On Point With: Violet Tendency

This self-proclaimed “average neighborhood hyper-queen” is anything but – in fact, she’s a GLAM nominee for nightlife excellence this year! Let’s Keep Calm and explore the world of the emo-punk chick once known as Ladyqueen’s Sugar Magnolia, and currently the ferociously fun Violet Tendency!

Thotyssey: Hey Violet, thanks for talking to us today! So, you competed in the So You Want an Invasion competition at Stonewall the other night… how did it go?

Violet Tendency: It was so much fun!!

Terra Hyman

is an amazing host, and I honestly jump at any opportunity to do a competition she is hosting. All the queens were so fierce! I didn’t win, but it was so fun it didn’t really matter, and Misty really deserved her win!

You have certainly become a welcomed presence in many of the city’s weekly competitions. 

Aww, that’s so sweet!

Is it draining to participate in all of these, or just completely fun and productive?

A little bit of both! It gets tedious, but when it gets tedious I take a step back from competitions. But it’s how I got my start, and got my face out there. There aren’t really open stages in the city, so I think the best way to start performing is doing competitions. I tend to use them as practice stages – to run numbers and see if they work – so they have been super helpful with learning how to read a crowd. Also, I’ve made some of my closest friends in the community through competitions, so definitely fun and productive.

Were you always into arts and performing?

I was always interested in everything, honestly. I was always in chorus and theater in grade school, and have been writing and playing guitar since I was about 13. If it was creative, I was into it. Punk music was my original flame, and kind of my biggest inspiration for what I do now.

Where are you from?

I’m actually from Queens! Flushing, born and raised. 

Wow I don’t think I knew that about you… I’m from Flushing, too!

Surprise! It’s always a surprise when a New Yorker was actually born here.

I spent the better part of my teen years in western Massachusetts, and was super-involved in the punk scene there. I helped run shows in college kids basements…there was even one on a farm near Hampshire College. Basically, anywhere you could hide a bunch of drunk kids, we put a show on.

How did you discover drag?

I was always very aware of the LGBT community and drag. At my first Pride in Northampton I met some Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – and watched early seasons of Drag Race before it was cool, when it still looked like there was Vaseline on the camera lens. I never imagined I myself would do it, but I never thought it was something I could do.

I remember those olden days of the Vaseline lens. 

It was such a silly show in the beginning! And nobody watched it. I was really surprised how it blew up and took over the media!

By the way, I’m not quite sure how you identify gender-wise.

I identify as non-binary / gender-nonconforming, but this was something I only accepted and came out as this year, honestly.

Drag Race has for a long time (and arguably still), promoted the image of the cisgendered gay man as a drag queen, and nobody else can play. How did you come to realize that you could do drag, too?

I say it all the time: I think drag queens are born rather then something you just decide to do. I always tried to audition for talent shows with lip sync performances because it was fun – I never realized it was a real thing. I always used to sit and just paint my face for hours as a teenager, again just for fun.

But I think the ultimate factor when I decided it was something I wanted to do was seeing a video of Holy McGrail pop up on my YouTube recommended videos after a Drag Race binge. I was completely captivated by her and the Faux Queen Pageant in San Francisco, and knew it was something I wanted to do, too. I had just moved back to NYC, and couldn’t think of a better place to just give it a shot.

When you started performing and competing here, were all the other queens and nightlife people welcoming towards you and what you were doing?

Actually, I started doing [Brooklyn drag / burlesque collective] Switch-N-Play’s “Moxie” night – which was kind of like armature night – and I was welcomed super-warmly by them. And at my second show ever, I got some of my first drag dollars from

Sasha Velour

and her partner Johnny; I think this was either just before she left for Drag Race or just after she came back. Honestly though, for the most part it was all love. 

I remember I had asked

Lady SinAGaga

when she had started up her competition “Chosen” if they were open to “bio-queens” (not a term I use anymore, but I didn’t know much about the context then), and she told me to come play. From there I did Miss Boots & Saddle, and was possibly the only AFAB competitor they had. 

