As most people who have followed NYC drag in the past decade can attest, here is one of the city’s most talented and provocative queens. Whether she’s giving you a crushing ballad or a smashing series of high energy dance moves, she is always–fascinatingly–equal parts drama and kiki. Brooklyn Pride is happy to have her this year, and Thotyssey is happy to get her for this (long overdue) minute!
Thotyssey: Miss Mocha, hello! Thanks for chatting today, how are you doing?
Mocha Lite: Hello! Doing better… very well, actually.
Glad to hear it! It’s a beautiful day, but we’re almost to the point of Unbearable Drag Weather! Will that be a bad situation for you, or is it easy to handle at this point?
Haha! It’s definitely not easy–I lost an eyebrow just last night. Every summer I do my share of complaining, but I remember somehow that I survived last summer… so I power through.
[Photo: Katelyn Baron]
How long have you been a working queen in New York City?
Just under ten years, I believe.
Here is a wonderfully vague and broad question: what is the key to longevity in this business, when most queens kind of disappear after two or three years?
I can’t say I know, exactly. But I’d say, first you have to want it… and want it even when it hurts. I’ve been through many phases, but nothing is more successful for me than focusing on my strengths. That, and I just having an inborn love for the stage. It’s kind of all I know!
And few can do it better. So you are an exquisite, multiracial native Long Islander. Were dancing, performing, fashion etc. also always part of your identity?
I’ve been performing as long as I can remember: community theater and the arts are always where all my passion has gone. Drag is really a great way to do it all.
A lot of times when I see you on the stage, it really does look like you are acting out the lyrics and / or playing characters. Does your headspace go into another realm when you’re performing?
Well, I guess! It’s the most fun part of drag for me– besides making people smile. Allowing myself permission to commit one hundred percent to a feeling onstage in front of a group of strangers is [intoxicating] and thrilling. So sometimes I do need to really disappear, as it were. It really does depend on the nature of the the number, really.
You and Misty Meaner have been partners on and off stage for quite some time. Was it a situation where one of you discovered drag first and the other was like, “I wanna do this too?”
Haha, absolutely not! We both had an interest in the art form–getting to see amazing queens on Fire Island is where we started to see that there is, in fact, a world that took it seriously. And we really wanted to be a part of it. We definitely began together, and grew together.
Where were some of the venues you two started performing in?
Around that time, I did a lot of going out just to be notified–as is the beginning of most drag adventures. But I had some great opportunities at The Ice Palace, with Logan Hardcore and Ariel Sinclair. Also, some great places around Long Island that aren’t around anymore, before I moved to Brooklyn.
You and Misty were basically there in Brooklyn from the beginning. What was going on in that scene when you two first started doing shows there?
Not a whole lot, to be honest. I was working mostly in Hell’s Kitchen when I first came out here. Sugarland and Metropolitan were the the most popular watering holes at the time… but Sugarland is where I really got to watch the beginnings of the crazy scene we know today.
The drag landscape that came out of ther was a little less polished then what was happening in Manhattan, a lot more “anything goes” and art-driven. Did you find yourself more comfortable in Brooklyn than in the more Broadway-influenced HK scene?
Nope, I’m comfortable anywhere there’s a stage. I mean, there are some obvious differences between the drag of Brooklyn and Manhattan, but there are even bigger differences between me and some of my fellow BK girls. We are all different! That’s only one of the coolest things about drag.
“Misty and Mocha” were basically the only drag couple in the city for a while, and that was considered really odd and novel to a lot of people at the time. But since then, drag couples have become much more common. Wouldn’t it seem obvious that the best person to understand what it’s like to live a drag queen life is another drag queen?
To me, that does seem obvious. And I would say it’s definitely a plus, having someone who gets how hard it can be. We’ve been together for a long time, and like any relationship issues exist. Drag has never been one of them.
Princess is of my coven, a sister witch–also Lilith LeFae, and Catrina Lovelace. The idea of drag parenting is daunting to me; that kind of pressure makes me nervous. I would say guidance is definitely golden with drag, though. I’ve had a lot of very incredible queens teach me some really incredible things. The best way to be a drag parent, I’d say, is just to be friends, really–share information, and do your best to help each other.
