Already developing a reputation for wowing audiences and peers alike with crowd-pleasing onstage antics in competition shows and guest spots, the musical theater-trained drag performer and trans activist Angel Au is someone we should all be watching in the New Year!
Thotyssey: Hello Angel, happy holiday season! It just snowed for 45 seconds, did you see!?
Angel Au: Wait, really? I didn’t get a chance! I’ve been in class all day!
You didn’t miss much, and I’m sure we’ll get a repeat performance soon enough! What’s your class, if I may ask?
It’s a class on how to act while singing music theatre! I really love it, as I’m learning a lot.
That’s wonderful! So many folks now have seen your amazing drag, but is musical theater your first love?
It is! I’ve always wanted to be on Broadway, but when I was little, there wasn’t much Asian representation… so my parents would tell me that it wasn’t a practical career for me, and it really got to me as a kid. But I found drag, which combined everything I loved: entertaining, theatre, makeup, and fashion.
There’s been much talk about the need to diversify Broadway, yet there’s been arguably little progress towards that end. In fairness, Covid certainly slowed down that progress. Do you have hope that representation will improve on stage?
Definitely! I think we’ve definitely seen a lot of growth in terms of diversity; Hamilton really broke boundaries, and now we have more diverse casts like Six: The Musical, Be More Chill, etc. But there’s also more work to be done in the entertainment industry. It’s a good start, though!
I’ve heard you rap a little… do you sing as well?
I do! I love singing and music in general. My aunt is a piano teacher, and I started playing the piano when I was maybe 7 or 8. I think it’s so beautiful that music serves as a universal language that can move people, even if they don’t understand the words!
The Broadway community sadly just lost one of its most important creators, Stephen Sondheim.
I was devastated to hear! He truly was a modern Shakespeare that evolved the idea of a Broadway musical. All his works are so powerful in their connection to humanity.
Do you have a favorite work of his?
In my performance class today, we just so happened to be working on Sondheim pieces, and I was assigned “The Worst Pies in London” (a song I love)! In high school, I was also very lucky to do two Sondheim musicals: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Into the Woods. For me, Into the Woods holds a special place in my heart! I played The Witch (a role I never thought I would get an opportunity to play), and had the time of my life. Learning the music, hearing the score, it’s so brilliant: the repetition of musical themes to reflect characters, the lyrics, the story, the humanity. I love the show so much!
Where’s your hometown?
I am from a small town in central New Jersey, but I always knew I wanted to be the city– and now I am here for college! I think the many opportunities the city offers, and never getting bored of things to do, really drew me to the city.
When did you discover drag and become Angel?
I first discovered drag in sixth grade. I had always loved makeup and performing, and at the time I was exploring my feminine side more. I was watching a YouTuber by the name of Miles Jai, and they had a collab with Willam. My introduction to Willam led me to Drag Race! Drag was a combination of everything I loved.
And is there a story behind your name?
Angel is my chosen name now! The name comes from the character in Rent (who I love), and was reaffirmed with Indya Moore’s character on Pose.
I’ve seen you compete in Lady Liberty several times now, as well as a few other competition shows. You’ve served comedy, drama, stunts and horror! What’s an overall accurate description of the Angel Au experience onstage?
I love making people smile, and comedy is always a great way for me to do that! I also like serving a look (whether camp or fashion), and usually my looks are related to the number I do. At the heart of it, I’d like to think that I am a storyteller! Whether it’s me getting possessed (like in my “Roman Holiday” mix) or sharing my coming out experience, there’s a part of me (my life, my interpretation of things) that I want to share with an audience.
You’ve sported a lot of brilliant costumes in those looks. Did you make those?
A few of them I’ve made (like the Chinese takeout box and Polaroid dress), and sometimes I buy a few pieces thrifting. But I owe my most elaborate pieces to my good friend Rocket Ahuna. He’s a student at FIT, and he’s is honestly so incredible and talented and has helped me bring so many creations to life!
We’ll get to see you compete again this Thursday for Lady Liberty at The Q! You pretty much have always made the semifinals or finals for that one.
Haha, yes! I really enjoy Lady Liberty because of how organized the competition is. [Show producers] Vincent, Brita, and everyone backstage who helps run it are very professional. I honestly just try to compete as much as I can, just to get my name out there. Fun fact, though: I’ve never actually won a qualifying round of Lady Liberty, but I’ve made it to the semifinals or finals because Vincent and Brita ask me to come back as a wild card… which I am also so appreciative of! They’re so supportive, and have created a great space for newer queens to showcase their talents!
Ah, I’m so excited! Trish has also been a lot of fun! I remember practicing the lip sync song for my prelim round, which was “Lose My Breath,” the whole day on the day of the competition. This time around, I’m nervous (I feel like I’m always a little nervous though, haha) because I know both Bobby LeMaire and X-Emma are fierce performers, but I’m just gonna have a good time and bring what I offer to the table! At the end of the day, I want to do my best and have fun (hopefully win too, haha)!
Fluide Beauty is raising money for the Ali Forney Center with their “Homo for the Holidays” show. I love the brand message and the idea of giving back to the community, so I feel very honored to be a part of this show!
Yes! It’s a Christmas themed brunch, which will be a good time. I also get to work with some of the girls I’ve gotten close with like Prima Love and Stella Rise, so I’m very excited. I’m not sure what number I am doing yet, but I know it’s a family friendly show. Also, there is a meet and greet, which will give me a chance to feel like a Disney princess taking photos with all the families!
Have great shows, and good luck in the competitions! Lastly: what do you want from Santa this year?
I never know what to answer when I’m asked this, haha. Maybe a laser hair removal package!
Sounds great! Thanks, Angel!