I think being nice and respectful got me far in the beginning. I had one situation with another queen who had informed me I wasn’t really a drag queen, but rather just a “drag hag” or something dumb like that… but other then that, it’s been a whole lot of love and acceptance.

Are you or were you part of Crimson Kitty’s AFAB drag collective, Ladyqueen?

I was a founding member, but we will say due to “creative differences” I no longer associate with them. I am just your average neighborhood hyper-queen! Though at this point I prefer just a “drag queen.” I pad, I cinch, I lip sync, I sacrificed my eyebrows for the sake of time… so why call it by any other name if we are doing the same thing?

I hear that! You were going by “Sugar Magnolia” in the beginning before you quite recently changed your drag name to Violet. Many queens do rename themselves over time, but what prompted this specific change?

My sister was a huge Grateful Dead fan when I was a kid, so the name “Sugar Magnolia” was kind of a joke. But I ended up getting regular bookings, so it stuck. I never really liked the name, and nobody got it. People always wondered why I didn’t do cuter stuff with the name “Sugar,” and then I was constantly hearing comparisons to

Shuga Cain, so I started feeling like I needed a change. I thought about other queens that thrived post-name change, and figured it wouldn’t hurt. Turns out, it was a really good idea!

The name certainly suits you and your material better.

Thank you!

What’s your favorite number to perform these days?

I love getting to perform more punk and rock songs, and embracing that side. I love performing “Celebrity Skin” by Hole. Last night I did “Bohemian Rhapsody” and had the most fun. Honestly, I love doing a male vocal song because it kind of is a play on my gender queer expression, and being this tiny lil’ thing performing these big, growly-voiced songs.

You’re doing something right, clearly! For starters, congratulations on being nominated for Best Scene Queen at this year’s GLAMS

Ah! Thank you! I’m so excited!

That nom is giving you props for both your looks and your hosting abilities. Did receiving this honor catch you by surprise?

To be honest, I’m still stunned, and can’t believe it! I’ve been busting my ass since the moment I started coming out and performing; it really validated all that hard work! It was so unexpected. I got a text message from

Bella Noche

telling me to check the GLAM Awards Facebook page. I honestly instantly threw up when I got the news. Especially seeing who I got nominated with!

How do you produce your drag lewks by the way – are you a designer / sewer, a smart shopper, or do you just Know The Right People?

Honestly, I get a lot of stuff from tacky shops like Rainbow then add studs, cut stuff up, yada yada. Currently saving up for a sewing machine, but I can hand sew… so using that to change up pieces from the rack has been my go-to. But I’m hoping to get a few flashy pieces made soon.

Where can we find you performing in the near future?

Well, this Thursday I will be debuting at Sycamore in Brooklyn for Q-Train. The stage is on top of the bar, so that should be fun!

And speaking earlier of the lack of open stage venues in the city, you will be appearing on one of the few this Friday: Lee VaLone’sJump Shark” fundraiser at Bizarre Bushwick

Yes! It’s such a fun show, and I’m always game for a good Planned Parenthood benefit! 

Do you know what you’e gonna do there yet?

I’ve got some ideas! I love really letting my freak flag fly when I’m at Bizzare. For the most part anything goes, so I try to always bring the acts that don’t always land in Manhattan.

Anything else?

I will also be joining Misty Mountains for Petra Fried Presents: Misty Mountains  at Rockbar on the 20th

And of course, I will be at my usual door gigs at Bizzare for “Sinner’s Kit Kat Cabaret” hosted by Lee Valone and

Vic Sin

on December 21st

 …and “Beef Show” with Lee on the 26th

…And who knows what will pop up until then!

Get those gigs gurl! Okay, so last question: what is the all-time best Christmas song that you might even perform this month?

Hahaha! Well, I’m Jewish, so that’s kind of a toughy. But honestly, the My Chemical Romance cover of “All I Want for Christmas” is gold.

Thanks Violet! Happy holidays and congrats again!

Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Violet Tendency’s upcoming gigs, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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