This compelling newbie New Yorker with a style all her own is working her way under the skin and into the minds and hearts of NYC drag. After nearly countless bar show guest appearances and competition packages, she finally has a showcase to present a talent that is both unique and timeless. Let’s fly royally to the stars with the one and only Novaczar!
Thotyssey: Novaczar, hello! Thanks for talking with today, I’m sure this is a busy time for you! How are things?
Novaczar: Things today are actually more normal then busier days! I’m off to my day job right now.
What might that be?
I work as a host at a Mediterranean restaurant in midtown called Ousia.
Oh werk! You perform in drag a lot during the week, whether it’s guest spots or competitions or what have you. Is balancing all of this with your Gay Day Life ever a challenge?
You know, sometimes it does get tricky. However, I’ve been very lucky in that one of the managers at my job is a drag queen himself, so they’ve all been very accommodating in that they understand eventually I want to be a full time drag queen and my gigs are my priority. I have to remind myself to also allow nights off from drag and work so I don’t overwork myself, but it’s NYC and everyone kind of has to survive.
Dog eat dog!
Ha! I love dogs!
So, where are you from originally?
I was born in Livingston, NJ but when I turned one year-old my parents moved my brother and I to Virginia Beach, where I stayed until I was 18 years-old.
How did you begin as a performer?
One day I told my mom, “I want to try musical theater!” And when I was in third grade, she signed me up for a summer theater camp… and the rest is history!
You certainly have a rich, interesting voice.
Thank you so much!
What are your go-to showtunes?
Honestly, I’m super-attracted to powerful leading lady power ballads. I find myself connecting to contemporary musical theater such as anything from Next to Normal, “Get Out and Stay Out” from 9 to 5, and “Come to Your Senses” from Tick Tick BOOM. “Meadowkark” from The Baker’s Wife has been my favorite since the fall of 2018, though.
And how did you discover drag, and ultimately create Novaczar?
When I was finally 18 years-old, my best friend at the time took me to one of the local gay bars in Virginia Beach called Ambush. It was a hole in the wall bar with drag shows almost every day of the week. At first I was turned off to the idea, because to me I thought the only type of drag that existed was female impersonation — which I respected and enjoyed watching, but it wasn’t something I thought I personally wanted to do. [That is,] until I met a drag queen who was more androgynous and that really started to open my eyes to even my identify out of drag.
From there, I entered a talent competition in which I sang, and the host said any time I wanted to perform at her shows, I could. Well, after getting close with the drag queens from the shows I would do pop numbers in, I started to watch them get ready… and eventually one of them put me in drag, and I was HOOKED.
I didn’t start watching Drag Race until around the time of Season 8, though. But the queen who made me want to take drag seriously was Sasha Velour. She solidified for me how open and diverse drag can be. Thus, Novaczar was created!
I can definitely see a bit of Sasha in you.
Thank you! Yeah, I call her my “unofficial drag mama.”
How did you come up with the name?
When I was I elementary school, there was a girl I knew named Nova. For some reason, after all these years it’s stuck with me. I think I liked it so much, and still do because it sounds like my legal name, Noah… but with a flare! So I knew “Nova” had to be in my name. The “czar” came from me walking by a Zara one day and thinking “Novazara? No…I can’t copy Zara.” But if I take off the “a” at the end… zar… wait, czar? Like Russian royalty? And then Nova, like “Star?” And I just heard RuPaul’s voice in my head saying, “Novaczar, Shantay you stay!”
You have sported both full on femme wigged looks, as well as more androgynous bare-headed presentations. What guides your decisions as to how you will look each night you turn it?
I’ve been really into trying to do the unexpected when it comes to my aesthetic. I try not to look the same way because I’m inspired by mermaids, and witches, and the people who live in the Captiol from the Hunger Games, so I’ve tried to play with being a shape-shifter, in a sense. I often look to queens (aside from Sasha) like Vander Von Odd and Evah Destruction for inspiration. But sometimes I just want to look like an alien, and try to think as creatively as I can to make that fantasy come to life.
Or, depending on the numbers I’m doing that night, I’ll lend my look towards those. Recently I added, “Girl Gone Wild” by Madonna to my rep, so for that I like to wear a wig I can flip around, which lends itself to a more femme-presenting look!
Who are some other New York-based queens that really influenced you and your drag?
I recall that you suddenly first showed up out of the blue in NYC and did quite a few gigs, but then you had to go back to Chicago to finish up a school semester before you could return here. At the time, you were anxious about maybe losing the momentum you had quickly gained here during that absence. Did you find that to be the case when you finally returned to New York?
