Joining a growing number of queens recently transplanting from the Boston drag scene to New York, Yune Neptune brings her bold, geeky, colorful and eclectic drag to a potentially larger audience. Currently hosting shows in Brooklyn, Yune tells Thotyssey about her her storied and challenging upbringing, her Boston sisterhood and her rise in the drag world, her geek-tastic namesake, the modern terrors of Covid and anti-Asian violence, and her hopes for the future.
Thotyssey: Hello Yune! Thanks so much for chatting with us! How is April treating you so far?
Yune Neptune: Good, so far! Getting my second vaccine shot at the end of the month. Hopefully April is treating y’all well as well!
So far so good! I’ll be venturing back out into the world this weekend after my post-vaccination wait is over.
I am happy to hear that! We will all hopefully get through this horrible pandemic globally.
You’ve been working pretty steadily (and responsibly) via socially distanced live events in Brooklyn throughout this crazy year. Has that been kind of a nerve wracking experience for you?
To be honest, yes. Working in socially distanced live events has freaked me out, and not only because of when the pandemic hit. My job at my restaurant on W34th had to let me go, the BLM movement just begun and I participated in the rallies and protests along with my other POC friends… and me recently moving back into NYC in January, then beginning to see Asian hate crimes all over the world, and more in New York recently. My mind raced a thousand miles and my heart was everywhere; performing in socially distanced live events was a bit blurry for me, because I was so out of it.
Understandable! You’re previously from Boston–is that your native city?
I grew up in Boston. However, I was born in San Jose, California, and relocated to New England because my mother and I had family in the East Coast and she wanted a change of scenery and life. We grew up in poverty, therefore my mother and I moved around all over New England growing up. At the same time, my stepfather who is from Villepreux, France blessed me with growing up internationally as well. I’d spend many holidays and time over in France as a kid, learning and opening my perception, mind and heart about the rest of the world and not just America.
That’s quite a life canvas to work with! What were your early interests and life experiences that ultimately led you down the drag path?
Growing up as a first generation Korean-Vietnamese-French immigrant kid, my English was very broken. Elementary through high school was a very dark time for me, let alone living in poverty. I was born in 1992, so the early 2000s–we couldn’t afford TV cable, or CDs, or concert tickets, etc. So a lot my interests laid in cartoons, anime, pop music on the radio, late night shows, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, taking photography of nature and scenic things, writing poetry about life, working for non-profit organizations like MAP for Health and Bagly in Boston while I was still in high school, following Lindsay Lohan and her dad issues (because I related too hard), listening to all of Avril Lavigne’s and Hilary Duff’s albums over and over because I cried and identified too hard with their lyrics and singing, attending all of my art, choir, drama club classes and never attending my academic classes….
I explored my drag freshman year: dressing up for Spirit Week–on top of my gender identity, gender expression, personality and sexuality. I was in for a hell of a ride the moment I realized all of these classes and passions, and other things I discovered and learned made me want to do drag in 2014.
Tell us a bit about what Boston drag is, and what your experiences with it have been.
The Boston drag scene is a one way street, and different. As a POC, I had to work twice as hard as everyone else. It was a rough experience working in the scene, starting out. There were only so few local Boston AAPI+ (Asian, Americans and Pacific Islanders Plus)–Destiny Boston, Jujubee, Camille Yen, DeeDee DeRay, Nicholle Pride, the Haiku King, Diamond Dunhill–working out in the scene.
Learning that my aesthetic was a work of art and finding what lip sync songs I liked versus what the crowds liked was a challenge, because I like so many genres of music! I don’t regret performing at so many big venues, colleges, museums, backyards, etc. because I always released my stress and dark experiences / traumas out on that stage.
That’s very cathartic! Is there a particular story behind your drag name?
I am a nerd at heart: Yune comes from a video game called Fire Emblem. “Yune is the Goddess of Chaos, and one half of Ashunera, the other being Ashera.” Neptune comes from my favorite character of all time in the series Sailor Moon, because I heavily identified with Michiru Kaioh! Hellooo, Cancer sign here!
Is Neon Calypso, another Boston fixture who’s recently relocated to Brooklyn and with whom you’ve done a number of local shows, considered your drag mom?
No, I was doing drag before her! And my sister Qya Cristal was helping her getting into drag–and [Qya’s] drag mother, Sapphira Cristal, is Neon’s drag mother… who is Jujubee’s sister. Jujubee is basically my drag mother / auntie (I always called her that because she hated being called old, bwhaha).
Wow, that’s quite a legacy! Have you officially moved to NYC by the way, or are you still commuting from Massachusetts?
I am officially a NYC girl; I live in Bushwick right now, and do not plan on moving back to Boston! I did go to school here after graduating high school in 2015 for film, studio art, sociology, and theatre / dancing. Life didn’t work out well for me at that time, so my stepfather emailed me that spring to offer me to study fashion design in Paris, France. For one semester I lasted there, because of family feuds and drama and life.
It’s not the easiest time to judge right now with half the world still closed, but I take there are a lot of differences between New York and Boston drag.
NY drag is definitely different from the Boston scene because NY is a top, popular tourist attraction site in America–capitalism! The heterosexuals want Top 40s and country, or whatever is trending via Tik Tok, Snap, etc. The gays wants Gaga, and all the other stereotypical gay, boppy song anthems and such. And the other crowds want something else, but are still at the gig because of Grindr, etc. I am very fortunate to learn and explore my drag in Boston because Violencia Exclamation Point–who was one of the hosts of All Star Mondays [at Boston’s Machine] (RIP), welcomed weird, crazy, wild, sexy, slutty, funky, corny, awkward… any type of drag you can think of perform live on stage in front of a blinding spotlight.
As mentioned earlier, you’ve been doing several shows and brunches in town with Neon and yet another Boston transplant queen, Civilization. And you are new the Friday night RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party hostess for these last few weeks of Season 13 care of a newer venue in Brooklyn, Pink Metal!
I love my time there. Pink Metal is owned by a sweet lady who’s a feminist, and hosts live burlesque shows as well. The interior design is all pink, and there’s a backyard little patio seating. The staff is humble and friendly to everyone; I vibe and bond with everyone so well!
What are your thoughts on Season 13?
This season is getting so juicy with the Top 4! I love Lala Ri so much, she represents people like me–so real on TV and in person, humble and just full of sass and passion. I love Kahmora Hall just for representing the Southeast Asian community with her killer looks, and being open about her experiences on the show–so relatable as someone who grew up culturally as well. I am eyeing for Symonè to win this crown. That girl was walking history, culture, attitude, sass, and firepower.
Vena Cava actually came to our past brunch show at Pink Metal outta drag. She’s a cool gal, so far, lol!
Looking forward to this vibrant Pink Metal weekend… have great shows!
Thank you Thotyssey for listening to my TED talk, I hope you’re being strong, safe, and taking care of your mental, emotional, spiritual health during this pandemic still.
I will! I wanted to close on a serious, timely note. As you stated above, we are seeing a sizeable uptick in violence against Asian-Americans, most likely resulting in the anti-Asian sentiment spearheaded by the former President during the beginning of the Covid–although obviously, racism has existed long before that. What is your message to people regarding this crisis?
#StopAsianHate is still happening, and people need to educate, share, post, repost, learn, talk, discuss, volunteer… whatever it takes to help local organizations and rallies stop these terrible hate / violence crimes against the AAPI+ community and elders… because I’m scared to be out and about in public already.
These are scary times, but our activism and awareness are stronger than ever… and a change will come if we keep the momentum going! Thank you, Yune!