THE Q: “Juicy” standup comedy night hosted by Dave Mizzoni (7pm); [1st Fl] Pianist James Oblak (8pm); [2nd Fl] DJ Stilleto (9pm); [3rd Fl]Lagoona Bloo & The Bloo Crew Band (9pm); [1st Fl]Michelle Dowdy & Drew Wutke (11pm)
The current Mr. Rockbear Jaime aka Jay Saint was barely able to enjoy his reign when lockdown was decreed. But thanks to an upcoming benefit in collaboration with Thotyssey, he’ll soon be able to serve his community and honor his sash.
Thotyssey: Hello Jay! How is Tropical Storm Henri treating you so far?
Jay Saint: So far, I can’t complain. I live alone, and this is my first time under hurricane condition… so I guess there’s a little fear. But I’m going to weather the storm with my puppy! I did groceries for the week and I have everything I need. I’ll be making stuffed shells, cuddling with my puppy, and watching Harry Potter until this storm passes. Henri can’t stop me from living my best life.
That sounds very pleasant, actually! Where might you be today if the bad weather wasn’t happening?
It’s Sunday, so I’d probably be nursing a hangover. How? Well, brunch of course: either at the Crooked Knife, Fresco’s Cantina, or Aura Cocina. Then I’d most likely find my way to Rockbar for Sunday Beer Blast. If not brunch and Rockbar, you’d likely find me tanning my cakes out at Riis Beach.
Given the whole situation with Covid and lockdown over the past year and half, you probably haven’t had much chance to enjoy your current Mr. Rockbear reign.
I was sashed in January 2020; I got to enjoy a whole month before lockdown. It’s been super disappointing. Everything I’ve looked forward to attending as Mr. Rockbear has been cancelled for two straight years. While it’s been disappointing, it’s also been necessary; I wouldn’t have it any other way. I haven’t been able to do much, but I will have plenty of opportunity in the future when things are better for everyone–sash or no sash. All things considered, I’m excited at the possibly of giving other people a shot at this title in the near future.
Was Rockbear your first leather / bear competition, by the way? And might there be more?
Yes. I competed for Mr. Rockbear at a very good point in my life; the pandemic has thrown that off a little. I think I need to focus on my mental health, and figuring out what my next moves are. I’m also still fairly new to the leather scene. While it’s one of my fetishes, I think I still have some learning to do. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m not ruling out future competitions. I just wouldn’t want to do them just to do them. I think there needs to be a right reason and a right time for the competitions, and the responsibilities they come with.
Yaz! So tell us, where are you from, and what’s your creative and / or professional background?
I am Puerto Rican, born and raised in Humboldt Park in Chicago. Humboldt Park is the East Harlem of Chicago; there’s a very vibrant Puerto Rican community there. It’s lovely.
With respect to my professional background, I graduated with my Masters of Public Administration back in 2015. Shortly after, I got a dream job with the federal government–I currently investigate cases of alleged discrimination in NY, NJ, and Puerto Rico. It’s been such a fulfilling six years. My job is tough, but civil rights is one of my passions. I take great pride in knowing that I’m doing my part to further equality — and I get paid to do it.
That is such important work, especially in these times! How did you find yourself amongst the bear community in NYC?
Well, I was very much in the closet when I was in Chicago. I didn’t feel as though I had the space to find Jaime. In 2011, I booked a flight to New York and I fell in love with it. In 2012, I started applying to Masters programs in the city. When I got in, I just packed my backs and moved to Brooklyn.
After about a year of living here, I came out. I had started to find myself. I was exploring what my sexuality meant and how I wanted to express it. It was very much a renaissance. I didn’t really know what it meant to be a “bear” or any other label, for that matter. I knew that, as a big boy, I felt out of place at some of the gay bars in Hell’s Kitchen or Chelsea… but when I went to Rockbar, I felt a spark. Everyone was either a big boy, or someone that loved big boys. The community embraces me with open arms. I’ve met some amazing people at Rockbar–people that have helped me love who I see in the mirror. I supposed that’s when I started identifying as a bear.
Now I have the privilege of holding this title and serving as the volunteer coordinator for The Urban Bear. I genuinely couldn’t be happier to have found this community.
The Urban Bear Weekend is coming to town in Sept… well, I guess the weekend is just called Urban Bear NYC now. You must be quite busy getting all those events ready!
Yes! Absolutely. We have a wonderful line up of events. It’s really going to be the weekend of the year! I highly encourage everyone to checkout TheUrbanBear.com for all of our events. I’m especially excited for the Honey Gala at the Museum of Sex–it’s going to be quite a night. If anyone is interested in volunteering for any of the events, feel free to contact me.
Let’s discuss our Lady of the Hour: Jae W.B.! Not only is she an incredibly talented singer-songwriter in the leather community and Rockbar family, but she’s also a sweetheart. How do you know her, and what does the world need to know about her?
I met Jae W.B. at Rockbar about three years ago, maybe four. All I know is that her energy instantly attracted mine; she’s such a vibrant person, so beautiful inside and out. I especially love that Jae is a fierce ally, from LGBTQIA+ visibility to body positivity. Jae sees people for who they are on the inside… that’s her superpower. If you’ve ever met Jae, you know that she is a ride or die…no questions asked. I feel honored to have her in my life. P.S., if you don’t know her, don’t hesitate to say hi the next time you see her gallivanting around the city. She lovessss meeting new people.
