Emerging from bedroom drag to become one of Brooklyn’s most creative queens on the scene today… we all must rise for Dawn! [Cover photo: Sass]
Thotyssey: Happy Pride Month, Dawn! We’ve got Brooklyn Pride right around the corner, and NYC Pride in just a few weeks. Are you ready for all this?
Dawn: Y’know what? I think am! I was just in North Carolina visiting family for, like, two weeks in May… so I’m feeling extra rested and sun-kissed, and honestly just ready to be a menace in the streets this month.
Your drag looks tend to be very involved and intricate… do you worry about sweating all that off in the upcoming summer heat?
Oh God, absolutely! Luckily I’m not a big sweater, but because of that I more so worry about full on heat stroke because I do so much. So yeah, definitely looking into ways to pare down my wardrobe but maintain the aesthetic for the next few months!
Carry on! Your IG pictography is haunting and fabulous… what inspires your looks, generally?
I love and hate this question… because everything and nothing inspires me, lol! I wish I could say I have this bountiful knowledge of fashion and trends over the past 40 years and I have these designers that I look to… but I don’t. And genuinely most of my inspiration comes from when I’m just existing, and I’m like “oh, that would be fun!” So my drag is just a realized version of what’s going on in my mind at any given moment! It’s very personal for me. But if I had to say one material thing that inspired me, it would be other drag artists (and strange, deep water fish).
So this is a good time for back tracking: you’re a North Carolina native?
Yesss! Raleigh born and raised! North Carolina is a fun sort of place where there are about four cities with three things to do in each of them, so living there for 23 years… you get a bit bored.
Were you always into some form of art while growing up?
I think I got my first sketchbook when I was 8 or 9, and filled it with (awful) drawings of Princess Peach and Daisy, and various Disney princesses. I also used to play dress up with my neighbor, and we would put on cute Limited Too outfits and my hair in pigtails, and pretend to be high school drama queens on her trampoline outside. Since then I’ve gone on to get a degree with a minor in Art/Design, and be a fully fledged drag queen. So all this to say, I’ve been doing this for a minute!
How and when did you become Dawn, and a New Yorker?
I’ll set the scene: it’s 2017. I just finished watching Sasha Velour obliterate Shea Coulee on national television. I’ve only been out of the closet for six months, and I find a single eyeliner pen of my mother’s in my bathroom, and I go. To. Town. Every aspect of the drag face, with just that one shitty little eyeliner pen. And no, it didn’t look good… but yes, I stared at myself for at least an hour before washing it off. after that, I spent three years being what one would call a “bedroom queen,” because I had way too much social anxiety to actually go out in drag and not a lick of something to wear, for that matter.
Cut to March 2020. I had plans to do my first open set at the local gay club, Legends… and Covid hit, so I wasn’t able to. All that free time locked inside, paired with breaking up with my partner of two years and being forced to move back in with my mom, is when “Dawn” technically was birthed.
My mom taught me to sew, and after that I basically just jumped into anything I could. I guess the pandemic washed me of all shame, because I just didn’t have that anxiety around performing any more. [I did] digital drag shows and open sets when the world opened back up, and then I moved to New York the first week of July In 2021. And since then, it has been an absolute roller coaster.
How might you describe the types of numbers you’re doing these days… are they informed by your looks, or vice versa, or not at all?
I love that you ask this, because I’ve actually been doing a lot of thinking about this lately! I’ve spent a lot of time honing my aesthetic, and then building performances around that. But these days, I’ve been trying to conceptualize performance more so than looks. I’m trying to be a well-rounded bitch! That being said, I do love a look… so it will always be a mix of both.
You were a strong contender in host Zavaleta’s first ever cycle of C’mon Everybody’s “Bitch Fest” drag competition, which featured some across-the-board epic Brooklyn talent. How did you enjoy that whole experience?
Oh goodness, Bitch Fest was a trip. I read Jay Kay’s interview here, and I think they said the same thing. But Zava is genuinely one of the best people I’ve met since I moved here (but don’t tell her that). Bitch Fest and her invitation to be in it has opened so many doors for me and my drag career.
That being said, that competition was hard as hell… and I think it brought me closer to burnout than I’ve ever been. But I wouldn’t trade it — I learned so much about myself and my artistry, and also how to take care of my mind and body through strenuous situations. I’ve also been hearing some murmurings that Zava may be inviting some previous competitors back for another shot at the finale next month, so keep your eyes peeled on that. I heart Bitch Fest!
A fun development from that competition has been “Dum Dums,” a themed monthly drag show at The Rosemont you co-host with Jay!
Getting to be friends with and do this show with Jay is definitely a highlight of Bitch Fest. I remember one day off hand they were like, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we did a show together called Dum Dums and we just do dumb shit every week?” And I was like, “Yeah slay,” not really thinking much of it. I got a text from them a few days later that it had been booked at Rosie for every other Tuesday, and we have lived up to the mission!
I love our silly little show and so far — it has been amazing! My birthday show back in April was packed — and included one Adore Delano in the audience, which made me absolutely froth at the mouth. We have guests and themes lined up for the next few months, and there will be no short supply of looks, giggles and utter tomfoolery every other Tuesday at the Rosemont. Our next show is on June 14th… and instead of celebrating Pride, we’re celebrating Shame! Dum Dums: Shame! Come out!
I am so excited for this one! I haven’t performed at C’mon Everybody in a hot minute and I am an emotional bitch, so I’m pulling out all the stops. I’ve never worked with Rify or Janelle, but to be booked by those titans of NYC drag is so exciting. Getting that random DM from Janelle on my way to Trader Joes asking me to be in the show was definitely a fun moment for me. It’s a night of ballads, so I think I’m most excited to see what Blue does. I know that bitch loves to just get naked and be a whore, so I’m curious what emotional spin she’ll do on it. As for me, you’ll have to come out and see what I get up to (partially because I haven’t fully decided, lol)!
Yes, my 3DB debut! Listen… if you want fantasy, a bitch will give you fantasy. I’m also super excited to meet Rajah; I was a huge fan of hers back on Season 11, and obviously again on her All Stars run. I think her aesthetic is so clear, not to mention the way she busts down the stage. It’s gonna be sick.
Anything else to add?
My Instagram is where I’m always promoting my events, and of course posting looks! If you ever want to know where I’m performing next, it’s in the “Where I’ll be” highlight! Other than that, I just want to give a shout out to my mom: Hi Lori. I love you! Tell the cat I say “Hey.”
Hi Mom and Cat! In closing: what’s the best thing about drag for you, and what’s the worst?
Ooh! Okay, okay… so best has gotta be that first night out in a new outfit you spent weeks on. It’s so fun every time, and seeing the process come together is immaculate. Worst is my reluctance to go out without a corset… because those fuckers hurt, and I refuse to not wear one, lol!
The beautiful suffering! Thanks Dawn, Happy Pride!