On Point With: Vanity LaVain

A gorgeous Jersey Girl who made such a great impression in a recent NYC pageant that she got her own show in the end–the reign of Vanity LaVain is now upon us! [Cover photo: Loren Searle]

Thotyssey: Hello Vanity! I see you just judged the “Get Schooled” drag competition finale at VERS last night.

Vanity LaVain: It was fabulous! It was such a privilege to be able to sit at that judging table, because it was full circle for me–looking back at my drag when I first did the competition, and now. And also, looking back at the audience I’ve built: I was very appreciative. Also VERS has just become home for me. [The “Get Schooled”] winner was Espi O’Najj… a fabulous performer!

The big competition experience you partook in recently was the multi-week Mx Rockbar pageant! Harriet Tugsmen ultimately won that, but you didn’t go away empty handed. We’ll talk more about that in a bit, but what was competing in that pageant like for you? Did you learn a lot from that experience?

Mx Rockbar was a great time–the very first multi-week competition I was a part of, and was able to make to the finals! I’m so happy for my sister Harriet, much deserved! I learned so much from that experience: so much about my drag, so much about sisterhood, so much about NYC audiences, and so much about how to navigate a queer space as a queen!

Where are you from originally, and how did you begin as an artist and performer?

I was born, and currently live, in Jersey City, New Jersey. I was in love with the arts all of my life–studying theater in high school and college. I actually have a BFA in acting and theater. I went to Marymount Manhattan school for college, and started to find other artistic adventures from going to school in NYC. I slowly begin to realize that A) I was interested in so many artistic endeavors, and B) I was very good at a lot of them! And one thing about me: I am not the type of person to pigeonhole myself, and cannot stand when I am unable to pursue any creative skill that interests me.

Noticing this, is when I started to play around with drag. At first it started for fun, doing it for Halloween. But I discovered that drag is one of the only art forms where you are the actor, dancer, producer, director, costume designer, makeup artist, etc. I was able to do everything I wanted to dip my artistic toes in by doing drag.

And where in Gay Bar Land did Vanity first start to step out?

My debut at a gay bar was at Albatross Bar in Astoria ! They had a amateur night hosted my a now close sister, Audrey Phoenix!

Photo: ]

How would you describe the type of drag you like to do today, as far as looks and numbers go?

My favorite drag tells a story, and serves a fantasy. It’s very rare to see drag that transports you to a different place. I love when I see something theatrical and world-building. The story can be through the character of the queen, the outfit, and / or the concept of the performance. I’m in love with drag that makes me follow a storyline.
Brooklyn is full of drag that tells different stories, and shows off different types of drag that stray from the classic mainstream drag that is usually more accepted. I admire it all; it inspires everything I do when I create or choose numbers.

So in the end, I love to do theatrical numbers that create fantasy and story. Most times, I love an epic song with dramatic moments–because I’m not a girl that kicks and flips; so I’d rather take you on a journey with epic music.

[Cover photo: Loren Searle]

What did you think of the most recent episode of Drag Race? It was a weird one: we lost Malaysia, and that “celebrity interview” challenge with those wacky guest stars just seemed confusing and… off.

I thought It was a very confusing challenge, and it wasn’t as fair as challenges usually are. It should’ve been equal in terms of location, and how the interview was conducted.

Agreed! Also, it’s a weird time for drag in general with these laws in certain states and spaces limiting drag in public places. Are you worried that the art form is in danger from this movement?

I’m disappointed with these laws… however, I have full hope that the art form is going to grow beyond the laws. Drag is so multifaceted that you cannot ban it. What dictates drag? Is the government going to rule men wearing female-presenting wigs and garments drag? That’s not it. There’s more to drag that goes beyond gender. It’s really playing around and extending the human spirit through exaggerated costume. There are many other art forms you can deem as drag.

So, I think drag is too expansive, and falls under so many things, that it’ll be a big problem trying to suppress it. And if tried, us as a community will find loopholes. We just won’t call it “drag” brunch, or a “drag” show. But in the end, the government needs to get over themselves and focus on things that actually hurt people.

[Cover photo: Loren Searle]

Well said! So this Monday, you’ll be back at Rockbar with “No Vain No Gain,” a show you’ve been doing there since your strong turn at Mx Rockbar!

Yes! It’s every first and third Monday of every month, around 9ish. I’m very appreciative for having a show so early in my career, and to be able to also call Rockbar a second home. The show, in its infancy, changes based on who’s my guest; I like to base my theme around who is guesting for me. This coming Monday might be “Live Performances,” doing our favorite live performances of our favorite artists!

And I see you’ll be twirling in your home state for a special show at the Kearny NJ American Legion, on Saturday, March 11, with Kimmy Sumony and other great queens!

I was just actually talking to my family about it, and forcing them to go ! Since I rarely perform in Jersey, I always gather my Jersey gals to come support! Kimmy is a sister of mine, and I truly see her as another guide in my life who teaches me how you present yourself as a queen. I’m very appreciative of my Jersey family that always welcomes me to do shows!

Great stuff happening! To close: what’s your favorite thing about drag… and what’s your least favorite?

My favorite thing about drag is that the creativity is endless! You can never really go too far when it comes to creating. My least favorite is the disrespect towards other people’s art of drag. Like I said before, drag is very diverse in terms of how the art is expressed! And there’s many times where others in the art will not see another person’s drag as valid, and I do not think art should be treated that way. Everybody’s drag is valid.

Thanks, Vanity!

[Photo: Matthew Bergman]

Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Vanity LaVain’s upcoming appearances, and follow her on Instagram.

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