Jae’s ready for the next level of her life, and affirming surgeries and the recovery process are not easy to navigate financially. So Thotyssey is so happy to collaborate with you this coming Sunday at Rockbar for “Completely,” a benefit showcase event raising funds for her process! Jae’s good sis Cissy Walken is gonna host, many amazing nightlife all-stars will perform… how great is this gonna be?
I can’t even explain how amazing this show will be. Everyone is really going all out. We have drag, we have singers, we have bearlesque. And we certainly can’t forget Jae’s own performance–she’s an incredible singer, I know she’s going to turn it out. We also have some great raffles, thanks to our friends at KStraps, The Urban Bear, Uncle Charlie’s Piano Lounge, Artish Studios, and our very own SteeleToe Onyx. What more does anyone need? It’s going to be epic. We’re really pulling out all the heavy hitters for this one. Everyone who is anyone should make their way down to Rockbar to support. This is one show I wouldn’t miss.
What’s next for you?
Right now I’m focusing my attention to Jae’s fundraiser and Urban Bear, but my sources tell me the Mr. Rockbear competition might be happening soon. I don’t have specifics, but I know the next competition is going to be great. During my reign, I’ve gotten to meet so many people that have expressed interest in competing this time around. As I stated earlier, I’m excited to pass on this honor to the next Mr. Rockbear. I’ll be sure to give you more details as they become available.
Excellent! Okay, lastly: what, if anything, are you binge watching right now?
Mostly Twitter! No, seriously, I’m not really binge watching anything right now. I’m kinda waiting for something amazing to come across my screen. For the most part, I feel like I’ve seen everything I actually want to see. If any readers out there have any suggestions for good shows, feel free to hit me up… I’m open to suggestions.
After a casual gig DJing a friend’s rooftop party just this past spring, Luis Fernando’s career exploded overnight. He’s since become one of the city’s busiest and most prolific beat-droppers. [Cover photo: @llbarone]
Thotyssey: Hello Luis, thanks so much for chatting with us today! So we’re already in late August, which means summer is almost over! How did the season treat you this year?
Luis Fernando: Honestly, it has been one of the best summers of my life. This was the summer when I had the chance to share my joy and passion for music with the world!
You’ve certainly been doing your thing on nearly every dancefloor in the city, it seems! Did people seem a bit more in need of music and relief this summer than in years prior, from what you’ve seen?
For sure. After what we all suffered together during this past year and a half, all of us really appreciated–in a different way–the music and the community that we build around the dance floor and stage more than ever before.
It might be imperfect to have it that way, but the reality is that the queer community lives in queer bars and clubs. Those are our sacred spaces, our places of worship, our places of communion.
So, where are you from originally?
I will be honest–I don’t love being asked that question. It’s not a question that white people get asked often, and I always struggled with how to answer it.
I will tell you something that is important about my background: I fled my home country because I was almost murdered for being gay. I became a refugee here in the US about 12 years ago, and I am now literally achieving the wildest of my dreams in this country I love (although that is extremely complicated). To be at the DJ booth playing music for my queer family is a privilege that I would have never imagined I would get to have. I am just so thankful to everyone who helped me along the way, and thankful that I get to share my joy and love for music with my chosen family.
You have a very inspiring story! Where were the first places you DJed here?
The first time I made my DJing public was in May of this year, at my friend’s rooftop in Brooklyn. It started as a sunset party at 5pm… and suddenly it was 5am, and there was still hundreds of people there! That’s when I realized that people loved what I did.
There were so many people that day, and things were so crazy that a photographer from the New York Times stopped by and a picture from it was published in a recent story about the summer of “young love” where they mentioned the party as a “Rager on a rooftop in Brooklyn.” I honestly think that describes perfectly my short and amazing DJ career–literally a rager, where my community and I have been raving to each other’s joy as it has continued to grow, as my career and DJ skills have.
How in that process did you come to meet your Judys of queer NYC nightlife?
I’ve been going out (a lot) for a very long time, so I knew a lot of bar owners, bartenders, queens, dolls, kings, and other babies of the night. So when I started sharing my music. it was very wonderful that so many of them reached out and asked me to collaborate with them. I am so thankful with everybody who trusted me and gave me a chance. Like everything in life, this is not a one person deal; I have literally an entire village behind me, supporting me, saying “go Luis,” encouraging me. I’ve never felt as loved and supported as I I’ve felt this summer. It makes me teary, in fact!
What a wonderful family! What would a DJ Luis Fernando night sound like, if you had complete creative freedom? In other words, what do you really like to play now?
I started playing tropical house, but I very fast realized that I am a pop / disco / dance queen. That’s the music I love, that’s the music I know, that’s the music I play. If you give me a night, I would start with some nu disco–something not so loud, so I can get the night going and allow for some conversation to happen. Then I will pick it up with some disco / dance / pop bangers to pick up the pace, get people sweating and have hands up, and people singing choruses of the songs. And then I either sort of take it a little groovy, and make you dance and sing to classic disco. Or go the 90s Europop route, and make you jump up and down in a full pop rave.
My signature mixing really is that I keep things going up at all times. That’s why I depend on the energy and communication I have with the crowd; I cannot DJ to an empty place. I need my crowd to figure out what my best song will be; as cliche as it sounds, it’s about the journey we take together.
