This sassy/classy throwback queen is known for her golden singing voice, her Golden Age looks and her cute puppet friend… but don’t get lulled into thinking she doesn’t have an edge! Having made her way through many of the city’s top drag competitions, you can find her these days throwing soft (and hard!) balls as Werrrk.com’s on-the-town interviewer Backstage Barry… and this weekend she’ll be slaying it at Boots & Saddle as part of a Major Benefit. Let it be Strawberry Fields forever!
Thotyssey: Why hello Strawberry, thanks for talking to us! How was your Halloween?
Strawberry Fields: Hello Jim! Thanks for having me! Well, this year’s Halloween was full of excitement, but not in the fun way. I was sitting a sick dog… you do the math! HA! So all plans had to be cancelled. Ho hum! I trust yours was better? No caca stories?
None that I can recall! I went out to bar hop a bit, but no costume. Well, as a queen, I imagine that dressing up is probably the least interesting part of Halloween for you, anyway.
Nicholas [my boy self] takes over for me during Halloween. Being Strawberry, Halloween is all year! So I hang up the heels, if only for a night. Kinda like a reverse Cinderella.
I love performing at the Duplex! It’s such a friendly place, and I enjoy the intimacy. And working with Julia and Ruby is always fun. As a group, we usually put a few weeks of rehearsal into the show. That’s after Julia and our choreographer Zahif Corkidi have gone nuts working to get us to the Duplex. Then the day of the show comes, and it’s all over in about 90 minutes. After that, post-show depression pays us a call! But every show at the Duplex is new, and I hope they will continue to have us back again.
I did! It was a great night of performances. And of course host Holly Dae kept us in stitches the entire time. I also shared the judges panel with 2017 Mister Eagle winner Joseph Macchia, Witti Repartee and Doris Dear. I got there so late – the cab driver that night was determined to ruin my evening! – so most of my votes only counted for half. But I was happy that my sister and fellow “NYC’s Next Top Drag Queen” alum took home that gorgeous crown. She’s probably still wearing it. *wink*
Ha! So okay, lets get to the root of this Strawberry plant! Where’s your hometown, and have you always been a performer of some sort?
I’m from a little town in Ohio called Bellbrook. And yes, I was always a performer. When I was 13 or 14, I started training with a vocal coach. Being the middle kid, and the only non-jock in my family, singing became my “sport.” I competed in solo competitions all through high school, and I was a member of the high school chorus and performed in all of the musicals. But my first love was feature film animation. I went to college in Columbus to study time-based media. But after two years I realized I wasn’t ready for college, and started doing local theater.
While in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat I met a local entertainer, Virginia West. She was starting a drag competition at Union Station called “Who Wants to Be a Drag Queen.” She asked me if I ever thought of doing drag. I immediately flashed back to me in my living room in Columbus, playing Gloria in “Shoeless Joe” and shouted “NO!” But I thought it over for a few days, and during rehearsal I told her I would do it. I did. I won. Strawberry Fields was born.
The Columbus Drag Wests are very theater / prop oriented… is that how you picked up puppets as being a part of your drag?
Actually, Chester came along when I was in a contest called “Get Into It” at The West End. The song “Here’s to Love,” which was a duet from the film Down With Love, had always been a favorite of mine. I wanted to do it for one of my two numbers, but thought that getting a dancer wouldn’t make it special enough. Then I remembered a friend had gifted me a custom puppet for my birthday. I put him to work, and bingo!
I haven’t been too much using Chester as of late. I need to come up with with a fresh number. Maybe for the holidays? But you know you have something when I bring him out and audience members shout out “Hey, it’s Chester!”
That bitch is a star!
Your overall drag style is classic and vintage 1940s and 50s… do you have anyone specific that you’re channeling?
Yes, mid-century is the style I stick with. I channel vintage Barbie for sure! A little To Wong Fu’s Vida Boheme, and classic Hollywood actresses of that time like Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe, amongst others. Combine, shake, and enjoy!
So when did you come to NY, and was that West End competition your NY drag debut?
