By Michael Cook
Nicky Doll Talks the Downtown Scene of New York City and How New York and France Drag Scenes Differ (Hint: It’s Tipping!)
Direct from France, Nicky Doll is bringing a dose of Parisian flair to “RuPaul’s Drag Race” this season. As this NYC downtown dynamo takes her place next to her fellow New York ladies, I caught up with her to talk about the differences between New York City and French drag, and what its like being thrust into the American spotlight so quickly!
What is it like looking around and seeing your life changing so quickly, courtesy of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”?
Well, you know, I come from a little country in Europe, so all of this has been definitely a lot to handle, but it is such an honor and so exciting to be a part of this cast; it is such a talented one. All in all, I am very happy.
You are one of a number of New York City girls on this cast. What is it like to be on the show and taking the ride with so many of your East Coast sisters?
You know, it’s funny, because as much as I represent New York City, I am not well known by all of the girls. Two or three had known about me as a downtown queen. I am part of the downtown scene, performing for Suzanne Bartsch, Ladyfag, the club scene, while they are part of the bar scene. I am so glad, though, to be part of the New York crew. To me, the most talented drag queens are from New York. They know how to sing, do comedy, sew, dance and host any event for four hours straight. I have lived in California and traveled around the United States, and I have never seen girls anywhere doing it the same as New York girls. I admire them and am so happy to be part of their sisterhood.
You are originally a queen from France, spending most of your adulthood in Paris. How does Parisian drag differ from New York City downtown drag.
The difference between the drag scene in France and the drag scene in the United States is that the whole lip-sync culture arrived through RuPaul’s Drag Race. We don’t have a euro dollar bill; we only have a one euro coin, [so] the whole concept of tipping is not something that we do in France. The club usually pays you up front, then you go and perform. We are mostly booked as visual performers; you arrive at 1:30 am, you arrive on stage, and we all have a theme to follow. That is why I have been trained since the beginning to be a “look queen.” You have to interpret the theme into your outfits, and then you do some glamorous go-go drag on stage with fellow drag performers and go-go dancers. The art form that you present on stage is different in Europe than you do in the United States. Through the show and the culture, though, it is changing. At small bars, you are starting to see the lip-sync culture, and you pay up front and then they give you fake money, and you can tip the queens, and they collect the money at the end. The Europeans are trying to find a solution to the tipping. [laughs]
Who are some of your favorite New York City downtown queens?
Downtown has some of the most iconic queens ever. Aquaria used to do the same gigs as me, actually. She is the best example who was in that downtown scene and really succeeded after.
Jan: The “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 12 Ingenue Talks New York City Moments and Why We Definitely Will Be Hearing More Music From Stephanie’s Child
Jan is one of the most prominent ingenues in the world of New York City drag. Whether she is performing with her band Stephanie’s Child (with fellow NYC dolls Rose’ and Lagoona Bloo) or hosting at bars all over town, this queen was dripping in stardust from the moment she took the stage. As she hits her biggest stage yet as a cast member of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” I caught up with Jan to talk about rising in the drag ranks in New York City and what it was like getting the life-changing call that she had been cast this season.
Has it started to set in that you are part of the cast of the next season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”?
I can’t. It is finally starting to hit and feel like it’s actually real. It is really incredible, and I am so excited.
What was it like when you got the call that you were part of the cast?
Well, I was in a lovely area of New York City called “Midtown,” and I was coming out of Penn Station, right outside of a McDonald’s–sooo New York [laughs]. I mean, what a New York moment! I screamed, I freaked out, I could not believe it. The initial call was on April 1, so it was almost like I was being pranked; you can’t believe it’s happening. My mind immediately went into preparation mode, and it was like, “Let’s get ready to do this,” getting ready physically and mentally and to just do my best.
Did you get any advice from your drag mother, Alexis Michelle?
I did. She told me to just be myself and to remember that I am good enough and that I have everything it takes to be a great contender and a winner on this show. She offered so much help, and anything that I needed she was there, any questions at any time of the day she was there to be the great mother that she is.
You were doing so well career-wise prior to the show, from your one-woman show to your band, Stephanie’s Child. Is there a part of you that is hesitant to stop the momentum?
You know, with Stephanie’s Child and with me individually, it was a very quick ascension. New York City is the greatest city in the world when it comes to drag, and to be able rise up and to work at all of the major bars, six nights a week is incredible. My mind has always been laser-focused about getting to the top, and that is the same with [Stephanie’s Child members] Lagoona Bloo and Rose’. We all just want to be the very best. Although this is my time right now, I am taking them along for the ride. I always say that with them, it’s not a matter of if they’ll be on [“RuPaul’s Drag Race”], it’s a matter of when. We are going to continue to focus on the music and put that at the forefront of the drag and of the content that I put out and of what we put out as a group. I am excited for the platform, excited to keep on rising and making my dreams come true.