I observe that it’s already evident in these post-lockdown months that queer partygoers are starting to really respect DJs again, and putting them back on top of the nightlife hierarchy where they belong!
You know, I think that the queer community has always had a respect for DJs, which is not something you find in straight, cisgender spaces–a realization that the DJ will be the person who will transport you through the night.
You’ve been DJing at The Q in Manhattan a lot, which is of course the super hot new venue of 2021. How do you like spinning there?
I think the project and space that Frankie Sharp created is fantastic and ambitious. I love that the producers have been very intentional about bringing a diverse cast of DJs and performers, to make sure that the crowd and the parties hosted there are diverse. That, I really love! Also, the space is just very cunt: three levels, four floors, and of course it was a dream come true to play in the main floor with a huge screen with my name on it. I mean, I literally cried as I was DJing.
And we’ve mentioned how busy you’ve also been at 3 Dollar Bill in Brooklyn. How was spinning the afterparty for Alaska’sJoanne show recently?
Oh it was wonderful, I mean, when Alaska shared a flier with my name on it… I mean, that’s everything! And the crowd was so fun to DJ for. I gave them a fast set by Luis Fernando, where I played all of my big hits and kept the energy soooo high the entire time.
But I tell you that the thing I am most proud about is my party “HER” at 3DB.
Yes let’s talk about that now! How did HER come about?
For years now, I’ve intended to created spaces where everyone in my community feel accepted, seen, celebrated, and desired. And when Brenda at 3DB asked me if I wanted to put together a party there, I said yes immediately.
So I put together everything I love from a party–which is bringing people from all the spectrums of the queer community, bringing my dolls and queens to give us shows and lewks, and having the best music to dance to. It is very important that people know that my parties are very intentionally inclusive; they are very diverse, have all sorts of people, and they’re places where people can have fun at in any way they want.
Well, it will take place in space. We have the best DJ sets for a very fun, sweaty party, where we will all be singing at music (with lyrics) all night long. My hosts cannot be more fabulous (they all love to dress up and be fully queer), and the dolls that will be giving shows are just so incredible: Zavaleta, Rify Royalty and Magenta… literally drag legends. And Mel Incarnate, our newest pop star, will be doing a number live from her EP about to be released this coming Friday. She is so fantastic, and I cannot wait to see her perform at the next HER. Also, Kim Petras’ new single comes out the night before… so you will hear that, too. In short, there will be a little something for everyone; the decour will be out of this world as it always is, and the talent that we will show you that night is unmatchable.
I do have to do a pitch to the community to continue to support this party. It is an inclusive space, unique in the sense of its proportion, likely the biggest party in New York (after Bushwig) that is as diverse in terms of the people it encompasses. It is an incredibly ambitious project, and I am so happy that so far I’ve been able to maintain.
I am also really proud to be one of the producers who pays their dolls, talent and DJs one of the highest rates in the market. And no matter what happens during the party, everyone is always paid (if payment was agreed when we agreed to work together) within 24 hours of the party. I am really proud of it. You see, this party is about everyone, and I want to make sure that my nightlife dolls and queens are adequately paid for the labor and talent that they devote to this space. Like I tell everyone I work with: if I rise, I want everyone to rise with me. I take my village with me!
What else is coming up for you?
Well, I have other iterations of “HER” coming up on September 25, November 6 (my birthday) and our big Halloween one on October 22! I would love if people continue to come and support and have the most fun. But also, I would encourage people to follow me on Insta to figure out other things going on. For example I will be DJing [at The Q Saturday party this weekend and] at the Bushwig Invasion of the Q on August 24.
And I’m at the official Bushwig afterparty at Sultan Room on September 12. I also have a monthly party at the Phoenix, which is always so much fun. That bar is so fun, and always bring unexpected things and memories. Originally it was called “Hi, Gay!” Right now, I am deciding a new name for it. The next one is on September 17. I usually theme the party around a pop star; next one I think I am picking ABBA, though.
We will keep our eyes and ears open! Okay, let’s close with: what’s a song, new or old, that is giving you your whole life on this day?
“McArthur Park” by Donna Summer. I know, I know… it has been played for literally years. But there is a sense in me that when I play it, I am connecting to the queers who came before me, to the people who danced to it again and again. Also, one of my signature DJ moves is to have a slow-down and then a buildup that literally makes you explode, and that’s exactly what this song does. I play the best remix of it, the one by Rosabel. Also, without a fail, it’s a song that make my dancefloor go nuts. And that’s my fuel. Seeing other people having joy is what makes me the happiest.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your amazing summer, Luis!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for DJ Luis Fernando’s upcoming appearances, and follow him on Instagram.
Pennsylvania-born Michael Witkes is perhaps best known for creating, writing, directing and starring in the acclaimed queer web series “Interested In.” But in recent years he’s also become a NYC drag star on the rise, with a unique aesthetic all her own. Have a taste of Pink Pancake! [Cover photo: Kevin Kulp]
Thotyssey: Hello, Pink! Wait, that’s actually my first question… are you “Pink?” “Pancake?” “PP?” What do your Judys call you?
Pink Pancake: The full name is Pink Pancake, but I prefer to go by Pancake.
How did you come by that name, by the way?
It literally came from a meme that was, “what’s the color of your underwear and the last thing you ate?” One of my friend’s got Pink Pancake, and I never felt more scene by a name… hah! It just clicked. So stupid!
