On Point With: Bertha Vanayshun

From the fine art world to the fierce drag stage, Bertha Vanayshun is here for your amazement.

Thotyssey: Hello Bertha, thanks for chatting with us tonight! We’re getting to the point where saying Happy New Year might be annoying to some, lol… but Happy New Year! How did you ring in your 2023?

Bertha Vanayshun: Getting absolutely hammered at The Ritz with my friends! Our goal was to really test out these vaccines!

We appreciate your sacrifice! When you’re not working, are you usually a partygworl, or a homebody?

I’m definitely a bit of both! I like to have my days in… but I definitely enjoy my days out. I think since drag has taken up more time, I appreciate a night in watching animated movies and TV… often hate-watching.

I hear that! How long have you been in the drag world, now?

Since July of last year (2022). I had my first guest spot then, and I’ve just been hopping from place to place ever since! (The guest spot happened to be my former employer in a funny little twist, lol).

So where are you from originally, and were performing, fashion, music, etc. always a part of your life?

I’m from New York, born and raised. I’ve always been an artist, but stage performance and makeup are still very new to me. I came from the fine art world–which I felt was incredibly racist and xenophobic–and drag has just been something that makes sense and offers me more autonomy.

Your drag name is a play on a grounds breaking but hugely racist 1915 film. What inspired it?

Actually, what inspired it was my time in the fine art world. After my experience, I went with the mindset of “if America is going to be racist, I might as well be the one in charge of the joke.”

What were your negative experiences in that world like, if I may ask… and were you actually creating the art, or working in other sectors of that field?

I was doing both, working in the art world behind the scenes and also showing work in galleries and shows. It was largely the sentiment that A) it doesn’t pay if you’re not of a particular background, and B) that any art I made was reduced to whatever visible categories they could put me in: “you as a black person made art that’s so powerful… let’s not interact with it at all, though.”

That’s really sad and frustrating hear that was your experience. Do you pursue drag and performance in a similar way you did to art?

Very much so! I think of drag as my new art practice.

What’s a Bertha look and show like, for those who haven’t seen you yet?

It’s very much a coyish energy meets some humor and an international flare! Definitely a show to see as a pick-me-up, and to get a taste of something new.

You’ve been serving it as a January contestant for Zavaleta’sBitchFest” competition, Sundays at C’mon Everybody! How that experience been for you so far?

It’s been really amazing! It’s literally like drag college, and I’ve been really enjoying the opportunity to push myself artistically. Its probably the most difficult competition I’ve been in so far (as a serial competition loser, haha)!

Good luck! And I see that this Wednesday you’re going to be on the other side of the judge’s bench, care of Zalika Parson’sHot Mess” competition at House of Yes! That should be a fun experience! Can she judge a bitch, lol?

Oh, absolutely! I’m Caribbean–I’m a judgmental motherfucker, lol! I know exactly what I’m looking for in a drag artist, because I’m first and foremost a fan.

Then Thursday you’ll be in the West Village.

I’ll be performing with Harriet Tugsmen and Miss Ratchét at Rockbar! It’s going to be a very fun, and very black, show… so that’ll be everyone’s Black History Month pre-game, lol!

Then you’ll be with Zalika again, as well as Vic Sin, for their Sel Rrose brunch on January 22nd! That should be fun!

Yes! I’m super excited! Brunches are always a blast!

And looking ahead, you’re gonna be part of Nicky O’s next big “Night of 1000” at 3 Dollar Bill on February 12th: “Night of 1000 Rihannas!” OMG, that will slay!

I’m super stoked for that! It feels like a big marker for me career-wise. Rihanna is my Caribbean Queen and number one diva, so it’ll be a carry for sure. I have a very exciting number planned; I’ll be keeping it on tight lips until the night of!

Have great gigs! Lastly: Drag Race Season 15! Whose team are you on!?

Sasha Colby, of course! Estitties is also a favorite of mine… and I’ve actually been living for Spice! But Sasha all the way.

Thanks, Bertha!

[Photo: Kylie G. Bryant]

Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Bertha Vanayshun’s upcoming appearances, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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