A veteran drag queen who’s performed in nearly ever NYC venue over the past decade and change, Misty Meaner is one of those girls who has possibly passed right over “legendary” status to become a full on folk hero. With a beautifully blunt stage presence, a hilariously unfiltered point-of-view, an array of vibrant fashions and an infamously exciting partnership on-and-offstage with Mocha Lite, Misty is the queen that anyone who is anyone has a story to tell about. And now while we’re all in the middle of a nationwide quarantine, Ms. Meaner has some stories of her own to share.
Thotyssey: Hello, Misty! Happy, um, St. Patrick’s Day! I’m guessing that this will be one of the more memorable St. Patty’s of your life?
Misty Meaner: Oh yes. I’m sure.
We are all on lockdown! How’s the Quarantine Life treating you?
Eh. Obviously it sucks, but each day it gets a little easier. Luckily, I have some costume commissions lined up… so, I’m keeping myself busy.
Thank gawd for that! You have a long career as a drag performer, but is it a fairly new development that you’re sewing for other queens?
Yeah. I grew up sewing and crafting with my Grandma, and also took a few costume craft classes in college. So I’ve had it in me for a while. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I got back into it. I was living with Casey Caldwell; he was nice enough to give me the confidence and guidance I needed to get back into it. I’m very thankful and lucky to have someone so talented guiding me.
Casey’s certainly a prolific designer and a great teacher. Do you have a single thing that you’ve made, either for yourself or someone else, that you find the most gagworthy?
I definitely needed a year to just get down the basics, and only recently have I started to really challenge myself. But I think some of my best work are the things I make for my partner Mocha Lite (example: her Sailor Moon or Storm look). She has great ideas, and I know how to make them stand up. That’s been pretty much our whole relationship–a balance between a dreamer and a constructor. Aside from that, one of the coolest things I’ve made for myself is an oversized pink fur coat that was actually one of the first things I made. It’s not only extremely fabulous, but also very functional for the winter.
Is it an interesting to challenge to “get into the head” and respect the taste of a customer who is maybe completely different from you, as far as drag style goes?
Well, so far pretty much everything I’ve made has come from a reference, replicating an outfit. I actually only recently was challenged by Raja from Drag Race. She was in town on a layover, and was impressed with what I had been making… so we met up, and she just told me to pick out whatever I wanted and make whatever I wanted. I’m still waiting on her measurements, but I texted her today letting her know I have all the time in the world now. So hopefully that’ll debut in the next month or so.
So, this coronavirus has the community on its knees now (and not in the fun way), but already it’s interesting to see how some queens and performers are adapting to this forced isolation and quarantine. Do you have any plans to put out online content, or is that too out of your wheelhouse or not interesting to you?
Oh HELLL NO! That’s not outside my wheelhouse at all. When it comes down to it, producing is what I love doing most. I’m just going to be more planned out about it. I feel like everyone was on last night just talking about the same thing. I want to bring some content to it, and create a schedule that people can follow. Maybe 2-3 set days a week, like YouTubers.
That would be definitely something we can look forward to! So these past few months you’ve had your career ups-and-downs–as have we all–but your long-running Queerpong gig with Mocha at The Phoenix was a popular go-to event. And most recently, your reign as a major Brooklyn queen was re-established at The Graham where you were doing cute shows with your drag child Sassy Frass! Do you think those Graham shows will resume when this is all passed us?
I mean, I know that they want us… but I’m also realistic about the harm this is going to do to our family in the long run. Drag queens losing gigs is one thing, but shutting down your business for an extended period of time can really tank them. I’m hoping that all the businesses I work for can get through this huge hit, but once a places starts to really struggle the first thing they get rid of is entertainment.
Yes, unfortunately I think we can all expect a very different nightlife landscape when all is said and done. But the biz has proven pretty durable over the decades… there must have been times in your career when you’ve seen something happen or observed trends and have thought “this has gotta be it for drag and nightlife.”
Honestly, no, not really. I was here for SARS, and that’s the only thing I can really compare it to–which didn’t effect us at all. The last thing I’ve seen that looked like this was when I was living on Long Island working on Fire Island between summer ’08-’09. I saw the devastating effect that Grindr had in the Pines. The Grove was fine because it’s less sex-driven. But I was worked in the Pines as a boy both those years, and it was like day and night what happened to the scene there. It just died.
I guess at some point we all thought that Grindr was gonna kill nightlife… but I think we learned to incorporate it, for better or worse.
