This (very) tall drink of water brings Broadway, country and artsy vibes to NYC drag. Performing in Astoria this weekend with an A-List roster of queens, the glamorous Marilyn Monhoe is here to SMASH our lives…. and we’re loving it!
Thotyssey: Hello Marilyn, thanks for chatting today! Our Bizarre Pandemic Summer is almost over… how did it treat you?
Marilyn Monhoe: Surprisingly well! Managed to keep my head above the water, despite the chaos around us.
Chaos indeed! Nightlife has been on punishment for a few months, and performers and producers had to get creative to keep their art alive.
Chiiillle. Punishment is the word!
Have you been participating in, or watching, any online drag?
I actually took a step back from putting out or participating in online drag. Sure, a few posted makeup looks–but nothing more than that. I’m a theater gay first and foremost, and the audiences reaction is what I thrive off of. Losing the personal connection that was established during live performances can’t be replicated via webcam… at least not for me.
That’s a good segue into your origin story: where are you from, and what were your earliest creative interests?
I’m from Western Massachusetts–a country gay at heart. Having been enthralled by many late nights watching VHS’s of CATS, Singing in the Rain and The Sound Of Music; I knew there wasn’t anything I wanted more than to be a performer / actor. My earliest creative memories stem from rehearsing the choreography to Sutton Foster’s Tony Award performance in sneakers with tacks on the bottom (as I didn’t own tap shoes), self-teaching myself the “Anything Goes” Tap Routine… which is now one of my favorite numbers to perform!
Did you ultimately study theater and music in school?
I did! I took some time at community and state colleges in Massachusetts studying classical voice, creating a foundation and learning proper technique before relocating to NYC and studying musical theater performance. Then I quickly realized the best way to actually learn is by getting out into the industry as it’s all based on networking / talent, and ditched the degree aspirations.
It’s a cutthroat industry! Do you find it really difficult to navigate?
Unfortunately. I learned quite quickly that any casting agencies pick the same “type” of actor. The fact that I’m a giant (6’6″ without heels, and 7′ in them. Proud fun fact: I’m taller than RuPaul), on top of an openly queer person of color, made my opportunity prospects quite limited in terms of roles. And when the opportunity came for me to explore drag as a possible outlet (that was more open to POC folks), I quickly took hold of that idea!
Tell us about the circumstances where you created Marilyn.
I wanted to be in Kinky Boots the second I realized what the show was. Having never worn heels or done drag, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to do some character development. And having been a huge NBC’s SMASH! Fan, I knew that I wanted to be a larger version of Megan Hilty’s character, Ivy Lynn, who ends up portraying Marilyn Monroe in an upcoming musical. Well, add some fancy word play and some slutty attire, Marilyn Monhoe was born! My first (booked) public performance would’ve been at Bar Gonzo in 2018, and who would’ve thought I’d be here now!
You’ve done the weekly competition circuit… for instance, I saw you do Look Queen during its brief stay at Bedlam (RIP) with Shuga Cain hosting!
OMG, you saw that Beyonce number! *dies* Mind you, that was the last time I ever chose to do pop music during an open call.
It was super fun! Do you enjoy that whole competition scene, or is it stressful?
Oh! I absolutely enjoy the competition circuit. The pre-show preparation and anxiety is what gives me my motivation to constantly give 110% of myself to the audience and judges.
What’s a Marilyn Monhoe stage experience like now, for the uninitiated?
Absolutely batshit crazy. Be prepared for me to steal your drink, bear hug you, flirt with you, sit on you, and then the occasional chugging of whatever substance that’s 75% edible! It’s artsy, campy, relatively choreographed, and usually ends with me panting / gasping for air with a giant grin on my face.
I’m here for all that! You’re gonna be giving all that to live audience this weekend in an “Only-In-Covid-NYC” sort of venue: the back lot of a popular Astoria diner, Bel Aire! This will be your second “Dears in the Headlights” there with co-hosts Gina Tonic, Sutton Lee Seymour, Bella Noche and Sasha Vanguard! Tell us more!
This Saturday, the girls and I have been invited to come back and give the venue a full show. We’ve got such a diverse set of talents between us all: live singing, stunts, comedy, drama… it’s honestly such a great time, and the girls are the sweetest set of dears I’ve gotten to work with. Gina is essentially my work Bae, always finding a space for me to act the fool. Having performed many nights with Sasha, it’s always a treat getting to kiki and throw shade with someone I’ve grown to love so freaking much!
Anything else in the works for you?
Nothing set in stone quite yet! I’m figuring out some logistics for a collab series with local makeup artists here in the city; but due to the uncertainty of everything, it’s all in the planning stages! Any and all future projects, events, and performances are posted on my social media accounts; both the boi and the girl!
Okay, in closing… we actually had a lot of new music these past few months! What has been the song of the summer for you?
Oof! I’m terrible with keeping up with current music. I guess I’d have to say Rascal Flatts summer hit “Sip Away.” I’m still a country gay!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Marilyn Monhoe’s upcoming appearances, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.