Harmonica Sunbeam is a celebrated and renowned queen, looked up to and idolized within the New York drag community. Known for her comedy, hosting abilities and stage presence, I was fortunate to run into her and have a spirited conversation. I found her to be a genuinely kind, giving and caring person as well as a magical queen.
How long have you been doing drag?
You don’t even look old enough to have been performing for 25 years. How did you start?
When I came out as a gay man, I was in my late teens and had just graduated high school. I got involved with the ball scene and was a member of the House of Adonis. The first time I ever got into drag was at Paris Dupree’s ball at Tracks on West 19th St. The category was Butch Queen First Time in Drag. I didn’t know what I was going to look like, but my house members put me together…and I won!
Now you’re one of the most prominent queens around the NYC area. How do you think that happened?
It happened overnight, yes, overnight. No, it happened by being dedicated, getting yourself out there, getting your name out there and just being true to your art.
When you’re a boy, just like you are now, I might add, what do you do?
I work at Hyacinth AIDS Foundation in New Jersey, and I’m a community outreach specialist.
I like you even more now. So you’re a Jersey queen, aren’t you?
Tell me your most funny or embarrassing moment in life.
Oh, in life, wow. Well, once I got my wig pulled off by a drunk customer, and what made it so embarrassing for me was when I first started I was very shy. I didn’t want people to know me as a boy, and so when this happened I felt like the mask was revealed. I felt so hurt and so mad at the same time, and the show had to go on, but security took care of her.
What do you like best about being a queen?
I like entertaining. I like making people smile. I like having people come to the show and forget their daily problems or whatever else they’re going through: just relax and enjoy themselves.
How did you acquire your name?
I can’t quite remember, but I’ll tell you this, my original name in high school, my friends – we all had drag names, but we didn’t do any drag. My original name was Macadamia Serendipity, and that’s because I like macadamia nuts. I was thinking that would be too long to put on a flyer, so I changed it to Tequila Sunrise. But the transition from Tequila Sunrise to Harmonica Sunbeam is all a blur now.
Where do you do drag?
On Monday nights I host a RPDR viewing party at Havana Lounge and Cafe in Hoboken, NJ. You can also catch me the second and third Wednesday of every month at Suite Bar on 109th and Amsterdam. I also take on other gigs that come my way (hint, hint).
If you could pick two celebrities to be your parents, who would you pick?
Carol Burnett and Will Smith.
Because they’re both funny, and they’re great entertainers.
So you’re a new addition to a crayon box. What color are you?
I am fluorescent white.
That’s a great color. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would you pick?
I would have dinner with Oprah, because I know that we’d eat good and she would pay for it.
Who do you think to be one of the most influential celebrities?
Let’s see, I’m trying to think of someone that’s an honorable entertainer and has an honorable role outside of that. OK, we’re back to Oprah then. She didn’t have an easy life, but with perseverance, hard work and motivation she changed all of that, and now she spends a majority of her time and money helping others.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I’d like to say that these 25 years have been a wonderful blessing doing something that I never thought would get me this far.
Where can people find you if they need you?
You can find me on Facebook at Harmonica Sunbeam, and you can also find me on Instagram at hsunbeam.
Photo Credit: Lorenzo Mollicone