Since the end of lockdown, this performer has been producing, hosting and performing in a variety of new gender diverse drag and variety programming in the queer Queens County hub of Astoria. In fact, their name was once “Astoria!” Now we call them simply, and aptly, Mx. LeStrange.
Thotyssey: Hello Mx. LeStrange! How is August treating you so far, now that we’re four whole days in?
Mx. LeStrange: August’s been fantastic so far! I have so many new gigs with new faces, and I can’t wait to show everyone what I’ve been working on.
Excellent! So, you have really become the Quing of Astoria recently. I was wondering though–when you were starting your takeover of the ‘hood you were known as “Astoria LeStrange,” but have since simplified it to Mx LeStrange. What prompted that change?
I initially started as a drag queen before I was exposed to the king community. Unlike most, I didn’t really put much thought into my drag name. The first time I painted my face I looked in the mirror and said “Astoria LeStrange!” Don’t get me wrong, I love my name. But as my drag grew to be more of a gender-bent art expression and I started performing more “King” styled numbers, I felt as if Astoria was too feminine. I’ve played around with different first names, but for now I’m just LeStrange. One name worked for Cher, so I think I’ll manage!
Are you an Astoria native?
I wish I could claim that–Astoria local, rather. I moved to NY in 2019 right before the pandemic from Kansas City, Missouri!
That must have been quite a case of culture shock! Were you always into performing or art while growing up… and did you move here to pursue that?
Well I’m a Gemini, so naturally I love attention. While I didn’t start or debut my drag ’til June of 2021, I’ve always been involved in some sort of performance art. I did a lot of local school theatre growing up in Indiana and sang a lot in church, so I’d say between the two I was destined for the stage. I initially moved to New York to pursue my career as a flight attendant, but as of April I made the switch back into advertising so I’d have the opportunity to invest more time into my drag. I now work from home, which is very conducive to producing and performing.
That’s great! How did you discover drag, and what drew you to it?
The first ever drag performance I saw was in Lawrence, Kansas at this dive spot called JazzHaus. I saw Ms. Amanda Love–she’s an iconic staple out there. I’ve always been captivated by the creative skill and performance, but I really feel like I was drawn to drag as almost a necessity of expression. The pandemic was hard; it left us all with endless downtime to think about ourselves. But it gave me the opportunity to really deep dive into myself and my gender. Drag was just a way to get that out and be tangible to me; Mx. LeStrange really helped me understand myself in a different light.
Now that you are Mx. LeStrange, tell us a bit about what your drag and performances are generally like these days.
Well, the beauty is that it’s always evolving. I like to describe my drag as camp chaos. Most of what I perform are mixes that I’ve made, with some sort of reference or gag. You may come to one show where I perform as a fairy Pokémon trainer, a drunk pirate, or Willy Wonka… then come to another a following week where I’m pulling from musical theatre soundtracks. I can’t always promise I’ll be serving King or Queen, but I’m always serving artist, and always serving strange.
And you sing as well.
I do! Not too frequently in drag unless I’m booked specifically for a singing gig, but you will find me hitting up the local karaoke spots out of drag.
The Astoria drag scene is kind of hard to define, I’d say. There’s a lot of different expressions and aesthetics and influences going on!
I adore Astoria’s drag scene, and it’s been nothing but supportive and accepting of me–especially in a climate where it’s so difficult for non-traditional drag artists like Kings and Things to get and maintain well-paid gigs. Beyond the spaces we have, the artists really make the difference… especially for a relatively new performer and producer to be welcomed with open arms. I feel blessed. Astoria’s queer scene is growing, and I look forward to being a part of it.
You’re gonna be partaking in several different shows and experiences over the next few weeks, starting with an early sporting event of sorts in Brooklyn this weekend!
Sunday [morning] I’ll be at the Big Apple Softball League’s “Queer of Diamonds” for the first annual Drag Softball Game! It’s at Prospect Park: 10:30am game time, but we’re also having a home run derby, drag performances, and lunch afterwards for those looking for a fun day at the park for some queer sports!
I’m very excited to be booked at Kween and work with Pedro again; I love what he’s doing for the queer and Latinx community. The show Sunday is one I hope becomes reoccurring, and I’m very excited to have another space to display King talent in Astoria. I know Hugh, and I have some very fun numbers planned.
Yes! Mx. Cabaret is a variety showcase similar to my “Trans Excellence” that aims to create spaces for trans and non-binary people to showcase their talent. So it’s not exclusively drag, but it is inclusive of it. Bryan’s background in opera leads him to book the most phenomenal jazz and opera singers along with drag performers, musicians… you get it all! Mx. Cabaret very much feels like home because so frequently I get to work alongside some of my closest friends, and that creates a whole new atmosphere of joy. If you don’t come for my chaos, come for Avery Nusbaum; her voice is otherworldly. The whole cast is going to be so fantastic.
Now tell us about how your monthly showcase at Albatross, “Astoria’s Kingdom,” came about, and how it has evolved.
Well quite frankly, I saw the need. I wouldn’t have the show if it wasn’t for the Cake Boys and the NYC drag king network. I competed in the Cakeboys’ “Takes the Cake” competition back in August of 2021, and I was flabbergasted by the talent and brand new (to me) style of drag performance I was exposed to. I went home the night of, and reached out to pitch the idea of a king-thing drag showcase to Albatross… and started the first show that September!
And boy has it evolved. Sometimes thinking back to some of those earlier shows–how unorganized I was–feels a bit cringe. But that’s just growth! I can’t believe how far we’ve come… and to think our September show on the 17th will mark one year.
Before that anniversary, you’ll have an August 20th showcase which will have an open set for guest performers! How will that work?
Like I mentioned earlier, since kings and things are so often under booked and represented in the drag scene, there’s not usually a lot of stages for gaining experience. I did my first open set back in March, and had such a blast that I decided I had to bring it back. In the past, I’ve used a website that simulates a spin-the-wheel feature where I’ll display all the names of the performers entered, and spin to see which artists will make up our open set cast!
You have much going on in the land of Astoria, so to close I’ll ask a very controversial question… what’s the best place to eat there?
Wow, hardest question so far! Well, I’m a sushi slut dumpling dude, so I’ve gotta go with either Pink Nori for the lunch specials, or Bund on Broadway for the soup dumplings. I shamelessly had Bund delivered for lunch today!
Delicious! Thanks, Mx. LeStrange!