She’s an institution, folks! Legendary drag queen Ginger Snap (aka GingerSnap, but not Ginger Snapt!) is big talent in a small package, and has been serving the laughs and the fashions onstage for two decades now. Known as a staple of both Lips Restaurant and Cherry’s On The Bay, Ginger talks to Thotyssey about her past, present and future with both venues, her life living as different genders, the changing business of drag, and an upcoming stage experience that will be exciting and entirely new for both her and her fans.
Thotyssey: Hello, Miss Snap! It’s an honor to finally speak with you!
Ginger Snap: It is an honor to be interviewed by you, Jim! It means I’m still alive and doing something right.
You are better than alive, you are a living! How is your Pride month treating you so far?
Girl, I’m ready! This old lady is ready to turn the party up. I’m not dead yet! Lol. This month means a lot to me, actually. I have a lot happening.
I see that! Very exciting stuff! So quite recently, The Cherry Grove Community House & Theatre on Fire Island crowned their 44th Homecoming Queen: Victoria Falls! That was your crown three years ago, which was a big deal because you’re such a beloved entertainer out there.
That was a great summer, winning Homecoming Queen. But it was also the year Trump got elected, and people were depressed. So I decided to campaign to win the crown, and I came up with these posters. I would post one every week, and people in the Grove were loving them. But then I won, and it was an amazing journey.
There was even a documentary made about your crowning.
Parker Sargent wanted to do a documentary about me and my journey. Talk about being humble! I’ve been going to and performing in the Grove since 2007. That is my second family. I’m very happy Victoria Falls won–she wanted it, and now comes the responsibilities with that title. It’s not easy. But she’s a smart cookie! And I think something major will happen next year with Homecoming.
Oh, really? Can you campaign again!?
I brought up [to the Community House the idea of] doing an All-Stars Homecoming Queen Competition. One loved the idea, and now it has to go in front of the Cherry Grove Arts Project board. That would definitely be a Homecoming Queen show to remember. So, who knows if I’ll run again? Lol!
That would be amazing! In the meantime, you just sashed a new Mr. Fire Island Bear this weekend as the hostess of that competition… how fun was that?
Girrrrrrllllll!!!! That is one of my favorite shows to host! First of all, Dan Jimenez is a hairy dream to host with. He gets my humor. Bears just seem to wanna come and watch and appreciate the show, and my drag. And I love that. I love that people are so comfortable in their own skin.
I just go on stage and make sure people are laughing and having a great time. I said, “Look, I’m not a bear or a cub or an otter… I’m a goaddamn hamster!” They laughed. The winner was from Australia, and he was really sweet. And he really was screaming like a girl when he won–and of course, clicking his fan so many times. Shane Tate puts the whole event together and does a great job doing it, and I’m grateful to be hosting every year for him.
Time for some backstory! Where’s your hometown, and what was your childhood like?
Oh girl, buckle up! So I was born and raised in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Girl, growing up gay and very feminine in the 80’s and 90’s was rough. But thank God we didn’t have internet back then. I feel horrible for kids today, with the bullying on social media.
Me too. How was Ginger conceived?
I started doing drag in 1999. I auditioned at Lips Restaurant, and my drag journey took off! I’m not sure if you know this, but I’m not ashamed to admit it anymore. I started living as a women in 2003, and eventually had gotten implants and lived my life as Ginger.
I actually was not aware of that, but that is wonderful! Did you ever feel pressure from the queer community to quit drag when you started living as a woman?
I never ever, ever felt that pressure from the community. If anything, I was accepted and embraced more. I was nervous with Lips, though, because it was a drag restaurant, and thought, “Oh God, they are gonna fire me.” And they didn’t… they let me be who I wanted to be. I will always be grateful to Lips. To this day, they still treat me like gold. Even when I went back to being a man, they were still so supportive.
It’s not uncommon for a person to question and then re-question their gender. How did you decide that you’d rather live your life as a man after all?
