Known originally as a brilliant photographer and makeup artist amongst the denizens on Brooklyn nightlife, Jay Kay now takes center stage as a dynamic drag performer and winner of a major competition.
Jay Kay: Thank you!
Can you explain what exactly this competition–and your win–entailed, for the folks who missed out?
Essentially, every week Zava was hellbent on causing us the most mental angst possible. Each week there was a different challenge like “Hell’s Kitchen drag,” and one week where she gave us literal bags of scraps and trash and told us to “make an outfit with this.” It was the most fun I’ve ever had in drag, making something out of nothing every week… and the entire cast became the literal loves of my life.
Some performers hate working with prompts, but for others it opens the floodgates of creativity!
Despite the chaos I thrive in now, at my core I was a nerd in school. I love a challenge, I love a prompt, and like specific guidelines. Like, I would never have thought about what I would do for Hell’s Kitchen drag (being someone that’s not a femme-presenting performer), and it became one of my favorite numbers I’ve ever done.
You’re someone who’s been amongst the Brooklyn drag folk for a minute as a makeup artist and photographer, but only recently started performing more often as well, right?
I’m like the rats outside the Rosemont–literally just always around, lol! But yeah: I moved to Brooklyn in 2017, starting photographing parties, started doing bad makeup, did a one-night competition hosted by Crystal Mesh (may she rest). Moved back to Seattle, performed a little there, moved back here, pandemic, club, another club, makeup, Tik Tok (hate that thing)… then got a call from Zava to do “Bitch Fest,” and the rest is history! It really revived my drive to perform, and I’m ready to go full fuckin’ throttle!
A legend in the making!
Natasha Beddingfield once said “the rest is still unwritten,” and ya know what? She was absolutely right.
*Blergh* the TikToks sure did get me more followers, but I just felt so crazy making these silly little transition videos and then having the youth tear me apart in the comments. Like, I am 26, and these literal children had me in a chokehold pandering for their approval. I’m just over trying to do things for “engagement,” because I felt like I stopped doing [the type of] drag I actually enjoyed and just did what I thought would be popular, ya know? Anyway, fuck them kids… lol.
That! Generally speaking, do you draw from anything specific inspiration with your looks: comics, paintings, photography, movies, video games, fashion, etc.?
I like my drag to look very cartoony, from anime villain demon to pink patchwork clown. I sketch out almost everything that I do beforehand, so most of the inspiration comes from matching that sketch. I wish I could give an artsy fartsy “I’m inspired by the French Rococo period”-ass answer, but a lot of other drag artists are my inspiration, honestly. I see an eye shape I like, a cool nose contour… and I just kinda Frankenstein them together in a way that works for my silly lil’ face.
What was growing up in Seattle like?
Sick as hell. I wasn’t “out” yet, but my mom would tell me about the 90s grunge scene and played Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden… and it used to be so cool. Now when I moved back a couple years ago it was so overpriced! Daddy Bezos moved in; it’s a lot of tech gays, and lacks some of the grime it had when I was a teenager. That being said, the queer scene in Seattle is so diverse and interesting and talented, on par with Brooklyn at its best in my opinion. We’re all watching Bosco kill it on TV now, and it’s just a taste of all the cool shit there. Kitty Glitter, Issa Man, Kylie Mooncakes and Rowan Ruthless are a couple of my favorites killing it there now.
How did you begin as an artist?
This is me realizing that my mother informs so much of my drag, lol! Thanks, Virg! My mom is such a crafty person, and we would do projects together all the time. I had a sketchbook from, like, the age of 6. I’d sketch a lot of Pokémon, anime, cartoons, dramatic proportions, make my own terrible comics… so that was the real origin. My mom was also incredible because I would wanna try new things literally every other day, and she found a way to help me do that from art classes to soccer, to playing the saxophone, acting classes, etc. It’s hard to pinpoint a beginning per se, but I’ve always been interested in artsy shit across the board (to varying levels of success).
I do think we need more sax in drag! Did you bond with the Brooklyn queerdos immediately when you got here?
I will not lie–above all else, I am a scammer and a schemer. I knew no one here, but I had a camera and understood that drag performers are fundamentally narcissists. I would go to Macri Park (may she rest), Rosemont and Metropolitan and take pictures of the shows. I’d share the photos after, we’d kiki, I’d get invited to the next show… and wham bam thank you ma’am, we’re besties. That’s how I met my drag mother Mini Horrorwitz–and now I’m trapped, I’m stuck, I was passed through her wide birthing hips, and I can’t escape her now. It really got me through that first foray into Brooklyn. Now I’m a lot more secure in myself, and love meeting people without the bamboozlement.
Speaking earlier of awful fan children on the socials, Zava got some flack for being essentially the villain of her season of Dragula. But she was certainly never boring, and has evolved into quite the creative drag force in NYC since the season aired.
“Bitch Fest” is very aptly named, because above all else Zava is a bitch (respectfully). I hope she never reads this because I can’t be exposed like this, but I have so much respect and appreciation for her as a person and performer: truly unwavering in her security in who she is, unapologetic, and a damn good time. She’ll be a bitch… but is the first person to give opportunities, advice and help where needed. If she does ever see this, I’m gonna deny, deny, deny! We have a healthy level of playful hatred I want to maintain.
I fell in love with Dawn while getting to do the competition with her. I love when a bitch is painted down, and isn’t afraid to be a fool. We bonded because we’re both dumb as shit in drag, and “Dum Dums” is a celebration of that: just stupid fun, no pretense. And after the first one we’re talking themes! “Dum Dums: White Mediocrity” (songs white people love), “Dum Dums: High Octane” (lip sync songs at double speed), “Dum Dums: Acapella,” just to name a few.
And you’ll later be at Easy Lover in Brooklyn on Thursday, March 24th.
Yup, sure am! “Jungle Fever,” baybeeeee. I’m so excited, and I’m bringing back one of my numbers and upgrading it!
What else is coming up for you?
The flyer is still in the works (meaning I haven’t made it yet), but I’m also starting a new day party at Cmon Everybody called “Limewire,” a Y2K dance and drag tea party, on April 10th, 5pm to 10pm.
Hot take: I love a mess, and that “Snatch Game” did it for me. It was so entertainingly abysmal, I was on the edge of my seat the whole ride!
Fair enough! But who might you do in the “Snatch Game” of the season you’ll be eventually cast in?
I will never be on that Race of Drag, but I’m definitely interested in another certain show. And if I had to do an impersonation, I want it to be so uncomfortable and problematic. I’d be, like, Vladimir Putin. I think there’s a way to make Nelson Mandela funny. My number one “Snatch Game” choice would absolutely be Harambe. That would be something to behold!
Lol, indeed it would! Thanks, Jay!