Miss Gay Beer 2020 and Ruby Roo’s proud drag daughter is known for her Dolly Parton impersonations, but she actually has a number of tricks up her fabulously frilly sleeves. These days we can experience them all, twice a week–socially distanced of course–in Brooklyn. Jump for joy, it’s Kanga Roo!
Thotyssey: Hello Kanga! Thanks so much for talking to us today! So let’s start with…. OMG ELECTION WEEK! Wow, that was a Whole Thing. How did your emotional roller coaster ride go?
Kanga Roo: It really was a roller coaster. You know… when you’re hitting the curve, and you feel your stomach fall out? That’s exactly what it was. I’ve had a lot of tears for family members and friends who decided that they are more of talkers than walkers. It’s hard to hear that someone loves you, and then actively votes for someone who is against you. Let me just tell you, the day we found out about America changing for the better, I felt overwhelmingly loved and supported.
Despite our immense joy and relief with Biden’s win, it’s still baffling and disgraceful that so many people in the country turned out to vote for Trump. Like, who are these people?
To say the least, “hypocrites.”
Well, your home state of Washington went blue, as per usual! Is that where you grew up?
I was born in Washington and lived there ’til second grade, and let me tell you that it was interesting. As a boy that liked to wear dresses and play with Barbies, the community my family went to church with wasn’t the most welcoming. My parents actually fostered kids from Africa, and we were met with a lot of hate because the majority of people were white. But it was incredible to go to school with them and have such amazing family members. Also, Washington has amazing views!
We then moved to Oregon, and my parents really embraced the new place and let us kids express ourselves to the fullest extent. It was a very small town, so I moved through a couple of different schools until I found a performing arts high school that was exactly the kind of change I needed. We found a dance studio in Oregon named Van De Veere Productions that I trained at for nine years!
So, music was always part of your life.
Oh yes. My dad plays the saxophone and my mom’s always singing. Me and my sister actually competed in singing competitions for years as duet partners. We did lots of jazz standards and Broadway.
Oh wow! What about Dolly Parton, and country music in general… were you always a stan?
Actually, no. My dad was the country boy of the family. He loves Waylon Jennings and all the old stars. I found Dolly during my college career when we sang “9 to 5” for our final performance. I went straight to my dad and said “do you know this Dolly Parton woman?” He said yes, and told me that I should start doing her in drag!
So, Kanga was born in New York!
Yes! With the help of my drag mother Ruby Roo and drag grandmothers Mocha Lite and Misty Meaner. It really does take a village to raise someone–not to mention my mom always sending me pictures of outfits from across the country to ship me. She’s my number one supporter! Actually, my mom found Ruby Roo on Facebook before I moved here and explained that I wanted to become a drag queen, and Ruby invited us to a show in Brooklyn. The funny thing is, Ruby and I went to the same high school in Oregon. We performed in Van De Veere Productions as well; I was just about six years behind, lol!
I love that! I had the privilege of seeing you pop in for numbers several times during Ruby and Brita Filter’s show at Pieces Bar, Frisky Fridays. Isn’t it insane to think now, in our lockdown lives, how crowded the nights got in that little bar?
Even when those shows were crowded and I would have to take breaks and go outside, I would start a conversation with a stranger and wait it out a bit. Now, it’s very personable during shows to the point where I can sit down with anybody and talk about anything. It’s almost like going back to your parents’ house on Christmas, and not being able to leave the house.
2020 wasn’t a complete bust… you’re the current reigning Miss Gay Beer! What was your experience like of competing in and winning a pageant so early in your drag life?
Well, I’ve never had to drink so much beer in my life! But it’s been great. I told Gay Beer that I need at least another year to reign–considering Covid–and they were more than welling to oblige. I still wear my crown on the daily, and am working on lots of projects for the upcoming year.
Exciting! By the way, were you able to watch the Dolly documentary on Netflix? Fascinating information, like she wouldn’t sell Elvis the rights to “I Will Always Love You” when she was a teen, and she’s never been seen “out of drag” by even her closest friends, ever!
I did watch the documentary, and I think it’s absolutely fabulous! It really brings light to certain things that you never would’ve guessed with her. I also love the part about being a “dumb blonde.” I didn’t realized how many songs she has written.
Your Dolly love makes you the perfect co-host–alongside Acacia Forgot–for Now And Then’s socially distanced country kiki on Thursdays, “Buck Off!” Tell us more about this night, and how it came to be.
“Buck Off” is telling the haters to quite literally fuck off. We want a good old-fashioned hoedown where everyone is welcomed… no negativity! [Acacia and I] started thinking about live country music, and how there is very little in New York. We’ve done a couple shows together where we really communicated well, and grew to like each other on a more friendship basis. She said, “hell, let’s make show!”
Lucia Fuchsia and Jupiter Gallaxxi will be your guest queens this week. They also happen to host Now And Then’s Monday night party “Designer Genes,” which you are a regular guest performer for! What are those nights like?
Monday nights are so full of energy and community’s coming together; they really bring out a different side of my drag. Lucia and Jupiter give such great performances that it makes me want to venture out more into pop and rock music, all while staying true to my vintage aesthetic. I’m only 22, and I feel like I have a lot more of an older quality to my drag. With that said, I would like to bring a younger essence into it as well–have some fun with all the music that’s being made today. Which, if you haven’t heard Kylie Minogue’s new album, you should!
Anything else that needs to be said?
One more plug would have to be stream Chromatica, stream A Holly Dolly Christmas, and be kind to one another in hard times!
Lastly, it’s never too early to ask: what do you want for Christmas this year?
I want a Kamala Harris prayer candle, and a vinyl record of Dolly Parton’s 1985 Real Love album… lol!
Happy holidays, Kanga!