It’s gonna be a fun night.
And what will you be doing for the New York Boylesque Festival in November?
I will be taking the stage at the Highline Ballroom on November 4th. I was incredibly honored and humbled when I got the official invite to perform, because this is the first festival I have ever submitted to. And they are very selective on the acts they allow in from NYC, so that they can leave more spots open for acts coming in from all over the world.
Anything else to report?
All of my other big projects coming up are still in negotiation stages, so I can’t really report them. But the nature of this business is, sometimes I’ll get asked to perform something day before or step in for someone that had to drop out day of, so keep a lookout for when new things are popping up. It definitely keeps me on my toes, to say the least. And I’m hoping that the connections I make at the Boylesque festival branch out into some more performance opportunities around the world for Twinky Boots.
Always a pleasure to see Chad and Twinky anywhere we can! Okay, last question…. what is your dream stage role?
I actually have a couple of those. I have always wanted to play the Baker in Into the Woods, Princeton in Avenue Q… or when I get old enough to play a “daddy,” Dan in Next To Normal. Each of them speak to me in a different way, they all go through very different journeys. And those are always the most rewarding characters to play.
Someday you’ll play them all! Thanks Chad!