A gorgeous and fairly new addition to drag, this Broadway babe is gorgeously representing the Haus of Cumming as one of the few weekly live performing queens in the city today. And there’s more to come from this gal with a certain something… Janae Saisquoi!
Thotyssey: Hello Janae, thanks for chatting with us today! So this bizarre summer is nearly over… how was it for you, over all?
Janae Saisquoi: Unexpected. I don’t think I ever would’ve predicted the highs or lows I would experience this summer. But I’ve learned something from all of them, so that’s nice.
I guess the only thing we can do now (besides wait) is learn! And watch stuff, of course. In fact, I just watched the premiere of the fun Broadway disco lip sync video you did with your drag mom Marti Gould Cummings and all your sisters (Selma Nilla, Kiki Ball-Change, Peachez) in the Haus of Cumming! You all looked so gorg!
Aw thank you! We filmed it in Riverside Park, just last week. September 1st, I think.
Where are you from originally, and what were your artistic interests while growing up?
I am originally from NYC. Growing up, I have always been interested in performing. I loved storytelling, and how music or dance or a performance could capture people’s attention. I went to Frank Sinatra School of the Arts for high school, and I was a drama / musical theater student there. And then I went on to study musical theater at Marymount Manhattan College.
Prestigious! Do you have any favorite musicals?
Dreamgirls, The Wiz, Once On This Island, and Kinky Boots are some of my favorite shows. I’m drawn to shows that feature people that look like me. Those shows allowed me to feel seen in the art form I’m so passionate about.
Broadway was arguably becoming more diverse, onstage and on the page and even in the audience, before everything went to hell in March. Are you hopeful that that trend will continue when Broadway finally returns?
I am. I think the conversation / actions have to begin at the college / university level. There are so many students that have really unfortunate or harmful experiences in theater training programs, and those experiences carry into auditions and rehearsal rooms. I think there needs to be a reexamination into how theater programs teach / run their departments.
Also, I think that there should be more people of color in positions of power / influence in the industry. To me, diversity is having us in the room; inclusion is giving a voice or influence to people that haven’t traditionally been given one.
Well said! Here’s hoping things will continue evolve in that respect.
So how did you ultimately discover drag, and then become a queen yourself?
I discovered drag a while ago. I’ve been a fan of drag and fascinated with the art form, I’d say, since I was like 13 or 14 and started high school. I was aware of musicals that had drag queens in them, and I had seen RuPaul’s Drag Race. But it took me a while to realize that drag was something I could do.
My first time ever in drag: I was 17, and I played Angel in RENT in my senior year of high school. But I officially became Janae SaisQuoi in November of 2019.
Your name, of course, is attributed to a famous French term for “that certain something,” as in star quality. What kind of queen are you today, as far as your aesthetic and performing style go?
I would say theatricality and storytelling are embedded into everything I do. As far as looks / aesthetics are concerned, I’m conceptual. I pull inspiration or ideas from things that have affected / impacted me in my life. I’m inspired by the people in my life and the black artists / creators that I’ve looked up to my whole life. And in performances, I love to tell a story. Whether it’s a theater song, or a mix, or a song sung by a recording artist, I want to communicate something through the song. I always want my art to be something people can engage with beyond the surface level.
Yes! I did.
How exciting is it that they’re running for city counsel, and just getting so much exposure now as an artist and activist?
It’s amazing. I think Marti is genuinely a superhero. The way that they commit themselves to advocating for, and protecting, the community every opportunity they get no matter the perceived cost or consequence. I have so much respect and love for Marti and everything they do.
Meanwhile, you’ve been quite busy yourself–giving outdoor, socially distanced shows in Brooklyn with Lucia Fuchsia and other gals for several weeks now. Right now it’s “Girls Gone Viral,” weekly Wednesday nights at Now & Then! How fun is it doing those shows with a *gasp* live, in-person audience?
It’s been the best time! Now & Then has been incredible in how they have handled the social distancing and monitoring of the space. They really prioritized the safety of us as the performers, and the audience. And the Doll Family (Lucia, Jupiter and Charlotte) are the best castmates I could’ve asked for. We get to turn out a fierce show every Wednesday, and share the stage with some amazing guests… all for a very loyal and supportive audience.
Anything else coming up for you?
Yeah! I’m continuing my look series based on the four elements. The next one gets posted on September 18th!
Charlotte Doll and I are starting a bi-monthly cabaret style show featuring singers (drag artists and non-drag artists) at Now & Then called “Sunset Seranades” (first show September 29th). And more to come in the future after that, I’m sure.
Amazing! And lastly, what would you say has been the Song of the Summer for you?
Either the “Savage” remix or “Rain On Me.” I love both of those!