Between The Ritz, Pieces, Boots & Saddle and more, it’s hard not to run into New York drag icon Marti Gould Cummings. I sat down with the award-winning, unapologetic, laugh riot where she spilled the tea on what it’s like to be a boy in a dress. I think you’ll be surprised (or if you know Marti, maybe not) on all she has to say about NYC nightlife and so much more.
What led you to do drag in the first place?
I started doing drag after being cast in a musical off-Broadway that had me playing an androgynous cross-dresser, and from there I was hooked. The heels, the feathers, the spanks!
Tell me about the early days when you first started. How have things changed for you professionally, and how has the scene changed?
When I started working as a professional queen, there weren’t as many drag bars or drag queens. The last few years has seen an increase in both, which makes the demand and competition higher. I like the thrill, though; it keeps me on my toes.
What do you think the secret to your success has been?
Never taking no for an answer, and showing up on time, and doing the work. It is a lot of work to be a full-time queen, not just performing but promoting, writing new material, interacting with every costumer that comes through the door. I take my job very seriously and want to be sure every person in the venue leaves with a positive experience.
Do you have a favorite oufit you’ve worn over the years?
My feather dresses are my favorites.
What’s Marti like out of drag?
I am actually very shy!
What’s something the public would be surprised to know about you?
I have the worst stage fright.
Is there a favorite performance of yours over the years that sticks out?
Performing with Joanna Gleason and Alice Ripley at my show was pretty amazing, and then selling out Webster Hall with Daphne Rubin Vega, Kenyon Phillips and Cady Huffman was a dream come true!
What’s the craziest thing an audience member has done during one of your shows?
Twice I have had people come on stage and lick me, and that was just a big no-no.
You tow the line during your shows and are famous for pushing boundaries. Has anyone ever been genuinely offended?
If people are offended, they are in the wrong place. I am a man in a dress telling jokes.Deal with it!
How do you handle that?
Tell them to shut up and tip me and gain a sense of humor.
I remember when you used to run out into the street and throw water on yourself and stop traffic back when you hosted karaoke at Mix. Any chance we can bring that number back?
If there is a crosswalk within view of the venue, then I absolutely will!
How do you keep up with the cost of drag?
Have you seen my outfits? I don’t.
Are there some days that you ever just don’t want to perform? If so, how do you pull yourself out of it?
I think working full time can be exhausting, but whenever I get in a mood where I don’t want to perform, I remember how lucky I am to have this career, so I put on my heels and do the gig. I am very grateful to be working, and I would rather work than not. Drag is my life. I live, breathe, sweat, bleed it.
What’s the nastiest rumor you’ve ever heard about yourself?
It is none of my business what others think of me, so I don’t pay attention to that stuff.
Are there any newcomers to the scene that you can see blowing up in 2016?
I think Judy Darling and Miz Cracker are incredible talents that are really blowing up, and rightfully so.
What’s the shadiest thing another queen has done to you? You don’t have to name names.
Some bitches be trying to take my gigs, but no, no, I shut that shit down real quick.
What’s next for Marti Gould Cummings?
I am doing a rock concert at 54 Below on April 1!
What’s the most requested number you get from fans?
Cabaret and “Long As I Got King Jesus.”
You’ve always been very honest about your sobriety and recovery. Why was that important for you to share with your audience?
Because me being open and honest can help someone else get sober.
How did you deal with working in bars/clubs when trying to stay sober?
I am there to entertain people, not get fucked up.
What’s some of the best advice another queen has given you?
Bianca told me to never let them see you sweat, own the stage.
What’s some advice you could give people just starting out?
Be true to your drag. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. Be you. Be the authentic you, and the audience will go on your journey with you.