Marketing guru, motivational speaker, author, talent manager, activist, drag superfan, Pennsylvania native and former Texan Jackie Huba has had a busy and storied career even long before she became a New Yorker this year. Nowadays she’s managing some of nightlife’s biggest names, registering queer voters, and co-producing this coming January’s GLAM Awards show… and here she gives an exclusive announcement about two brand new awards categories!
Thotyssey: Jackie, hello! Thanks for talking to us at this very busy time! How are things going?
Jackie Huba: Great to be chatting with you! It’s been so exciting co-producing the GLAM Awards with Cherry Jubilee. The planning process has been going smoothly, and we have some amazing things in the works. Right now, it’s all systems go for the event in January.
You often speak about how you’re inspired to be powerful and self-confident by drag queens. Can you tell us a bit about this inspiration, and how you’ve come to know so many amazing queens over the years?
I had long known about drag and RuPaul, but when Season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race aired in 2012, it really fueled my drag obsession. I loved seeing behind the scenes of how these queens created confident and fierce drag personas. As a women in my 40s, I still felt that I wasn’t as confident as I should be.
Is there something you’ve witnessed a particular queen do or say that still occupies a lot of rent free real estate in your brain?
I’ve seen so many amazing live drag performances around the country in the last nine years. Since moving to NYC in May 2021, I’ve been blown away by the drag scene here and understand why many regard it as the best city for drag in the country. One recent performance that sticks in my mind was a performance that Sierra Misst did for the finale of Lady Liberty’s Halloween competition this past October. She created an eight-minute Carrie-themed production number with multiple scenes including a prom with three couples, and an epic reveal. Incredible!
You’re president of Fiercely You Entertainment, which sees you managing entertainers including big name drag queens. What are some traits or criteria you look for when taking on a client?
I’m so honored to be working with some of New York’s finest–Brita Filter, Lagoona Bloo, Novaczar–as well as Cynthia Lee Fontaine, and queens from the new Queen Of The Universe television show including breakout American Idol star Ada Vox. For my roster, I’m looking for well-rounded talented artists who are the full package. Many of my artists are also singers and songwriters who write and record their own music.
Drag Out the Vote is another organization you manage, which promotes voter registration and awareness of voter’s rights across the country using drag queens as messengers and educators. Care of your group, local drag queens and RuGirls from across the country are leading the initiative! What made you want to start DOTV?
Most of my life, I have never been politically active aside from voting every four years. But after the 2016 election, when I realized that 100 million people didn’t vote and one out of five LGBTQ+ people were not registered to vote, I knew I had to get active and try to do something big to change this.
And why do drag queens make such strong messengers?
Drag has always been political. It was trans women of color and drag queens who led the fight at Stonewall, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who organized and educated the queer community during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s. But there had never been a national organization centered around drag artists aimed at registering and turning out voters. So I started Drag Out The Vote in late 2019. And in 2020, even with the pandemic happening, we recruited 303 drag artist ambassadors in 43 states, contacted over half a million voters through our digital drag text banks, and created over one billion online impressions about voting with our digital events and activations.
Brita Filter, one of New York’s most beloved queens, is both a Fiercely You client and a very visible Drag Out the Vote ambassador. How great is it to work with her, and to have seen her grow into what she is today?
It is such an honor to get to work with Brita! Besides being insanely talented, she is one of the kindest, most generous people I know. She co-hosted our big Drag Out The Vote fundraiser in Minneapolis in January 2020. I met her for the first time at the event, and she told me she wanted to make voting part of her platform while appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12. She shortly thereafter became one of our three National Co-chairs for Drag Out The Vote along side Marti G. Cummings and Jaremi Carey (formerly Phi Phi O’Hara). Throughout 2020, Brita hosted our corporate digital fundraisers, DJ’ed and performed at our digital drag text banks, and recorded countless PSA videos throughout the year. I am so proud of the incredible activist she has become!