No, actually! I moved back to NYC mid-December and had a gig almost every day leading up to the New Year, which was super-validating and such an honor. I did my best to keep in contact with the relationships and connections I made while I was here this summer when I went back to finish school, and luckily for the most part I was able to kind of pick up where I left off.
I just got chills! That was a pivotal moment in my career for me; no one had ever done something like that for me before, and it was so touching.
How do you approach the weekly drag competitions now… are you in it to win it, or is it another platform to showcase numbers and to network?
When I first started doing competitions, I was so set on winning and would get so down on myself when I didn’t. But, once I started placing high — and when I won Open Call at The Ritz with Maddelynn Hatter — it gave me the confidence that I am talented and can win a competition. After after almost winning Polish, that solidified that for me. Now, I do competition to network and showcase new numbers, and if I win that’s an added plus. But if I get a gig from a competition (which happens often), then I’ve won, essentially! I also just love any opportunity to perform, and in NYC there are so many competitions and open stages, like, every day of the week!
How would you describe a Novaczar performance nowadays, to the uninitiated?
Well, my performances are usually dramatic and involve a lot of passion for the piece I’m performing. Sometimes I’m belting my face off, and sometimes I’m giving you instinctual choreography in time with the beats of a number that make sense to me and what I’m trying to get across with a number. I try to add an element of surprise to my numbers, to keep audiences on their toes! Hopefully bringing something they haven’t seen before.
That style will likely be used to great effect in your upcoming showcase, How I Got Here! Tell us about how this show came to be, what it’s about, and what we can expect from it.
So a couple years ago, I got offered to go back to my hometown Virginia Beach to do a solo drag cabaret. They told me it could be about whatever I wanted to, but to try and have a running theme or story. So I did it about my life. Each number represented a different aspect of my life, and I was so happy because I was able to combine my love for drag and musical theater, and people were really inspired by my story. I tried to be as open and honest as possible.
This past semeste — since my school didn’t have a graduation ceremony for those who graduated in December — I decided to create another cabaret about my experiences in Chicago. With people again being drawn to my story and inspired by my bravery to openly explain traumas and hardships in my life, I decided that doing something like this in NYC would be a good way to invite people to get to know more about me and my art.
The goal of this show is to hopefully inspire people that no matter what it is you’ve been through in life, if you keep pushing and never letting that goal or dream fade away you can eventually reach it. I am living proof of that, because I’ve wanted to live and perform in NYC my entire life. If I had let the hardships and demons get to me when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now about any of this… so this is a celebration of that!
In How I Got Here! I will be taking the audience on a journey thorough the highlights and rough patches in my life that kept me pushing towards my goal of getting to NYC. There will be musical theater, some Robyn, Madonna, Florence and the Machine, and two very special guests that have yet to be publicly announced!
Very exciting! So the show will be March 25 at the West End in the Upper West Side, March 26 at Astoria’s Icon Bar, and March 27 at the Rosemont in Brooklyn! That’s covering a lot of ground — what made you want to do it that way, instead of three nights at one location?
My goal is to be able to have a weekly show in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. I feel my art can lend and adapt itself to all three of those audiences. So, that’s one reason. But also, I know people who live in Brooklyn sometimes don’t want to travel all the way to Queens, or vice versa. I figured if I can do this show in all three, then hopefully people will be more inclined to come to the show in the borough they live in!
Amazing! This will make for three very different audiences, that’s for sure.
Thank you! Yeah, definitely a challenge… but I’m excited about it!
Yes! They’ve been really wonderful in being so supportive of my drag, and I love the opportunity to work with them for I love what they stand for!
Anything else coming up for you?
Yeah! On March 18th I’ll be doing Callback Mondays at the West End to promote my show. March 21st and 28th, I’m doing Tonguepop at the McCarren Hotel with Pixel Witch, which is a Drag Race viewing party. And the 24th is the Slammies — I was nominated for three, hahaha! OH! And I applied to compete in Mr(s) BK!
Good luck! By the way, aren’t the Slammies fun? The worst of nightlife! I find it a little alarming that so many kids in the biz seem to be all up in their feelings about their nominations this time around… it’s obviously all in good fun!
Yes!! I think [the Slammies are] hilarious, and it’s nice to be reminded to not take life too seriously. I get and identify with people being sensitive. But as Alyssa Edwards says, “it’s not personal, it’s DRAG!”
Totally! Okay, so in closing… what’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about drag since you’ve started?
I’d say how empowering it can be. Drag queens truly are the mascots of the queer community, and have such a legacy and history to hold up to. People really do look to drag queens for support, and as an escape from the horrid outside world, because we as drag queens live in a beautiful fantasy that we create ourselves. I think that’s so special, and deserves to be celebrated!
Well said! Thank you, Novaczar!