Without a doubt. I mean, call me old fashioned, but I’d like to have a face-to-face conversation with the serial killer I’m about to bring home instead of just pinging them
You’re such a romantic!
You are originally from Long Island, right?
Yes. I was born in Florida, but moved to Long Island when I was like a month old.
And growing up, aside from sewing, what were the things that interested you that ultimate translated to drag?
Obviously, like every other drag queen, I was in theater… blah blah. I call myself a reformed theater kid now, though. I will say that even before that, I remember always being jealous of how many options my sister had to wear. Like for boys, you have shorts/ pants or tank top / short sleeve / long sleeve, but girls had those options plus halters, skirts, skorts, dresses, miniskirts, heels, flats, sandals… the list goes on. I thought it was so unfair.
Yes, and it’s kind of the same thing with theater roles, right? No one cares what the male characters wear or the songs they sing… the show always centers around the showy female leads.
So, it was working on Fire Island as a boy (as you’ve said earlier) when you probably discovered drag. Was your partner Mocha / Nathaniel doing that, too?
I was the one that actually worked out there, but from time to time Nathaniel would come out and my bosses would give him odd jobs if they needed help. He worked in the retail field, and I was in the service industry.
Who were the queens turning it out then that inspired you to come forward and be Misty?
Is it terrible to say, [many of] the same ones still turning it out there now? People like Charity Charles, Ariel Sinclair, Sherry Vine, Bianca Del Rio and Gusty Winds are a few I met in my first year.
But I really fell in love with Porsche; I thought she was so talented and funny. I really looked up to her. And most people don’t know this, but I see her as my drag mother. Back in the day, the rule of thumb (that I heard) for drag mothers was to be the first person to put you in face and show you your true potential, and she was that for me. We actually had the honor of working together for the first time in years, in the beginning of the month. We were Michelle Buteau’s hype girls for her Netflix special. It was so great working together again, and if Fire Island opens this year you will be seeing me out there at more of her shows *wink wink.*
Legends one and all! You were doing a few pageants in the beginning, right?
Oh Lord, yes. Not like the other girls, but I did one and I went ALL OUT. I really slayed… but I actually had a friend give me this huge gorgeous pink cupcake dress. I felt so beautiful. I ended up winning best hair, but I [overall] lost to a half-assed Celine Dion impersonator that lip synced a 15-minute “live” performance.
You went on to have a very prolific career as a queen, working all over the city in nearly every venue that has existed over the past decade. You and Mocha were also two of the only queens from back then to be known as both Manhattan and Brooklyn girls. Looking back, do you have a favorite and least favorite working experience as far as gigs / venues go?
Oh Lord. You’re gonna get me in trouble! As a drag queen, we’re kind of always walked all over and treated like crap. The worst of the worst are always [situations] that only happen once. But any place I’ve been at for over a year, I’ve genuinely enjoyed my time. Nothing will ever take the place of Sugarland; it was the first venue to ever hire me. While the pay was crap, we got away with murder there–doing shows till 5am, sometimes. I also hold a big place in my heart for Vlada. It was my first solo show, and the best-paying I’ve had so far.
Then there’s Boots & Saddle, which I can honestly say was some of the best AND worst times I’ve had in drag. The staff there was very divided, and a lot of people hated me and had it out for me… but couldn’t do anything, because I had the busiest show there. Which is not a brag: one of the managers–who I won’t name–decided to put up a graph of all the girls’ sales in the back room… a very unprofessional thing to do, in my eyes. Obviously that manager had shows there, and was number one because she had two shows to everyone’s one. I was second. I hated it, ’cause then the queens started to hate me, too.
I finally got my show there [at the original Boots & Saddle Christopher Street location] after years of fighting for one somewhere and failing (including that pageant in Fire Island), I was offered Friday night. And when I walked into my first show, there was probably nine people in the room. It took me three months, and then I had a line out the door every week for my 9 to 11 slot. For that, I am proud of myself. I showed myself I’m something worth being taken seriously. I was never a “kick split, flip, shablam” queen, and because of that I thought I was less. But I did something really awesome there. It came at a price, though… but I’ll never not love the years I spent there, and the friends I made.
Did you feel that you had to be a very different queen in the Brooklyn venues you worked at, where drag is expected to be more out-of-the-box and grungy (at least at the time) versus Manhattan where drag came to be known as being Broadway and “polished?” Or were you always You wherever you were?
