Looking for a tribe and a platform to call her own, Fearless Young Joshua arrived here from Middle America not terribly long ago and literally dreamed his glamorous drag persona into existence. Potentially your next Miss Rockbar, all hail the lovely Aria Derci!
Thotyssey: Aria, hey! Are you excited for Halloween?
Aria Derci: Not exactly. Haha! I dress up 4-5 days at werk. I am excited, though, because I have a show on Halloween at Icon, so that will be a lot of fun!
You actually have a lot going on! We’ll get to all that. But, how long have you been a queen now?
I celebrated my one year anniversary on October 12th!
Where’s your hometown?
I’m originally from Indianapolis.
Everyone I know from Indiana hates Indiana! What’s your take?
I miss being able to buy breadsticks anywhere. There is a serious lack of breadsticks in NYC.
That’s true… it’s Olive Garden or bust! Breadsticks aside, what ultimately brought you to NYC?
I always felt like I didn’t belong. I was, and am, a free-spirited weirdo that does whatever comes into my head. New York felt like a place where I could be myself without judgement. People in Indiana tend to be very sweet and judgmental. Also, I listened to a lot of Ani Difranco in high school, and it just seemed like where I needed to go.
Ani’s a shepherd! It’s often damn hard living in this city though, isn’t it?
Yes. It can also be very lonely. People are so focused on themselves and what they’re trying to achieve, that they lose a bit of themselves in the process. I have been very lucky because I have a really strong sisterhood!
How did you get involved in the world of drag?
Originally I moved here because I wanted to follow in Gilda Radner’s footsteps and perform on SNL. However, the world of comedy is rooted in toxic masculinity and I didn’t enjoy the people I was meeting. I asked the universe what I should be doing with my life, and I went to sleep.
That night, I had a dream that people where coming up to me saying, “Aria, that was beautiful,” and “Aria, you’re so beautiful.” Aria this, Aria that, praise, praise. And when I woke up, it felt like what I should be doing. So I told my friend Colin, and he said that if I wanted to be a drag queen that he’d film me shaving off my beard, putting on my face and make a music video. So we did, and I went to see Gilda Wabbit and she asked me to be her DJ for her then-show at Icon. And I just have been running with it ever since.
Drag show DJs are the unsung heroes of nightlife, I think.
Yes, they truly are. Also, bartenders with soundboard knowledge are godsends. I still DJ every other Wednesday at Icon [now for Petti Cake’s show]. In drag, of course!
How would you describe Aria’s performing style and aesthetic?
Hmmm… aesthetically: vintage, Italian film star meets a riot grrrl. Performance-wise: I’m very theatrical, and most of my numbers come from an emotionally charged place of truth. I love doing numbers that you wouldn’t expect to see at a bar show, and telling a story.
And you sing?
I do sing, yes.
That works well with the name! Speaking of names, on Facebook you are listed as Joshua “Fearless” Smith. Is fearlessness something you’re known for?
As Aria, yes. As Josh, something I’m getting better at remembering.
One thing you did do that would fill many queens with fear is getting through the experience of the Iconic drag competition at Icon recently. This competition seemed extremely challenging, even as far as drag competitions go! How was that experience for you?
Iconic was hard because you are creating two moments each week. You had your mini-challenge, which could be a look and a Q&A, or it could be a challenge to create a number based on what you grabbed from a bag to tell a story in under three minutes. This was paired with very specific themes that you as a performer could interpret however you wish. I really thrived in this aspect of the competition. I was able to bring my theatrical storytelling to a new level. I would take a Joss Whedon approach to numbers and think, “what tragic situation can I put Aria through this week? Is her favorite band breaking up? Is she having a psychotic episode? Did the love of her life break her heart… again?” That’s where the fun came in… what story do I want people to see coming out of this beautiful creature?
I also developed my sisterhood through the Iconic competition. I see Sherry Poppins, Cissy Walken and Andy Starling every day, and since the competition we’ve been helping one another with various projects and competitions. It, all and all, was really great for me.
Well, now you’ve found yourself in the finale of another completion: Miss Rockbar, which crowns a winner this Tuesday! You must’ve put a lot of work into this package also.
My eyes are bleeding, my eardrums are ruptured and I can’t feel my fingers.
I was really proud of the piece I presented for the semifinals. The audience at Rockbar is so wonderful because they will go on any journey you decide to take them on. They want to be entertained, and they want to see numbers they won’t see anywhere else, so this is what has driven me while creating my set. I always put my entire self into my work and that’s what you will see when I compete on Tuesday because I love drag.
Congrats and good luck! And I understand you’re taking part in a Halloween show at Lips afterwards!
Heidi Haux reated this amazing mega mix of the future cult classic, Scream Queens! It’s at 8pm on October 29th. I am playing the Mom in the bathtub and one of the Red Devils! I get to kill a lot of people!
Anything else to report?
Yes. Sherry Poppins and I are at Icon Sundays until the end of October. I am performing at Icon for Halloween at 10pm, I’m assisting Cissy Walken November 9th at the Laurie Beechman Theatre for Back to Life, and the on 14th I’m guesting at Duplex with Heidi Haux.
I’d like to see Ginger Minj play Ursula.
I second that! Thanks, Aria!