Besides Lovegun, TNT was another major hub of BK nighltife where you had shows that has since closed. Do you miss those two spots, or is it more like “that’s the past, time to move on?”
Any queer space shutting down will always make me sad, and I’ll miss them both. TNT was definitely a very special place for me, and many others, I loved that place, and kicked ass on that stage for a few years.
And then there was Boots & Saddle. You and Misty had a long-running show there, then parted with the venue on bad terms, but ultimately mended fences with the owner. You even resumed doing a show there for those last few months before Boots abruptly closed. Would you go back there to do a gig when the place reopens under a new name and management, if that opportunity presents itself?
Sure, why not–if they’d want us! Although a lot of people lost jobs when they closed. I’d have no problem getting in the back of the line, so to speak.
Y’all are very busy now with gigs as it is. On Tuesdays and Fridays you give shows at Macri Park in Brooklyn. Do you usually have the same crowds on both nights, or are they two very different cultures?
The shows differ in style, and structure. Like you said earlier, Sassy Frass Meaner is Misty’s daughter, so she is very often with us [on Tuesdays, along with] the incredible Devo Monique. But I love meeting new queens, and having them at either show.
Queerpong at Phoenix on Thursdays is your longest running gig now.
Yes Queerpong has been with us for five drunken years–it’s amazing, I can barely believe it! We started the party because where we are from on Long Island, beer pong is a standard–but often hetero-dominated–[game]. So we just wanted a very gay twist on the whole vibe, and it’s been so great.
And have you and Misty ever played against each other?
Many times. She often wins, she’s really good!
This season, you’re also hosting a RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party right before Queerpong. So… I guess Eureka’s gonna win this thing, right?
Maybe! She’s pretty hardcore. I’m definitely a fan of hers.
Regarding this whole “Azealia Banks versus RuPaul, versus Monet, versus all Drag Race, versus all gays” business: should we be purging Azealia from our music libraries even though ”Anna Wintour” is such a bop?
I mean, who knows? If you want to go that far, that’s fine I guess. Think of it this way: I’m not sure we’d love a lot of artists the way we do today if social media were even a decade older than it is. We have, in ways, lost track of how to pick battles.
That being said, I perform a lot of Banks. I expect to hear things from people, but I don’t really care. I perform Biggie Smalls too, but they throw dollars at his sexist and violent lyrics, and at me, for years (to clarify, I’m not comparing their work). I’m just saying, beloved artists sometimes say and do wild things. It’s up to you to discern what’s really worth your time.
On a Lite-r note (gag), you and Misty recently started hosting a Saturday night party at the Boiler Room in the East Village. You’re probably the first queens to do a show in that neighborhood bar in, well, maybe ever? How’s that going?
It’s fun! The staff is so nice. But it’s still the beginning, and we’re just getting to know the crowd… but so far I love it!
And this is cool: you will be performing as a solo act for the Brooklyn Ball at Littlefield on Brooklyn Pride Saturday, June 9th! It has a cute theme: the “strawberry social” from To Wong Foo. How do you think that’s gonna go?
I had a rehearsal today, and I’m getting things here and there together. I’m feeling confident it’s going to be really fun!
Congratulations on you and Misty being nominated again for Nightlife Legend Hall of Fame at the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards! This has gotta be your year, right?
Yes! Fingers crossed! Thank you very, very much. It’s exciting to be nominated, and I’m even more excited to pick out what to wear! It’s going to be a crazy weekend.
What else is on the horizon for you?
Well our Pride party at The Boiler Room is coming up! All my events this month are gonna be great–I mean, it’s PRIDE!
Happy Pride! Okay, last question: since you and Misty have basically done them all (well, probably not Christina and Demi’s “Fall In Line” yet, but will anyone?)… what is the best drag duet lip sync number to do?
I’d have to say in the spirit of Pride, “Happy Days / Get Happy” by Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland. It’s a perfect syncopation of positively-motivated, pleasant sounds, arranged in a way that is fun to learn and perform and guaranteed to please!
My troubles are forgotten! Thanks, Mocha!
Mocha Lite co-hosts shows with Misty Meaner at Macri Park (Tuesdays and Fridays, 11pm), Phoenix Bar (Thursdays, 10pm) and the Boiler Room (Saturdays, midnight). Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Mocha’s full schedule of upcoming gigs, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.