Drag-adjacent since the days of Escualita, it was only a matter of time before she became a queen herself. And now hosting events for the Imperial Court of New York, Zelina Duval is true drag royalty to boot!
Thotyssey: Hey gurl! How are you? Have you recovered from Drag’s Craziest Weekend yet?
Zelina Duval: I’m recovered, lol!
We actually worked two nights together this past weekend (Saturday at Rockbar, then Sunday at Club Cumming), both with Virginia queen Dreama Belle and a gang of queens visiting from the south, some other local girls including your partner-in-crime Paige Monroe, and a few Drag Race cast members. It was nuts!
This whole weekend was very surreal, with walking DragCon and having a circle of sisters remember me from last year… and the overwhelming response of these amazing ladies wanting photos with us. We basically had our own meet and greet. As for those shows, I was amazed how everyone got along like family–and we had such a blast with Nicole and Jaidynn.
Which DragCon was better in your opinion: this year’s or last year’s?
This year’s was definitely better. I did make comments last year, and it was nice to see that they really took the suggestions of the people to make this one much easier to walk and find vendors.
So let’s have the children get to know you! Are you a native New Yorker?
Yes I am. I was born in East New York in Brooklyn, and raised in the Bronx. As for now, due to cheaper rent I reside in Jersey City, NJ.
We’ll all be making that trek sooner or later! Were you always into performing, theater, makeup and fashion and hair, etc?
I was a music major, and was a part of the Julliard Music Advanced Program where I played trumpet. Currently I am a licensed cosmetologist and freelance makeup artist. I have worked in retail as well, and TV and film for several years.
I met you way back in the days of Boots & Saddle’s original Christopher Street location, where we were all regulars. That was the dawn of that venue’s drag scene, which was a crazy time and place then can never be replicated. Was it those Boots queens who inspired you to try drag out?
Actually, I’ve been around the drag scene for many’s years helping queens backstage back in the days of Krash, Esculita and Heaven to name a few. Boots was very special as it was a family atmosphere, and I was fortunate to have one of the last shows before it closed its doors, thanks to Ari Kiki for giving me the opportunity to host my own show.
As far as the first time I performed, that was when Ms. Paige threw me in The Ms. Stonewall pageant in 2015, and I was very green with only two weeks to prep. She definitely is a pageant mom.
How’d you meet Paige?
We know a lot of the same people… and working in retail, it was bound to happen since we have mutual friends. She’s my best Judy and has collaborated on most of my looks, and really helped me grow and crack out of my shell.
And you two were accepted into the famous queer charity monarchy, the Imperial Court of New York, at the same time. How did that come about?
Paige knows last year’s Emperor Robert DiSanto from her Paradise days. When we went to the Latin Explosion Event at Industry, Robert introduced us to The Queen Mother of New York, Coco LaChine. and on the spot told us we were performing for her Best of Broadway show.
It hasn’t even been a year in, and we are co-producing are first Imperial Court show, Imperial Fairytales, with Lord Jose (Disla) Xtravaganza and Lady Egyptt LaBeija on Saturday, September 15…. and the rest is history.
Tell us more about Fairytales at Industry Bar, which will benefit Princess Janae Place..
Everyone will be performing iconic classic characters that everyone will know. I myself, along with our Empress Chuleta Devine, will be doing a classic duet with an “under the sea” twist.
By the way, did anyone in particular inspire your drag name?
Paige gave me the name “Zelina” from the TV show Once Upon A Time, since my favorite color is green. Also, as she would say I can be wicked at times. “Duval” come from a close friend’s last name and made me feel very regal, and separates me from anyone else.
And what’s your favorite number to do these days?
Well, this past weekend Paige and I did a duet from Smash that whenever we have the opportunity to perform, we do: “Let Me Be Your Star.” It’s a song that we both can relate to, and gives us the chance to work together on stage.
You have those refined pageant looks… are any more pageants gonna be in your future?
Next year I am planning on entering Miss Fire Island. This year I did my first Pines Invasion, and it was an amazing moment to see all the people welcoming us on the Homecoming Queen’s Boat with Victoria Falls and the rest of my court family. I feel it’s a good way to get my feet wet.
And besides this Fairytales event, is there anything else in store for Zelina?
I will performing in several upcoming shows with the ICNY. November, I will be with my favorite Auntie Ari Kiki for Riot Stonewall. and December with Hibiscus for Cheer New York. My calendar is filling up very nicely for the holiday season.
Great! Last question: is Nicky Minaj really retiring… and if so, are we sad?
Meh. How many artists have said they are retiring and still come out and do concerts?Can we say Cher and Barbra Streisand? I don’t think this will be the end of her.
We all have goals and aspirations, and as time moves we change and grow. Since my journey started a little over four years ago. I myself have gone through changes and have set goals for myself to achieve as a nightlife entertainer, as well as giving back to my community. We all have those times where we need to rethink, relax and rejuvenate with a new drive and purpose, and remind ourselves why we do what we do. I am blessed to be a performer in New York, and continue to challenge myself to be the best Me I can be.
You’re doing a pretty good job so far! Thank you Zelina!