As we mentioned above, you’re now also joining forces with Cherry Jubilee to produce the 23rd annual GLAM Awards (January 30st at Sony Hall, hosted by Bob the Drag Queen), which honors the best of New York City nightlife every year. How did you come to know Cherry and get involved in the GLAMs?
I got introduced to Cherry through my client Lagoona Bloo when Cherry was looking for help to co-produce the event; my company Fiercely You Entertainment also does event production. I have known about the GLAM Awards as both Brita and Lagoona have both won multiple awards over the years. I’ve never been to the GLAM Awards in person having lived in Austin for the past fourteen years, but I think I’ve watched every video of past GLAM Awards that exists on the Internet!
There probably isn’t much you can give us by way of spoilers or teasers for January’s presentation, but I understand that there will be two very important, brand new GLAM categories that will honor humanitarian excellence in nightlife. What can you tell us about these new awards?
We are so excited to introduce these two new awards this year! The Advocacy Event of the Year Award recognizes an in-person or virtual event that supported a social, political or economic cause central to the community, and the Marsha P. Johnson Award recognizes a member of the entertainment community who has used their platform and marshalled resources over the past year to advocate for social, political or economic causes. Both of these awards are made possible by our title sponsor, Impulse Group NYC, and we thank them so much for their support.
Looking forward to seeing who wins these groundsbreaking honors! Final question: do you have any New Years Resolutions?
When New York nightlife star Bob the Drag Queen (née Kitten Withawhip… that name change was controversial at the time!) didn’t show up for her Boots & Saddle Drag Lounge gig one 2016 weeknight, word spread like wildfire that she was cast on the eighth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Even though everybody in the scene was immediately abuzz with excitement about the prospect of seeing one of the city’s most recognizable and effortlessly hilarious queens on TV (Thotyssey was born from that excitement), the one thing that we all universally understood was that she would clearly be the winner. And we were right! But not content like other past winners with just a regular presence in that franchise, Bob–now based in L.A.–would cement herself as a popular live performer and standup comic, an actor with several stage and screen credits and the star of a critically praised HBO docuseries. But soon Bob returns to NYC for one of her favorite gigs: hosting the GLAM Awards![Cover photo: Jacob Ritts]
Thotyssey: Hey Bob! First thing’s first… I’ve seen your new hair and bearded look… fetching! But why the change?
Bob the Drag Queen: Because I’ve been out of work! I got surgery on my throat performed. So if I’m not performing, I usually don’t shave unless I have to. So then I was like, “Well, I’ve always wanted to see what I would look like with hair again.” This will all be gone by the New Year!
How does it feel to have your new voice? Does it seem stronger?
Well, not yet. I’m still in my recovery phase, but I can talk. I haven’t tested the limits of my voice yet, to be honest… and I’m a little scared to.
In January, I’ll be back at it. But as of right now, I am just writing. I’m taking it easy.
Let’s talk a bit about We’re Here, the popular HBO docuseries that follows RuPaul’sDrag Race alums Shangela, Eureka and yourself as you travel to less-metropolitan cities and towns across the country and see how queer people, their allies and families function in those regions. The three of you include them in a live show held in their towns at the end of each episode. It’s very educational and super fun, but often very emotional as well. That show has massive crossover appeal; I have family members who had no interest in my work or Drag Race suddenly asking me a million questions about you three and if the way you all do drag is “accurate!”It’s cool that you’re connecting to a whole new audience now, right?
Well, listen to me–there are lots of families that watch the Drag Race as well. So I’ve been able to have this experience through time, where people are telling me they watch me with their families. It feels really lovely.
While filming these past two seasons of We’re Here, you must have learned so much about the art of drag while seeing it in the context of these rural towns and small cities, where you wouldn’t expect to see it.
Yeah. It’s been really lovely, just travelling the world and doing drag and getting to experience queer people from all around the world, and amplify their voices, and help tell their story. It’s been really, really rewarding.
