A tride and true Escuelita queen, Kelly KaBoom is now keeping the Bronx LIT thanks to her popular showcase at the borough’s newest (and only) queer venue.
Thotyssey: Hiya Miss KaBoom, thanks for chatting and welcome to February! How did January treat you?
Kelly KaBoom: A little rocky! I started the new year off right at Identity… but then [things] got shaky with the scare of Covid.
Yes, that sure wasn’t fun! Were you able to stay away from it? Most of us in nightlife got Omicron’ed last month.
Actually, the scare came from when I got tested, and the result came back negative and positive… which is not possible. So I went and got it done again, and it stayed negative… thank god.
That’s wild, but good for you!
So, are you a New York native?
Yes! I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.
And were you always a performer of some sort?
While growing up, I always wanted to entertain– from being in drama class, to singing in church. It’s in my blood.
And when did the Drag Bug bite?
Drag hit me probably about ten years ago, from supporting friends who did drag and watching the fun and joy they were having. I was like, “I wanna try that!” It didn’t seem too hard. I started when I did “Diva Search” at Escuelita.
Who were some of the queens that were slaying the scene at the time you came up?
The legendary Ms. Harmonica Sunbeam; I always wanted to see her shows because she was so funny. May she rest in Paradise: Sugga Pie Koko. Karen CoverGIRL, Jahiyrah McQueen, and rest in Paradise: Princess Janae, to name a few. Their style of drag was so amusing to me. But Jahiyrah McQueen is still out slaying ’til this day, and Harmonica… I call her Grandma.
How might you describe the Kelly KaBoom experience today, for the brand new folks?
It’s mostly a surprise, ’cause you never know what you’re gonna get. She brings something different that you rarely see: R&B and pop mixes with comedy — [a comedian is] something I never knew I was. You’re gonna get Whitney Houston, as if she was in front of you. You’re gonna get the KaBoom at every show, where you’re like “wow, I want more!” But I’m always humble.
Are you a pageant queen?
I’ve done three pageants: Miss Gay Long Island, Miss Get Out, and Miss Monster. But I would love to do more, if the opportunity was to come.
Here’s a loaded question, but what are some big ways drag has changed since you started?
Wow, where do I start!? Back then, it was a lot harder to get close to some of the girls to form sisterhoods. And there weren’t that many spots that accepted drag, or had spaces for anyone to perform at; it was, like, only three spots. But now, we have such a variety of spots to see drag. We have drag brunches; drag is everywhere and accepted.
Even the way makeup was done, back then to now, has changed. The image of drag, to me, has changed– and that’s good, ’cause the world is so much more accepting now then it was then. It’s like people are understanding that even though we’re drag queens, we just wanna entertain you in the best way. Like, from how I grew up, drag was a way for some to get easy money, while some used it as a way to let our anger or any type of emotion they was feeling out — whether it’s a song or a form of dance. Drag is LIT.
Speaking of “Lit,” Identity Bar is the home of your weekly “Lit Fridays” show. Identity is a new venue, and one of the first queer bars in the Bronx in years! Can you describe the bar for us, and how you came on board?
Identity Bar is such a safe space, and full of life. The bartenders are friendly and diverse, and the owner [Aidan Loughran] is so cool. Great music and drinks — I have my own drink there called “The Kelly KaBoom,” lol. I came about to Identity from seeing [party promoter] Phil Chanel post about it a while back, so I said “that’s real close to me… why not go check it out?” Now when I went, I wasn’t expecting to have such a great time. They have karaoke, and different events every day of the week. I went out of drag to support, and have been [there ever] since.
Me and the owner became real cool; we shared ideas. One day he said he would love to see me perform, and he had Friday open and said, “come take a night.” So I did. It seemed like a drag interview in a way, without the long resume, lol! He loved it. Then there was another event there that brought money to a fundraiser they was doing, and I was cast to perform. It was that day he said “they love you, Kelly… we would love for you to perform here every Friday.” I was like, “wow!” On a Friday, out of all days! It’s so hard for any queen to get a Friday night, because that’s the day when most of the community comes out to get saucy. I was honored, and have been there since.
What’s your show like?
A concert! I have an intro song to get you ready for the show, and to let you know to get your drinks. And then the fog comes and the song begins, and I come out as if it was a Cardi B concert. It’s so alive and enjoyable; I get the audience to participate in some games, we take a break ’cause, you know, there’s some people that just want the music, and wanna dance the liquor off so they can get more. So we do that break, and then we give you another set, and close it out with the legendary Golden Girls theme song. It’s Broadway, pop, R&B… it’s everything mixed into one night. And I give costume changes!
Fun times! Anything else to mention?
I’m just grateful for everywhere I’ve performed, and happy about what’s to come. From performing at Escuelita, Splash to OTA, the Cecil Steakhouse and upstate Albany’s Waterworks, to my home Identity.
All must-sees! Lastly, what might your best piece of advice be for a new queen on the scene?
Keep pushing yourself to be great, and there’s never a wrong song… it’s all about how you perform it. If you feel it, then [turn it] into gold! It took me a while to get where I am, but I always stayed true to me, and stayed humble. So stay humble, and watch the doors open!
Thank you, Kelly!