This genre-blending and gender-bending performer has evolved (over a short period of time) through several incarnations in Brooklyn nightlife into what we have today–something that’s hard to define, but thrilling to behold. Before you tuck yourself in tonight, let Theydy Bedbug bite!
Thotyssey: Hey hey, Theydy! Happy Almost Halloween! Do you have your lewk prepared yet?
Theydy Bedbug: Why hello! Well… Dragoween is all month, right? So I have ideas for a couple lewks! But no, I am an impromptu bug.
So, you often find yourself putting makeup here or there and pulling random things out of your closet with no idea how it will all add up?
Oh, definitely. I am making it up as I go! Unless a certain number has a specific costume that relates to the storyline, I try to do new looks each time by pairing together new combinations, and normally don’t know what I’m wearing until hours before… oops!
How would you describe, to the uninitiated, what kind of an artist you are? A burlesquer, a drag performer, a performance artist, all or some of the above?
All of the above! Draglesque clown, nonbinary bug, performance Fartist.
That is a business card I would definitely keep! Where are you from?
Well, I grew up in Indonesia and Singapore, but to two US citizens, so home is still a big ol’ question mark.
And how did all this fartistic clownery begin?
I’ve always been interested in the performing arts. My parents did community theater, so I was always around it and I was always make-believing scenarios. I think one way of dealing with being a baby closeted queer was making up fantasies and living in them.
My parents haven’t always understood my gender and sexuality, but they certainly unconsciously raised me to be a femme fag considering there were always costumes around my childhood. I feel really blessed to have had access to those tools to transform.
When did you find yourself mixing it up with the Brooklyn nightlife scene?
Three years ago, I took a workshop with Crimson Kitty called “Ladyqueen University.” It helped get the ball rolling and got me experimenting with names, lip sync, and makeup. My gender and my drag name have changed since then, but I appreciate that initial platform.
And then it was competing in the Mx Nobody pageant in 2016 that connected me to the Brooklyn scene and The Nobodies. After, those fools kept letting me roll through their shows and give messy numbers for tips.
I remember seeing you at that first Mx Nobody at Eastlands; it was my first or second ever judging gig. I don’t remember what your performing name was then, but I remember your act involved a tricycle and a poopy lollipop!
Wow, yes! That was Miss Cuntstrude. If Theydy is the intersection between a boy and a bug, MC was between an actual baby and a slut. She was helping me work through the infantilized sexuality of young girls, but also she was a HOT MESS.
She was memorable! A lot was memorable that night… Elle McQueen and Kandy Muse wound up in the Top 2, and then Elle won the final lip sync battle and the crown. But there was a sense of shade from the Haus when that happened, at least from my perspective.
True. I think that was a time in the scene where AFAB drag performers were not welcome. Not to say we have it easy now, but when I first began, non-cis men in drag were really excluded… even in Brooklyn. Honestly, The Nobodies were some of the only folks who gave me the time of day.
Things have changed dramatically in Brooklyn in just a few years! Still not perfect as you said, but so much of what the scene IS now involves gender fluid identity.
Congratulations on being the first person to appear twice in the Mx. Nobody finals! Do you think you might give it a go again next year?
I think my Mx Nobody competing days are over. It’s time to make space for other folks. That competition pushed me to make pieces I’m proud of, and introduced me to fab folks. It taught me to ask for support emotionally and artistically from my communities, which is actually quite hard for me. I can be stubborn about doing it all. And next year, I can’t wait to support!
Yes! So I get “Theydy,” which evolved from Lady and reflects a non-binary identity, but why “Bedbug?” No creature evokes more horror and disgust in this town.
Truly! A lot of my trans and my drag is about rejecting the position of pretty, weak, victim. I came to drag because I was tired of being cast in plays as the vapid ingenue, only valid in sexual relation to men. I wanted to access my rage, my ugly, my raw: the gross parts that compulsory femininity attempts to exterminate.
Bedbugs are resilient and relentless, not easily extinguished. Much of the poetry I perform is about turning sexual trauma I’ve experienced into strength by trans~forming myself into something that cis straight men are repulsed by. Plus, queering sexuality to me means flipping what we find sexy, and what we fear.
Can you describe s recent number / performance you’ve done that best embodies this description?
I just revamped my Mx. Nobody ‘18 finale number for a monthly show I help put on, Primal Scream. I begin this piece as a high femme fragile flower. After a tragic striptease, I pour “OFF” candles on my skin to ward off the bugs, and a spooky voiceover says: “think you can get rid of me that easy? Just because you’re itchy?” A poem ensues about how this flower is both flower and insect, and denying the bug, the gross, the ugly, the trans, will never make them less of a pest. This flower transforms into a full bug costume and a song about how “bed bugs bite, I hope they eat your heart” ensues.
Tell us more about Primal Scream, monthly at Bizarre Bushwick.
It’s a kinky cabaret that leads into a sensation play dungeon. I think the word dungeon intimidates people, but it’s really a basement with different stations for folks to safely explore different kinky sensations. It’s produced by Rara Darling and I perform and guide the hot wax station. We focus on teaching sexy ways of communicating consent boundaries within a pansexual queer space where all genders and body types feel welcome, we hope! Sacred and intentional kink through candles has been really healing for me, so I love guiding folks to connect with their breath and body and partner if it’s a couple session. It’s more spiritual than sexual for me. I think it has profound power for healing trauma and dysphoria stored in the body.
We’ll also see you this Thursday night at Starr Barr.
And THEN… there’s an event coming up next weekend I’m super excited about: Thee Suburbia’s Full Moons: Harvest Moon Halloween Showcase at Bizarre Bushwick on Sunday the 28th! I’m gonna be making my onstage hosting debut (gag), and the tremendous roster of Spoops includes Zalika Parsons, Chris of Hur, Martyr, Vylette Tendency, Pinwheel Pinwheel, Jayse Vegas… and of course, THEYDY! And so many more, I’m gonna be so starstruck! Aaaaaaaaa! Can you even!?
Hah! It’s going to be a wild time. There’s a lot of performers on the roster who are old pals, and many I’ve never met before! I appreciate that Suburbia offers opportunities to new folks in the scene. I think it’s easy to be a gatekeeper and fear new artists coming for your gigs, but much more in the spirit of community and collectively breaking down binaries to be a gate-opener. So let’s spoop on!!!
And I’m teaching a drag performance class to 8-11 year olds at BAX Brooklyn Arts Exchange this Fall. It’s been pretty heart-warming.
Werk! Last question: Will you be voting in November?