One of NYC’s most popular gogo queens, this performer has been showing us a full range of colorful drag realness in all its forms these past few years… including a recent turn in a major pageant. It’s the lovely and talented Michelle Wynters, Thotyssey’s first interview of 2021!
Thotyssey: Hello Michelle! Thanks for being our first On Point of 2021! How did you ring in the New Year?
Michelle Wynters: Visiting my parents for Haitian Independence Day, since New Year’s Day is also Haitian Independence Day. As a family tradition, my mom makes Soup Joumou, which is translated in English as “pumpkin soup.”
That sounds wonderful! Does your family live in NYC?
Yes, Crown Heights. And my parents are originally from Haiti.
Were you always into dance and fashion?
Yeah. I started teaching myself dance at 12 as a way to deal with my anger I used to have, due to being bullied consistently in school. I started taking formal lessons at 15 in modern, ballet, hip-hop African and vogue. And fashion was something that attracted me as a child, especially with female video game characters.
I can definitely see video game girls in a lot of your looks. And these days you are actually a dance teacher to kids as well, right?
Yeah, I am a high school dance and technical theater teacher, which is such a joy.
How did you discover drag, and then become Michelle Wynters?
I have to admit, I was a Drag Race baby. As a child, I used to be afraid of drag queens due to living in a conservative religious household. My views on drag were very one-sided, until I saw Season 1 of Drag Race at 16. I was so inspired by seeing Ongina, Nina Flowers and Rebecca Glasscock. The transformation, and the idea that drag has many forms, were so intriguing… which led me to start [doing it] at 19. My out-of-drag name is Mykey, so I decided to have a more fem version of it: Michelle. And originally, “Winterbreeze” was my last name because winter is my birth season, and breeze is the effect I bring. But then I felt like that name is way too long, so I shortened it to Wynters.
Did you get to meet Rebecca Glasscock at all when she was living here during those early years of Drag Race?
Oh, by the way… any thoughts about the Drag Race Season 13 premiere episode and its weird format?
I loved it! It really takes the queen out of their comfort zone, and we really get to see what they can do.
Yesss! I’ve met Kandy before, she was really kind. Tina as well. Olivia is stunning!
You’re known in nightlife as a gogo dancer in drag, which you’ve been frequently booked to do in many of the city’s best known kikis! What’s that whole experience like?
It was my first continuous gig as a drag queen. I was nervous at first, because starting out I didn’t see myself wearing super sexy clothes as a drag queen due to being self-conscious. But after the first night and the tips I made, the club promoter loved my confidence and professionalism. It was an eye-opener.. I felt like a fly on the wall. Meeting legendary club kids like Amanda Lepore was a blessing, and seeing celebrities was such an experience.
Oooh, any particularly fun celebrity run-ins?
Janelle Monae was so fun when she came to the bar. I didn’t even recognize her at first, because she was with her friends having a good time; normally when celebs enter the bar, they always have their own security. For this night, she didn’t… which threw me off guard. She was chatting it up with people, dancing, and having a good time. She complimented me on my makeup skills, and danced with me. It was amazing to see someone so famous who is so down to earth and humble, and just having a good night like every one else.
You danced and were also a recurring host for Deryck Todd’s STRUT party at ACME. I also saw you perform at Stonewall a bunch of times, and recall when you competed for the last Ms. Stonewall pageant! Do you have an all-time favorite gig?
Hmm, not sure… I feel all the gigs I worked in [gave me] so much perspective, which led to my growth. STRUT will always be near and dear to me because it was the first gig where I was a regular, and Ms. Stonewall was among the first competitions I ever entered… which I always love, because it’s a challenge. Any gig to me is an experience.
How would you describe your drag today?
In the past, my looks were mostly dancewear active stuff; I was always obsessed with being “fishy” when I started. But as I grew, I wanted to challenge and expand my aesthetic. I would consider my drag “unpredictable beauty,” because I want people to assume what I might do… but then do the complete opposite. Nowadays, I love vintage and period looks–like, 60s-80s looks.
And does identifying as non-binary affect how you present as a queen, at all?
It’s challenging, because I feel many people view non-binary as “confused” or on the verge to be a full trans-binary… which is not always the case. I feel like doing drag for me influenced and liberated my non-binary identity.
So live drag is still nearly impossible to find in the city these days, thanks to the continuous Covid-19 lockdown. But the Ritz in Hell’s Kitchen has a heated outdoor cabana section where top hatted showtune diva Lady Celestina’s been entertaining the children these past few Sundays. You’ll be joining her and fellow guest star Twiggy Malone there this weekend! What can we expect?
A festival! A definite celebration of what we survived and overcame thus far. We are entering a new era, and hopefully we will come back together when Covid is a thing of the past.
Sounds like it’ll be just what we need! Anything else the children should know?
Follow my IG; I’m always posting inspiring visuals. And follow the journey of my drag evolution. I’m thankful and blessed for all of the support within the community.
And in conclusion: what are your hopes for 2021?
To have human contact in person again, see joy when Covid is over, see justice served for the black and brown lives we have lost, and more inclusion within the community.
Thank you Michelle, and Happy New Year!