I was living as a woman for ten years, and couldn’t go home as Ginger ’cause I had a niece and nephews–and they didn’t want them to see me as trans, unfortunately. They had no problem with me being gay, though… but the transsexual thing was harder. And honestly, it took a toll on me as well. I missed them so much, but I had implants and I didn’t know what to do. But being trans was so hard. It’s not an easy journey.
I had gotten a call one day from my mom, and she mentioned my dad was very ill… I had to come home, but I couldn’t as Ginger. So I went to the doctor, and he removed them. And I went home and helped my family, and began to heal my relationship with my Dad.
Life throws us situations, but it’s how you handle them that makes us stronger. I don’t regret doing it. I remember when I had to get my long hair cut, I was with Logan Hardcore and Bianca del Rio that day, and they went with me to get my hair cut to a boy cut. I’ll never forget that day. Crazy, when I think back, “Oh yeah, I lived as a woman for ten years.”
That is an incredible story, thanks for sharing it!
Now, tell us about the joys and challenges of being a veteran Lips queen. I can imagine those bachelorette parties can get pretty rowdy, but at the same time they all probably gag for everything you give them. As opposed to those jaded gays, who have to act like they’ve seen it all.
I love that you’re asking that question. Yes, I am a Lips Girl Veteran, and proud. It’s been a consistent job with health insurance. #Grateful We are now in bachelorette season, and yes… they are wild. But they do come to appreciate and have fun with the drag queens. As long as the respect the drag queens, we are okay.
Gays love to come to see us on Broadway Brunch–my favorite shift to host! I was reading an article the other day, and it was so true. It was basically telling the gay community that comes to local drag bar shows to remember that the Drag Race girls started in a bar before they became famous on TV. So don’t be jaded… support your local girls! We work hard. Most local bar girls don’t have all that money the Drag Race girls have to buy expensive costumes. I have a lot of sisters in the Drag Race family, and I love them… don’t get me wrong. But gays, don’t judge your local bar girls, show them love and support! Love and support go a long way.
What’s a number you do at Lips that wins over the crowd the best?
Well if it’s Broadway Brunch, it would be my Beauty and the Beast mix. And on the weekend, it would happen to be “I’m Every Woman” by Whitney Houston.
This year, we were so sad to see another legendary Lips and Fire Island queen, the beloved Frankie Cocktail, pass away. She was a very special and vital person in the drag community.
Frankie Cocktail was a very important person in my life. I’ve know her for almost half my life. She literally was one of the first drag bartenders in NYC. People know Lips because of her. She was staple there. it was a major loss.
She will always be remembered!
Another thing that kept folks coming back to Lips was your long-running Wednesday night bingo. I recall that as being one of the first popular drag bingo nights in the city.
I was doing bingo for fifteen years there!
In recent years though, it’s been replaced by Twisted Broadway. That’s successful as well, but why did you make the change?
Honestly, the crowd was getting young… and sad to say, they just don’t have the attention span to sit and play bingo. They were on their phones and not interested. So I brought up to the owners: let’s try a twisted version of Broadway. And it worked! It’s now in all the locations, and does well.
In general, phones are the worst enemy of drag, aren’t they?
Yep! I love when a guy is on Grindr while at your show. I always am like, “Bitch, look up and walk up to a guy and have a conversation!” No social skills anymore.
Terrible! What are some other big changes you’ve seen in the landscape since you became a queen? Obviously RuPaul’s Drag Race altered the business of drag in so many big ways.
Yes, it’s changed everything… for the good and bad. The good is that Drag Race is nationwide. People all over are watching it. Drag is the new sensation, especially in restaurants for brunch. There is even a drag brunch in Staten Island! Never thought that would happen in a million years.
And the bad part is, gays compare Drag Race girls to the local girls, and that drives me crazy. Also, you’ll get young queens at a show thinking they could do better just because they watch Drag Race. It takes a lot of guts and courage and talent to do what we do. I always say to a queen that’s acting like that, “Baby, here is the microphone. Do you think you can do better? Here is the microphone, show us.” The crowd went wild one time. I have no problem calling them out on it… trust me!
