Bringing playful sexiness, warrior advocacy and dazzling choreo to NYC nightlife for a decade now, this GLAM winner keeps the scene’s heart beating both from behind and on the stage. Whether he’s shaking his money maker for your dollars or your paid subscriptions, jazzing up a “Drag Race” girl’s set with ferocious dancing, burlesque-ing his way into your heart and other areas, turning out some drag of his own, teaching about or advocating for HIV treatment, or producing next week’s “Miss Hell’s Kitchen” digital event, Richard JMV is a fierce force to be reckoned with! [Cover photo: Sergey Sheptun]
Thotyssey: Hello Richard! Thanks for chatting with us tonight, I know this must be a busy time for you as you prepare for the Miss Hell’s Kitchen digital event. But, what are our thoughts on this slight change of weather now, yay or nay?
Richard JMV: I love the transition from summer to fall, but this year seems strange because I didn’t have my normal summer away in Provincetown. But I’m excited for my month-long Halloween movie marathon in October.
That’s something to look forward to! I see that you were able to stay in pretty great shape in these mostly gymless months… was that at-home regimen stressful to maintain?
As things were shutting down, I thought about all of the things I’d need for the following months. I got the essentials for my apartment for an apocalypse, including weights and bands, and I ordered new running shoes. I started tuning in to trainers’ live feeds and IG workouts; it helps that I worked at Equinox for a few years and did group fitness training courses. It wasn’t an easy task to stay motivated, but somehow I pulled through. Gyms are open now, so I feel better and more focused, for sure.
It must have been therapeutic… something to keep the mind from not dwelling on all the horrors of 2020.
That’s very true. “Move a muscle, change a thought.” And watching all of those muscles move at the gym now definitely changes my thoughts.
I know you’ve been a proud and loyal participant in Broadway Bares / Equity Fights AIDS over the years, where stage performers strip off and raise funds for treatment of HIV. This year would’ve been that organization’s 30th anniversary. That’s really gotta suck for everyone involved, especially considering how successful a fundraiser the event is.
You can smell the excitement of Broadway Bares as strongly as the blooming flowers as spring rolls around, and this year we didn’t have that. But in true Bares-fashion, BC/EFA still made a way for us to be together virtually and raise money for the Strip-A-Thon. We were all bummed, but every time we saw each other on a ZOOM meeting, there were plenty of smiles to go around. We still had that camaraderie when we saw each other, and it was nothing but love and hope.
That’s wonderful! By the way… what do the initials “JMV” stand for in your name?
Joseph (my middle name), Michael (my Confirmation name), and Veronica, my alter ego… like Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce.
NYC nightlife knows Richard JMV as a dancer, gogo boy, burlesquer, occasional bar staffer, event host / promoter / producer and even an occasional drag queen! But how did it all begin? Where are you from, what were you into and studying growing up, and how did you wind up in the scene here?
Ricky Joe, as my mom still calls me, was a boy from Upstate New York–between Binghamton and Syracuse, where there’s more cows than people. My hometown is about two miles long, and I thought I wanted to be a doctor and football player until I was in sixth grade, when I found dance. Then all I wanted to do was dance. You know how I lip sync day and night now? I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, anywhere and everywhere: the grocery store, Wal-Mart, my grandmother’s living room, our computer room, my bedroom, and performing for the passing cars outside the dance studio between classes while I held onto my yellow Sony Discman for dear life. Dance was my outlet from school. I never wanted to be [at school] because of the homophobia–it made me feel like I didn’t belong there. I was “popular” and everything, but I always felt like no one wanted me around… never anyone’s favorite.
So I pursued dance, and by the time I was seventeen I found myself in New York City with my boyfriend who was six years older than me. I went to all of the clubs and bars, and Memorial Day Weekend of my senior year of high school was spent in the Pines! Crazy, right? It was like Queer As Folk was teleported to this barrier island, and I was hooked.
