[Photo: James Michael Avance]
This Filipino fantasy has been giving us our whole life in NYC for quite a while now… but after taking a sizable break from the biz she’s back and better than ever. Thotyssey dishes the T with the delicious Digna!
Thotyssey: Digna, hello! Thanks for chatting tonight! How was your Memorial Day Weekend?
Digna: It was amazing! I was able to take a weekend trip out to the Hamptons to hang out with some friends, and made it back in time for Alegria on Sunday night!
Was Alegria work or play?
Oh it was all play, I love me a circuit party!
I’ve seen the pictures! These giant circuit parties are struggling to find big spaces to accommodate their brand these days… has that affected how fun / successful they are today, from your perspective?
Um, yes and no. Alegria used to be at Webster Hall, and that place was massive. So many wonderful memories and friendships were built there, so these days you just can’t help but compare! Ultimately though, every one of these parties have their own vibe, and they all offer different experiences. I go for the music, the dancing and the company of my favorite people in the world… so it’s all good!
So you’ve been part of NYC nightlife for awhile now. But before we get into all that, where are you from originally?
Well I’m Filipino; I was born in Manila. I moved to the US in 2002: Memphis, TN to be exact.
What do you remember about living in Manila?
Honestly, what I remember the most was being spoiled by my grandparents. My mom left to work in the US when I was 7. Also, my older brother and I would always bicker, and I’d chase him with a knife crying, lol!
A drama queen from day one! When you moved to Memphis, was that a difficult adjustment for you?
Honestly, it was okay The hardest part was getting the English language out of me. In Manila, you learn English from the day you start school–but for some reason it just wouldn’t come out of my mouth! It took me a while to get comfortable, but once the comfort was there, I was trouble! Besides that, going in to a new school and meeting new people was easy-breezy.
Being super social at a young age was probably a good indicator that you were gonna be a star someday! Were you always interested in performing? And makeup and fashion, for that matter?
My grandmother is an amazing singer. So is my mom. My gay uncle was in theatre, so I guess I can say I was surrounded by performers! Growing up, I’ve always had an eye for fashion; makeup came later in life.
What brought you to NYC?
Well, I was young and ambitious. Still am, okuuurt…! I had $200 cash with a motivation to conquer the world! Actually I moved here to do makeup. That’s all I had in mind. That didn’t work out well–the competition was REAL! I ended up working at Dunkin Donuts for almost a year. The makeup gig didn’t pickup until a couple of years in. Now it’s my career, too!
How did you discover drag?
Ha! Great question. Before I knew what drag actually was, there was my older brother. He loved to dress up for Halloween. And even at home, he would wear my grandmother’s “daster”–which is a sun dress–and prance around. So growing up, the idea of dressing up was there… and I guess I can say my brother introduced me to it. He was my favorite drag queen!
I’m sure he’s honored! When did you start going out as Digna?
The first time I did it was for my going away party in Memphis, right before I moved to NYC. But I didn’t actually start going out in drag until 2011.
You used to be known as “Digna Shei.” What’s the origin of that name?
I go by just “Digna” now. In the beginning, a friend of mine told me I was too pretty to have a pretty name. He came up with Digna–in the Philippines it sounds like a maid’s name, Haha!
Werk, maid! How did you start getting gigs?
Just like everybody else: showing up and and doing numbers here and there!
And soon you started working at The Web.
Yes! I started as a gogo boy / shot boy and I promoted myself to a drag queen!
Oh, the stories I hurrrrd about the life of a gogo boy at The Web!
Yeah… no, not my story! Lol
There was a time where there was this huge, fierce posse of Asian queens in the city, many of whom worked at The Web: Jiggly Caliente, Yuhua Hamasaki, Kara Sucia… and I’m not sure if they worked there also, but Tara Miso Rice and Asia Persuasia were part of that crew, and “pre-Jasmine” Jasmine Rice (aka KimChiChi Shamalan-Something-Whatever)! Some of those queens are still here and and amazing, but many have moved away from drag or out of the city. Do you miss that big sisterhood?
You know what, I actually produced a shoot with Magnus Hastings with all of these girls! We called it “Haus of Asia.” Jasmine didn’t work at The Web, but I knew her from the beginning so I invited her to shoot with us. Tara was my big sis and Asia was my daughter, and they also did not work at the Web. We are all still sisters, just doing our own things!
[Photo: Magnus Hastings]
Would you say your passions with drag lie more in the aesthetic side than the performing side?
I would say both… I love the aesthetic part of drag. And even though I’m not the best performer, I am visually appealing… so I am definitely someone worth watching!
Vivacious told us that you and your cosmetics expertise were instrumental in getting her makeup skills up to par as she prepared for her season on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
I like to help anybody, if I can. She was one of the nicest and funniest queens I’ve worked with.
Regarding this past season, it was cool seeing Yuhua being Yuhua on the show, wasn’t it?
Yes! The bitch is insane, and I am so happy for her.
It’s a bummer that she couldn’t spend more time there.
I was kind of sad when she got booted off. I know she will make it super far in life though, the girl is smart!
Do you have interest in doing the show at some point?
Yes, it’s on my To Do list.
It seems like you kinda stepped away from drag for about year, until recently.
It was for a year and a half, I believe. I just needed a break, I was going through a rough patch, and I had to step away for a bit before it consumed me.
But now you’re back in a big way. First off, you are a weekend hostess at the Ritz! What’s that like?
It’s awesome! I have Friday nights at The Ritz, it’s such an amazing party. The energy is just insane, and the crowd is so eclectic on Fridays. You never know what to expect! I host a quick 2am show, with a special twist that involves the audience. You’re gonna have to come to see what it is! I also do some Saturdays, whenever we have a huge circuit DJ from overseas.
You’re also part of the Lucky Chengs drag dining experience, which has been situated in a number of very different venues at this point but currently resides in Stage 48. Chengs has a long history of serving the fiercest Dinner Queens, how are you liking it there?
I love it! Lucky Chengs is my home. I’ve actually been with them on and off since the beginning of my drag career. Now I am a permanent cast member at the Stage 48 venue!
They’ve been doing interesting things there lately, like showcasing out-of-town queens and big name NYC girls. And now they’re trying something else: outsourcing!
Oooohhh yesss, the cat’s out of the bag! On June 4, we are launching our brand at Megu at The Dream Downtown. Different cast, different vibe. This is another side of Lucky Chengs we are super excited to showcase. On our opening night we have Patti Spliff, Nick Gaga, Phaedra Phaded, Astala Vista and of course ME.
That’s an amazing lineup! And will this be weekly dinner and shows moving forward?
That’s right! Get this sushi, baby! It’s going to be every Monday night at 7:30!
Congratulations! Okay, in conclusion: in light of Kim’s recent meeting with Trump…. who actually is the greatest Kardashian?
Ummmm, duh: Kimora Blac!
Hey, you’re right! Thanks, Digna!
Digna hosts Friday and select Saturday nights at the Ritz (10pm), select weekend nights at Lucky Chengs at Stage 48, and select Mondays for the Lucky Chengs takeover of Megu (7:30pm). Check Thotyssey’s calendar for all upcoming gigs, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.