Love it! So, you seemed to be involved in tons of projects this summer… is it all a challenge to balance?
To be honest, it really can be. In addition to drag, I’m also a writer / actor. This summer, I produced the second season of Interested In, a queer series I wrote. It was a huge undertaking, and was delayed because of Covid. And on top of that, I dove head first into drag–which has been so fun and rewarding. I’m used to wearing many hats, but it’s not easy! I’ll say that.
The show’s episode count and lengths are relatively short, but I don’t think most people know or appreciate what a massive undertaking that producing an indie series is.
Oh yes, 100 per cent! It’s such a long process. Every film is a blessing, truly.
The first season ofInterested In was filmed in Philadelphia… is that where you’re from originally?
Yes! I am born and raised in the Philly burbs.
And did you basically come out of the womb as a performer / writer / director?
Haha, yes! I was always putting on shows as a kid, and making costumes for my stuffed animals. In the third grade I “wrote,” produced and performed in a production of The Wizard of Oz (which was mostly just plagiarized from the movie) to a paying audience, even. Haha! So it’s definitely always been a passion.
Of those three prior-mentioned roles—director, writer, actor—do you consider yourself to be more of one than the other two?
I see it like gender: very fluid. Which is why drag has been such an amazing outlet for me, because I’m able to wear all the hats at once.
Before you devised it as a web series, did Interested In begin on the stage?
It actually did start as a play many years ago. I presented it at two festivals (in NYC and Philly), and then reworked it as a series. Technically, Season 1 was closest to the first half of the play, and Season 2 was closest to the second half. But the story changed so much as I developed it, especially Season 2. I’m really excited to finally get to share the second half of this story, that I’ve been sitting on for so long.
I bet! What inspired the characters and stories of the series? I’m guessing there’s a lot of autobiographical stuff there.
The initial impetus to write came from my total confusion after I came out of the closet. I thought that I would just immediately accept myself, but it’s obviously a much longer journey to self-acceptance. At the time, all the queer stories ended with the queer characters coming out—or they didn’t survive to the end of the story. So I wanted to start the story right after the closet, and showcase a character learning to love himself for the first time… and highlighting unapologetic queer sexuality as he starts to shed his shame. In so many movies and shows they pan away from the gay sex scenes, and strip gay relationships of queerness. So, it was important to me to highlight that.
Did you mostly cast actor friends and hire tech friends for the crew, or did you go through a more formal process?
I just wrote the roles based on the story I wanted to tell, and we cast it from there. All the crew was through interviews or referrals. For Season 2, we even had a casting director. It’s going to be a much bigger production.
Is Season 2 filming in New York?
We filmed interiors in NYC, but we are going to Philly to shoot exterior scenes and establishing shots next week. Movie magic, haha!
Amazing! I see that the mysterious YouTube censors took the first season and the whole channel down for a spell, even though there’s (from what I’ve seen so far) no explicit content. That must’ve been incredibly frustrating, to say the least!
Oh my God… yeah, that was the worst. Truly devastating. I’m so glad we got it put back. Creating this, I’ve definitely felt the different treatment of queer content.
How long have you been a New Yorker now, by the way?
I moved to New York directly after college… almost six years ago.
And what inspired you to become a drag queen?
It’s hard to say how Pink Pancake was born. There’s always been something in me that felt confused by my gender, and felt stifled by the notion of “masculinity” and feared my natural feminine side. So, Pancake was born from that desire to explore the limits of gender. It’s also a love letter to my childhood. I’m now able to do all the things I wanted to as a kid… but instead I turn the toys into costumes.
Where do your looks inspirations come from?
I like to say my looks are Club Kid meets Second Childhood meets Genderfuck; I like to bring a full concept to my costumes and lip syncs.
You’re also a bearded queen! Does that make a statement about gender expression, or does it just look cool, lol?
I hope both! Haha!
And what’s you’re favorite number to do right now?
Hmm that’s tough to choose. I love a reveal moment, or incorporating the costume with the song. One of my favs is “Pancake” by Jaded–obviously a signature cuz of the name. I start in a chef look, and reveal to various stacks of pancakes. Always a crowd pleaser!
You do lots of stuff with Janelle No. 5, including her competition “Are You The Next Diva” and brunch show “Shut Up Bitch,” both at Aura Cocina in Brooklyn. How did that all come about?
I mean, Janelle was literally one of the only queens consistently working during Covid. She is a businesswoman! So when I heard about her competition, I knew I had to try it out. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had doing drag; I love the camaraderie with the other girls, and getting a chance to share my drag with an amazing crowd. Aura Cocina is a party, mama. I also so appreciate how supportive Janelle is; she’s especially supportive of all different forms of drag. She’s so gorg and polished, but really cares about helping newer queens. She’s a gem.
You’ll be at Aura with her again this Saturday for brunch shows! What can we expect?
Yes ma’am! It’s gonna be so fun! So high energy! It’s a great group of girls, and I think we each offer something very different. So it’ll be a gorgeous, well-rounded drag experience! Plus, drinks for days… and the food is actually really freakin’ good. What more could you want?
Anything else coming up for you?
Well, after this show I’m finishing filming Season 2 of Interested In. So be sure to stay tuned for that, and watch Season 1 if you haven’t already! I’ll also be competing in “Drag Wars All-Stars” [at Pieces Bar], so come out and support the dolls!
