A model and drag queen with a background in musical theater, Cherry Jaymes is rapidly becoming a force of Brooklyn Black trans nightlife excellence to behold. [Cover photo: Niamh]
Thotyssey: Hello Cherry, thanks so much for talking to us today! We are in crazy times, but all in all how has your week been so far?
Cherry Jaymes: Thank you for having me! My week has been a little haywire, to be honest. It feels as though trans people are under attack in the country more than ever at the moment, so I surrounded myself with queer loved ones and am staying busy with drag shows!
You’ve certainly been entertaining the children quite a bit these past few weeks! As a trans performer, do you feel that you have to be very selective with where you perform, or do you feel welcomed in most venues and with most audiences?
I wouldn’t say I’m that selective. A gig is a gig is a gig is a gig! I definitely accept most, unless in an unsafe area. Depending on the vibe of the venue, I will form my looks around them. Brooklyn queers live for a rhinestoned thong, moms at an expensive drag brunch maybe not so much (the dads love it, though).
How would you describe what you do as a drag performer, as far as aesthetic and numbers go?
I would say my drag aesthetic is just glamour, and a little burlesque-y. As far as performance, I like to embody a video vixen–each performance is a different music video. But I have a musical theatre background, so I put in splashes of camp and dance moves. Just a pretty girl being stupid, really!
We love that! Sounds like a good time to visit your origin story… where are you from originally, and were you always a performer of some sort growing up?
I’m from Monrovia, Liberia, and moved to the states at about 10 years old. I grew up in Baltimore, where I trained in musical theatre and traveled with a few musicals… nothing major. But I’ve always been first and foremost a performer, in life or on stage.
What were, and are, some of your favorite musicals?
Well, being Gen Z, like many I was inspired to do theatre from seeing Wicked. For others, I’d say Funny Girl put that tongue-in-cheek humor in me, Fun Home makes me feel joyful in where musicals are going for queer people, and The Color Purple is just devastatingly beautiful storytelling.
How did you discover drag and nightlife here in New York?
I found my chosen family in 2018, and started going out since. Many were amazing artists that could be read as club kids, and I followed suit in my presentation in nightlife. But I don’t think it was ’til I was drunkenly by myself late at The Rosemont that same year where Chiquitita and MTHR TRSA both asked me if I did drag. I honestly took it as a sign. Took a few more years to get there, but I’m grateful to them still.
Do you tend to sing live at your drag gigs at all?
I haven’t yet! Which is odd, considering I’ve sung in front of much bigger crowds. But I think I’m just waiting to find my voice since I started transitioning. It’s a little scary, but I feel all the support in the world to do so when I’m ready!
It must feel very freeing to perform as you do now, both as your authentic self and in a way that isn’t necessarily scripted or blocked by someone else, like in theater.
Oh absolutely! I feel as though I have the chance to do the ideas I want to do… and now I’m finally in love with the lead actress.
So, Brooklyn was a big winner at the Glam Awards back in January, with many of the borough’s people, places and parties getting major nominations and wins. C’mon Everybody, where many of your performances are, won Best Bar!
I was so happy to hear that they won… truly deserved! I think it’s just thee eclectic queer club of Brooklyn. The performances can range from comedy shows, to live performances, to tribute dance parties. Something for everyone, really! The respect and love of the staff rings through the space; it feels more like a community. It represents the joyful, different art that queer and trans Brooklyn artists have to offer.
Generally speaking, what is something in nightlife you’d like to see more of?
Let’s do three, haha. 1. More drag kings and drag expressive artists booked. 2. Cis white men being a lot more thoughtful to their fellow trans, POC and black partygoers. And 3. Venues highlighting trans drag just as much as some of the circuit parties certain venues host.
Amen! Let’s talk about what’s coming up for you. I see you’ll be at C’mon Everybody on Friday for a showcase hosted by Chiquitita called “Trans Excellence.” What can you tell us about that?
I’m super excited for the show! I want to give a great performance as always, but Chiqui is such a star; I feel like I’m upping the ante for this performance. I’ll have a stellar trans violinist and performer (Yuri Hughes) accompanying me, and it’s going to be just stellar!
I really can’t wait for that show. Dev is a sister to me, in the closest meaning of the word. Her work ethic is unmatched, and anything they do is just brilliant. The cast is incredible and full of sweet, sweet angels… it’s gonna be a ki! Dev and I have also been in talks about producing something major, but stay tuned for that!
Anything else coming up?
Yeah, the other bookings escape my mind right now… but I’m leading a workshop on March 15 called “Vision Boarding for Black Trans Futures.” It will be at Astoria Free Stores, where it’ll be a night of healing and community uplifting! Hope you can make it!
Excellent! Okay, in closing: what’s your best piece of advice for a young drag performer who wants to make it in NYC?
Honestly, do what makes sense for you. We get caught up in expectations of so many people, but to truly connect with your art has to stem from you and no one else. Do that, and I promise you’ll stay original and popping! P.S. — practice. your. makeup. Haha!
Sound advice all around! Thanks, Cherry!