The original queen of Brooklyn has since become a star of the international stage… but right now her star is shining over Manhattan. World traveled, live singing, wickedly funny, painfully glam and profoundly married, Epiphany (also known as “Epiphany Get Paid” thanks to an old Facebook handle) unleashes her plot of world domination unto Thotyssey.
Thotyssey: Epiphany, hello and Happy New Year! You hosted the NYE party at Metropolitan Bar last night, how did that go?
Epiphany: Hey, hi! It was a great night, so many fun people these days in Brooklyn!
Not everyone knows this, but you are technically a Brooklyn queen yourself.
I was the first drag queen to work at Metropolitan and Sugarland, and that was, like, 12 years ago. I am the “Birth Mother of Brooklyn Drag.”
You must have a very interesting and gigantic womb!
Hahaha, something like that.
I just read an older interview with you where you were discussing how you started doing drag in your native San Diego to get into bars underage. This used to be the number one reason queens became queens prior to Drag Race! Now with the newer queens, it’s largely about being inspired by Drag Race, and wanting to be on the show.
Well, now it’s a legitimate occupation. Like, kids actually say “I want to be a drag queen when I grow up.” Drag has such mainstream attention now; it’s being monetized and advertised. The commercialization of the job has so many more options than when I started. Guys now start to do drag with the sole intention of getting on the reality show.
Is that a good or bad development?
There was no template when I started, so we all did it whatever way we saw fit to express ourselves. I don’t see much originality anymore. When I started here in NYC, in a single night night you’d see Raven O, Joey Arias, Sherry Vine, Lady Bunny, Miss Understood, Lavinia, Acid Betty, Rainblow, Formika, Dina Marie, Candis, and countless others; all with their own look and repertoire and personality. It was this crazy cacophony of sexuality and defiance to normality. The reality show has normalized drag, and thus the edges have been worn down for general public consumption.
I guess it’s good because it’s more inclusive, but bad ‘cause it’s all so similar now… with the show being the only goal.
Plus, performers are all so aware and careful now about not offending people, even though drag was kinda born out of this very fringe, always potentially offensive place. Even Bianca is getting some heat from her jokes now.
The new generation is very sensitive these days, it’s embarrassing. We had to develop a thick skin to be a drag queen. Now it’s quite literally for children.
As far as queens on TV go, you were in a pilot for a possible reality show that would’ve pre-dated Drag Race, and could’ve (should’ve) been the standard for drag on TV! Queens of Drag NYC would’ve starred yourself, Bianca, Lady Bunny, Sherry, Peppermint, Acid Betty, Mimi Imfurst, Logan Hardcore, Dallas DuBois and Hedda Lettuce! It was more of a “day-to-day in the life of” kinda show, and it’s still on YouTube as a a pilot broken up into short segments. Were there high expectations that this was gonna get picked up, or was it always a longshot?
I know that I didn’t have high hopes for it, as the production side was cheap and the advertisement and marketing was left solely to the cast members who already had all their own full-time jobs.
That sucks! I loved the pilot, though. You and Betty were the nice, normal ones!
Well, contrary to popular belief, we actually are the nice and normal ones.
I actually first encountered you when you had a show at the old Boots & Saddle… at the time I’d seen very few queens who were pretty and funny on the mic, and could also sing really well.
Yeah, I guess I am all those things. It’s a set of skills that’s taken me all over the globe. And I haven’t even been on the reality show yet.
And you were schooled in all the above before you started drag?
Those are all things that require training. I’ve always been an artist, and been in theatre my whole life. Also, painting and drawing my whole life. I was put into dance at five years-old and voice at eight. The humor came from decades of fending off assholes and sharpening my wit to disarm them (as is the same with most comedians).
Did it ever occur to you when you started showing up in bars as a young queen that you’d soon be utilizing all these skills as a professional?
It was never my intention to become a career drag queen, but I have a honed skill set that comes in sync well with the job requirements.
Like you said, being multi-talented and multifaceted has made you a desirable performer on the international stage. Throughout the year you are mostly in Europe, usually Mykonos or Berlin. Was the culture shock of these long overseas residencies a lot to deal with at first?
Oh man, yes it’s a lot to deal with: try doing drag in Sri Lanka, New York, and the Swiss Alps all in three weeks. Different cultures have different ideas of drag – and so it’s an evolution, really, to try and cope with everyone’s expectations, time zones, altitude, language barriers, and social specifications. It’s a culture shock, yes, but it makes me better equipped in the long run I think. I love my life, and I recognize how lucky I am to live it so deliciously.
Many people would love to do it the way you do! You also have been married for four or five years now (you did the wedding in full geish surrounded by other queens and nightlifers). Is it particularly challenging to balance that aspect of your life with traveling and performing?
Marriage is a challenge, and travelling does put strain on it. My husband misses me a lot, and I know in his perfect world he would have me stop working, and have a home together with kids. That option isn’t off of the playing table, but for now I’m trying to work as hard as I can while I still have a voice and some resemblance of youth left. I’ll stop working when he makes his first 10 million.
So okay, you’re back in New York now for a bit. In fact, you and Pissi Myles will be debuting a new Wednesday night show at Industry Bar called BROADS, which will replace Sherry Vine’s show now that she’s leaving us for the West Coast. Tell us more!
Yes, Pissi and I do have a new show! We both sing and we both do comedy. The audience in NYC is not easy to impress; luckily I’ve been doing it for decades, and Pissi for quite a while now. I think we will have to pull out all the stops, honestly. Industry on Wednesdays is a good time slot; I’m super excited to work with a staff and in a place I like so much!
Anything else coming up for you here in NYC?
I have some secret projects in NYC to unveil this winter/spring, ‘cause I think it’s time for a shakeup. These bitches have had it easy for far too long in my absence. I’m back, and I’m gonna fuck shit up.
Gag! We can’t wait! Okay, last question: if you could relive any one drag moment or performance from your career, what would it be?
Fuck, that’s a tough one. I’ve worked with so many queens in so many places.
One year for Pride here in NYC, I had been working at Stonewall all day and at night, and then I had to go announce Olivia Newton-John at a circuit party. By the time I got off the ferry to Governors Island my feet were bleeding, my face was sweaty, and the wind trying to steal my hair. I decided to get wasted at the bar, and before I knew it Brandon Voss was screaming at me to get my ass onstage. He threw me the mic and I ran onto the stage the moment the music stopped.
All of the sudden it all rushed into me: the heat of the day, the beautiful view of the city in the damp summer air, the whiskey newly coursing through my blood, the silence of 10,000 New Yorkers looking at me onstage. It was like time stopped just for that one second… like every cab hit a red light, every subway car arrived at the station, every wave on the harbor ceased to make noise, every mosquito sat quietly. Even Olivia Newton-John had held her breath for me, this sweat-drenched cross dresser. I steadied myself and announced her. When I said her name, the crowd roared in gay delight. She went onstage and sang disco, and we all danced under the moon.
That, and the time Bianca interrupted my wedding telling my husband that I was a monster and our marriage would be a nightmare.
Or the time Sherry Vine and I had a threesome with her ex-boyfriend.
Or sitting on Leonardo DiCaprio’s lap at The Box.
A storied life indeed! Thanks Epiphany… welcome back, and again Happy New Year!