Once a favorite bartender at two Manhattan drag destinations, Long Island-born Broadway Babe Ian Joseph recently left that side of the bar to pursue full time drag him/herself. And it’s already paid off, with placement in a top pageant and a growing reputation as an expert wig designer. Now’s not the time to sleep on Shelby Late!
Thotyssey: Shelby, hello! Thanks for chatting today! I understand you had a brunch gig today?
Shelby Late: Yeah, it was a one-off!
That’s the best way to put it, for sure! Exciting and scary. Everything has lead to this… literally. When I started working as a bartender, I had hung my performing and theatre hat up, so to speak.
You have an extensive background in musical theater.
Yasss! I studied musical theatre performance at Syracuse University, which was a conservatory-style training within a university. So basically, I didn’t have any set non-theatre requirements, which I loved.
What’s been your favorite role on stage?
Hands down Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, simply because of the experience of leading a show. But the favorite character I’ve played would be Tobias in Sweeney Todd. I looooved getting to play him because he was so very different from beginning to end… I liked his “journey.”
Did you ever imagine back in the day that drag would be in your future?
Absolutely not. I used to be extremely intimidated by queens, and would avoid seeing drag shows. But then I started going to TNT (RIP) and started watching the Race on TV, and started to see the art behind it. Ironically, my earlier memories are seeing Marti Gould Cummings and Ruby Roo, who have both been very instrumental in this new career path.
Ruby actually named you, right?
The pun of it all! And Marti was the first person to ask me to do a wig for them, and donated wigs for me for my BC/EFA auctions. And after that, it all kinda blew up.
And now you’re one of the premiere wig stylists of New York dragdom! That’s pretty amazing, for such a young queen. Did your own styling skills surprise you when they surfaced?
Yeah! For sure. I learnt a lot from Bobbie Pinz and Miz Cracker. I’m a visual learner, and always liked creating things with my two hands. So it’s come naturally, mostly. I’m going back to school for cosmetology ASAP (insert GoFundMe page!) so I can open my work back up to TV, film and theatre.
When did you start with pageants?
The first one I did was Miss Monster, and I didn’t know what I was doing, I was still an orphan then. But the Ultimate Drag Pageant was definitely a turning point. It was creatively challenging to do a theme every week, and it forced me to really do the do.
Congratulations on an incredible turn at the much-followed Miss’d America pageant a few weeks ago… First Runner Up! That’s a huge deal! How were you expecting that night to go?
I threw all my trust in Pattaya Hart and my dressers that night. I knew I was in a place that I was overthinking. My inner saboteur (”Miss PrEp-Aired”) thought I needed another week, but I knew I had a strong, thought-out and detailed package. I just needed to show what we had prepared (I saw “we” because it takes a whole damn team to compete). I knew I needed to stay present for Q & A, so most of my focus was on getting to that point and keeping my heart rate down. lol!
Well played! So there was a minor controversy regarding how the Borgata management (or the pageant management on behalf of the hotel) asked the competitors at the last minute to remove political content from their numbers. Did that affect your package at all, or anyone else’s that you know of?
It wasn’t a last minute change, or anything like that. They expressed the Borgata’s wishes in the initial email with the pageant rules, so we knew the whole time. It just wasn’t really public ‘til Tina came out with it, and rightfully so. So it didn’t change anything in terms of my package
Will there be more pageants for you in the near future?
Yes. I’m itching for a crown now.
Yes! I’ve never worked with Andy before, but I’ve admired their aesthetic and dedication to details. And Carlos and I bonded through the Ultimate Drag Pageant… and now I read her for her Überhair!
Then Friday, you’ll be at Suite Bar.
We’re also doing a Miss’d America Stonewall Invasion on November 11! And few really cool things in the works that aren’t set in stone just yet. So I’d say, make sure you’re registered to vote, and to follow along!
Okay, final question: the latest A Star is Born, yay or nay?
I haven’t had time yet to see it (booked and blessed), but undoubtedly a yayyyyyyy!