Instrumental in the new wave of Long Island drag and now making things happen in Brooklyn, here is a young queen in full bloom. It’s time we all wandered into the Garden of Evil to stop and smell the lovely Jessica Rose! [Cover Photo: Alex Stafford]
Thotyssey: Jessica, hello! How is the Spooky Season treating you thus far?
Jessica Rose: Hey, trade! It’s been incredibly busy; between my regular day job and drag, I haven’t really had a moment to breathe! But I actually am pumped for Halloween for the first time in three years, so that’s something.
Going on an expedition through your Insta, it looks like you’ve got a healthy dose of both soft girly-girl and edgy high-fashion looks. Will you drag Pretty or Monstrous for Halloween?
I always like to mix a little glamour into everything I do! And without giving too much away, I’m doing a very spooky but glamorous character for a show at the Vault on the 29th.
That’s right! you’ll be at the Vault for a special edition of Dezi 5’s album-praising show “Full Length LP,” where you and your fellow cast will be performing the songs of Disney villains! That should be fascinating… we all know “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” but for the most part there isn’t a huge, well-known body of bad guy Disney songs.
Haha! I actually wanted to challenge myself with this, because I haven’t really participated in Halloween for so long. I wanted to really push it, so I chose Madame Leota from The Haunted Mansion because she’s spooky and fabulous at the same time!
So, where is your hometown?
I’m originally from Orlando. I moved here after college, and I’ve lived in New York for almost five years. I started in Long Island, then moved to Queens… but my drag journey started in Long Island, so I’ll always claim it! Plus, people still think I live there, so I wear it as a badge of honor.
Long Island drag is tough–very scattered, and with practically no gay venues anywhere, it caters to lots of straight audiences. But girls out there today are building it back up! Were you there for the start of that LI drag Renaissance?
I like to think my drag was an integral part of it, to be perfectly honest! Me and my sisters Coma White, Frida Cox, Ruby Monroe, Angelique and Aphrodite have really brought a level of fashion and performance back to Long Island that I think was missing for awhile. But yes, it is very hard to have anything consistent there with such a predominantly straight audience. But there are several girls bringing back the scene there… which is great, because I think there’s an audience for it, and they are hungry for accessible drag there!
What originally drew you to drag in the first place? Was it an early interest in theater or fashion?
I did theater in high school… nothing major. But I’m just very drawn to fashion, and I love performing and subverting people’s opinions on all of those things. So, I guess that’s why I love drag so much! Also, I love that it’s a business that you can fully control because it’s you who makes all the decisions.
Yes, that autonomy appeals to many people coming from the arts world! And is there a story behind your name?
My name is actually very meaningful to me. When I was a child, I used to pretend that I lived my life as a girl in my mind–because that made liking all the feminine stuff I loved okay. My first name is Joshua, and my brothers’ names all start with a “J.” So I asked my mom if she would have done the same thing if we were girls. She said yes, and listed a few names–one of which was Jessica, which I always loved. Rose was my grandmother’s middle name–and also my favorite flower–so I just combined the two with my actual last name, and that was my fantasy world! So in a way, she’s always been with me. Very involved story, I know… but I’m very cerebral about this type of stuff!
That’s lovely, actually!
I saw you perform once, at Polish the Queen, and you used a pink-stoned dildo as a prop. It was a funny mix of glam and camp… is that usually the space where your performing lies?
Yes, that’s exactly what I love to do! I love raunch and shock value, and I’m most happy performing when I’m scaring the audience or shocking them. My motto for performing is “Look pretty, act crazy.”
Do you still frequent the weekly competition shows, like Polish and Drag Wars?
I actually had not done any of the weekly competitions in almost two years when you saw me at Polish, so that’s really ironic that you were there that night!
Oh wow! You did also compete in a prelim for this year’s edition of the Brooklyn alt-pageant Mx. Nobody, though.
Mx. Nobody was an experience, for sure! I think my drag doesn’t always necessarily translate to a Brooklyn audience, but I was proud of what I did. And I think any chance to put yourself out there to a new audience is a worthwhile endeavor, no matter what the results are!
Your drag must work in Brooklyn on some level, though! For the past year or so, you’ve been producing and hosting monthly shows at Gold Sounds in that borough, which features a mixed cast of queens from Brooklyn, Astoria, Long Island and beyond, usually with different themes each month. Tell us more about Garden of Evil.
Garden of Evil came out of necessity, to be perfectly honest. At the time I started, I wasn’t getting booked much… and I really wanted to produce a show with themes I could relate to. I promised myself I would stick it out a full year, and I have. And I’m very proud of myself for that.
Congratulations! What have been some of your favorite themes that you’ve explored in the GoE shows since they began?
I loved my Hairspray theme. And obviously the first theme–the garden theme–because that’s my true aesthetic! But all of them have been things I love, and things that I have felt shaped me into the gay man and the drag queen I am today.
You’re returning to Gold Sounds on Halloween night for a special edition of Garden of Evil, alongside Juniper Juicy, Aphrodite, Vegas Valentine and Jasmine G String! It looks like there will be a burlesque theme this time around.
I really want to live out my Christina Aguilera fantasy… and that was really why I picked the theme, to be honest. But also, I’ve worked with some incredible burlesque artists, and I know the level of talent it takes to be good at it!
What else lies ahead for you?
I’m actually thinking of doing some cute little merch soon, but the sky’s the limit for Ms. Rose! I definitely want to travel for drag next year, and just keep pushing myself for bigger and better things.
Let that flower bloom! Okay, last question: where can you get better bagels, Long Island or Brooklyn?
LOL, I don’t know about bagels. But we stan the thrifting in Brooklyn, so there’s that!
Cute enough! Thanks, Jessica!