An Arizona menswear designer turned Brooklyn drag queen, Lucy Balls had a monthly show at This- N-That before that venue closed. But after a hiatus where she struggled with figuring out the limits of boundary pushing in her darkly comic performances, she’s back and better than ever!
Thotyssey: Hey, Lucy! How do you think the holidays will be treating you this year?
Lucy Balls: Hi babe, thanks for chatting with me. I think the holidays will be pretty great this year. I’ve got a lot going on personally: new apartment, new love life, and new work. Plus, I’ll be flying to visit my Mom in France. So obviously that’s gonna be amazing, to drink rosé
by the Mediterranean with my mama.
OMG that does sound amazing! How long has your mom lived in France?
She was born and raised there, and then moved to the US when she was 18. She just moved back two years ago, so I’ve been trying to visit as much as I can.
And where are you from, exactly?
I’m from the southwest. A town called Flagstaff, in northern Arizona.
Did your interest in design start when you were growing up there?
Yeah, it totally did. There was so little art, fashion, music, etc. where I grew up that I just craved it all the time. I also started realizing at a certain point that it didn’t have to be just a hobby; it could be a career. So I set my sights on doing something in the creative field.
And was it always menswear?
Not initially. I started in womenswear, but realized I could implement a lot of “feminine” elements and ideas into my mens’ work… and that became much more exciting of a challenge for me. And also a great reflection of myself, personally – to be inspired by, and work off of.
It seems like we are finally coming into a place where even straight men feel a little more playful and adventurous in fashion.
Yesssss, hallelujah. I mean, it’s “cool” for straight guys to wear skinny jeans and tailored suits, so they’re loosening up a little as far as being conscious and comfortable with their bodies. But man, they have a long way to go for any real change.
That’s true… well it will keep you busy! On that note, isn’t it bizarre how bad Trump’s suits fit him? Is his body that weirdly shaped, or does he just have a bad tailor?
They are so, so, so terrible and ill-fitting. They don’t even have “no shape” in a cool, over-sized way. They just look like they were a large neighbor’s who died and gave him all his suits. And as far as his body, I like to think it’s just black, smelly gas from the neck down, holding two tiny gloves as hands. Maybe that’s why the suits float on him like they’re on top of a pool.
That’s a terrifying image, but you might be on to something there.
So you came to New York ultimately for design school?
Yeah. I dropped out of high school when I was 17, but still wanted to do design in New York. I wanted to apply to Parsons, but they told me because I dropped out they wouldn’t even look at me. I went to community college for a year. I worked really hard and got great grades, and got into Parsons with a scholarship!
Werk! And how did you discover the Brooklyn nightlife children?
I met Macy Rodman at Parsons, and we became friends. She started doing her show Bathsalts many moons ago, and I was there since the beginning. As more people would come, the more bridges I made.
So Macy convinced you to give Lucy a try.
Yeah, we kind of did push each other to do it. She definitely came up with my name one late night, sitting around. My boy name is Luc, so I’ve always identified with “Lucy.” And she screamed “Balls,” and it just clicked into place that easy.
How would you describe your drag aesthetic and “purpose” to the uninitiated?
I’d say my drag is thrift store camp mixed with 60’s 70’s ideas of glamour. I’ve always taken a funny approach to what I do, and tried to add a dark, gritty hook to it.
I guess my “purpose,” if I had one, would be to not to take anything too seriously. You can take something that troubles you mentally, emotionally, or even physically, and find a way to laugh about it. Find a way to flip the script on how you’re supposed to feel.
That’s a good formula! The scene in Brooklyn changed a lot since you started… you used to host a monthly show at Bushwick’s This-N-That before it closed last year. How did your drag develop over time doing that show?
A few obvious ways, like being more comfortable on a mic and being assured that what I was saying was worth saying… or even just trusting that it was funny.
But the main thing I learned was to push the boundaries. I found that I became afraid of doing something in ‘bad taste,” and lost my joy for drag a little while in that time because it wasn’t exciting for me. So now I’ve learned that when I trust my gut and have a clear vision, it will come across as funny or clever and not offensive…for the most part!
I would think that the whole culture war with “drag irreverence” versus “Politically correct language” is even more intense now. It seems like people are much more sensitive these days… for obvious reasons of course, given the state of the country.
But drag performance is usually about boundary pushing; how does a queen find the balance?
At the beginning, back at Bathsalts, it was a way more “fuck it” kind of scene… less expectation of what drag is and isn’t. Now it’s hard, because like you said. I never want to bash PC culture per se, because a lot of what is considered “PC” does need to have a more modern and in-depth discussion.
But that being said, I view my drag as more of comedian, and comedians have always been there to push the boundaries and make people laugh about the dark shit in the world. There’s a big difference between laughing at someone and finding the thing that makes you feel uncomfortable.. for laughing and then to pull apart and make fun of that.
But also with that being said, you never will please everyone, either. It just goes back to intention and trusting your gut.
You had some big moments this year. How was performing at Bushwig?
Amazing! They sold out on Saturday, so there were so many people participating the whole day. Everyone was in high spirits. Since we chatted about it before, I (of course, lol) offended some people with my number. But in the end, I’d rather have someone engaged with me rather than bored to death.
We were…..light Judys. I knew her and we had kiki’d a little, but we weren’t Thelma and Louise by any means.
I’m sure doing “NIGHTGOWNS” was a mega-kiki, though.
It’s always fucking incredible. She fills every seat in that theatre for two shows, and they always sell out within hours. She’s always been super kind to me, and finally we have a Drag Race girl bringing back some big shows to BK.
It seems like this year, a thousand new queens appeared in Brooklyn, and about 800 of them work at The Rosemont now.
Hahaha, it really does! I’m like, “where the fuck did this many queens crawl out of?”
Have you been following the new girls?
I have been following them, loosely. Queens like Mini Horrorwitz are really great. Young energy and music, and twisted as hell. I also like finally having another queer bar in that area. It’s time we got some new spaces and queers to kiki with.
Tell me about your own new monthly show “It’s My Party” there at The Rosemont, which begins Tuesday, December 12th. I understand the idea is that it’s gonna be your birthday there every month!
Yeah, girl! I got sick of waiting once a year to eat cake, get drunk, and cry about me, so I decided to throw a birthday party for me every month! Some will be pity parties and others big celebrations, but always some version of a birthday.
“It’s My Party” will be every second Tuesday of the month at The Rosemont. There will be cakes and boys and shows all night. Until then, you can catch me on Instagram, or in bed with a bag or corn nuts and a Camel cigarette.
Last question: “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas?”
I’d say “God isn’t real!”
That’s the spirit! Thank you, Lucy!