When you go out and you shoot the show, do the days feel very structured, or do you feel like you don’t always know what’s going to happen that day?
Well, we have activities, as you can see. We’ll go flyering, or we’ll go meet people, or we will go bowling or something. So we have activities. We’re not just walking around. Me and [my co-stars] Eureka and Shangela were planning our own days. But, of course, actually, [things happen] that happen are organic. Those are all very real moments.
Of course, the episode when you guys were in Selma was very emotional and timely. When you find yourself in a very emotional situation like that on camera, is that something that you get nervous about people seeing, or you just kind of forget the cameras there?
I’ve been in front of the camera for a little bit now. So I don’t forget that it’s there, but I don’t let it affect my performance, or my ability to interact with other people. I just think of it as an opportunity to help tell stories. And I think that whenever the drag kids get to see us being comfortable, it encourages them to be comfortable as well.
A joyful moment of that same Selma episode, though, was the wig reveal during your live performance. You were wearing this tremendous hair, and it seemed to fall off in an “awkward” moment… only to be revealed to be a small human being, i.e. your niece! Then you got to do a dance number with your own wig, which was everything. But did that hurt at all at first? Like, was she sitting on your head?
She was just sitting on my shoulders. And she was like, 90 pounds!
Oh, now I get it… that’s not so bad, duh! Another memorable person you all encountered, Pastor Craig Duke in Newburgh, Indiana, was recently dismissed from the United Methodist Church after appearing in drag for you’re show’s episode in that town. Do you have any new information about him?
It really is very telling of the queer experience, and what it means to be even adjacent to queerness, in certain spaces. Proximity to queerness is enough to put someone in trouble, which is really upsetting. He wanted to do this because it meant a lot to his daughter, who’s queer. And then the church retaliated, and essentially bullied him out of being a [pastor].
We tried to call them to just to check in on them, and he seems to be doing pretty well. When you work for these churches–or this church specifically–they offer housing. So, [when he was fired] he lost his house–he and his family had to move out the home. I think that he’s going to be using this GoFundMe to either get a new home, or start a new place, or something like that. So best of luck to Pastor Craig.
You and your We’re Here co-stars have put a lot of first-timers in drag now, while helping several others glow up. Maybe someday, some of these performers you’ve fostered will go on to become Drag Race contestants themselves… that would be a crazy, full-circle moment!
It’d be exciting. The queens from Drag Race come from all walks of life. I mean, some of them come FROM Drag Race. They watch the show and they love it. I’m one of the [lifelong fans] who watch the show; I watched Season One. I loved it so much, and I auditioned for the show… years later, I got on.
So, yeah. I think that’d be really cool. Most of the people that we work with are not professional performers, and I know how strong their aspirations for the spotlight are. Although some of them are [professionals]; I had three drag daughters on one episode–they were all drag queens and looking to pursue a career on the stage. And I’ve had the social media influencers like Chase and Deanna. We’ve had pastors like Craig. We’ve had community builders like Miss Rainbow. We had so many people.
Starting around the time you were on Drag Race’s eighth season… from then on, there were multiple New York queens on every season.
[There were lots of New York queens] before I was on. There were [several] queens from New York on season six when Bianca won, I believe. Milk, Vivacious…
Okay fair, lol! There have been several New York girls on all the seasons for several years now. But on this upcoming fourteenth season, we only have one: the lovely and amazing Jasmine Kennedie! Do you think show producers or the fanbase got tired of New York girls, or have we burned through most of our big talent (as if), or have other city scenes just stepped it up?
I don’t think it’s that calculated. The queens who are on the show aren’t [necessarily] the best drag queens in America. It just means they’re the best ones for this particular season. They work really well together as a cast, for whatever reason. But if you’re not getting casted for Drag Race, it does not mean that you are not a good drag queen. It just means you just weren’t right for this season. That’s all it means. I had to tell myself that– I auditioned four times.
