This “Off-Broadway Belting Babe of Brooklyn” got her drag start in a theatrical production… and now she’s bringing that Broadway love to The Beechman! Tiffany Heather Samantha tells all.
Thotyssey: Hello Tiffany, thanks for chatting with us today! How was your New Years Eve?
Tiffany Heather Samantha: It was fabulous! I went to a brunch my friend was hosting at his apartment with his husband. I made everyone blowjob shots. We turned up, and then a group of us went to a couple of bars in Harlem. Got litty titty, and then Uber’ed home right before the stroke of midnight and promptly fell asleep. For me, it was perfect.
Truly! Also, we just watched the double episode season premiere of Drag Race S15! Do you have any thoughts about our New York representing girls, the generally young cast, the “bar girls versus social media girls” angle, etc.?
How much time do you have? So many thoughts! First of all, I am rooting for Jax! I remember being at Icon after it closed, and Jax was still there practicing their backhand springs and tricks. She’s one of the hardest working queens I know, and truly deserves all the love. I may be biased, but I think she deserved the win. And as a fellow Broadway queen, I am absolutely rooting for Marcia Marcia Marcia. Beyond her obvious dance talent, I love her style–which I think gets overlooked sometimes. As the saying goes, you can buy your way into fashion, but you must be born with style.
As far as the young cast goes, I wouldn’t mind it if there was more of a balance. I think we can all learn from each other. So yeah—there should be more older queens. I wanna see more people like Spankie Jackzon on the U.S. version; a human with life experience brings so much to the table. I feel the same way about social media girls versus bar girls… they can learn from each other. Drag is adapting.
Where are you from, and were you always a performer of some sort?
I’m originally from Indiana; I am a cornfed Midwesterner at my roots. I went to Ball State University where I majored in musical theatre, and moved to NYC afterwards. This week marks my 15th anniversary of living here.
And yes, I have been performing for what seems my whole life. I had an insane energy level as a child, and my stepmom said “we’re not doing all this,” and put me in acting lessons when I was 10. I started acting professionally when I was a teenager at 19. I’ve been in the business for 18 years now.
How did Tiffany get born?
They say there are two types of queens: Pride and Halloween. There are now three categories… I am a quarantine queen. 2020 was the first year I wasn’t able to be employed as an actor, and I had to sit at home and think about what I had been putting off for years! It was an introspective time, and I knew Tiffany has been screaming at me to come out.
I have been going to drag shows for over a decade, and was always obsessed with drag culture. There were some inner demons that were keeping me from just doing the damn thing; I was born and raised Mormon for 18 years, and still to this day I am breaking down stigmas that had been beaten into me. Also, I was very tired of auditioning and playing cis, straight people onstage. I really needed / need Tiffany to express everything I have to offer as an artist.
They say that most drag queens in New York City are failed actors. That’s just not the case for me. I was a successful actor, but I was tired of the work being offered to me. I also want to stick up for other queens who left the business pretty early on to do drag. Your queerness is celebrated in drag–that’s not the case in a lot of stage acting. Yes, even musical theatre. Your queerness can be used against you as a bad thing.
What was the transition from virtual drag performing to eventual live stage performing like?
Well, I first did the virtual thing. My first performance gig was through an LA-based theatre company called It’s Personal; they had live YouTube shows. I did a five minute monologue that I wrote about a real life experience I had sleeping with a gogo boy I had met at The Abbey, and then his roommate later that night. It was kind of performance art, and I lived for it. They loved me, and so I started hosting more of their shows.
Then when things started opening up, I booked an Off-Broadway show called The Housewives of Secaucus. So my first live performance as a queen was as an actor in a show… and I felt right at home!
When I started performing in bars is when it got interesting. It’s a whole other ballgame, and took some time to adjust to that type of crowd and energy.
Oh yay! I was not involved with the production at that stage yet. I joined the cast when it moved to The Actors Temple Theatre in Midtown. Everyone was replaced except for Shirley and one other queen, so I got to do the show with her!
And last year, you also got to host your very own Stonewall Invasion.
I did! That was honestly a dream come true for me. Stonewall is legendary. I never thought as a little Mormon boy that I could grow up to headline my own drag show at the most famous queer bar in the world. I really felt the energy of all my queer ancestors that night; a lot of what I do is in honor of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
And now you’ve got a big show coming up, January 27th at the Laurie Beechman Theatre: Tiffany Heather Samantha’s Big Belty Show! Tell us all about it: how did this concept begin, and what can we expect?
Yes! I am so excited about this show. I believe it is a culmination of all my performing and life experiences. It first started when I was doing brunches at The Iridium last year for Pride. Spin Cycle was producing it, and we quickly took a liking to each other. The Iridium is a world famous jazz venue, so the sound system is impeccable… which allowed me to shine with my live singing numbers. They asked me if I wanted to put on my own cabaret at the Laurie Beechman. They would produce and publicize it… I would just bring the talent!
So here we are! The show itself is all big, belty Broadway showtunes. And I have many stories to share about celebrities and Broadway actors in between songs. For the past ten years, I bartend on Broadway when I am not in a show. The stories are countless that I can share. I’ve served everyone from Julia Roberts to Chelsea Clinton. January 27th is my opening night, and I’m excited to bring a different guest each show that has made their Broadway debut to belt out a song, and I’ll interview them about their experience.
I’m also excited that I get to sing these songs from a queer non-binary perspective. It gives the lyrics a different meaning that we don’t get to see on Broadway very often. Thankfully, that is slowly changing. I love that there is a non-binary character in & Juliet.
Should make for a great show! Who might be your dream guest?
Well my first real guest is Christopher Faison from Broadway’s My Fair Lady. His voice is incredible, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear him!
But my dream guest!? I love that question. I mean—Patti LuPone is one of the OG belters, and it would be insane to have her. But I would also die for Lindsay Mendez. I came back to see Wicked specifically for her. She belts with her whole chest, and gives me chills. She’s crazy talented. Also, Heather Headley!? I got to see her witch in Into the Woods at Encores, and it was beyond! She has magic coming out of her pores. There’s just too many to list! I’m greedy!
Greed is good! So you’re gonna be super busy with this show, but do you have anything else coming up as far as shows, projects, etc. that the kids should be looking out for?
Yes, I am busy writing and rehearsing for this show at the moment; I will have more time once it opens for other projects. If you miss opening night, don’t fret! It’s a monthly show that is currently also scheduled for February 17th and March 17th at the moment. I have been kicking around a lot of ideas, so stay tuned! I have a friend who’s sort of a John Waters type, and we’ve been talking about doing some short films. Also: follow me on Instagram, ’cause sometimes projects pop up out of the blue and you don’t want to miss out. Pixel the Drag Jester is my momager, and books more gigs for me than I do myself!
A true busy belting bee! In closing, what’s your go-to number to perform onstage when it’s time to bring the house down?
Every number I do brings down the house… lol! Okay, not true. However, my signature song is “Change” from A New Brain. It’s perfect for drag, and features what I do best. I’m begging for money while belting extremely high! I also have recently been singing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which kills. I always say if Patti LuPone and Freddie Mercury had a baby it would be me.