I think after that I just knew I fit in somewhere, and it wasn’t in my hometown. When I moved here in 2009, I was supposed to go to Ailey for their certificate program, but gave it all up to “perform” at Splash. That’s still my gogo style. I think it’s safe to say, “the rest is history.”
Oh my gosh, I was twenty-years old in that video. Sherry and I were talking about it the other day, as a matter of fact! I miss her so much.
You must’ve witnessed the scene change so frequently over the past decade.
I have. I was working at Elmo for Pride 2011 when the Marriage Equality Act passed, and I was in heels serving that Sunday dancing like a maniac to “Born This Way.” I’ve always been a bit of an advocate and activist, and that was a magical weekend.
There have been bars that closed and new ones have opened; heck, I wasn’t sober then and now I will have been for five years on September 29th… so my view perspective has changed greatly, too. It’s hard to believe Splash has been gone for seven years. Do you remember Musical Mondays? Ugh, Mr. Black and Roseland…
And, how can we forget how many drag queens there are because of Drag Race? I remember Sherry and Pep at Barracuda before Industry was a thought. Remember when Eighth Ave was actually “The Runway?” I met all of the popular gogo boys outside of Universal Gear in 2007. I have so many stories to tell before Grindr or Scruff… now imagine those stories when the apps came into play. Oh, the memories! I can confidently say that I grew up here.
And you also toured with the Drag Race girls a few years ago as a dancer / choreographer, right?
I can proudly say that I was probably the original Drag Race dancer / choreographer, before it was popular to do so. No one wanted those gigs at first because they weren’t for Britney or Madonna, but let me tell you… these queens are absolutely stars.
Definitely! Were those shows for Voss?
I worked for Voss a few times, but this was with Producer Entertainment (PEG) before Voss was really in the drag world of production. I danced for Bebe, Mimi, Sahara, Manila, Sharon, Willam, Pandora, Peppermint and Honey (I even remember when she stopped dancing for Pep to start drag). And no one can forget my touring with Miss Fame–that was the best thing that ever happened to me. There was a time when the new Drag Race girls would hit me up because they were excited to work with me. It was really a dream come true… definitely found my niche.
And I think it’s safe to say that you’re a very sex positive and sexually liberated person, which helps in this biz! Have you found, though, that lots of people mistake that liberation for being a person who can be objectified or advanced on without your full consent? I guess I’m mostly talking about handsy guys when you’re gogo dancing.
I love this question. I’ve been objectified many times, and I’ve learned to speak up and tell people that they have to have my consent. I’ve had to be pretty assertive at times, but they get the point. A dollar doesn’t give you permission to finger me. If you wanna objectify me, subscribe to my OnlyFans. That way neither of us has to have that uncomfortable conversation.
How do you enjoy being an OnlyFans star? And did that whole Bella Thorne business affect you?
I enjoy being sex positive and have a healthy outlook on expressing sexuality. I always wanted to do porn, and was one of the OG Instagram Butts… but it can be fun. It also opens the door for more sexual health conversations. I understand why others are upset over Bella Thorne’s OnlyFans page, but it didn’t bother me at all.
Much belated congratulations on your Best Gogo Glam Award from February, by the way. Well deserved!
Thank you! It was thirteen years in the making. I’m very grateful for the loving community for picking me over all of the beautiful nominees. The Glams were one of the last greatest nights we had out, I think! It was so much fun!
You’re also part of the Daniel Nardicio DWorld crew. You’ve worked his Fire Island underwear parties and many of his other events, and you were recently part of his sexy burlesque troupe The Brolesque Boys that performed at Bedlam (RIP) and Cherry’s.
I love Daniel Nardicio!
His Covid Destroyers team (a group of drag queens, gogo boys and other nightlifers who “patrolled” gayborhoods to encourage social distancing and mask wearing) got some flack this summer, I guess because Daniel turned to crowd-sourcing for the group’s compensation. But ultimately the Destroyers did good things on Fire Island and in Manhattan, and functioned as a queer positive symbol. Did you partake in that?