New York City has received a lot of love for RuPaul’s Drag Race. And I think it’d be silly to assume that RuPaul Drag Race has a vendetta against New York City. How many winners came from New York City? You have me, Bianca, Sasha, Aquaria. I mean, New York is doing really well on Drag Race.
Jasmine is gonna slay, though!
I don’t know Miss Kennedie like that, but I’m sure she’s wonderful. I’m sure she’s a fantastic, stand-up gal. But I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her. So best of luck to her! And I’m sure she’s got a city rooting for her; it was just really nice to be on Drag Race and have your city root for you. I’ve got to say that, especially when they happen to be New York City.
She’s super nice!
Well, you don’t have to be nice to do good on Drag Race, lol! Being nice is no reason to win. It’s more of a reason to win Miss Congeniality, but go off, lol!
I think that it’s really interesting that a lot of the people who are really upset about it probably maybe don’t work in nightlife, and I don’t like that much. I feel like when you work in nightlife, you know that it’s really not that crazy for a straight person to work in a bar or work in a queer space. I think that if we’re challenging gender norms, this is what challenging gender norms look like. This is what it looks like when you are successfully challenging gender norms.
But I also want to talk about the phenomenal trans women on the show that are being really overlooked by the media–not by the fans. I want to point out the fans are doing a great job because the most followed girl right now is Kornbread, who is a trans woman, which is amazing. We actually have two trans-women: Kornbread “The Snack” Jete, and Kerri Colby. I don’t know Kerri that well, and I only know Kornbread from just seeing her online. I can confirm Kornbread’s phenomenal; she’s really great.
Let’s talk about the GLAM Awards. One of my favorite memories of the GLAMs is that long opener that you and a large cast of queens did back in 2015: the Wizard of Oz number!
It was a full ten minute Broadway production! I was there watching that before I was totally aware of how big and amazing drag could be, and that was a real eye-opener for me.
I mean, I will pat myself on the back and give myself a little bit of credit! I feel like after I did that number, people really started going crazy for the GLAM Awards. People brought these big numbers, and I think that people really stepped it up. We’ve seen Brita Filter do some really amazing stuff at the awards; we’ve seen just a lot of really fierce stuff. And I’m really happy to be a part of that legacy of people showing up and showing out for the GLAM Awards.
You’ve co-hosted the GLAMs a few times, with Bianca, Brita and Peppermint. But on Sunday, January 30th, you’ll be coming back to New York to host the 23rd GLAMs presentation solo!
Yeah, I guess I’ve never hosted alone before. This would be a first for me!
What’s so appealing about hosting the show? You’re a very busy person who now lives on the opposite coast, but you’re flying back to do this!
There are people who believed in me, and really have been there for me, from way before I was famous. And [GLAMs creator and producer] Cherry Jubilee has always believed in me. I remember the first time that I was approached to host the GLAM Awards–I actually wasn’t able to do it that year, but it was before I was on Drag Race. It was when Bianca was on. And Bianca came down to one of my gigs and was like, “Hey, let’s talk about hosting the Glam Awards or something together.”
We ended up doing a show together at Industry instead of doing the GLAM Awards, but it felt so cool to be recognized by both Bianca and Cherry Jubilee, who are people that I really respect in the New York City nightlife scene. It was like, “Oh, my God, I’m being seen by these people who I look up to.” So because Cherry’s always been there for me, it is a pleasure for me to come back to town and host the GLAM Awards.
Who are you looking forward to seeing at the show this year? And, do you have any privileged information to share about the performer lineup yet?
I don’t have information yet. And to be honest… I’m far removed from the New York City nightlife scene now. A lot of these people, I don’t even know them! I see a lot of these new queens and these new DJs and nightlife personas popping up. And it’s really funny now, when I go back to New York City, people really look at me like a… it’s kind of crazy, they look at me the way they used to look at Sherry Vine, and Bianca del Rio. I’m still very young! I’m not old, guys! I am still very fresh! I’m like, “I’m 35 years old. I’m not that old, guys!” And they’re like, “Bob, you’re an icon, a legend.” Girl, I’m 35! Now granted, I started doing drag in New York City in 2008, 2009. So I’ve been doing drag for about 12, 13 years now, which I guess is… I mean, I’m not a senior, but I’m like a sophomore or a junior, maybe.
