Serving masc, femme, everything in between and beyond with their stage looks, Charlie Wo is strongly repping the new wave of New York drag. [Cover photo: @thedragcrawl]
Thotyssey: Hi Charlie! Thanks for chatting with us today! How was your Halloween?
Charlie Wo: Hey hey! My Halloween was fun… got enough candy to last me until next Halloween!
I said that too, but I’m almost out already, lo1! Did you do any nightlife stuff?
This past Saturday for Halloweekend we (me, Janae SaisQuoi, and Nani Tsunami) had our weekly show “The Cookout,” and this past Saturday’s theme was Halloween. So I dressed as Beetlejuice, and performed some numbers from Rocky Horror and a scene from Scary Movie. You know, the one when she’s in the movie theater, lol!
Could you tell us a bit of your origin story? Where are you from originally, and what were your earliest interests in regards to art and performing?
I’m originally from Brooklyn–the East New York area–but for about the past ten years I’ve been living in Long Island. I first started performing in middle school when my best friend at the time forced me to join the school play. At first, I thought it was not for me at all… but once I got on stage, a monster was born. Even though I only had one line that entire play I livedddd. I was never really a great singer or dancer, but I always loved being on stage after that. So when I found the art of drag, I was hooked. I became a super fan until I found the courage to finally try it out myself one day.
I used to always force my family to watch me lip sync to songs, and do these rinky-dink performances rapped in med sheets and towels for hair. And honestly, not much has changed since!
How did your own drag career begin, and where?
I had heard about “Drag Wars” over at Pieces Bar online, so one Monday night I went and signed up. I remember my tights were so sheer, you can see my whole hip pad poking out, my makeup was very simplistic, and my body suit was a tad too big. But queens backstage were actually very nice and helped me get myself a bit together, and I went out and performed to “You Outta Know” by Alanis Morissette. I, of course, did not place anywhere near the top that night… but I had so much fun. That was in December of 2019.
I continued to perform at “Drag Wars” pretty regularly until March 2020 when the shutdown began; then my drag became mostly digital. I’d record videos for online shows, or do Instagram Live shows. But I managed to keep my drag alive during the pandemic.
Who or what inspired your drag name?
Charlie Wo originally started out as my poetry alias: the “Charlie” actually stems from RuPaul Charles, and the “Wo” comes from my high school creative writing teacher, Mr. Wojcik. He always pushed me to continue to be creative, and not worry about following the path people think I should be taking. So I put it all together: “Charlie Wo.” I also wanted a name that was gender neutral, so once I started to perform I just used my poetry alias as my drag name as well.
You perform in masc, femme and non-binary looks. Do you choose your looks to match your numbers, or vice versa, or is it random?
I usually base my character off of how I’m feeling. I identify as non-binary, so some days I do feel very masculine, so I may perform as a king that night. But sometimes I also enjoy being very femme and sensual. And sometimes, I just feel like coming as I feel… which may be purple or green, lol! My drag is usually me performing emotions that I feel like I can’t express as my regular self. So I love to be expressive with how I present myself, and the fluidity in Charlie’s gender. Although I do always say my femme and masc alter egos would make one hell of a hot couple!
Have you had a favorite onstage moment?
The first time I did my balloon swallow trick. I was competing in a drag competition and performed to “Perfect Illusion” by Lady Gaga, and I blew up a balloon about a foot and half long and swallowed it… and the crowd was so gagged. It was amazing.
Skills! How might you describe Charlie Wo today, as a performer?
Charlie Wo is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get, but you’ll leave with a smile on your face! I try to make an effort to also bring a message along with my performance, touching base on important topics–whether rights for black and brown trans people, reproductive rights, or mental health. I try to incorporate meaning into the madness to make my stage time worthwhile. I still feel like I’m very young in my journey, and even I’m excited to see what’s in store for the future of Charlie Wo.
You’ve done shows in Brooklyn and Queens, but now you’re officially a Manhattan dragperson as you’ve joined the cast of “The Cookout,“ with Nani Tsunami and Janae Saisquoi, Saturday nights at The Q! What can you tell us about that show?
I’m so excited, this is my first time being apart of a weekly show. The Cookout is a celebration of black queerness for everyone to come and enjoy; we’re serving up a variety of goodness. Janae is the dancing diva, Nani serves thick sex on a platter, and I’ll be there serving stupidly! Each week will hold a different exciting theme for all of our numbers to be based of off. We love to highlight artists of color while all being performers of color, and engaging in fun unique crowd games. It’s summer all year round at The Cookout!
Werk! What else is coming up for you?
I came in first place at last night’s “Takes the Cake” competition and will be competing in the finale in January. And besides that, I’m just taking it one booking at a time!
Excellent! Okay lastly… what’s a song what’s your best advice for a baby drag person just starting out in NYC?
Make sure you’re doing drag that you enjoy. To remember that as long as you’re having fun and being your most authentic self, that that should be their priority. A crown or sash won’t mean anything if you’re not being true to yourself.