Known for a lovely voice and a strong perseverance, Brooklyn and Ridgewood drag star Norma Tears [as in “no more tears”] keeps it happy at The Deep End.
Thotyssey: Hello, Norma! So here we are in April… you ended March with a bang at Starr Bar, performing in a great benefit for the Tennessee ACLU! How did that go?
Norma Tears: It was great! After hearing some of the bills that were being pushed through or presented to legislators that would take away the very thing that “saved” me, I was speaking with the manager at Starr Bar and mentioned how I [and others were] struggling–especially outside NYC. We decided right there to throw a benefit. I called my friends, family and any artist in my phone and asked if they would donate their time to this benefit, or a piece of art. We were able to provide a platform for the artists to speak about their art, how they identify, and why they felt so strongly about this event. We surpassed our goal, and donated it all to the work the ACLU is doing.
It seems like all the activism and fundraising has been affective, at least for now. A Tennessee judge put a hold on the drag-ban’s passing! That’s a great development, but of course other states like Texas and Florida are trying their own bans. Isn’t this a crazy and shameful trend happening now, with anti-drag and just anti-queer sentiment?
I don’t know if it’s a recent trend; I believe that they have been trying to eradicate the community since its inception. I read somewhere that the word “homosexual” did not appear in the Bible until 1946 when some men in a room translated a word incorrectly and put it in. Social media has done its part by amplifying their motives, and keeping the public engaged. Growing up in church, it’s a deep trigger for me. I can remember my pastors telling the congregation to call their local representative and vote against any LGBTQIA initiatives. I always felt if God is real and created us… why are we not welcomed on this earth?
Well said! If I may ask, where did you grow up… and how did you develop into a fabulous queen despite that strict religious presence?
Trauma, lol! I grew up in Bushwick, Brooklyn before it was gentrified and cool. Like, we had block fights–it was pretty insane, nothing like it is now. I was raised and sang in church. I was even married to a woman, and was faithful! But the church was really involved in my marriage, and eventually it came out that I was “struggling” with my queer identify and I was kicked out. I was told “your voice is a cancer infecting the body of Christ, and we don’t want you here.” I didn’t sing for three years, and went into a deep depression. At my heaviest I was around 400 pounds; yeah, that bitch depression will take her toll on your life without any permission!
But one night I went to Barracuda and saw a Bob the Drag Queen show, afterwards a friend & bartender Aaron introduced me and told Bob that I “used” to sing. Bob made me sing for him at the empty bar, and told me “you’ve got something… don’t let anyone take that.” Shortly after Bob won Drag Race.
I would watch Drag Race, and began to learn about the art of drag and gay culture… but my knowledge of LGBTQIA was limited to cruising and hooking up. I never allowed myself to think about being a part of the community. It was never a thought when you’re in church; everything about this life is wrong or an abomination against the very “being” that created you.
It would be a lot of soul searching–and some years–later that I decided to go as Poison Ivy to a Halloween party at a bar. I posted it on IG. And some of the old church members on my page went insane, calling prayer warriors to pray for me because I was so “lost.” It pushed me to come out and embrace my queen!
Norma Tears was born through that, along with my catch phrase “Norma Tears, cuz we’re not crying anymore.” Shortly after Halloween, my best friend Gem Annai and I were asked to host Drag Race viewing parties at The Deep End, and it’s uphill since! (Queue Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”)
Tell us what kind of queen Norma is today.
I have four sisters and Norma embodies a different part of each; I’m kinda of like their Captain Planet (I think I just aged myself, lol). But I describe Norma as your spicy cougar Latinx Tia (aunt) whose body is right, dresses are fitted, heels are high. She smells like perfume, and has the latest gossip.
You still sing, right?
Oh yes! I will never stop singing! I love to sing songs that connect with the people and bring them along for the ride. “River Deep Mountain High,” Tina’s or Celine’s version, lol. “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” by Amy Winehouse, “Skyfall” by Adele, “Holding Out For a Hero,” etc. I’m a belter, so I would say Celine Dion and Adele are usually in the set or a crowd request.
How do you like this season of Drag Race’s Top 4, and how did you enjoy the season overall? Is this Sasha’s to win, or could someone else sneak in?
I have absolutely loved this season. Funny enough, during Covid I would go to 3 Dollar Bill to see “Bananas” with Jax and Essence. So finding out Jax was on the show was already a reason to tune in. I love that someone went home every week, so the season didn’t feel as long as some of the others with double saves–although I feel Marcia versus Anetra should have been a double shantay.
I love that each of the Top 4 represent such different drag–and different Drag Race characters, if that makes sense. We have the confident newbie, the seasoned veteran, the old school pageant and the silent but deadly killer. They’re all stunning! I’m rooting for MIB; she is just such a good queen, and a fresh representation of the true language of a drag queen. However, I do feel like Sasha is taking this crown.
Agreed! And we can likely see that happen at the viewing party you’ve been co-hosting every Friday at The Deep End in Ridgewood with sis Gem!
It’s my favorite day of the week! We love meeting new people, and getting song requests in our DMs. During the episode, we will talk about the episode… but a crowd favorite is our trivia. We ask for three volunteers and ask trivia questions–usually about sex, because who doesn’t know a thing or two about that? The winner gets a free shot, and at the end we do a “winners’ road!” It’s quite funny to hear some of the answers, or watch their face as I ask how many calories are in a teaspoon of semen (it’s 5-25 calories, by the way).
Once the episode is over, we head into our live performances. It’s been exciting to see some of the requests that have hit our DMs. We try to align with the episode if we can– for example, during the Rusical episode, we did all musical numbers. We end our show with a live rendition of “Thank You For Being a Friend” from The Golden Girls; watching the crowd join in and sing along is so special to us.
Speaking of trivia, you also host a monthly session of just that at Starr Bar.
Our trivia shows there have a theme, and are held the second Thursday of each month. Some of our past trivia themes were Pokémon, Star Wars and Marvel. We try to come dressed in the theme of trivia. There are four rounds, with live performances in between each round. There are prizes for first and second place, and sometimes we will do a lighting round with shots. Next one is Thursday, April 13th, with the theme being musicals!
And then there’s a Latin party you’ve hosted a few editions of at The Deep End.
“Pa Que Lo Sepas” is an all inclusive Latinx party. We feature a Latinx DJ and Latinx performers! We are looking to host our next one Friday, Cinco De Mayo–be on the lookout for the flyer.
Exciting! Is there anything else coming up for you?
Yes! I’m excited to announce that I will be starring in the short film Heels; it’s a story of a young Latino preparing for his first Brooklyn drag show. I’m excited to be a part of a Latino story set in Brooklyn. It’s a story I haven’t seen yet, and I’m excited to tell that story. We film the end of April!
Can’t wait to see that! Okay, in closing: what’s your favorite thing about drag…. and what’s your least favorite?
Besides the government trying to restrict, limit and eradicate us… I think my least favorite thing about drag is probably the shaving! I’m Puerto Rican, so the 5 o’clock shadow is real!
My favorite thing about drag is the performance art. To be able to sing a song and invoke an emotional response from the crowd confirms that this is what I am supposed to be doing… and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Norma Tears’ upcoming appearances, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.