On Point With: Nick Laughlin

A talented live performer who’s become a creative titan backstage and in nightlife spaces alongside a “Drag Race” legend, Nick Laughlin has unleased Divatronic onto the iniverse. [Cover photo: LAPÎDŪS]

Thotyssey: Hello Nick, thanks for chatting with us today! First and foremost: Met Gala looks! Have you gotten a chance to browse, and do you have any favorites?

Nick Laughlin: Hey hey! Yes I have! My favs are Doja Cat, Bad Bunny, and Anne Hathaway.

All spectacular! You are quite the fashionista yourself… do you have a point of view with your style, designers you like to work with, etc.?

Aw thank you! The majority of my looks are for nightlife events that I’m producing or hosting, so I try to make a statement with a well known reference–something sparkly, or sometimes dressing up as the literal poster (“Ty Tea“–thank you Ty Sunderland). I’d say my biggest fashion inspos are a mix of Manila Luzon, Lady Bunny, and John Galiano for Dior 2005 couture show.

I’m attracted to pop art (dressing up as the green M&M), and also silhouettes, and garments worn by glamorous older women. I like to confuse people: “why does that bear boy look so sexy dressed as a church lady?” I also rarely wear pants or long skirts; I love to show off my legs (like Lady Bunny.) Most of my looks are upscaled vintage or fun craft projects, but when I do spring for a designer I usual wear Ryan Seminara who fully understands my shape and style. I also work with Kan Seidel when I need a statement prop (jellyfish umbrella, King Candy cake crown and scepter).

Besides being fabulous, how might you describe who you are and what you do to a straight-off-the-bus newbie?

I originally moved here as an actor, and toured with Book of Mormon for a while… but after the tour I decided to shift into directing and choreographing for Alaska Thunderf*ck as our relationship grew I started to co-write some songs with her and produce some of her her live events. Since then I’ve directed and choreographed several music videos and commercials and some that I got to write the song for (Jan’sGay Hands Up“, OraQuick’s musical commerical, Alaska and Stephanie’s Child’sGirlz Night.”)

You wear a lot of literal, or in this case metaphoric, hats in the nightlife and entertainment biz.

Yes I do! In this day and age, you sort of have to… especially as a freelance artist. Some might say I wear too many hats, but I say I’m a one stop shop! From the writers’ room to choreo / costuming / directing the video. I also have severe ADHD, and don’t think I could have it any other way or I’d get bored.

As far as NYC nightlife goes, I originally started to attend Ty’s parties and brought an entire group dressed to the theme perfectly. Eventually he asked me to start hosting, and we’ve been great friends ever since. As I started to go to more parties, I talked to Alaska and asked “what if we did a big pop show at 3 Dollar Bill that turned into a dance party?” At the time she was doing A Star is Born This Way show in LA, and I was like, “Baby let’s bring this to NYC and add Broadway dancers and singers to the show!” Since then, we’ve done fourteen live shows celebrating specific albums from our favorite pop divas. We call our little brand “Divatronic“; we’ve been most known for our big 3DB yard shows with a live band and 20 to 30 person casts. My goal and message is to trick theatre people into seeing drag, and drag people into seeing theatre.

Also, this past year I was lucky enough to also venture out into co-producing Luis Fernando’s Glam Award-winning party “HER,” where a lot of my favorite lewks have blossomed from.

Can you tell us where you are from originally, and go into a little more detail about how you came to meet Alaska?

I’m a cornfed Midwestern boy from Cincinnati, Ohio. I met Alaska when I was on tour with Book of Mormon; it was 2014, and we had just gotten to LA for our six month sit down, and I went to an event called “Shortstop” the first week I moved into town (which also happened to be the first week she moved back to LA after her season). Alaska walked in out of drag in a black fur coat and I (as a crazy Drag Race fan) walked straight up to her and introduced myself. After we chatted for a bit, I asked her if she’d like to be my opening night guest for our first show of Book of Mormon LA, and she said “yesss I would luvvv thahhht.” Then throughout that six months, we hung out several times a week and became new besties.

Here in NYC, you have all made 3 Dollar Bill your home base for Divatronic events and for the other parties you work with that you mentioned above. What is it about that space that makes it such a good fit for what you do?

Firstly, it’s queer owned an operated… which is such a gift. The staff is hardworking and kind, they’ve created quite a family and home for many queer people in Brooklyn. The large venue space and technical capabilities are also very appealing; I’ve toured the country, and there aren’t many gay clubs quite like 3DB.

As you hinted earlier, you’ve done behind the scenes stuff with some of the songs and music videos from Alaska, the members of Stephanie’s Child and others! Can you tell us more about those collabs? And, do you have any interest in putting out your own music?

Yes yes, I’ve been lucky enough to co write a lot of Alaska’s music, Jan’s “Gay Hands Up”, the OraQuick Musical commercial starring Dylan Mulvaney, and last year my dream was to combine Stephanie’s Child and Alaska for a girl group fantasy. I’ve been lucky enough to work with song writers such as Ferras, Jesse St. John, JBach, Ash Gordon, Tomas Killingsworth and SixFoot 5. The rare privilege of being able to write songs that I eventually get to direct music videos for is something I’ll never take for granted; it’s truly my greatest joy in life.

