With a drag persona born out of a work of fiction, the artist known as Julie is now a fully realized, and fully fierce, performer in her own right.
Thotyssey: Hello, Julie! First off… congrats on your Lady Liberty win last night! You had some fierce competitors including fellow finalist Marcia Marcia Marcia whom you battled in a final lip sync. But you triumphed in the end thanks to a stellar performance!
Julie J: Oh my gosh! What a wild ride. It’s honestly a blur of a memory, just because of how efficient of a production everything was. But I had a stunning time. I always try and give 110% when I’m performing, and after the final lip sync I felt like I gave 120%… so I felt really proud of myself. [Competition host] Brita Filter has been such an inspiration, and getting that stamp of approval from her and the judges meant the world.
And sharing that stage with Marcia Marcia Marcia was a treat. She’s such a stunning and talented queen. I saw her backstage and thought, “Well damn, I guess I gotta be the funny one!” Lol!
How long have you been a queen?
My drag journey has been about two years now. Julie really was born in the experimental theater world, when I was writing fictional shows. And finally right before the pandemic hit, I decided it was time to really commit to drag and craft who I wanted to be as a performer. The world is seeing Julie J at her strongest right now, and I hope it’s only up from here. But in short, I would say this iteration of Julie J is about a year old!
So she was originally conceived as a fictional theatrical character? That’s interesting!
Yeah! And she had a different name, too: Frisky Jones. She was a character in a show called Eyeshadow I was developing. And after that show, I realized the power that I had in drag was unlike anything else in my life… and that it was time to step into that power.
So where are you from originally? And were writing and performing always parts of what you were doing?
I’m originally from Ft. Worth, TX! I moved to NYC in 2014 for school, and have been here since. And yes, I’ve been a performer for as long as I’ve been alive. I’m safest under those stage lights. And writing is something that’s come to me in the past five years, and it’s really gotten me through a lot.
Do you write mostly for the stage?
It depends. I’ve written essays, non-fiction material, and some plays. I don’t like to limit myself too much. Whatever comes to mind will fill the Notes app.
So when you decided you needed to be Julie, where were the first places you performed?
Back in May I did Janelle No. 5’s “Are You The Next Diva?” competition at Aura Cocina, and I really attribute the recent rise to that show. I didn’t win, tragically (kidding), but Janelle kept in touch and booked me for her brunches and a show at The Rosemont, and I made so many connections. The drag scene seems large at first, but it takes one gig to connect you to everything. And once you’re in it, baby, you’re deep in it.
For your core performance number at Lady Liberty, you served the children a slow burn ballad with a dramatic but not over-the-top presentation! Is that indicative of what you normally do as Julie?
You know it’s funny, because I kind of wanted to trick people. In the past couple of months I’ve been doing a lot more dance heavy numbers, but I never sacrifice the story. Just like drag is an art form, so is music… so you’ve got to find the wave to ride. Whether it’s a ballad or a dance-pop song… you can’t let the audience get ahead of you. I’m gonna give you story and drama, whether I’m standing still or busting a move across the room. She’s versatile, baby.
I knew it was going to be a risk, but I also knew that if I could command that audience with a ballad that I would blow them away with [the final lip syc battle number[ “Break Free,” and I hope I did!
You’re fashion is also really interesting: broad-shouldered strength meets vivid, feminine style! What are your fashion inspirations?
Thank you! I take inspiration from so many places. Grace Jones is probably my biggest style inspo. I certainly appreciate traditional silhouettes and trends, but I always try to think of ways to push the style game of things: a tip of a hat, mixing patterns, non-traditional shapes in garments, etc.
I’m not a seamstress, and I don’t claim to be! However… your girl can style the hell out of an outfit from the things I find. And I think that’s a good skill to have, particularly because I’m still in the early days of my career. I don’t have the coinage for custom, but I do have the brains and reference points to make something cheap look expensive!
You also seem to be either bald or short-wigged in most of your looks… was it always meant to be that way, or was that a happy accident?
I would say happy accident. I don’t particularly care for wigs. And it’s funny because when I started practicing makeup years ago, I was like, I look pretty good without one… so I just committed to it. And I think it makes me so unique. I told myself that when I can afford very nice wigs, you’ll see me rocking one. But until then, the bald beauty (trademark pending) is here to stay.
I just met Jessica at ‘Read My Lips,” which is put on by Nicky Ottav (another queen who has given me so many opportunities).And I haven’t met Virginia yet but I saw her at Pieces a couple months ago. They are both so fierce. It’s gonna be a sickening show, I’m sure.
Speaking of Pieces Bar…
I think I can say this since it just got confirmed today, but I’ll be at Brita and Ruby Roo’s show at Pieces next Friday, which I’m so excited for.
And then the very next day (August 21) is the second installment of your monthly show “Sylvester” at Purgatory in Brooklyn, with your co-hosts Voxigma Lo and Paris Hiltonals! Will you all be serving 1970’s glam?
Fun fact: the first time I performed my Lady Liberty talent show was at “Sylvester!” I’d like to think of “Sylvester” as the place where Black excellence goes to thrive. We encourage bold and intentional choices… just like the ones Sylvester made in her lifetime. If there’s intention, then baby, the magic will be there… no matter the decade! It’s a space for Black queer, trans and non-binary drag to shine without limit!
Next, on Tuesday August 24th you’ll be at C’mon Everybody for prior mentioned Nicky Ottav’s “Discography,” a Mariah Carey tribute, with some amazing castmates! Did you know right away which Mariah number you wanted to do?
Oh yes! I’m so excited for that show. It’s going to be such a fun night. I knew I wanted a seasonal favorite which folks will have to show up to see. And then for the second number, I wanted something to tap into the street side of Julie that rarely gets to come out… so you’ll get a good range!
There’s the Lady Liberty semifinals coming up, too… any spoilers for us there?
I wish I had a spoiler to give you girl, lol! I’m not too sure what I’ll be pulling out, but you can always trust that I’ll go against the grain and look stunning doing it. There’s some heavy hitters in the semi-finals including some good sisters, but I’m gonna give it my all. Winning isn’t everything–I’ve been a loser many times. But I’ll always try to be the nicest and most authentic bitch in the cut.
And down the road… do I see that you’re gonna do a number for Bushwig in September!? Whoah!
Yes! Bushwig–a dream come true. I still get goosebumps from seeing my name on the lineup. It’s so surreal. It really was a sign for me that drag is what I’m meant to be doing right now. To have the producers of the show see something in me, and all of these amazing queens, means the world. I’ve been thinking about what I might pull out… but I also don’t want to overthink it. I’m all about authenticity, and I know that that will shine through no matter what.
Lots of great stuff to look forward to! Anything else to mention?
Not that I can think of, love. I’ll say that, I think there is a real renaissance of drag happening here in New York City. People are excited to see drag; they want to support it, and the girls are ready to step up to the plate. Drag has kept me sane throughout most of my life, and knowing that it brings joy / happiness / love to even one person fills my heart. We lead with love in the face of fear, here in the house of J.
Where you lead, we will follow! Thanks, Julie!