That’s what’s funny about the generations of drag in this city! I’m at least a decade older than the average working queen, but when I talk to some queen in her 30’s she’s like, “oh, I’ve been doing this for nineteen years,” or something wild like that.
Yeah, a lot of us got involved in his lifestyle at a really young age, because there was something appealing about it. We moved to New York City to pursue our dreams as actors, and you do that when you’re 19. I moved here when I was 22, trying to make it on Broadway. So now it’s been 12, 13 years… I guess I am one of the older girls. It’s just crazy.
It just means you’re good at what you do, as they say!
Well, not necessarily. Years ago Hedda Lettuce said to me, “If you want to be a legend, you don’t got to be good. You don’t got to be bad. You don’t even have to be decent. If you just stick around long enough, you’ll be a legend.” And she was right… she was absolutely right. You don’t even have to be good. If you just stay the course long enough, you will be an icon.
I was going to say Linda Simpson, but I guess Lady Bunny will do, lol!
Anything else coming up that the children should know about?
I’m going on tour pretty soon, in January. Shaving the beard, so come see! By the time you all see me at the GLAM Awards, the beard will be gone. I’ll just be some regular old drag queen. Kizha Carr, you can breathe easy… I’m not going to steal your gig as a bearded queen, honey, lol!
Finally: what do you want for Christmas?
I got what I want, which is a day off. I’m really excited!
This lovely Stonewall staffer, Bar Babe’s fiancé and a very new addition to NYC drag is already a GLAM nominee this year. Let’s all heed the distress call of Gunner Strietzel, aka Damsel!
Thotyssey: Hello Damsel! How are you doing through these crazy times?
Damsel: I am doing well, all things considered! I am a constant worrier though, so I’m scared a few shows and events I have coming up are going to be canceled… and I will lose my will to live.
We hear that! For anyone reading this two years from now, we’re in the midst of a second wave of Covid scare, albeit a less lethal strain that’s challenged by vaccinations and better treatment compared to last year. Still, how much more of this can a bitch take?
I’m ready to fake an identity, cut off contact, leave everyone I love behind, and move to a country with Universal Basic Income so I can sit in my house for as long as it takes for this to all go away.
You’re part of the Stonewall bar staff family; it’s pretty admirable how strongly they’ve handled public safety from the virus there this past year.
We were requiring vax to enter before it was mandated. The owner really cares for the staff, and wants us all to be as safe as possible. Every day, people come in and tell me I’m the only one who has asked for Vax Proof, which tells me we’re doing something right… but also that no [other bar] is, and we are all totally fucked.
Let’s discuss the Damsel Du Jour! Where are you from originally, and what has your creative journey been like up to this point?
I grew up in Georgia, then spent a few years in Michigan before moving to NYC for school. I went to Parsons to study photography, and I have my BFA from there. I quickly realized that working in a creative field often saps the creativity from you. I no longer loved it as much, so when the pandemic rolled around I figured now would be a good time to reevaluate what I’m doing with my time.
I have so many friends who were doing drag, and I always envied them because I longed to be creative and put out art there again. I focused mainly on fashion and beauty commercial photography, so I definitely bring those silhouettes and periods of fashion I love to photograph into my own drag.
Tell us at what capacity you work at Stonewall, and how that begin.
I was hired as a host at first because that was a new role they needed when the pandemic hit, and we had to start including outdoor seating as well as following socially distanced guidelines. I got the job the old-fashioned way: by sleeping with an employee at Stonewall, Paolo, who is now my fiancé. I was just starting drag at the same time, and those two worlds came together. I am now the drag host on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as a bartender in boy mode on Tuesdays.
