Strange, compelling, intelligent and one of a kind… here is a performer that exemplifies all that is good about Brooklyn nightlife. Combining elements of musical theater, dance, clowning, elaborate costuming and performance art, we’re seeing someone who’s both a throwback to the fun weird days of NYC punk-tinged nightlife, plus a possible avatar for things to come. Behold the one and only Organism That Persons!
The OTP: It was awesome! A cute night with some super talented queens and a really fun crowd. As part of my number, I had to pull an audience member on stage to put on a tail and be mildly sexually harassed, and that all went well… so I’m calling it a success. Big thumbs up!
Congratulations! Wish I was there. The last time I saw you was at the Playboy Club of all places–you were in the audience to support Queen Robert’s performance in the Lady Liberty Pride competition! That ended, um, interestingly! [The competition concluded abruptly before a winner was announced at the urging of the venue so that the staff could prepare for the next event.]
Oh my God, yes! What a bizarre night. All the girls and performers killed it… but Playboy, I think, got in their own way. Were you there for the party after?
I stayed for a bit, but there just seemed to be too much chaos in the air at that point.
Same. I stayed long enough to see it was going south, but not late enough to catch the fire alarm!
Yikes, I didn’t even hear about that! Well, live and learn for all of us, I guess.
So okay, back to the subject at hand: The Organism That Persons! Where’s your hometown, and what was your first artistic expression of choice?
I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and am coming up on my ten year anniversary in New York next month! Kinda crazy, feelin’ kinda old. When I was a real tiny tyke, I used to “dress up like a girl” and put shirts on my head as hair. So that feels like it’s come very full circle. But there was also a point where I realized that even if my parents tolerated it, it was still seen as a “kid phase.”
So I made a big deal out of stopping my cross-dressing habit, and was a pretty typical musical theatre / dance kid in middle and high school. I had a particular obsession with CATS… so, lots of strong feelings about all that right now! I wasn’t ever really into fashion; I didn’t really let myself explore that ’cause I was still trying to “play it straight,” ha! But I always loved painting as a kid–on my walls, and scraps of wood, and, like, pretty much anything. In college I was tainted by experimental performance and New York cynicism (realism?), and here we are.
I was trying to research the origin of your name… but all I found was heavy philosophical (?) stuff that was a bit over my head.
Ha! I love that you searched it! it comes from a book I encountered in a performance studies class. The book is actually on architecture, and this is from, like, chapter two. It’s called Architectural Body, so no one sue me. The quote that is most illuminating for me is:
“it may seem that an organism has a person with which it is associated, but rather than actually having a person, an organism has a long-term association only with behaving as a person.” I’m trying to find a way to work this into a number, but it hasn’t come to me yet!
Just tape Lady Havokk reading it out loud… that should work.
That’s actually not a bad idea… I want a detached computer-like voice for it!
How exactly did you “rediscover drag” and become a full-on performer?
I had gotten attached to a form of clowning I discovered in college called bouffon. And I was trying to add in elements of gender-fuck costumes and music and other things. Eventually I realized, “okay, this is basically drag.” I’ve always been a theatre / dance performer, but performing nightlife spaces is distinctly different and unique. It’s a whole other skill set.
You sing a lot in your performances, with a very distinctive voice, and lots of what you perform is very esoteric and surreal. I’m thinking of a Trump number you did for the Little Mx Bitch competition at Dromedary, where you sang very carefully over his soundbytes.
I’m typically pairing songs I like with relevant soundbytes. I really like re-contextualizing political text / pop culture moments with other songs, and so forth. Part of the esoteric-ness can come from my own limited song library, which is something I’m working on! But the surreal / creepy / “slow burn” tends to be my sweet spot… so that’s what I’ve been aiming for most recently. I sing a lot of Lana Del Rey–which I’ve taken some flak for–but I’m also just trying to make it my schtick. Like tying pantyhose to my head.
Pantyhose headdresses aside, do you generally design or construct your own looks? They are often quite elaborate.
