A performing legend in NYC nightlife for over a decade, here is a queen among queens. Whether she’s turning it with the ballroom voguers, the Lips bachelorettes or the House music aficionados at her new party at Monster, she brings charisma, uniqueness and all the rest wherever she goes. Thotyssey takes a bow to Morgan Royel!
Thotyssey: Morgan, hello! Nice to finally speak with you! How are you enjoying this insane weather today?
Morgan Royel: Hi Jim I’m doing well, this crazy weather is a mess. But good sleeping weather.
Cheers to that! Nightlife folk never the see the sun… but then as a Lips queen, you probably also work your share of days.
Yes I do, I’m used to it.
So which do you prefer, day or night drag?
I prefer night drag. It’s more fun!
How long have you been a drag performer now, if you don’t mind me asking?
Oh wow, I been doing drag over 15 years. I started in the ballroom scene.
Are you a native of the city?
I’m originally from Newark, New Jersey. I was going back and forth for years, but finally moved here about 5 years ago.
What attracted you to the ballroom scene in those early years?
I actually joined the ballroom scene when I was 16 years old, and caught a good friend of mine’s eyes… and honey, that’s when my journey started.
What was it like? Were you finding family and friends, or was it cutthroat?
It was a life of its own. You just learn how to survive quickly, and learn people. And yes, my friends did become my family–but I did have relationship with my [biological] family later on in years. The scene taught me how to survive in life, but after a while I could not entwine my career and ballroom at the same time… so I had to make a choice.
When did you start performing outside of that scene as a queen?
I believe I did my first show when I was 19 at this place in the Village called Two Potato, and it was amazing start. I fell in love with it, and went from there.
Two Potato is greatly missed! There are practically no spaces left for queer people of color in the city. Do you think this might change someday?
I believe so, as long as we can support each other and stick together.
Hopefully! You are known for being glamorous and turning fierce lip syncs, but you’re also funny. How did your style of drag evolve? Like, were you always all of those things, or did you become all that over a long period of time?
Oh thank you, my love! My drag did evolve over the years… it takes time to become royalty! I just knew how I wanted to be, and I stayed focused. Being funny came along with the territory, working here in the city.
Who are the divas that have inspired and informed you?
Mary J Blige is my favorite. Also Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan and Stephanie Mills.
When did you start working at Lips?
I’ve been with there ten years now.
Wow! Are you amazed at how successful the franchise continues to be? They are still opening new Lips all over the country!
Yes, I am and I’m glad to be a part of that!
Lots of drag queens complain about having large groups of women in the audience, i.e. the “bachelorette” scene, but of course that makes up a big part of Lips’ clientele. Do you mind performing for all those excited ladies ever?
Not at all. I love performing for the girls, they still appreciate drag. They are so amazed even if I come out with the paper bag on my head. It’s enjoyable for them.
It’s true, for straight people everything a drag queen does is amazing. Bitchy gays should learn from them.
You are absolutely right! The shade comes when you’re performing for the gays. Sometimes it can be nerve-wracking!
And of course the queens who get on Drag Race with the “perfect” Instagram beats also kinda distort the gays’ expectations of “good drag,” right?
Just watched an old clip of you and Ginger Snap, another Lips veteran, doing “Telephone.” she’s a nutty fruitcake in the best possible way, isn’t she?
Absolutely! We are Ebony and Ivory.
Superstar Sundays is your big night at Lips. What is a number that you do there that always gets the ladies insane?
Mary J. Blige!
If you don’t mind me asking, how long did it take for you to fully embrace your identity as a beautiful trans woman? It is a process.
Yes, it was a process. It took me just about the same time I was working at Lips to embrace the process, cuz I always wanted to do it. But that was the main reason for me moving into the city, about 6 years ago. I made the best decision of my life
So happy for you! Peppermint on Drag Race talked about how people in the trans community maybe pressured her to stop identifying as a drag queen when she transitioned. Did you ever experience similar pressure?
Yes, I totally have experienced it… especially from Ballroom friends. But my drag is my passion. I just surrounded myself with my drag family, and the support was amazing. Drag keeps me in the game, and as well it pays for the transition to keep moving, and bills.
Speaking of Peppermint, when she began her touring career as a RuGurl, she left you and DJ Scotty Rox in charge of her Thursday night party “Do The Right Thing” at the Ritz! How have you been enjoying that, and how would you describe that party now to someone who has never been there?
Yes, my sister left it to me and Scotty. It’s an amazing hip-hop party that just got even better. The vibe is great, the music is great. It’s always a turn up when I’m in the building.
And now for some more exciting news…Magnetic Mondays, a house music party you’ve been doing with DJ Nesto over at the Monster, is moving to Wednesdays this week! Now you’ll have a rotating cast of guest performers: Empress Vizcaya, Lauren Ordair, Michelle La Veneno and Vita Summers!
Putting together this Magnetic Monday night party has been great and challenging at the same time, but I’m glad that it’s paid off. Working with DJ Nesto and the staff at the Monster is cool. As we move the party to Wednesday, I’m hoping that it can get even better. We have people embracing house music, which has no color is no gender. It’s just everybody coming to enjoy the music.
Have a great opening night! Okay, last question: what is the best piece of advice you can give to a brand new queen trying to make it in NYC today?
I would say, just make sure this is something that you will be focused on doing and making it your passion. And remember, you are your boss of your own brand… enjoy it.
Thank you, Morgan!
Morgan Royel hosts Superstar Sundays at Lips (7:30pm) and hosts / performs there throughout the week. She also hosts “Magnetic Wednesdays” at the Monster (midnight) and “Do The Right Thing” at the Ritz (Thursdays, 11pm). Check Thotyssey’s calendar for a full list of upcoming appearances, and follow Morgan on Facebook and Instagram.