There are so many girls who have come from the New York City scene that have made it to “Drag Race.” What former “Drag Race” girl has come from New York City and has taught you the most?
You know, Miz Cracker was a queen that I really gravitated to when I moved to the city. I like to consider her a mentor to me. She taught me so many things about drag: sewing, hair, mixes, hosting, and she would give me advice. She would say, “Try to do this this time,” and she would encourage me. She saw something in me from the beginning when I was doing Kris Jenner. I went to her show when I was commuting from New Jersey, during my first year of my career, every single Sunday. I would go just to watch her and to learn. When she ended up going on “Drag Race,” I ended up taking that show over. I think that she has taught me so much, and is a very giving and humble person.
Brita Filter: On Being Part of the New Cast of ‘Drag Race,’ Supporting Women and Making It in New York City Drag
You can’t know the NYC drag scene and not know the force of nature that is Brita Filter. Brita is known for being one of the leading talents on the New York scene right now, and her hard work has paid off, as she’s part of the cast of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”! I caught up with Brita as she and her fellow New York City sisters prepared for their close ups, and we talked about New York City talent and she shared the secret to New York City drag success!
So, it’s official: You are on Season 12 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”!
It is wild. I still don’t believe it.
What does it feel like right now?
It feels incredible! It feels like all my dreams are coming true. It has been a secret for so long, and now that I can actually tell people, it’s finally feeling real. It actually started feeling real recently when I was having a conversation with RuPaul at the “Saturday Night Live” after-party. I am really just sitting here having a good old kiki with Mother Ru, and she’s complimenting my look; it’s just wild. It was incredible. When we are filming, we really don’t have any alone time with Ru, so we really don’t have any conversation; they want to make sure that everything is saved for television. It was just nice to talk to her as a human being and just get to have that conversation. It was such a beautiful night.
You are on this season with so many of your New York sisters, who are all so talented. What is it like taking the ride with so many of your hometown sisters?
It’s the best of the best, honestly. All of these girls I respect, and their drag is all so different, we all do different things. It is so nice to have family here. We have all grown up together in the scene. It was so nice to be there and have people that we could really lean on and people that we can cuss out when they’re being a bitch, because they’re our sisters.
You recently were the toast of the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. What was that experience like?
I am a spokesperson for not just our community, but for women, and that is why I dress up like a woman! It was really important for me to be there. I think that especially with the fame and the popularity that we all are going to have, it’s important to use that fame and that popularity for good, and that has been my stance since I started drag. It is important to me to go stick up for people, and I can now be the spokesperson for so many people who don’t have a voice or are afraid to have a voice. Being there meant the absolute most. I was honored with an award by the Women’s March, also. It was an absolutely beautiful weekend.
You are on the show with such a diverse cast, but you are known in New York City as one of the girls who has really made it happen for herself. What do you think it takes for a true New York girl to make it in the drag scene in New York City?
You just have to keep on working. You have to have new ideas and not compare yourself to anyone else. Keep challenging yourself. It’s truly how I made my own name. I never compared myself to anyone else, I just always tried to outdo myself the next time, to make sure that I was always on my toes. Honestly, people get so stuck in their heads and always comparing themselves, even with the Glam Awards. I always say, the only way you will win is to challenge yourself the next time better than the last, then, sis, you got it!
Sherry Pie: This Bawdy Broadway Broad Talks Joining the Cast of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and What New York City Alum She Thinks Is a Complete ‘Boss’!
With a Broadway sensibility and razor-sharp wit, Sherry Pie has fast become one of the names in New York City drag. As she joins the cast of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 12, she is taking her serious work ethic and extensive theater background and putting it to the test. I caught up with her to chat about the process she followed in auditioning, as well as why she feels that there is absolutely no where else like New York City for drag.
How exciting is it to be part of the cast of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 12?
I am so excited! I am so excited. You cannot see me, but I am running around right now. [laughs]
What is it like right at this very moment as your entire life is completely changing?
It is absolute Looney Tunes, and I really love it. I don’t know what is going on; every day I don’t know where I am, or what I am doing, or who I am. But honey, she throws on the wig and says, “Am I in the right place?”
You have a very distinct performance style, and it’s very theater focused. Do you think that it was helpful in doing your audition tape?
Yes and no. I think that because my background is so theatrical, when I was auditioning, I was definitely looking at everything with that eye. This year, when I auditioned, I went guns-a-blazin’. I said to myself that I was not going to critique myself, and I was just going to do what I do, and hopefully they’ll like it!
So many New York City girls are on this season with you. What is it like to be taking this magical ride with so many other girls who are part of the fabric of New York City drag?
