A young performer who was just finding her NYC groove before lockdown came, this queen was quick to transition to several aspects of virtual drag. Now that she’s getting ready to host a major digital fundraiser for a vital, local institution, Bea Belize is proving herself to be a queen to watch in 2021.
Thotyssey: Hello Bea! So, things are looking up in the world with nicer weather and more vaccines! How are you doing?
Bea Belize: Hello there! I’m feeling much better now that I’m seeing more people getting their vaccines, and also now that we can spend more time outside. Those early sundowns were rough…
Yes indeed. We have limited indoor capacity in our venues now… how do you feel about that? Are you still “iffy” about going out now?
It’s such a confusing situation! I don’t see myself doing much indoors in the near future –I know venues and performers are working hard to make things are as safe as they can, but I’m definitely still iffy. It seems like an unnecessary risk… but given how many mixed messages we’ve received the last year, it’s hard to fault people for wanting to perform indoors if they can.
You’ve been serving lots of virtual programming throughout the year of lockdown, notably your “Werk Night” variety shows on Instagram and some Drag Race episode recaps on YouTube. What’s that all been like for you?
In a lot of ways, the virtual platforms were really crucial for me. We’d just had the third in-person Werk Night [at Branded Saloon] the weekend before lockdown! I started drag just a few months before COVID, so I felt [that in order] to keep up any momentum, I had to shift over to IG Live. Also, with a nine-to-five day job it was really hard to try and get out there as a new queen by going to competitions or tip spots pre-lockdown. So I’ve been trying to be creative and find opportunities to perform as long as I’ve been doing drag. I could go on about this all day! I have a very complex (though loving) relationship with virtual drag.
Where are you from originally, and what put you on the path to drag?
I grew up in a small town in Jersey right outside the city, and always loved performing and doing creative stuff. But once I was in high school I started taking it more seriously, doing more intensive theater training programs. Once I went to college though, I’d kind of moved past wanting to act or anything as a career. Then when I started working, I would still always secretly fantasize about being on stage in some way.
Drag was barely on my radar until a few years ago, before I started watching Drag Race. After becoming obsessed with it, I started going to local shows and had this creeping thought of starting to do drag myself–but felt too intimidated! Then I went to Bushwig a few years ago, and so many of my ideas of what drag should be were totally subverted; I couldn’t stop thinking about what I wanted to try to bring to the community. So that really put me on my way to becoming Bea.
You actually performed at Bushwig in 2019!
I did! I’d attended in 2018, and then performed the following year… my second time in drag!
What’s the origin of your drag name?
“Belize” comes from the name of a character in Angels in America. I have almost nothing in common with the character, who’s a black AIDS nurse and former drag queen, but I couldn’t get the name out of my head after I saw the show. It felt like I needed to have something in my drag name that grounded it in who I am and what’s important to me, as a person in our out of drag. Then the “Bea” was for alliteration… and that I’m a proud Beyoncé stan.
Well done! So you’re obviously a young work-in-progress, but how might you describe your aesthetic and performing style today?
I love a ballad–a good, sexy park-and-bark is hard to beat, for me. I put a lot of attention into my face and lip-syncing with a lot of energy; my goal is for it to feel like the vocals are coming out of my mouth, not just that I have the words down. Honestly, I think my performance style has definitely been impacted by doing so much digital drag! I’m excited to see where things go once I have to perform from more than the waist up.
Tell us a bit about the digital winter fundraiser for the LGBT Center’s Young Leaders program on March 6 that you’re hosting: “Center Stage!” The virtual cast includes queens Baby Love, Zenobia and Drag Race’s Brita Filter, plus comic Jay Jurdan.
Center Stage is a virtual showcase for amazing queer drag artists, comedians, and performers. Tito’s Vodka has come on as the presenting sponsor, meaning they’re generously matching any donations from the event up to $15,000, which is huge… and it means every ticket sale goes twice as far! It is going to be so much fun.
I’ve volunteered with The Center regularly since 2016, and have seen first-hand how crucial all their programs and services for the LGBT community are. The Center was hit hard by the pandemic, so I produced my own digital show last summer benefitting their AIDS / HIV services. It’s an honor to host an official event for The Center, and I am so grateful to everyone in the drag community who’s lent their art to these projects… especially considering I’ve never met so many of our performers in person!
It should be an amazing evening! What else might be coming up for you?
Right now, I’m focusing on my YouTube Drag Race recaps–keeping up with that weekly release schedule is no joke. As soon as we can do so safely, though, my “Werk Night” co-host Julia Jeffries and I will resume our monthly shows, hopefully back at our last outdoor venue. As much as I appreciate digital drag, it’s hard to grow as a performer while lip syncing into your front-facing camera! Of course I miss the energy of an audience, but it’s the time and community with my fellow performers I miss most… by far. So hopefully there’s a lot more of that to come!
Speaking of Drag Race, do you have a favorite to win?
From the minute I saw Symone’s promo look, I felt like she’s the one to beat, and I’ve believed it more every week. She’s so exciting because she brought an amazing runway package, but has the skills and personality to match it. And since I’m also watching UK: Team Bimini. I’ve been a fan since her completely insane Bushwig 2019 performance involving lots of oat milk, but what she’s shown on Drag Race is so uniquely her while making sense within the show… which seems hard.
The franchise is expanding even more with announced Spain and Australia editions. Is this all good, or are we maybe approaching the oversaturation point with drag?
I think it’s positive–but I wish they’d at least avoid seasons overlapping! I think it’s cool as a fan, but I wish Covid-era casts were getting more of their own moment.
Have a great fundraiser and a lovely 2021! To close: do you wish you were the one who found Gaga’s dogs?
OMG! This is difficult. On the one hand, she’s offering the $500,000! On the other hand, it’s for something I should want to do for free, to be a good person. So I’ll say yes, I wish I’d found them! But I won’t share if I’d accept the reward…
Lol, fair! Thanks, Bea!