I came to New York City in 2004, and except for when I still did drag for Halloween, The West End was my official first sighting.
Then you competed in “New York’s Next Top Drag Queen” and “So You Think You Can Drag.” That’s the big leagues!
Yes, I was in both. NYNTDQ was my first and only NYC title. And SYTYCD was my first major competition. I wasn’t prepared for that scale! But that was the most life changing experience so far. I made a lot of fans and friends, despite my still being very new to the scene. It touched my heart that I made final five in my season on SYTYCD for that reason alone, being so new.
I enjoy Backstage Berry! Do you edit those clips into their final product, or is that Chiffon?
Chiffon edits all of the Backstage Berry footage. She’s tirelessly trying to improve its quality, and content. And I think she’s got it. I mean, if you look at my first year of Backstage Berry to now, the difference is like night and day. And you can actually hear us now! I keep trying to convince her to do a B-reel video. One day!
Backstage Berry was there for the final, all-star season of “So You Think You Can Drag.” What did you think?
It was incredible. I was practically speechless over the talent, and how much those gals brought to the stage. That contest gave so many talented queens a platform to be adventurous and live their fantasy. After my dear friend Jackie Cox took home the crown for the finale, I stopped and thought, “Oh hell, it’s actually over.” It was emotional.
Not all of us get a chance to perform for 200 some odd people ever, let alone once a week. Thanks to New World Stages and Paige Turner’s contest, many queens have really bloomed into full time performers! Look at Holly Box-Springs. Her first time in drag was her first night of her SYTYCD season. She’s full time now. That’s a star story!
Of course, talent is key. Talent gets you on the stage. But there has to be a stage. or there’s no show. Paige and New World provided us that.
If there was ever a SYTYCD revival, would you ever fill Paige’s lofty shoes and host? Absolutely! That would be a dream and an honor! But only if Paige approached me herself.
The first time I saw you perform was one night at the old Boots & Saddle, during Prada G. Major’s Saturday show. You went onstage and did a few numbers… I think with Chester! I forget, was that random or were you scheduled to guest perform with Prada that night?
I remember that night. I was actually booked the night of that show as her guest. I do believe I had Chester there. He grabbed tips with his mouth, ha! The first time I met Prada I was out in drag, and as I walked into the old Boots she was on stage and stopped her show to give me snaps. She directed everyone’s attention to me and invited me on stage. She showed off my nails, haha! Coincidentally, THAT night was the night I met you as well. And you were also at Boots the night I performed in Prada’s show. You love some Boots, kiddo!
Oh, I think I blended those two nights in my foggy old brain. I was very much part of the furniture of old Boots in those days, I was there all the time!
Well, Prada has continued to do amazing things with that show, even after it’s move to New Boots and her multiple sclerosis diagnosis. And now her benefit to raise funds for MS treatment and awareness has become a huge annual event! Always tons of guest queens turning the fiercest numbers with her onstage. You will be one of her many amazing guests this Saturday at 8pm, when the benefit returns!
This will be my first Major Benefit, and I’m absolutely thrilled! The lineup is amazing, and we are all looking forward to a large turn out. Prada is a stunning and dynamic performer. Rather than letting her diagnosis hinder her, it’s empowered her. Thus the benefit! And it’s been a long time since I’ve shared the stage with Prada, so that will be exciting!
All proceeds with be donated to The National M.S. Society!
Where else can we find you?
’ll be bopping about the city with Chiffon doing interviews for Backstage Berry and Werrrk.com, and making the most of this biz we call show!
Who’s gonna win RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars Season 3?
If I tell you I’d have to kill you… I keep my secrets stored in my petticoat drawer!
Okay, finally: what is one thing the world may not know about Strawberry Fields, but should?
Good question! Well, I’ve always thought it would be nice to have a family themed drag brunch or stage show. Ya know, cute (but fully dressed) dancers, some puppetry. With the world changing the way it is, it might have a place? If I continue with this, that’s my goal.
I think you’d be amazing at that! Well thanks Strawberry… see you Saturday!