I had no idea who the other girls were that were on the show obviously, but when we all saw each other, it was so crazy. We all knew each other, even though we haven’t all worked together. Honestly, this batch of New York girls is so great, because each one of us does something so different but so “New York.” That just adds to why I think New York City is one of the best places to see drag. Anything you want, any kind of drag you need! If you’re not good at your job in New York, you don’t have a job; they are the best of the best.
You were one of the girls who was making a huge name for herself in New York city before “Drag Race” called. What do you think of girls who enter the business of drag with the intention to just get onto “RuPaul’s Drag Race”?
I think you have to do it for whatever reason it is that you want to do it. I don’t think you should do it just to get onto a television show, because there is no way you can prepare. It’s not just a television show; “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is the Colosseum of drag. They are looking for the gladiators of drag queens. You have to be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone to go into that competition.
So many girls have come out of New York City and become smashing successes all over the world. What New York City queen/“Drag Race” alumni do you see now and would love to pattern your career after?
Bianca Del Rio all day. Bianca is a boss-ass bitch. The fact that a drag queen can play Carnegie Hall and sell it out is gaggy. I wanna be at Carnegie Hall, but I’ll probably just end up being an usher. [laughs]
Jackie Cox Talks Her Cultural Awakening and Being a Part of This Season of the ‘Drag Race’ New York City Sisterhood
Jackie Cox knows her way around the New York City stages and is ready to take her unique performing style and Broadway sensibilities to the stage of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” this year. I sat down to chat with Jackie about how she’s melding her cultural background with her current performance style (and why that is so important) and what New York City “Drag Race” dynamo has been one of her biggest inspirations.
So tell me, Jackie, what does it feel like right now as your life is changing right before your eyes as “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 12 is about to premiere?
I feel like a breath of relief that it is finally not a secret–that’s the biggest thing. I feel very honored to also be a part of this group of New York City girls. It’s a really cool group; we all love each other and hate each other at the same time in the best way. [laughs] We are all just doing ourselves. It really doesn’t even feel like competition. It feels like five amazing different queens ready to have some fun and hopefully make New York City proud.
You have an extensive performing background and a true Broadway sensibility. Do you think that it was helpful to you in competing?
Well, you know, of course everything in your life is helpful. Those that think that past experiences are a waste of time probably didn’t learn the lesson that they needed to from those past experiences. I think that everything that has happened in my life has led me to this moment, which has been very thrilling to see come to life. If you had asked me three or four years ago, I probably would have said something like, “Probably one day, never,” but this year it happened, and I said, “Why not, let’s go for it.” It was my first time auditioning also. I think this felt like the right moment for me. All of the theater stuff, those expensive college classes, hopefully now they have paid off a little bit.
Your culture is extremely important to you. What is important that you made sure is something you highlighted as a queen?
Definitely, and especially right now. There was a long time when I did not embrace my cultural heritage. I remember that 9/11 happened when I was in high school at that time. Being a Middle Eastern person was something different. I was living in Orange County at the time, and they actually put away the Aladdin and Jasmine characters at Disneyland. People were scared of what Middle Eastern people were and are, and I thought that was something that I could never really embrace. What I saw with the election of Trump was that happening again, but in an even scarier way, in a way where people from Muslim-majority countries all over the world are suddenly not allowed to be in America at all.
Have his policies affected you personally?
My family members not being allowed into this country was crazy to me. My aunt, who just visited here in 2015, was suddenly not allowed to come visit my mom and me anymore, her sister. I really thought that this was not a moment to hide anymore. This is not a moment to pretend that you are not Middle Eastern, that this is not part of your life and that this isn’t affecting you. I have this platform, and I have these shows and this stage. I need to talk about it in my drag and make people see and have this visibility and not hide and not hide these characters away. I was thinking back to 2001 and thinking what that was like as a 16 year old. To be a 30-something who is brave enough to step into myself and not be afraid of it–hopefully there will be another 16 year old who sees this season and really that they don’t have to be afraid to. That was really important to me and a big part of why I auditioned. It would have meant so much for me to see an Iranian kid on television at that time, and hopefully I can do that for another kid with this show. I am just so excited.
What New York City “Drag Race” alumni do you see that have gone on to great success and you could pattern your own career in a similar way?
Well, obviously Bob the Drag Queen, hello! What is crazy about Bob is that she and I started drag around the same time, nine or 10 years ago. I remember right after she filmed her season and before it was released, she said to me, “Jackie, how long have you been doing drag?” I responded, “Maybe four to five years.” She said, “The same time as me, huh? When are you going to step it up and go to the next level?” I guess it took me another four years, but I listened to Bob. That is a career that would be the envy of any person in entertainment, much less drag queens. What passionate supporter of important causes and a damn good entertainer at the same time.