Known for incorporating dance and androgynous beauty into their onstage persona, actor / dancer / drag performing artist ( / model?) Paris Alexander is the co-creator of “Sylvester,” and gearing up for that show’s sexy-spooky-dramatic Halloween edition this weekend! [Cover photo: MTHR TRSA]
Thotyssey: Paris, hello! Thanks for chatting with us today! Are you satisfied with your upcoming Halloween looks yet, or is there still much more evil work to be done?
Paris Alexander: I have so much to do! So, so much. I’m a little nervous. Like, so much.
That’s normal, but you Creative Types always pull it off!
Lol “creative types.” Honored to be seen as such.
Do you prefer to go Sexy, Scary or Strange on Halloween… or some unholy combo?
Halloween is a funny holiday for me–it’s my favorite, but I have a trouble going with costumes that are definitive things–no proper nouns or text book monsters. I love to make up what I’m doing as I go, and usually have to come up with a snarky response whenever someone asks me what I am. I’m usually just some conceptual image that comes out of my head, or a drawing. So tl;dr, a strange combo.
Tell is a bit of your origin story, if you will! Where are you from originally, and what were your earliest creative interests?
Originally originally, I’m from Vermont. I was born in Burlington, and lived all over the state until I was 7… and then I moved to a small hippy town in Arizona called Bisbee, and grew up there.
When I was little my mom showed me every movie, and my favs were vampire movies, witch movies, and movies with drag queens like Priscilla Queen of the Desert. My earliest memories of being creative are drawing creatures, wearing my mom’s dresses, and making movies with my stuffed animals. My main dream at 5 was to be an actor in New York when I grew up, which ended up working out! I did a lot of different things when I was little, and it’s the same now.
What sort of roles have you had as an actor here, and are you more drawn to the stage than the screen?
I have more experience on stage, but I want to move more into film because I like the permanence of it.
I have had a lot of weird roles; I think most of the acting I’ve done is something I’ve never done before every time. I was a ball-goer for all of season 2 of Pose, and I remember shooting the episode of Candy’s funeral (spoiler alert), standing next to Sandra Bernhard, and watching Angelica Ross dance and lip sync to “Never Known Love Like This Before” again and again.
One time, I was in an ensemble Jeremy O. Harris play where in each scene a different actor has a monologue and then commits suicide… only to come back for the next one.
The first show I did in NYC was at The Kitchen for a big Jeff Weiss retrospective (RIP); the show was lit by flashlights held by audience members. I was reprising this role that Willem Defoe used to play where I was a hustler / serial killer that wrestled a daddy type and then ate him. And Phillip Glass was watching it in the front row! He fell asleep…
Your “Sylvester” sister Julie J also has ties to acting.
That’s how Julie and I met, actually! Back in 2019, we were both in a short play by Nazareth Hassan that was an orchestration of laughter. Literally, we just laughed in a bunch of different ways as a chorus for 10 minutes–sometimes happy, sometimes sad, angry, confused, scared, and happy again.
Fascinating! As far as the types of shows you serve now in drag and queer venues… how might you describe what you uniquely do? I see you sport more androgynous / non-binary looks as opposed to going full High Whore Queen… and you’re also a dancer, for two things!
And sometimes I freestyle on the microphone, or tell a story! I have a hard time settling for anything specific… I like to mix things up. I can be a high whore queen occasionally, but I kinda like to just follow whatever vision pops into my head. It really depends on the medium and the concept and the moment. The more that I think about what I want to show, the more a solid identity breaks away from me into some kind of creature or being or idea of a thing. Like that “stripes” look. I’m not exactly sure about where I’m going… but I promise it won’t be boring!
By the way, I was also gonna point out that you’re a professional model in magazines… but upon closer inspection of your IG description of that great shot in New York Magazine, it wasn’t an editorial. You were just there at the site, and someone snapped your photo as is!
I mean, I kind of model all the time without realizing it, lol! Sometimes I look at my photos, and I can’t believe they’re me… which is like, weirdly dysphoric and euphoric at the same time. I wanna get into more projects that involve shoots, for sure.
How did you, Julie J and Voxigma Lo all come together to form “Sylvester?”
So Julie reached out asking if I wanted to do a drag show with her back in Spring 2021, and Emily from Purgatory got in touch with me (via my friend Alison) asking if I potentially wanted to do some kind of curated performance series there… so we were set on the space.
But me and Julie both thought it could be nice to have a third host, and we both thought of Voxigma! We were at Janelle No. 5’s “Are You The Next Diva,” and Julie was competing. Voxigma and I walked to Taco Bell after, and I told her about how we should work together… and then she pulled out these texts from her drag mom Untitled Queen that she’d gotten recently where Untitled said–this really happened–that she thought there was a black drag Renaissance approaching in Brooklyn, and she said that Voxigma should try to find a way to work with me and Julie! And when I saw that, it kinda just seemed like fate. So we all went with it, and voila!
Indeed! And what can you tell us about the overall mission of “Sylvester?”
From my perspective at least, it’s that we wanted to create a somewhat experimental show where black queer artists could feel uninhibited enough to try new things with their art. Or, to be the full embodiment of themselves. We had a list of names and things that sounded black and queer leaning, and were also thinking of something kind of referential or old school… I think “Loretta” was one of them, also “The Aunties Show” (glad we didn’t go with that, because Suburbia and Islaya came out with their own “Aunties Show” like a month later, lol!)
I put “Sylvester” because Sylvester, to me, epitomizes selfhood. Like, one time Joan Rivers had him on her talk show, and she asked, “what did you say to your family when you told them you wanted to be a drag queen?” And Sylvester said, “I’m not a drag queen, I’m Sylvester.” And there is something so pure in that.
“Sylvester” returns to Purgatory this Saturday for a Halloween edition! What can we expect from it this time around?
Some light chaos. Icon, provocateur and legend Crackhead Barney will be there. Beaujangless is gonna be running around as Mikeesha Myers. C’etait BonTemps and I were in a Grace Jones tribute show together and he really pulled out the big guns for that. Also Julie and Voxigma and I are all cancer moons, so there will probably be emotional pieces as usual, lol. Oh, and a costume contest! $111 prize. And an open set! Expect a carry.
Is there anything else you want to mention or plug?
I’m gonna be at Club Cumming for Tiresias‘ “Underworld” show on November 2nd (at 11pm) My grandma had a band called Dmoja with some songs about invoking spirits, and I think I’m going talk about her and perform / lip sync to a track on the album that I haven’t released yet. It’s called “Banda” and its a plea for Papa Legba to open the gates to the spirit world. And November 19th, I’m gonna do a new performance piece–probably involving a microphone–at Grace Exhibition Space for a series Nile Harris curated.
Have great shows! So, here’s my spooky season closer: Have you personally ever seen a a ghost, a UFO, a werewolf, etc?
I see ghosts every day.