When the flawlessly glamorous China walks into a room, history is instantly made. This iconic queen holds more titles, awards and honors than can be counted, and there is no one on the scene, in New York, Fort Lauderdale, Fire Island or even internationally, quite like her.
China has appeared in several movies and on “Sex in the City.” Some of her titles include Mrs. Fire Island, Miss Cherry’s, Mrs. Cherry’s, Miss Ice Palace, Homecoming Queen, Miss Fire Island Judges Award, Miss Popular, Miss Fire Island Sponsors Award, Miss Bunkhouse, Miss Camp, Life Time Achievement, and I can keep writing. Now, Get Out! Magazine’s Legendary Diva Award will soon be added to her collection!
It has been an honor to consider China one of my closest friends for at least the past 20 years.
China, what made you begin to do drag?
I was working at Cherry’s, and I used to do “boy drag.” I had a mustache and sort of longish hair, and in those days Cherry’s used to have a theme every week. Every Saturday night I would go along with the theme. I would get into some kind of costume, but of course I would never shave my mustache. I would glitter it. Then they came up with the Miss Cherry’s contest, which I decided I was going to enter. I was living in the Pines in those days. I used to go back and forth. So I entered the Miss Cherry’s contest, but there was another queen, Madam Stephanie, and she won. The following summer I entered again, and I won. That’s when full drag blew out.
Did you ever have a drag mother?
No. I had Gary. He did everything for me: hair, makeup, clothes, everything. So I entered all the contests, went to all the parties that we had, and I became full fledged. That was in the 70s and 80s. They used to have big parties then. I did Cruella de Vil, Sunset Boulevard, and I kept getting all these trophies. Every week there was something going on, and I participated in everything. Then I joined The Imperial Court of New York. I became involved in Night of a Thousand Gowns, and I did The Bartender’s Ball for so many years. It just went on and on and on.
How many titles do you think you won?
I have a whole list of them written down.
What was it like to appear on “Sex in the City”?
That was a lot of fun. Then I did the movie with Olivia Dukakis. It was called “The Event.” People found me and asked me to do it, so I did it. They were experiences, and they were a lot of fun. Then for years I was with Stonewall and the Pride Parade, up until four years ago. Now I’m with TD Bank, and they are wonderful. They are expecting me again this year. I’ve been around. I’ve done all the Invasions. The summer I was “Homecoming Queen,” I led the Invasion. I enjoyed that.
What do you like best about drag?
The glamour. I love the glamour. I love being China.
Do you feel that Bob has a different personality than China? Many queens feel like they lead double lives, one as a boy and one in drag.
No. I don’t feel any different when I’m Bob. China is just more flamboyant. My personality is very much like Bob, except nobody ever sees Bob. People still don’t know the difference between the two! I’m just more outgoing as China. Bob doesn’t do all the things that China does: the parties, all the events.