By the way, there is another drag legend by the name of Ginger Snap on the West Coast… does that ever create confusion, on social media or elsewhere?
I know when I got that name in 1999, I wasn’t thinking how many people had that name. How I found out about that other Ginger Snap was when someone thought I was gay bashed. I was like, “that wasn’t me.” [That other] Ginger Snap was gay bashed, and it was awful. I believe I reached out to her and sent her a text… I can’t remember. But I heard someone new took the name in NYC. I was like , “WHHHAAATTTT??? Why!?” but then again, it isn’t even my legal name, so whatever. I thought about changing my name, but why? It’s too late, and people know me for it.
You are sometimes billed as “Ginger Snapt.”
That started at Stonewall Inn. [Manager] Mike Salinari did that by mistake, and now its haunted me ever since! I was doing an Invasion on a Sunday night, and he thought it was Ginger Snapt. So he made all the posters, and after that some other clubs promoted me as that, until I told them it’s Ginger Snap not Snapt. I felt that after that whole thing, I did get “Snapt,” lol!
Back to Fire Island: you’ve been a major presence at Cherry’s on the Bay for many years now, and you still make several appearances there, but not weekly anymore. Did all the going back and forth between the Island and the City just get to be a bit much over the years?
It’s a lot the travel. Two trains to three connections on the LIRR, to a minivan, to a ferry. Then you hop on a lesbian’s back, and the shady deer on meth judges you. Lol! No, only joking. It’s a lot of traveling back and forth, and I’m enjoying doing shows once a month and major parties at Cherry’s.
You’re gonna host Dining with the Divas there for a few Monday night installments throughout the summer, including the season premiere on the 17th! That’s gonna be a Pride-themed show… what do you have in store for us?
It’s gonna be a good one. I named it “Friends of Dorothy” ’cause that was a code word for gays back in the 60’s. The show is gonna be a show that means a lot to me, actually. I want this to be a show where people can sit back and relax and laugh and enjoy themselves. The fight is not over, lady… we’re gonna have to fight harder then ever to be who we want to be. But just for one night, I want people to laugh–and towards the end, get up and dance. I may even be bringing my roller skates back out!
Later this summer, on August 3rd, you are going to be joining forces with your documentary director Parker Sargent and comedic singer Patty McKeever to stage The Fabulous Monroe Sisters at the Cherry Grove Community House & Theatre! Tell us more about this show.
This is a project that was created and written by Parker Sargent. I’ve known Patty for years. She was in my Dining with the Divas last summer, and we had chemistry–and Parker saw that. So she thought of me and her doing a show together. But this is very different for Ginger Snap. It’s all lines, and no lip syncing. I’m riddled with fear! But I’m learning that life is filled with challenges, and if you don’t grab life by the balls and try new things… you are left behind. Especially in the drag community.
So you’re gonna be singing live?
Sort of. I kinda sing like Harvey Fierstein. My character’s name is Cupcake, and years have gone by and I can’t sing or dance anymore. I don’t wanna give anything away!
I am so there! And, I understand you’re gonna be on the Bravo float this Pride march?
The historic first Bravo float! And it’s the 50th anniversary of Stonewall! I will be Captain Sandy, and she will be there with me. I love her, and she was so kind when she found out a drag queen was playing her! It was an honor that Bravo asked me. Bravo has been so kind to the drag and gay community, and I absolutely love working with them. And Andy Cohen is always so kind to me.
Fabulous! Anything else coming up for you?
A lot… but not Drag Race! I haven’t given up, though. I plan to do an audition reel for next season’s auditions. Life is short. And if that doesn’t happen, something good will happen!
No doubt about that! Okay, so in closing: as a queen who has been there and done all that, what is your best piece of advice for a Brand New Bitch starting out in drag today?
Be kind! Don’t be shady! Good things happen to good people! No need to tear another queen down. If you’re good, you’re gonna be great!
Thank you for being so open with us, Ginger!