I try to have at least one element that I’ve created myself–usually a head / faux hair piece of some sort. Generally it’s combinations of things I’ve found / glued / tied / sewed together. I’m working on my sewing more, and have a couple looks coming down the pipes I’m super excited to show!
I was wondering what you make of the Brooklyn scene, generally speaking, today. Is it exciting, stagnant, diverse, evolving, etc.? And, do you feel part of a community there, or is it more like a dog-eat-dog or cliquey situation?
That’s hard for me to answer, because I feel like I’ve also been a little reclusive from it at times–because of my own nature, and current employment situation. Creatively, I feel that people are very open and accepting. I’ve gotten a lot of amazing encouragement, support, and inspiration from queens who have very different styles from me, and I’ve found some really amazing spaces that can be competitive but still supportive. I’m excited by all the national exposure the Brooklyn scene seems to be getting, especially in the last few years. So in that way, it feels like Brooklyn is a hotbed of exciting new queer work right now.
The scene isn’t without cliques, though. Especially if you’re trying to break into it while having a full or part-time job. It’s a lot to juggle, and it can feel like if you’re not out every night pounding the pavement, you’re gonna get left behind. While I think there’s a lot of support, I also think there’s some soul searching to be done around what it means to be in a community, and to be continually lifting up the people around you–even when you’re being shady or carefree. But I think that’s normal. It’s like any “practice”–you never get it right, you’re just always trying to do better.
The dog days of August are nearly upon us, and I understand you’ll be competing in this year’s Mx. Nobody pageant (premiering August 8th, but you’ll be there for Week 2 on August 15th), presented by The Nobodies at Brooklyn Bazaar!
Yeah! Super excited to be doing Mx Nobody.
What made you want to do this pageant?
In the spirit of just generally being a weirdo, “Mx Nobody” just sounds like a title I should be vying for. But I also love being a part of competitions that are robustly inclusive of all types of queer performers regardless of their schtick, style, gender, or anything else. I feel like I always learn a lot from seeing and competing against a variety of queerdos.
Good luck! Back to Lana Del Rey: you’re gonna be part of the August 29th edition of Dezi 5’s “Full Length LP” show at the Vault, celebrating her classic album Born To Die. This must be your dream gig.
OMG soooo my dream gig! And August 29th is also my ten year NY-iversary, so lots of feels that day.
Congrats! I noticed lots of drag queens struggle while trying to interpret Lana. Why do you think that is?
I think the thing people tend to interpret differently or be confused by is the persona she’s created. I love her blend of dark-and-sad-gurl-Americana-nostalgia realness. And there’s a fun kind of irony to it, but you’re almost not sure if Lana is in on the joke…? Like, if she’s aware of her persona, or if she believes it fully. It’s a fun / worrisome / interesting tension. Personally, I’ve been looking for ways to play up the satirical / ironic aspects of her work, so more of that to come!
Her new album’s coming out soon! Whoah, what if her sound drastically changes?
She said she was gonna go more country, right? I’m curious to see. Not sure the apple could fall that far from the tree! It’s funny though, because I feel like with most of her work, I hear it the first time and I’m like, “okay, cool I guess…” And then slowly over time, I wade in and out of absolute obsession with different tracks.
We’ll see if history repeats itself!
So, what else is coming up for you?
A few fun privates and photo shoots planned. Haven’t gotten past August yet, but still taking bookings for September, October, and beyond. *winks at readers* I’m also starting some work on some short video projects I’ve been dreaming of. Also putting in applications at different institutions to present longer dance / theatre / drag hybrids. So chugging along for now, happy with my momentum.
Summertime gladness! Okay, this will be a good final thought since we already brought it up earlier … CATS the movie! Terrifying?
Honestly, I couldn’t even make it through the trailer. Call me an originalist, but it just really seems like the whole humanoid / cat thing didn’t translate to film. Like, just visually I thought “haaaarrrddd no.” Maybe we’ll tire ourselves out on remakes, and finally start making new things!
I think that’s too much to ask of us, lol! Thank you, OTP!