One of New Jersey’s most respected and celebrated queens, Victoria Courtez chats with us about the joys and challenges of drag in her state, her many pageant crowns, the “Drag Race” effect… and thew new challenges of nightlife during lockdown.
Thotyssey: Hello Victoria! Thanks so much for chatting on this rainy November day!
Victoria Courtez: Hello, and thank you for having me!
So, just a short while ago, it was announced that New York will be a little more like New Jersey: 10pm closing time for all bars. Yuck, this COVID reality! As if our nightlife wasn’t already hanging on by a thread. But Jersey’s had this early end time for a little while now…how are you all handling it?
I would say that, for the most part, things have gone surprisingly well. We all know that it’s not the same game as it was pre-COVID. But one bright note is the audience has shifted more towards people specifically looking to see drag shows–rather than just swinging to the local bar / club for a night of drinking and dancing, where there just so happens to be a drag show happening.
Oh, that’s true… people come specifically to see the queen! Have you found yourself performing lots of new music that came out during quarantine, or are the old reliables still the best way to go?
I am an old school queen through and through, lol; I have been basing my performance repertoire on feel good classics that I know I can turn out, and that my audience can sing and dance along with. But that hasn’t stopped me from learning some new hits during quarantine!
Speaking of new hits… yay, we’re finally getting a new president! It’s been a roller coaster week and there’s still ongoing drama. But still, happy times!
Well, let’s put it this way: I was in the middle of teaching a Zumba class when the announcement was made for Biden’s victory. Needless to say, we may have stayed an extra half hour to celebrate, lol! And the fight is far from over. But I know America is ready for it, no matter how hard they try to overturn the end result.
So, where are you from originally, and how did you begin as a person of creative interests?
I am New Jersey born and bred; most of my family, though, originates from Puerto Rico. My interest for the art of drag started when I was about nine–I used to watch daytime talk shows (Sally, Maury, Ricki Lake, Jerry Springer, etc.) and would see drag queens featured on there. I said to myself, “that’s what I wanna be when I grow up,” lol!
And where were the first places that Victoria performed in Jersey?
My first official time–aside from baby drag performing in college–was in 2008, at Georgie’s Bar in Asbury Park, NJ. I did an amateur drag competition there weekly, and eventually made my way to other places such as The Den, Deko Lounge, Guitar Bar, and of course my home, Paradise.
Are you part of a drag family, or are you a lone operas for?
When I was beginning in the scene, I went through what some would consider Drag Foster Care, lol! Eventually, I was taken in by the legendary House of Blake. I was blessed with two drag mothers, Ashley Blake and Nickie La Rue Vizcaya. Now I operate on my own accord, with their blessings of course. And over the years, I was blessed with my own drag daughter and bestie, Jolina Jasmine.
Jersey drag seems like a challenge, even in the best of circumstances. Venues and gayborhoods are very spread out, and I imagine there’s lots of competition for good gigs… is it hard to navigate that?
For some it’s a bit trickier, depending on the area. I, myself am a traveling queen who performs not only in the club / bar circuit, but also at private functions and specialty events. I have the pleasure of working for several different entertainment groups in the tri-state, who have been more than generous in keeping me in the entertainment circuit, making audiences smile.
Have you had a favorite all-time experience as a queen?
If I had to point anyone out, it would be the night I won Miss Paradise in 2017. Many years of hard work and struggle went into competing for that title. So to finally achieve something I worked long and hard for, while competing against some amazing entertainers, was definitely a huge benchmark in my career.
New Jersey has quite a rich drag pageant history, and you’ve been a big part of that!
Pageantry is where I grew in. I hold multiple titles within the state, on the state and bar level. I even had the pleasure of going on the national circuit over a year ago, competing for Miss Gay United States, where I placed in the Top 5. More notably, I am a former Miss Asbury Park, Miss Den, Miss Gay New Jersey, and Miss Paradise, along with several other county titles.
Incredible! What’s your best advice to a girl who is about to enter her first pageant?
Shut up and listen! Lol. And what I mean by that is, if you are working with someone who has expertise competing in the pageantry circuit, you should never act as though you are too above it all to take advice. There are many ways to showcase your style and personality as an entertainer. But to make it in the pageantry circuit, it’s always best to humble yourself and accept advice and criticism.
Have you seen RuPaul’s Drag Race greatly effect the business and art of drag over the years?
I have indeed. One thing I appreciate from the Drag Race dynasty is that not only has it put drag on the mainstream and given a voice to the artistic side of queer culture, but it’s encouraged a great deal of talented performers that have sprouted over the years.
The downside is that now I notice a lot of performers feel very deprived of some much deserved recognition, simply because they are not a Drag Race queen. It’s tough enough working for pennies to make it in this industry as is. Now, add the pressure of having to constantly be compared to a queen who has received a national platform. I’m a big supporter of supporting the local queens–those who work 4 to 6 nights a week trying to make it as a reputable face in the drag scene without going on Drag Race, while at the same time working for only a fraction of what a girl from Drag Race earns.
In fact: this week, you’re gonna be giving shows with a very popular local girl.
And then you’ll be back at Paradise in Asbury Park this Saturday to co-host this week’s Drag Showcase, alongside the gorgeous Vanity Ray.
I’m incredibly hopeful that the success will continue, even after the newly issued [10pm closing time] mandate. Paradise has successfully revived it’s drag show, bringing back audiences that enjoy coming out and seeing the girls. I’m super excited to be back this weekend.
I love a good brunch show, so I’m super excited to participate… especially with it being in Asbury Park!
And then the following Sunday (November 22nd), you’ll be hosting another brunch elsewhere in Jersey… with a Freddie Mercury impersonator!
Werq! Okay, final question: what do you want for Christmas this year?
A new air fryer would be nice, lol. But good, safe company with loved ones is always a gift!