Congrats on your engagement! Is it going to be a voluptuous drag wedding to die for, or a more intimate affair?
The ceremony will be a more intimate affair, for both financial reasons and because I hate crowds and am constantly overwhelmed. But I think we’ll hold a reception open to the public at Stonewall afterwards. Just, like, rent out the upstairs so all of our friends can come party with us. It’s still TBD on if I’ll show up to the reception in drag or not. We shall see. I have always wanted an excuse to buy a wedding dress!
Oh for sure. A live dove. I also want albino tigers at both sides of me at all times, but we’ll have to consult the budget again for that.
What have been your experiences like performing as Damsel?
Distressing… my name fits me well. I am an incredibly anxious person, so I have yet to succeed in performing without violently shaking throughout the night. But I soldier on regardless, because I just fucking love drag.
Work! What are your numbers like?
I like to take a comedic, femme fatale approach. Songs about killing cheating husbands are a specialty of mine. Growing up in Georgia, I obviously listened to a lot of country; I still do. So that 50s housewife, who just looks gorgeous while mascara is running down her face and she’s lit by the bonfire of her husband’s clothes in the front yard, is just me to a T.
Do you consider anyone your drag mother?
No, and not for lack of asking around. To be completely honest, I don’t think many people had high hopes for me before I started. But I do have tons of drag friends who have been nothing but helpful, answering my questions and giving me guest spots in their shows. Misty Mountains and Hibiscus are two that I’m always in conversation with and have been so helpful to me… but the list can honestly go on and on, and would encompass like 75% of New York’s drag performers.
Well everyone will get to see this Damsel shine on Sunday, when you’re hosting your very first Stonewall Invasion! Misty and Bianca Star will be joining you onstage. After seeing all those different weekly Invasions there, it must be so exciting to host your own now!
I am so excited! My parents will be in town and we actually had dinner plans that night, but they’re incredibly excited to see me perform instead for the first time. I’m very thankful for Stonewall and specifically [manager] Mike Salinari for giving me this chance to show what I can do.
It’s also great being able to give other people a chance to join me on stage, since it’s always been the other way around. I feel like I’m giving back. Not that these two need it–especially Misty, considering I basically stole her job as Stonewall’s resident queen! Maybe I asked her to join me as a means of apologizing. Sorry girl!
Congratulations on your very first Glam nomination for Best Door Goddess, by the way! How cool is that!?
Listen. I saw people campaigning for nominations and I thought, “Oh, I should really do that next year.” I knew I wasn’t ready for anything like that yet, being so fresh. But then one day [GLAMs producer] Cherry Jubilee sent me a code on Insta, and I was like “how did she even find me?” Paolo told me someone must have nominated me, and I thought that’s so sweet. And now here I am, on the ballot. I’m so honored, it’s almost stupid!
Good luck! What else is coming up for you?
I honestly haven’t thought very far ahead. The GLAM Awards were the only thing I was focusing on when all of the sudden this Invasion fell into my lap. So as of right now, besides those two things, you can just catch me at the door of Stonewall on Fridays and Saturdays! I give a different look each time and I’ve been posting those to Instagram. I thrift everything I wear–and like I said earlier, I just live for the fashion and beauty side of drag.
Next year, my goal is definitely to be on stage more, though. I was doing “Polish the Queen” but I work on Wednesdays now, and I’m not sure competitions are the right space for me. But I’m going to annoy my friends more into giving me guest spots at their shows until someone gives me my own. That’s the hope, anyway.
Sounds good! Okay, in closing: what do you want from Santa this year?
This specific pair of Louboutins I saw on ThredUp. There’s no way I could walk in them, and I’m not paying $400 for something that’ll roll my ankle. But that hasn’t stopped me from checking up on them daily. And maybe world peace, and for people to stop being so goddamn stupid about Covid.