I was who I was no matter where I went. Part of my charm in Brooklyn was being the pretty polished queen, and my charm in Manhattan was just being who I was– pretty and polished, but it was something they had never seen. I do feel like part of my charm has always been, when I’m on the mic people think, “Man! I could totally be friends with her.” I’ve always been real and raw, and I’ve never been afraid to express exactly what I’m feeling.
What’s the major way you’ve seen the business and art of drag change since you started?
Honestly, it’s watered it down so much. If you want to be a “hood” drag queen and have cute coins, you can be the best drag queen on Earth… it takes no fight fire from some of these girls. They just want it and get it. Which is also a good thing. Drag is accessible. And it sucks, ’cause when I started you couldn’t even find lacefronts in beauty supplies.
I like that we’ve become mainstream, but it takes a little of the magic out of it for me. I got good because I left the house busted so many times, and those girls would rip me limb from limb… so I changed, and got better. I feel like you should be a booger before you’re a beauty queen, because being gorgeous isn’t the point of drag. FEELING GORGEOUS is. The first time I left the house in drag and the last time I left the house in drag, I felt equally as gorgeous both times… and that’s the beauty of drag.
Speaking of the changing status of drag: the current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which you and Sassy have been watching at your Graham viewing party, has been somewhat cursed. Now there’s the coronovirus that is limiting what the girls and shows can do to promote and profit from the season. But right before that, before she even appeared on the show, Sherry Pie’s newly unearthed catfishing scandal really put a pallor on things.
Oh yeah! It totally sucks. Like, it was hard to watch the show especially because Sherry is actually talented. But our [viewing party] audience wasn’t having her in the screen at all. They really should just cancel the season at this point. Like, it totally sucks for the girls… but they literally can’t do [the press and appearances they need to do], it so what’s the point? At least postpone it.
Should they postpone Pride too? There’s been some talk of that!
OMG, that would be such a nightmare. I’m staying positive in thinking that it won’t come to that … but that would suck so much. However, I wouldn’t mind being able to celebrate Pride without the fear of my face falling off!
I remember it being this very unique situation back in the day that you and Mocha were an on-and-offstage couple. But now, every queen is hooking up with every other queen. Even Drag Race explored an inter-drag showmance last All-Stars season. I guess that is one good thing that has changed within the drag community over time!
Yeah, it’s definitely nice to see drag queens that aren’t drag-phobic. For a while, I knew a lot of girls that would scoff at us and say, “ew! I’d never date another drag queen.” It’s internalized homophobia.
I mean, Ruby Roo was my first real daughter. I helped her with hair, slapped a face on her, and took her to Vlada. Then she wanted to do it again, and I told her she was all on her own–but she truly blossomed into a true sister. That’s what I always say: you’re my daughter ’til I bring you up to my level, then you’re my sister.
Sassy is my true baby, though. I met Levi / Lukas on Fire Island six years ago, and we hit it off right away. He was such a great support for me. He always sees the positive outlook on life, and being on the older side sometimes I need someone to show me that. I love him with all my heart, and am lucky that now not only are we friends, but also drag sisters. But he won’t let me call him my sister; it’s ‘Mother” Or Die. I love helping girls out to better themselves, and it’s just a perk that I get to share this lifestyle with my best friend.
I’m surprised you never hosted one of those weekly drag competitions; you’d be great at that… mentoring the children, and telling them the truth!
The difference between me and other girls that help out daughters and have drag families is that most of them are very possessive. They give their girls rules, and tell them where to go and what to do and what to wear. I want my girls to go and make me proud, and to make their own choices and mistakes and learn their lessons the hard way. Also, I don’t like competitive drag. Drag is way too diverse of an art form to pit any two girls against each other. I think it’s gross and demeaning; art should never be competitive.
That’s definitely fair! So, okay… now is the time where I would normally start plugging your gigs, but literally everyone is plug-proof today because of our quarantine. Is there anything that we should be looking towards in the hopefully not-too-distant future, though?
Before this whole thing happened, I had two new gigs starting in Manhattan. So I should be coming back to the big Apple (maybe, lol)… watch out! And check out my [commission] work.
Okay, last question: what will you be binge watching during this isolation period?
YOU TELL ME! I’ve literally binged everything I thought I wanted to watch. Today I got so desperate I kept watching The Circle. But I am a sucker for a corny ’90s movie, and I’ve already set my eye on Space Jam and the other Loony Tunes movie with Brendan Fraser. And anything with Chris Farley. I’ll also watch any action movie, because I feel like they had to spend all that money on something.
That should be the motto for drag! Thank you, Misty, and stay safe!