Okay, last question: what’s been the song of the summer for you?
I mean… the middle school girl in me has to pick “Good 4 U!”
Well played! Thanks, Pancake!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Pink Pancake’s upcoming appearances, and follow her on Instagram and YouTube. Also check out her alias Michael Witkes’ website, and watch “Interested In” on YouTube.
THE Q: “Juicy” standup comedy night hosted by Dave Mizzoni (7pm); [1st Fl] Pianist James Oblak (8pm); [2nd Fl] DJ Stilleto (9pm); [3rd Fl]Lagoona Bloo & The Bloo Crew Band (9pm); [1st Fl]Michelle Dowdy & Drew Wutke (11pm)
Despite coming from Texas, this slender and edgy young queen has a very impressive New York drag pedigree. And while she’s serving us fierce looks on stage and on camera, Morocco Marrakech Kennedy is also gracing our retro punk fantasies while paving the way for the new generation of drag.
Thotyssey: How is August treating you so far, Morocco?
Morocco Kennedy: August has been so busy. I’ve been running around Brooklyn and the city like crazy.
It’s a blessed time to be busy! I guess you’d be considered a Covid Queen, i.e. a new generation of queens that sprang up here in NYC during lockdown, doing socially distanced and digital shows?
Well, I’ve been doing drag on and off in Texas since 2016; I jumped into the Brooklyn drag scene three months ago. I started with the lip sync competitions–the first at Janelle No. 5’s “Are You the Next Diva,” and then [“Drag Wars” at] Pieces and “Polish” at Playhouse in the city.
So you’re a post-Covid NYC queen! The scene has already changed so much here in those three months, I imagine.
Yes, nightlife has definitely picked up. There are so many shows, and I think people being trapped inside for so long has motivated a lot of queens to take this as their opportunity to really glow up. There’s so many queens up and coming in the scene right now.
I loved your Cabaret number for the Lady Liberty competition a few weeks ago… very sultry, but I was nervous when you stood up on the chair!
Those chairs are never the most stable; I was nervous too But Lady Liberty was so fun! I actually got a job there because of it; after performing and helping queens there after every week, I asked if they needed help… and I’ve been working the door the past three days!
Tell us about starting drag as a Texas queen!
I started drag at a bar ironically called Stonewall Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas, while I was going to school at Texas State University in San Marcos. My drag mother Chitah Daniels Kennedy was the former Entertainment Director there. She also lived in NYC a while ago ,and was a pretty successful queen here; her drag mother was Miss Sweetie, an iconic and legendary figure in the NYC drag community and a lip sync diva.
I started at my drag mother’s lip sync battle on Tuesday nights, where every week there was a different theme when you’d compete. Eventually she put me in her shows, and through time I became one of her daughters and attached the “Kennedy” name to mine. After I got comfortable I moved to Austin, TX and competed and performed at Rain on 4th and OCH–two really popular gay clubs that were home to a lot of talented queens in the pageant community, and a huge alternative drag community.
I was always obsessed with fashion, and drag was my muse to express that. I didn’t know for the longest time that my drag mother’s roots where from NYC until a little later. She always had this very chic and glamorous aura to her–it wasn’t ever what she was wearing, but how she wore it. She is a fashion icon herself; a model socialite superstar slut is what she’d say!
You’re also a model! Do you mostly do runways, or editorials?
I haven’t walked just yet for a runway show, but I’d love to. I’ve done a few editorials; I moved to NYC to purse modeling, and ended up working on drag more. Eventually I’m sure both paths will fuse together. When I first visited NYC, one of my favorite queens was West Dakota, whose is really a great example of the direction I’d love to take my drag and enter the modeling world.
I’m slowly becoming known for my walk in drag; I’m always strutting and giving them drag runway wherever I’m at performing, or off-stage. It’s part of the character that Morocco loves to portray. She’s a 90s supermodel at heart.
Tell us more about Morocco—who are her other inspirations, and how might you describe her persona?
I choose the name “Morocco” because it sounded very strong, very powerful. I love that it also sounded androgynous; most names you hear are very feminine or girl names, and I wanted something that phonetically stood out. Also, all the greatest supermodels were known by their first names: Naomi, Linda, Yasmeen, Katie, Nadage. I liked that although my full drag name is Morocco Marrakech Kennedy, I’d be the only queen in all of NYC with that one first name.
Morocco’s drag inspirations include my biological grandmother, who was a Moroccan Jew and also a model in her day when she was very young. She was also very free-spirited, and fun even up until now. She use to be a Cher impersonator at the Hard Rock Cafe, so definitely performance runs in the family.
My character and persona for Morocco, I definitely borrow from Fran Drescher’s character Fran Fine from The Nanny. She’s naturally hilarious, always helping people, super stylish, always looks skinny… and sometimes is slightly annoying, haha!
And what about your stage numbers?
A lot of the numbers I do are heartbreak songs. Morocco is a romantic. She’s nostalgic, and I grew up around a lot of 80s pop and rock music; I love Blondie and Pat Benatar and Joan Jett, but I also do a lot of contemporary music as well. It’s a mix between the two, depending on the performance space or theme or venue.
You actually did a “Sad Girlie” revue at Mad Tropical recently, which I hear went well!
