This Jamaican born star has been a part of the NYC scene since the 90s, but only in recent years has gone Full Fabulous Drag Queen. Now serving slick shows on both sides of the river, Koko Nutwata is here to quench the thirst!
Thotyssey: Hello Koko! How are you, and have you been able to get your vaccine yet?
Koko Nutwata: Hey! I’m doing well, staying busy and channeling my energies into creative projects at home. I am on the list of approved recipients, and waiting to get an appointment. Refreshing your screen has a whole new meaning.
Lol, tell me about it! Well, I guess we couldn’t expect this process to go too smoothly, but things are definitely looking up! Have you dabbled in digital drag this past year at all?
To be honest, I haven’t! At the start of the pandemic, I joined a few of the other girls in their Instagram shows, but not being in an actual space and feeling the exchange of energy with a live audience wasn’t the same. In fact, it left me feeling a bit empty–more isolated than we all were already feeling.
Virtual performance is definitely not for everyone, in regards to both performers and audiences. But we’ve got some live drag happening again, with limited capacity seating and social distance! It’s all good news, but it’s also a bit nerve-wracking, right?
I think there are two minds: so many are happy to be out and feeling socially alive again, but probably with some hesitation–or better yet, approaching with caution. There truly is nothing like going to your local bar, seeing a friendly face and catching your New York queens serving up a delicious menu all week long. I think as we see the vax distributed in higher numbers, the safer we will all feel.
So, time for the origin story: where are you from originally, and what were your interests as far as music, fashion, performance, etc. while growing up?
Well, I moved here in 1996 from Kingston, Jamaica to study dance–thus my heavy accent. I was a green apple, truly taking in everything NY had to offer. I was of course (and still am) heavily influenced by the musical artists of the 80’s and 90’s like Madonna and Queen, but also I have a deep appreciation for the 60’s and 70’s dish. I mean, the 70’s? Which gay doesn’t love disco and Diana Ross!?
I moved to one of the best cities in the world that molded me as an adult, and forged relationships with like-minded individuals that have lasted a lifetime. It was a big time in fashion as Jean Paul Gaultier was a hot ticket, and we were finally moving away from the fear of the AIDS crisis. The work and liberation that so many had fought for was being seen. I felt that coming here was the best thing I did for my spiritual health; I was free to be me, and like so many others I felt like I could finally do something with my talents.
When did you first become Koko?
I recall your number for the a season finale of “Polish!” It was very elaborate with your amazing exotic costume and sexy dancers. And there was a skull prop!
Good Ole Jamaican, Grace Jones.
How do you like the whole drag competition scene? Is it stressful, or do you enjoy the sisterhood and the thrill of performing?
I personally don’t thrive on competition. I’m already competing with the creative director in my head–that’s enough. However, to market your brand as a newbie and hone stage presence / character, it’s important to compete. It matures your drag, just from observation at least. My experiences in every competition to date–Polish the Queen, Reign [at The Ritz] and Drag Wars [at Pieces]–have been extremely positive. The hosts have been gracious and supportive, and the other competitors welcoming and kind. Kindness is key for me.
Besides those competitions and frequent Manhattan guest spots, you’re also frequently a Jersey Gurl! Do you see a big difference between those two states as far as drag scenes go?
The trans-Hudson relationship is like a complicated marriage. However, all the queens in this area are like the bridge-and-tunnel club, because we are all interchangeable. Particularly with the lockdown in NYC, we saw a lot more of our city girls frequenting NJ. I think it’s a good marriage; the scenes are pretty similar, NJ really doesn’t stink after all.
I love Club Feathers; they are the oldest gay night club in NJ, and both the owners treat their talent with respect and kindness. My sisters this weekend are stellar, and I am really excited to be sharing the stage with them again.
And Sunday, you’ll be back in Manhattan for Drag Me to the Ritz, hosted by another crossover Jersey Gurl: Lady Celestina! Tina Twirler and Luxx Noir London will be your fellow guest performers that night.
I told you it’s a marriage! It’s gonna be my first time working with Lady Celestina–and really, the weekend can’t get here fast enough. I’m sewing my life away as we speak. We are gonna serve up some tea, gurl. Cue Mariah Carey, giving it “My All.”
Anything else coming up for you?
I’ll be back in NJ with my good good Judy Kimmy Sumony for her brunch in March, and working on a few other monthly appearances for another restaurant in NY. Just taking it as it comes, enjoying the ride.
Amen! Final question: who are you rooting for in Drag Race?
Good question, but tough question! I could give kudos across the board to all the girls, because of the commitment and polish so many of them have brought to the stage this season. However, I have a huge respect and appreciation for Gottmik because they’re further breaking barriers and stereotypes for our community, and doing it with such conviction and bravery. The main goal here is always to be seen as equal and no different, in a world where we are always being put into boxes and labeled for the comfort of others and their acceptance.
Well said! Have great shows this weekend, Koko!