South African-born dancer Marvin H. Brown has been turning it in drag as Mary Muscles for a while now, but only in small increments (and almost never on camera). Now that’s likely about to change, as the star takes center stage in one of NYC’s most important venues!
Thotyssey: Hello Mary! Happy Pride Month! We’re only a few days in, but how’s it treating you so far?
Mary Muscles: Hey Jim, Happy Pride! It’s been great, actually. I’ve loved seeing all the Social media posts, and all the love we have shared so far. Personally, I believe every day we are alive is Gay Pride–we live it, we breathe it, we are it! But I am happy we have a whole month to celebrate even more.
I hear that! And being able to actually be out in public, meeting groups of folks and sharing Pride is all gonna be really Next Level this year.
Oh my goodness, yes! Finally, things are opening up; more shows are starting up again. I was super lucky–and feel very excited and blessed–to be one of the opening queens at the legendary Stonewall Inn this first weekend of the Pride Month. So I’m looking forward to sharing more love and Pride to the max this year!
Before we talk more about that, let’s go back to the beginning! Where are you from originally? And creatively speaking, what’s your background: dance, music, theater, etc.?
I’m actually from South Africa–born and raised. I grew up where most of the happy memories I have were: on a farm, feeding animals, and playing with wire cars we made. It wasn’t until I was nine when my mom saw that the dancing gene was strong, and enrolled me into dance. I bounced around different genres of dance until Latin American and Ballroom took over for about 13 years of competitive dancing.
Where I learned about hair and makeup and saw my first drag queen, I was hooked. Every chance I had to witness or learn something new, I ate it up; I just couldn’t get enough.
Oh wow! Have you been back to South Africa since leaving?
No, not really. It’s expensive, and takes about 28 hours one way. I am planning on going back this year, though… it’s been toooo long.
So when did you first arrive in New York? And I’m guessing you came for dance.
I arrived, I believe, in ’09 maybe… but went back to South Africa. Then I’d been here consecutively for about 10 years now. And yes, I wanted to see if I could make it here. Then I realized the scene was very different from what I was used to, and I had to let it go. I miss it from time to time, but I’m always dancing… so it’s more the competitiveness that I miss.
You have appeared in a few music videos too, like for T-Boy’s “Magnificent Soul.”
Yes, that was a group effort!
And there was another one where you’re just kind of chilling on the street–
Will Marvin or Mary ever drop original music?
Oh no, lol! I love a good karaoke, but that’s about it!
I will always associate you as one of the OG Boots & Saddle crew in the West Village… particularly as an associate of the Haus of Kiki: Ari Kiki and Viki Villainess, then later Lola Michele-Kiki, Catrina Lovelace, Godiva Romance and MysterE Mel. How did you hook up with that fabulous clown family, lol?
Haha! I met Ari first way back when; it was her birthday I think, and she was sitting in front of me at a drag show. They asked me to take a pic of them, and we became friends! Then I met Viki through Ari, and we pretty much all started doing drag together, lol! The rest I met once those two bitches had to have children; I was like, “nope, no kids for me!” But that might change soon!
Lol! Where exactly did Mary make her debut, and what was that like?
Before she was Mary, she was Cherry baby, you could not tell her nothing! The first place I performed or competed was “Drag Wars” with Shequida Hall, at Bar-Tini I think. That’s where I met Ari, too. It was a hot mess, and the first song I did was “When I Grow Up” by the Pussycat Dolls–hitting all the moves, and having a blast in my head. When I saw the video… lol! TRASHHHHHHH! But we all have to start somewhere! I’m glad I had Ari and Viki to help me, lol… the good ol’ days of getting ready together, to go and have a blast in the city.
These days you don’t perform a lot of drag outside Kiki Family shows… and there are almost no drag pics of you online! Are you focusing on other stuff, and drag is mostly for fun at this point?
Yeah, I keep a rather low profile on social media… I feel it’s so saturated now. And yes, I mostly am just part of the family shows, and pop up here and there. Drag is not my main focus right now; it’s so much fun and creative, but I get lost in it. So I take it in small doses. But who knows… It might be my time now!
Well, this Sunday is certainly gonna be a mighty night for Ms. Muscles, as you will be the host of Stonewall’s first Pride Month 2021 Invasion show! Ari will be your guest!
Yes, it’s going to be an epic night; I’m super excited, to be honest! I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while, and its only fitting to have Ari as my guest. The kids can expect some high energy numbers, some cute costumes, and smiles all round.
Anything else to add?
In all honesty, I’m very happy to be able to live my truth the way way I want, and when I want. I’m a genuinely happy person, so for me to be able to share a little love and fun in times like this is really a gift for me!
It’s a gift for all of us! Now to end on a potentially shady note (lol): Drag Race All Stars 6! Whose team are you on?
Loaded question right there, lol! But I’ve been a big fan of Jiggly Caliente and Yara Sofia from the first day I saw them. I wish all the girls luck on this season; I’m really excited to see what’s about to happen!
Thank you, Mary!