OMG, yes! It went amazing; we had a huge turn out! People were really surprised by the show. “Sad Girlies” is where we take video or film and we incorporate it into our performances; whether it’s an ASMR visual piece or a combination of lighting and colors, it’s meant entertain people in a way you don’t normally see at drag shows. Very Sasha Velour-inspired. The performances range from very light, fun, sad songs to performances that actually made people cry because queens are sharing their stories and vulnerabilities. It went so well, it will be a re-occurring show every month! Next month (September 8th) is “Sad Girlies: The R&B Edition!”
You’ve also been doing shows in an eatery that’s become a recent drag hub, Palomas BK.
Right now I host a recurring show there, where we do different themes every month. the first was “Fuego,” a Latin inspired night; the second was “Disco Inferno.” And this month, on Friday the 20th, we’re celebrating Madonna’s birthday where every queen is doing a different time stamp on Madonna’s discography.
“Gender Fuck” is August 27th… and yes, there is a very sickening lineup. It’s less of a drag show and more of a queer variety show–there’s a drag king, performers dancing and singing live, and slam poetry. The whole purpose of the show is to showcase the talent outside of the traditional drag platform. We’re exploring the theme of gender and it’s impact on the community, as well as the other alternative forms of queer entertainment. It’s here to support our POC, gender non-binary or non-conforming and trans communities.
Every performer is affected by the labels associated with gender, and are outsiders. The Lower East Side use to be a hub for that kind of drag, and I wanted to bring it back in a very Boy George, punk fuckery kind of way.
What else is coming up for you?
I’m supporting X-Emma for her “Are You the Ultimate Diva” [finalist package]; she’s became a real sister and partner in entering this scene. I’m also doing [open stage] shows at Metropolitan with Maddelynn Hatter for “Madd Mondays” every Monday–another show people need to come out for, because it really is so diverse and a good time!
Between hosting my own shows and performing at lip syncs and open stages, I’m really working my ass off. I’d just like to encourage everyone, even if it’s just one show, to come support. Every show [I’m doing] is supporting a diverse cast. So stay tuned, follow my Instagram page for updates and support local queer entertainment and the drag community by coming to one of those shows! Brooklyn queens turn it out.
Oh, lest we forget… you’re doing a number for Bushwig in September! That’s major!
With everything that’s going on, my mind has been operating only three weeks out… but yes, the last of shows for me so far is Bushwig, which I’m very grateful to be selected to do! I was surprised because I just only recently entered the Brooklyn drag scene, and Bushwig has been the epicenter of the Brooklyn drag scene for 10 years! [Showrunner and creator] Horrorchata is one of the mothers of Brooklyn drag I just met recently, who is also from Texas–San Antonio, not far from where I started drag! So I’m really, really excited, and have a very special performance planned for that!
Speaking of Texas, let’s close with a reflection on this lunatic governor there, Greg Abbott, who is doing everything he can to get his state to go maskless. And now he has Covid, too! Like, what’s up with that guy?
I’ll never understand Texas politics, but with the new census out demographics are changing; in ten years, things will be very different in Texas. He’s feeding into his own ideology, in what he thinks will get him reelected. But yes, my friends still in Texas think he’s just as a nut, too. Lord help us all. Haha!
With a drag persona born out of a work of fiction, the artist known as Julie is now a fully realized, and fully fierce, performer in her own right.
Thotyssey: Hello, Julie! First off… congrats on your Lady Liberty win last night! You had some fierce competitors including fellow finalist Marcia Marcia Marcia whom you battled in a final lip sync. But you triumphed in the end thanks to a stellar performance!
Julie J: Oh my gosh! What a wild ride. It’s honestly a blur of a memory, just because of how efficient of a production everything was. But I had a stunning time. I always try and give 110% when I’m performing, and after the final lip sync I felt like I gave 120%… so I felt really proud of myself. [Competition host] Brita Filter has been such an inspiration, and getting that stamp of approval from her and the judges meant the world.
And sharing that stage with Marcia Marcia Marcia was a treat. She’s such a stunning and talented queen. I saw her backstage and thought, “Well damn, I guess I gotta be the funny one!” Lol!
How long have you been a queen?
My drag journey has been about two years now. Julie really was born in the experimental theater world, when I was writing fictional shows. And finally right before the pandemic hit, I decided it was time to really commit to drag and craft who I wanted to be as a performer. The world is seeing Julie J at her strongest right now, and I hope it’s only up from here. But in short, I would say this iteration of Julie J is about a year old!
So she was originally conceived as a fictional theatrical character? That’s interesting!
Yeah! And she had a different name, too: Frisky Jones. She was a character in a show called Eyeshadow I was developing. And after that show, I realized the power that I had in drag was unlike anything else in my life… and that it was time to step into that power.
So where are you from originally? And were writing and performing always parts of what you were doing?
I’m originally from Ft. Worth, TX! I moved to NYC in 2014 for school, and have been here since. And yes, I’ve been a performer for as long as I’ve been alive. I’m safest under those stage lights. And writing is something that’s come to me in the past five years, and it’s really gotten me through a lot.
Do you write mostly for the stage?
It depends. I’ve written essays, non-fiction material, and some plays. I don’t like to limit myself too much. Whatever comes to mind will fill the Notes app.
So when you decided you needed to be Julie, where were the first places you performed?
