Backstage, David W. Gilleo is a reputable Broadway dresser. On stage, alter ego Davida Jones is a fierce queen best known for turning intricate musical numbers in Cherry Grove, and was a famous doll among The Covid Destroyers. Now with a new original song that’s she’s about to premiere at the legendary Stonewall, Davida is about to show the whole realm that she’s a bona fide drag diva.
Thotyssey: Hello Davida, thanks for chatting on this beautiful March weekday! How has 2021 been treating you so far?
Davida Sky: Yes, today is a gorgeous day in NYC. Just got back from running errands and getting stuff ready for the Fire Island Season 2021! This past year has a been a huge transition for me–and so many of us–due to the pandemic. Broadway has been shut down for over a year; I’ve been a dresser on Broadway for the past ten years. And with my beautiful mother’s passing almost two months ago, it’s been a roller coaster of emotions for me! But things are beginning to look up… just like spring!
That’s a lot on your plate; I’m glad that you’ve weathered it so well so far! There is some murmuring of Broadway theaters reopening in September, maybe to limited capacity… that’s good news, right?
Yes, it is promising. And I believe smaller off-Broadway theatres will begin opening first. But for the major Broadway theaters, financially it is not possible to operate at a limited space capacity. Everyone who works in the Broadway theatres are union members–meaning we work for a livable fair wage, and we have health insurance and benefits. Fiscally, the running costs cannot be supported without the theaters being able to sell tickets at full capacity.
Before we delve deeper into current and future events, let’s revisit your origin story. Where is your hometown, and were you always into performance or art of some kind while growing up?
Originally I’m from Bucks County, Morrisville, PA. I was always dancing, singing, and doing gymnastics in the house–tons of energy as a child. Mom and Dad were like, “we need to take this kid to gymnastics to get rid of some of this energy!” Well, it just snowballed from there. I would put on shows in our driveway and on childhood neighbors’ back decks, using Halloween costumes from Spain’s (a Hallmark card and gift store my mother was the supervisor of). And I sung in the church’s choir! So yes, I’ve always loved putting on a show and acting or “hamming” it up, as they say!
And I’m guessing you ultimately came to New York for theater.
My first audition in NYC was for the revival of Grease on Broadway. I drove my stepfather’s truck into town; I was 16 years old, and just got my driver’s license! It was an open call, and I was so young and green. I was told I wasn’t the right “type” for the show, but to keep training and honing my skills.
Fast forward to over 26 years in the professional performing arts! I’ve been blessed to have performed around the world now, as David and Davida: theme parks, cruise ships, regional theatres, Broadway national tours, Off Broadway, Broadway, film and TV. It’s been a wild ride!
How did Davida come into your life?
I was given my name from my best friends, Steven Skeels and Jerad Bortz. We would all just be entertaining each other out at their studio in Cherry Grove or their Poconos cabin, trying to make each other laugh. And they would say, “ladies and gentleman, please welcome to the stage… Miss Davida Jones, in living color!” And I would just turn her on! And then for my 40th birthday, I decided I was gonna just do it and not care what anyone else thinks–I entered “The Next Ice Palace Princess” pageant [at the Ice Palace in Cherry Grove], hosted by Ariel Sinclair! That was five years ago now… look at how far Davida has come!
I recall that a few years ago, you were a Miss Stonewall contestant as well.
Yes I was! It is always such an honor to get to perform at The Stonewall Inn! It’s just such sacred ground for our community!
Nowadays, you are a well-known and fan favorite Fire Island queen, serving guest numbers most frequently at the Grove. This upcoming season should be pretty epic… especially compared to last year’s Covid heights!
We all are so looking forward to this season! I’m very proud of being part of the Covid Destroyers out there last summer, and to have performed in all the major venues and events in Cherry Grove. So that’s why it’s so important for all of us to get vaccinated, and to still wear our masks and wash our hands–so we can have an incredible season!
Tell us about the Covid Destroyers experience. That effort came courtesy of Daniel Nardicio as a way to spread awareness of–and offer protection from–Covid on Fire Island last year. The Destroyers arrived in the wake of social media reporting large groups of gays gathering closely without protection, which was bad press for Fire Island and really the whole queer community.
