From the conservative “swampy suburbs” of Florida, to the rude streets of Paris, to the most trendsetting queer bar in Brooklyn, this young performer has seen it all and is turning it out: welcome to Paradise!
Thotyssey: Hey, Paradise! We suddenly have nice weather in our midst, but it’s very temporary… will you do outdoors-ey stuff tomorrow?
Paradise: Hi, thanks for having me! Tomorrow is my only day off this week, so I have every intention of catching some sun at Prospect Park.
May I ask what your day job is?
Of course! I’m currently selling butt plugs, harnesses and more at a feminist sex store in the Lower East Side.
What the world needs now! That’s awesome… do people coming into the store generally know exactly what they want and are comfortable, or do you often have to walk them through the purchase?
More often than not, our customers only have vague notions of the pleasure they seek. It is my job to negotiate said pleasure in a way that is not only comfortable, but also free from any assumptions about gender, sex or ability.
The Lord’s work! Do you have any particular product you can really endorse right now, based on customer feedback or whatever?
I’m not at liberty to endorse any product personally, but just about everyone seems to benefit from Uberlube’s simple and long-lasting, silicone-based lubricant.
Here comes the part when I ask where you are from, and what sort of creative pursuits were you involved in growing up.
I was born and raised in a swampy suburb on the gulf coast of Florida called Cape Coral. Needless to say, creative opportunities were few and far between in my hometown, but I was able to find and express myself at the local community theatre down the road from my house. I also represented and eventually led my school’s thespian society to state competitions every year, as well as acted and recited poetry for the French honor society (which I also led; I was a textbook overachiever those days).
Prestigious! Were you hoping for a career as a performing artist?
Absolutely! The theatre was what initially encouraged me to move to New York as soon as I finished high school. Well, that and the increasingly salient amount of ignorance / prejudice around my place of birth.
I guess it goes without saying that you had a hard time there.
It could have been worse. I was still incredibly unaware of my own queerness when I lived there, so my basic ass managed to get by relatively unscathed.
When did you come to NYC?
In 2015, I graduated from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie with a B.A. in psychology and French, then immediately moved down to Brooklyn with my girlfriend at the time (and very little else).
My queerness (and trans-ness in particular) proved much more elusive to the extent that I still feel I am searching at this moment. The best way I have found my queerness continues to be in exploring other people’s queerness.
Like, comparing and contrasting?
Mmm, for me it’s not so much about comparing as it is admiring, appreciating, and adapting. I’ve learned the hard way that comparing myself to others can lead to unnecessary feelings of insecurity. Now, I prefer to think of my interactions with society as informing and nourishing my sense of self, as well as our collective Self.
That sounds like a great place to be!
How did “Paradise” come about?
Paradise came about as the result of a gross oversight my junior year of college. When my school offered to send me to study in Paris completely free of charge, I thought I had reached the pinnacle of my existence. I journaled aggressively about my elite expectations of the city for months leading up to the trip.
When I finally touched down, however, I realized it was nothing at all like I had dreamed. Sure, the city boasts some of the most beautiful sights in the world, but the population was not at all amused by my purple-haired, skirt-wearing body. Everywhere I went I was greeted with slurs, spit and the occasional piece of garbage… by the time I left 6 months later, I knew that the only true paradise I could find was inside myself–only after getting an overpriced tattoo of the word in French (paradis) below my right knee, of course.
See, the French really DO suck!
Haha, the native Parisians do at least.
How did you start performing in Brooklyn in general, and ultimately the Rosemont?
My ex-girlfriend and I had been itching to perform for years before even arriving here, so one night we worked up the courage to ask the notorious Merrie Cherry for a chance in the upcoming dragnet competition. That was February of 2016; the rest was herstory.
Networking got us booked all over Brooklyn at least once, but it wasn’t until I found the Rosemont–which literally started with me giving shows for audiences of 5-10 people–that I knew I wanted to stick around and contribute to something more long-term.
Yes! As someone who’s had more than their fair share of moments in the spotlight, I can honestly express my immense honor in yielding it to others. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a lil’ Mesh in their Monday?
And you’ll have a particularly big night at the Rosemont next Friday.
Happy almost birthday! Okay, so onto a serious topic for a moment: the U.S. and its crazy relationship with guns. As a native Floridian–Florida being the site of the Pulse shooting and of course this recent massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, you must have a certain perspective on that culture.
Certainly. I wish that I felt more surprised by these events, but the truth is Florida has consistently proven to be one of the most violent and particularly gun-happy states in our nation. It should come as no surprise that I strongly feel this issue needs to be addressed and ultimately prevented.
We may finally be at a point as a country where we’ve had enough, but it’ll be hard to do anything with that worthless blob in the White House. In the meantime though, there are the families of the school’s victims and survivors to attend to: their basic needs, funeral costs, medical bills, etc.
Fortunately, Brooklyn queen Alotta McGriddles has organized a benefit show at Macri Park on Thursday (11pm) for these families, featuring an amazing cast of performers including Acid Betty, MoMo Shade, Miz Jade and yourself! This all kinda came together very quickly, but do you have any idea what you’re gonna perform?
None whatsoever! That’s almost always the case, though (at least until the night of; goodbye, over-achievement).
I hear that! But I am sure you and the other queens shall slay the night anyway!
Okay, last question: who’s gonna win Drag Race All-Stars 3?
I’ll probably get death threats for saying this, but I truly couldn’t care less!
Get thee to the bomb shelter, lol! Thanks, Paradise.