Back in May I did Janelle No. 5’s “Are You The Next Diva?” competition at Aura Cocina, and I really attribute the recent rise to that show. I didn’t win, tragically (kidding), but Janelle kept in touch and booked me for her brunches and a show at The Rosemont, and I made so many connections. The drag scene seems large at first, but it takes one gig to connect you to everything. And once you’re in it, baby, you’re deep in it.
For your core performance number at Lady Liberty, you served the children a slow burn ballad with a dramatic but not over-the-top presentation! Is that indicative of what you normally do as Julie?
You know it’s funny, because I kind of wanted to trick people. In the past couple of months I’ve been doing a lot more dance heavy numbers, but I never sacrifice the story. Just like drag is an art form, so is music… so you’ve got to find the wave to ride. Whether it’s a ballad or a dance-pop song… you can’t let the audience get ahead of you. I’m gonna give you story and drama, whether I’m standing still or busting a move across the room. She’s versatile, baby.
I knew it was going to be a risk, but I also knew that if I could command that audience with a ballad that I would blow them away with [the final lip syc battle number[ “Break Free,” and I hope I did!
You’re fashion is also really interesting: broad-shouldered strength meets vivid, feminine style! What are your fashion inspirations?
Thank you! I take inspiration from so many places. Grace Jones is probably my biggest style inspo. I certainly appreciate traditional silhouettes and trends, but I always try to think of ways to push the style game of things: a tip of a hat, mixing patterns, non-traditional shapes in garments, etc.
I’m not a seamstress, and I don’t claim to be! However… your girl can style the hell out of an outfit from the things I find. And I think that’s a good skill to have, particularly because I’m still in the early days of my career. I don’t have the coinage for custom, but I do have the brains and reference points to make something cheap look expensive!
You also seem to be either bald or short-wigged in most of your looks… was it always meant to be that way, or was that a happy accident?
I would say happy accident. I don’t particularly care for wigs. And it’s funny because when I started practicing makeup years ago, I was like, I look pretty good without one… so I just committed to it. And I think it makes me so unique. I told myself that when I can afford very nice wigs, you’ll see me rocking one. But until then, the bald beauty (trademark pending) is here to stay.
I just met Jessica at ‘Read My Lips,” which is put on by Nicky Ottav (another queen who has given me so many opportunities).And I haven’t met Virginia yet but I saw her at Pieces a couple months ago. They are both so fierce. It’s gonna be a sickening show, I’m sure.
Speaking of Pieces Bar…
I think I can say this since it just got confirmed today, but I’ll be at Brita and Ruby Roo’s show at Pieces next Friday, which I’m so excited for.
And then the very next day (August 21) is the second installment of your monthly show “Sylvester” at Purgatory in Brooklyn, with your co-hosts Voxigma Lo and Paris Hiltonals!Will you all be serving 1970’s glam?
Fun fact: the first time I performed my Lady Liberty talent show was at “Sylvester!” I’d like to think of “Sylvester” as the place where Black excellence goes to thrive. We encourage bold and intentional choices… just like the ones Sylvester made in her lifetime. If there’s intention, then baby, the magic will be there… no matter the decade! It’s a space for Black queer, trans and non-binary drag to shine without limit!
Next, on Tuesday August 24th you’ll be at C’mon Everybody for prior mentioned Nicky Ottav’s “Discography,” a Mariah Carey tribute, with some amazing castmates! Did you know right away which Mariah number you wanted to do?
Oh yes! I’m so excited for that show. It’s going to be such a fun night. I knew I wanted a seasonal favorite which folks will have to show up to see. And then for the second number, I wanted something to tap into the street side of Julie that rarely gets to come out… so you’ll get a good range!
There’s the Lady Liberty semifinals coming up, too… any spoilers for us there?
I wish I had a spoiler to give you girl, lol! I’m not too sure what I’ll be pulling out, but you can always trust that I’ll go against the grain and look stunning doing it. There’s some heavy hitters in the semi-finals including some good sisters, but I’m gonna give it my all. Winning isn’t everything–I’ve been a loser many times. But I’ll always try to be the nicest and most authentic bitch in the cut.
And down the road… do I see that you’re gonna do a number for Bushwig in September!? Whoah!
Yes! Bushwig–a dream come true. I still get goosebumps from seeing my name on the lineup. It’s so surreal. It really was a sign for me that drag is what I’m meant to be doing right now. To have the producers of the show see something in me, and all of these amazing queens, means the world. I’ve been thinking about what I might pull out… but I also don’t want to overthink it. I’m all about authenticity, and I know that that will shine through no matter what.
Lots of great stuff to look forward to! Anything else to mention?
Not that I can think of, love. I’ll say that, I think there is a real renaissance of drag happening here in New York City. People are excited to see drag; they want to support it, and the girls are ready to step up to the plate. Drag has kept me sane throughout most of my life, and knowing that it brings joy / happiness / love to even one person fills my heart. We lead with love in the face of fear, here in the house of J.
An exciting new recording artist and live performer emerging from Brooklyn nightlife, Mel Incarnate is keeping a brand of excitement and edgy excellence in the family.
Thotyssey: Hello Mel! Thanks for chatting with us on this grossly hot day! How are you not melting today?
Mel Incarnate: I just went to get an iced coffee in a bikini, so I am keeping cool by wearing as few clothes as possible! I love New York for that.