The experience was so incredible! When the call came out to all nightlife performers, I said to my Fire Island House sis Victoria Falls that we were definitely doing this! I did not hesitate at all. But some advised us not to do this–that it could possibly ruin our careers! [There was some negative speculation shortly after the initiative was announced that it would belittle the seriousness of Covid, and would be ineffective.] I trusted my gut on this one, though. Being from the Broadway world, I love volunteering and giving back to my community–like BCEFA and Actor’s Fund–so this really was a no brainer for Davida! And I knew this would be such a positive way to give back to our Fire Island community, including the many families that come out to the Island, too. My godson and his whole family came out for the month of August, so I took protecting all of us very seriously–whether it was day trippers, full timers, or locals.
We would meet the ferries in the Pines and Cherry Grove, handing out masks and hand sanitizer to the guests as they arrived. Also, we would canvas the beach on hot sunny days! It felt like we were doing God’s work, if you know what I mean. And then word got out; we were supported and sponsored by GMHC and the Governor’s office! And to be featured on local, national, and world news was just beyond. But it all started out of love, and to protect our Fire Island family and friends! And also to also show to the community that we can still come together and have fun, and camp it up… but in a safe way! And for that I am so proud. Being a Covid Destoyer really has changed my life, too–people got to know Davida. It was very grassroots, and I am so thankful for that! Special shout-out to Daniel Nardicio and Taylor Shubert for organizing this incredible platform that educated and helped so many this past summer. Bravo.
I was watching a digital edition of the popular show Take a Shot Tuesdays starring your girls Brenda Dharling, AndrogyNY and Jacklynn Hyde, and they were laughingly recounting how a smoke bomb you triggered during a number at the Palace set off the fire alarm! Prop queen realness!
Haha! True story! Love all my Cherry Grove sisters; they all constantly inspire me! Davida loves confetti cannons, smoke bombs, and glitter. In her mind, she fancy’s herself as a Broadway burlesque showgirl with full production values! So yep, I’m guilty of loving props. That’s definitely from my theatrical background; plus, it gives me something to play with!
That’s a plus! Cherry Grove grove honors a returning drag performer every year as Homecoming Queen, a pageant which raises funds for the Cherry Grove Arts Project.
Every season, a queen is elected by the Fire Island community to represent them in events for the season! Those events include fundraisers, the 4th of July Invasion, social events and gatherings. It’s a huge honor bestowed upon one who has taken a stand for the community!
Your sis Victoria Falls had the crown 2019, and last year it was a queen named IKEA. Now the 2021 Homecoming Queen is waiting to be crowned. Could it be… Miss Davida?
Davida would be honored to represent Cherry Grove and all of Fire Island! With last season’s social distancing guidelines, we were unable to gather together in the beautiful Cherry Grove Community House & Theatre for the pageant–so everything was done online. Now with things beginning to open up, hopefully we can all be back together in the Theatre to crown this season’s Homecoming Queen! Davida will be running again this Season–and there are more details to come because all the guidelines and safety protocols are still being discussed for this coming season, so we all just have to wait and see! But as soon as we know more, we’ll make sure to share it.
This Sunday night, a major weekly favorite event returns to Stonewall in NYC: the Invasion! That’s when a different queen each week takes the stage to serve great shows. Headliner Ariel Sinclair will be kicking off the new socially distant season, and you will be one of Ariel’s guest performers. I understand you’ll be premiering something special onstage!
Yes, I’m so excited! This Sunday, March 28th at 8pm, I will be debuting my new summer single called “Fabulous,” written by Steven Skeels! We just finished shooting the video and are currently putting the final edit together. It also has a cameo by JizzaBella who will also be guesting on Sunday night as well!
Wonderful! Is this your first song?
Original song, yes! I have a theme song “Livin Davida Loca” that I’ve also recorded, but that, of course, is cover, lol!
We must discuss this past episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race! Local girl Kandy Muse got her first win of the season thanks to a funny roast of previous Miss Congenialities. Also, popular weirdo Utica went home after a really rough sequence of bad joke-telling, but not before telling the famously / secretly underdressed Ru to stand up, lol!
First main stage win for Kandy–she deserved it! She really knocked it out of the park. At least she finally got one! Utica… oof. She really crashed and burned, just like her personality! And Olivia Lux… well, she tried?Symone’s metallic costume sure was pretty. GottMik is funny! And Rosé slayed all the way… just like how I drink my rosé: all day!
Indeed on all counts! Anything else to add?
Catch Davida in the Grove this season at Cherry’s On The Bay! Please get vaccinated, and wear your mask!
Thank you, Davida! Have a great spring, summer, and beyond!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Davida Jones’ upcoming appearances, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.