I enjoy singing myself usually when it involves musical theatre comedy. During 2021, I collaborated on a project with a comedy YouTube group called Sour Pickles on our viral spoof “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie a Vaccine Appointment,” which got over 1.5 million views on TikTok. I will sing and perform here and there for my friends’ projects or shows; recently I played Puss Puss Dubois in Alaska’s musical Drag: The Musical, and also played Napoleon Bonaparte in Madame Clicquot: The Musical. Overall I’ll always love to perform, but my heart has definitely shifted to behind the scenes and creating. Stay tuned this summer for a few more summer bops and videos from some of your favorite RuGirls.

Lots of the events you produce combine fun dancing and fashion with elevated live performance! Do you think this is the future–or even the current–Moment of NYC nightlife, which is arguably going through some awkward changes post-pandemic?

It could be! I think trying to predict where we are going in nightlife is very difficult, but I do know people seem to enjoy throwing some sparkles on and dancing to pop divas! Also, certain events I never thought would see thrive end up killing it! I recently produced a Legally Blonde movie and musical celebration party at 3DB, and I couldn’t believe how many adorable nerds showed up dressed as Elle Woods while yell-screaming every word to even the niche songs from the musical, and of course the iconic movie quotes. I truly stood back and thought, wow, this is a whole nightlife market I didn’t think existed.

As we segue into talking about your upcoming event, I must first ask you: do you think she’s a good American Idol judge? Apparently the fans are polarized recently!

I stopped watching that show when Adam Lambert was snubbed of winning (still bitter about that), but I have seen all of her iconic judging moments and fully plan to recreate the “wig” moment in our show.

What do you think her enduring appeal is, especially in today’s arguably confusing pop music world?

Okay, here we go! I’ve always admired Katy for her iconic cartoon-inspired outfits and pop-culture homages, and of course I was into her consistent chart topping bops growing up. But I wouldn’t say I was a die hard, crying over the music and memorizing every word like I was for Britney, Beyoncé and Gaga.

For our shows, we recreate iconic fashion moments, VMA performances, etc. almost exactly, and even do bits with their famous quotes. Creating these moments in the past flow out of me because I know each diva we take on like the back of my hand. This is the first show where I’ve had to educate myself a little more on our diva, and let me tell you… I am now a Katy stan! I knew all of her hits of course, but I’ve been having a blast diving deep into watching her Teenage Dream tour and catching up with all of her music videos.

Divatronic’s Katy tribute “Teenage Dream” starring Alaska will go down June 3rd (7pm) at 3DB! How excited are you for this!?

I’m most excited to recreate all of those imaginative looks of hers on Alaska and our other queens. We plan to transform the backyard of 3 Dollar Bill into a Candyland fantasy wonderland! There will be pink clouds and giant candy hanging everywhere; VIP guests will even receive some special gifts! It’s also pretty cool that Katy herself commented on our show announcement! We are crossing our fingers she might show up!

And later this summer on July 1st, Alaska is at last bringing a show to the Ice Palace on Fire Island.

[That’s] been a long time goal of ours! We haven’t solidified a set list yet, but we are definitely mixing our popstar production numbers with dancers and a piano cabaret vibe with her other best friend Handsome Jeremy on the keys. The theme of the show will be all things “ice cold” and winter to play off the Ice Palace title, which will be ironic on the beach July 1st. The only thing I know for sure is, we’ve always fantasized Alaska having an entrance from the ferry dock to the club with a Rihanna Met Gala-style train that is as long as the entrance ramp into the Ice Palace.

What else is coming up for you?

As I stated before, I have about four or five songs I’ve co-written for RuGirls and three music videos attached to those are coming out this summer. I got to co-direct Alaska’s long awaited perfume campaign “Red 4 Filth” that will be coming out for DragCon. She’s worked her ass off, and I was honored she brought me along to co-direct alongside her for the commercial.

We will also definitely be bringing at least one more Divatronic show to NYC for the summer, but we haven’t agreed on which Diva to showcase yet. We’ve talked about taking a poll from her fans to see which diva’s album they’d like to see us do next! I’ve got some exciting events with Luis Fernando coming soon as well.

One ongoing future dream project of mine is to write a musical about astrology called Retrograde: The Musical. I’ve started the beginning structure and even a few songs with my writing partner, and hope to record the music by next year. But who knows… musicals take forever to put up.

Incredible stuff! Finally, speaking of musicals: the Tony nominees! Anything in particular you’ve noticed that stands out: well-deserved noms, snubs, surprises, etc.?

Haha! I’m very excited about this season in general, I feel like Broadway has finally got her groove back post-pandemic. I’m very excited for all of the Parade, Shucked, and Some Like it Hot nominations! I’m pretty happy overall with the noms. I’m personally rooting for Alex Newell and Ben Platt to win, both of their incredible performances have been stuck in my mind since seeing them.

Thanks, Nick!

[Photo: @eevahnn]

Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Nick Laughlin’s upcoming appearances, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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