I messaged him and Taylor Shubert privately when It all started, and I backed them 100%. I actually did Covid Destroyers once in Hell’s Kitchen. I was supposed to do it once in the Pines, but it was overbooked. I think they did such a great thing for our community.
And speaking of burlesque, you’ve been doing a lot of that–or at least burlesque-adjacent performing–for Zeta Jones‘ Tuesday night party “Zeta Haus” at Rebar before the lockdown. That must be a great way for you to combine your loves of dance, performance and thottiness.
I am a hybrid performer, for sure. I like stripping, camp, dance, lip syncs, drag… all of it. I’m a queer performer and just got to a point where I would take pointers / suggestions and grow into who I am, because I have to be authentic to what I love. Between Bad Apple, Male Call, Members Only Boylesque, and Brolesque, I have found a lot of joy and success.
I also love Rebar and I love Zeta. We chatted today about some things… keep a lookout for those projects, but that’s all I’m saying about that!
Besides being sex positive, you are also quite open about your HIV status and devote a lot of time advocating and educating regarding HIV. In your blog POZ, you discuss your life with the virus and also regularly implore that having an undetectable viral load equals being untransmittable. Do you find that guys–or folks in general–understand this, or is there still lots of misinformation out there?
Nowadays I’m shocked when I come across someone that is misinformed or uneducated on HIV, but it happens from time-to-time. I’d say most people in NYC are informed, though.
Despite all the other horrible and fearful crap happening in the world today, the news on the HIV treatment front is continuously positive. Science seems closer to ending or even curing the virus than ever before. Does that make you hopeful?
It gives me a lot of hope. I have people reach out to me that are newly diagnosed, and it breaks my heart because I remember that day at the clinic. I don’t want people to ever have to go through that, and hopefully they won’t have to in the next decade.
In the meantime, you are doing what you can as an advocate and fundraiser! On September 30th, you are co-producing a digital event featuring a cast of former Miss Hell’s Kitchens (Bootsie LeFaris, Tina Burner, Brenda Dharling, Vita Summers, Lady SinAGaga and current reigning Gloria Swansong) which will benefit The Center in NYC. You’ve been involved in the production of MHK in years past when it was a live pageant benefiting Cycle for the Cause.
Miss Hell’s Kitchen was founded and created by Shane Terenzi in 2012. It started off as a huge success, and we knew we had to keep it going through the years as a way of helping our community. I have been involved with the pageant since the beginning, to some capacity. In recent years I have had the pleasure of becoming an executive producer, which is a humbling experience. As we spoke about before, I have a passion for HIV / AIDS activism and advocacy. This pageant has such a sense of community, and we couldn’t do it without the queens that donate so much of their time to raise money for charities.
We were bummed when the pageant wasn’t happening this year. Over the summer, Shane reached out to me and told me that he spoke with Mitch Ferrino of Purse First Productions, and asked me if I wanted to help put this royal fundraiser together. Naturally, I said yes. We reached out to the former queens, other performers, and to Alaska to see if they’d want to be a part of this fundraiser. They all jumped on board. Even SCRUFF hopped on as our sponsor! It doesn’t escape me this event falls two days after National Gay Men’s HIV / AIDS Awareness Day either. It lined up so perfectly!
This is a free virtual event broadcasted on Facebook (Wednesday, September 30th at 8p ET/5p PT), where viewers will have the chance to see some of New York’s finest queens and all star guests including Miss Continental 2020 Vanessa Van Cartier, and Sherry Vine! We were overjoyed when Alaska agreed to host this for us–she is an incredible human being. There will be places for people to donate during–and for a period, after–the event for The Center here in NYC. The help is needed more now than ever.
So wonderful that you’re doing this, and best of luck! I’ll let you get back to the preparations. But first, the all-important final question: Gaga’s new “911” video… Brilliant, or Otherwise?