Here is an iconic queen who has entertained folks for several years, both on bar stages and as a gorgeous pageant contestant. And after a long performing dry spell due to the Covid lockdown, Cyndi Woods is ready to shine once more! [Cover photo: Kelli Blue]
Thotyssey: Hello Cyndi, thanks so much for chatting with us today! How was your Easter Weekend?
Cyndi Woods: It was nice! I spent it with Jackie Dupree.
Jackie’s a great queen, and always a good time gal! Have you two been friends for long?
Yes, it seems like forever. We first met in Asbury Park, NJ at Paradise in 2004 or ’05.
So much history! Are you a New Jersey native?
Actually, I’m originally from Texas.
What was it like growing up there?
For me, it wasn’t as nice as many would believe. I had a lot of roadblocks, but I finally found the right road that wasn’t as bumpy as the one I was on.
And that road eventually took you to the Tri-State! How long have you been living up here?
I first moved to New York in 1997, and then I went back for year and came back in ’98. That’s when I started cosmetology school; by 1999, I was a graduate and have been licensed ever since.
Were music and performance always a part of your life before you became a queen?
Yes! When I was a teenager, I would roller skate–I didn’t realize that that would bring out the groundwork of me learning different styles of music.
Love that! Have you ever tried incorporating roller skating into any of your live drag numbers over the years?
Well, I thought about it! There’s a song by Sister Janet Mead called “The Lord’s Prayer.” I would think about doing that on roller skates. It would be comedy, of course!
How or why did you become a queen in the first place?
Drag was a way from me getting into the club; I was very young, when I started going to the clubs.
Many queens have told me that’s why they started–especially in the years before RuPaul’s Drag Race. What are your thoughts on that show, by the way?
I have nothing against Drag Race. But there have been girls who have done pageants and paved the way for a lot of the Drag Race girls, and they get no recognition or credit because they haven’t been on TV. Most [Drag Race stars] have been on stage for 15 minutes, and being on TV got them recognized faster and made them celebrities overnight. And that gets them a whole lot of money, and they’re not doing anything that another girl who hasn’t been on TV can’t do. This is all just my opinion!
That’s very true, I think! What was your first national pageant… and do you hold any crowns?
Miss Gay USA [was my first]. No, I didn’t win, and I’m going to leave it like that… lol! But I do want to go back [to it]; I had a lot of fun, and I met some interesting people.
Many times when I’ve seen you perform, you’ve served an amazing Chaka Khan number–and especially when you wear big hair, you look exactly like her! Has she always been a big influence on your performing style?
Actually, Millie Jackson started my career off; then I went to Diana Ross, and everything else just fell into place. But I do love doing a lot of R&B artists like Betty Wright, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, and if I get a chance maybe some Dionne Warwick. I really like to do kind of upbeat songs that make others want to just tap their feet and feel good; music mainly from the 70s, 80’s and 90s. Most people can sing along with the music I do.
Truly the greatest songs are from those decades! Are you turned off by a lot of contemporary music, or can you get into some of it?
That’s a hit-and-miss subject with me. Sometimes I learn the songs by just listening to them in the dressing room, because a lot of the younger girls are doing the same songs–artists like Rihanna, Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. I have nothing against the music, but I just can’t see myself doing any of those artists… unless they come out with some dynamite song that I just can’t resist!
There’ve been so many bars that I called home. I get together with a lot of my girlfriends from the same era, and all we talk about is where can we go or where do we fit in now. A lot of the clubs we don’t fit into because there are younger crowds. At one time, you knew everybody in the bar and every bartender. Now, all you know is maybe the person you walked in with, because the crowds have changed.
I know what you mean! But I guess without new generations constantly repopulating the scene, there’d be no nightlife left! Do you think nightlife might look even more different when lockdown completely ends and social distance is eased?
My hope is that with this time away in lockdown, people have gotten ideas on how to make the two generations commingle, or have a place for the baby boomers and Generation X to exist, lol!
That is definitely one development the community needs!
At any rate, we’re blessed to have a few places to see you perform this weekend! First off, you will be at The Love Shack in Brooklyn with Victoria Lace for a show called “We Are Family,” on April 9th, which I understand will be livestreamed.
There is seating in the restaurant also! “We Are Family” is a brainchild of Victoria Lace’s sister; she wants to bring a little bit of old school back from the day that she remembers from Escuelita, when Victoria was a cast member. I’m very excited–and I also have anxiety, because I’ve never really performed by Zoom before. Everything has changed since this pandemic! I’m just hoping in the next couple of months everything goes back to normal; I’ve had both of my vaccines, so I’m ready to go!
And then the very next night (Saturday, April 10th), you’ll be at Headroom Lounge in Jersey City!
Right now there are other projects on the table, but it’s too soon say anything because nothing’s written in stone right now.
We will stay in the loop! Okay last question: What is one fact that maybe not everyone knows about Cyndi Woods, but should?
My actual age… lol!
You are ageless! Thank you, Cyndi!