She’s always looking out, lol! You’ve been super busy lately, hosting and guest starring in shows, promoting music. Is it fun to be busy, after all that lockdown boredom?
Oh my God, hell yes; I’m super grateful for being busy right now. I’m a triple Capricorn, so that’s kind of my tea. There is a lot of stress behind the scenes of producing, writing and promoting your own art… but it’s been really fulfilling. I’m also in the earlier stages of transitioning, so that also comes with its ups and downs. But I want to be even busier.
Bring on the tasks, lol! Well, we’re grateful to have this moment with you!
So, where are you from originally, and what were your interests while growing up in regards to music, fashion, performance, etc?
I’m originally from Birmingham Alabama. So, a lot of my early influences with music were Christian and country music, as my parents were southern Christians. Being the faggot that I am, I sniffed out the girliest pop I could possibly find on LimeWire: Britney Spears, Kesha, anything slutty and fun. Obviously growing up closeted, I wasn’t dressing how I felt… but I was always obsessed with Playboy bunny looks–like the bunnies from the VH1 show The Girls Next Door. Tits, hair, lashes… the whole thing. Obviously this was all in secret, since my family was not supportive. So now in my mid-20s, that’s where I tend to go to for inspiration.
When did you come to NYC, and how did you find yourself mixing it up with the nightlife dolls here?
I came to New York in 2015, and I was really intimidated by nightlife–I spent the first four years being drunk and sloppy. After I got sober and started to transition, I gained more confidence. With the help of my sister Charlene I’ve been able to meet a ton of people, and it’s been really amazing to meet all of these girls I looked up to for years and be able to perform with them. It’s really fucking trippy, actually… I did a show with my sister and Rify Royalty, and if you had told me a year ago that was gonna happen I would not of believed you.
So is Charlene Incarnate more of a sister than a Mom?
Well, she is my biological sister. And because of the history that we have together, I think we best support each other as sisters and peers. I have to be my own mother.
OMG, I had no idea you were actual siblings! You two grew up together?
Yes! Blood sisters. Lol, could you not tell? Our faces are so similar. I love when people have no idea, that is so funny!
I can certainly see it now! So you two were coming to terms with your identity at the same time. Was that a co-support system for you two, in a household where you couldn’t otherwise be fully open?
Honestly, the environment we grew up in catered to nothing but fear. We were raised in a pressure cooker of homophobia, so we really did not get along until we found ourselves separately.
Did you just recently begin recording music?
I am a Covid Tranny, and a Covid Artist. I found myself in the pandemic, and I found a way to express myself through immense isolation. I began writing around November 2020, and since then have written and recorded seven songs… so it’s a fairly new moment.
When you perform live, are you generally doing these songs?
So far, I’ve just been singing my original music live. It feels kind of strange in a lineup of drag queens, and a little repetitive–but I live for my music, so it’s been fun regardless of my insecurities.
I’m really enjoying your latest single “About Fashion,” which is a little bit about style but largely about all the beautiful flaws and traits that make us unique! How did that song come to you?
I was on my way to a photoshoot, and the photographer asked me “who are you wearing for the shoot?” And it really pissed me off, because I hate that tone of the fashion industry. And I didn’t have the money to buy a cute look, because I just spent money on getting filler in my face. So I told him that I just spent a bunch of money on filler, so “my body is my fashion.”
And I was so heated from it, I wrote a full song. I expanded on that idea, and was like, actually, everything that I’m ashamed of is my fashion. I was realizing that I’m just gonna have to own everything about myself, and be my own cheerleader. In the song I say “oh my God, fashion,” and that’s literally me mocking.
Aaaaak, love it! Macy Rodman is another trans recording artist from Brooklyn nightlife who is currently releasing new music. Macy’s podcast co-host Theda Hammel, who also makes music, once told us that trans music is basically a genre in itself (see also the late, great Sophie). Do you think that’s accurate?
I kinda agree. Of course I have dreams of being a literal “popstar,” but I think myself and other trans artists have a vaster knowledge of music, entertainment, and lyricism. It’s the perspective that makes it different. On the other hand, you have people like Kim Petras working with Dr. Luke who is pumping out incredible pop. But with artists like Macy and I, I feel like we’re really able to put our own fingerprints on the work.
This is a really interesting time for queer indie music! In fact, on August 20th at C’mon Everybody, you will have what looks like a music release party!
Yes, gawd! It’s not as much of a release as it is just a listening party and celebration. I have my friend Medusa coming to open; they are also trans and indie, and really cool. I’m going to give the girls all of the songs that I have been working on and recorded, and will be releasing in the coming months. It’s basically a “what to expect party.” You will see tons of gyrating, and tons of titties… and really good dance music.
And I see that you’ll be doing a Bushwig number in September; that’s going to be everything!
I’m so fucking excited to be in Bushwig this year! It’s always been the secret fantasy of mine, and to see my name on the lineup is fucking crazy.
Anything else coming up?
I have a music video coming out around Bushwig, I have a single coming out mid-September and another in early October… and then I’m dropping my EP around Halloween.
We look forward to it all! So, lastly: because your story is so inspiring, what advice or words of comfort could you give to all the queer kids out there who are stuck in homes where they’re told that they cannot be who they really are?
Listen to that part of yourself that wants to break free, and wants to get out. Let that carry you into a new life… whenever that opportunity comes. You will know.