We’ve all heard the phrase “if you make it in NYC, you can make it anywhere,” and it’s true. It’s why I’m always eager and excited to interview NYC artists making a name for themselves.
When I was creating my 2020 interview list, the first person who came to mind is one of the hottest drag queens here in NYC, Zeta Jones. I met Zeta once briefly some time ago and her welcoming demeanor stuck with me over the year.
Zeta is one performer who continues to work, and that’s an accomplishment in itself. It’s also the reason I wanted to interview her.
I wanted to learn more about this talented creature, dish about the business of drag, NYC nightlife, what it takes to work in NYC, and briefly hear her thoughts on the Drag Race phenomenon. This feature is about Zeta-Jones the artist and the person behind it all.
When was the first moment you thought you wanted to do drag? And at one point did you decided you wanted to pursue drag professionally?
My first recollection was Rocky Horror Picture Show and Rupaul. I remember being so drawn to the freedom these people flashing across the screen had and didn’t know that one day I would give myself the freedom of living outside of gender and construct. A friend recently reminded me, in high school, I gave myself a glimmer of the glitter when I played Angel from the musical, “Rent,” and won an award from the national thespian society competition. It wasn’t until I was an adult when a friend, also a prominent queen, pretty much gave me the challenge of, “I Bet You Can’t,” and everyone knows I love a challenge. I entered Drag Wars Competition, won for something outrageous like 10 weeks in a row, and then it all started.
If you were to describe who you are as a performer in the simplest sense, what would you say?
As a Performer, I am like a Boxer Going Into the Ring, many skills that are seamless excellence. Plus mama knows how to make you laugh then turn it around into a HELL A GOOD Song and 5, 6, 7, 8 that can kick any fly girl out of her boots!
Is there a difference between you and your drag persona?
Not really, I will say I am now just as confident. I feel like many people pour qualities they want in themselves into their, “persona.” I like relatable realness. I got there from practicing a spiritual routine in my day to day life. I found out that Dorthy Has Had The Power All Along! All you have to do is decide then click your 6-inch Platform Pumps Together.
What’s something about Zeta-Jones that might surprise others to learn?
Being a person who lives life in between both genders I feel it’s important to not just highlight drag, which now staples and easy for everyone to accept. I love showcasing queer talent. There are some places that will tell me I can’t but I do not work at those places because if the talent is good, people will live for it. No need to be elitist or segregate people, we are an all-inclusive community so at every level I act as such in myself as a person and entertainer. Greatness acts as a dream warrior not a dream dimmer.
What was the toughest point of drag in NYC and how did you get through it? What have you carried with you from that experience?
Even though we as people need more empathy and compassion for others and the world, I’ve learned that in a working environment, “Cry your tears into your teacup miss thing and drink it because at the end of the day no one cares.” I am there to change the atmosphere with my gift and do a job. The skill of having not so good things happen and being able to be so strong that nothing can take me out of my, “Eye Of The Tiger,” is something I carry every time I show up.
What contributes to your success as a working drag queen in NYC?
Getting back up and keeping it moving really. There are times when you work a lot and times when you’re not. Every business has its flows. My job is to just keep moving and growing. Also knowing how to do stuff is great. I can say I love having help or buying a costume or wig but what seems to happen is without YOUR personal touch in your aesthetic or show you become every other queen from Weho to Berlin or as I call it “Drag Queen Salad” hahahaha.
What skills do you think are essential to be a successful drag queen in NYC, and what separates you from other queens?
“To Thy Own Self Be True” there’s no guarantee but promises we make to ourselves. If it feels right to keep going and the universe will align and good things will happen if you’re willing to live this lifestyle. Be individual for what that means to you and pay attention to details! I think just that, I serve myself and the universe inside me. In a world of Instagram come to Instagram go and fame chasers people are always attracted to the real. My ability to connect on stage or one on one is what separated me. Besides all the hours of crying and training my gifted talents.
What’s the hardest part about being a drag queen in NYC?
To be honest, its all hard so you have to love it. I think the hardest thing is making sure your time is equal to the amount you’re getting paid (if you’re worth it that is). Also taking an accurate inventory of yourself in order to grow. A lot of queens run around saying they’re AMAZING or have hype people around them so they sip from that drink…. and Henny, ego is not attractive. Be humble and show up on time because the queen and audiences deserve it.
It seems that drag is getting bigger and brighter and more exaggerated. Do you ever feel like there’s an expectation for you as an NYC Drag Queen? Do people put that pressure on you?
No, because I am a Free Agent hahahaha. Pressure is something we choose to take on and for me when I do it’s only gotten in my way because my personality is always wanting to be my best. I don’t take on other people’s “ideas” of what drag should be or look like because there are no concrete rules to it. I opt out of pressure and do what my inner voice says because the pressure to be something is for sheep and I am trying my best to be a Shepard.
In the era of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the show has produced a distorted perception of what it means to be successful as a drag queen. But in reality, a lot of drag queens like yourself have made a place for themselves. How has Drag Race affected your professional career as a drag queen who hasn’t been on the show.
It opened many doors! I say it all the time THANK GOD FOR THIS PLATFORM! Anyone who complains about it means they look at what other people have and what they don’t then feel shame about it. We are in a shame-based culture and it’s not the T. Yeah I go toe to toe for some gigs, I win, I lose, but that’s not my gig. My gig is to keep going by doing what I love and know I am the best at what I specifically bring to the table. I think the world is what u make it. Opportunities and want for drag are here because of the show so let’s “Go PICKING LETTUCE!” (Picking lettuce means to get money**)
Do you feel like you have to be kind of a chameleon depending on what kind of crowd you’re going to be performing for?
Knowing the room you’re about to walk into is super important in life and in drag. I do like tailoring your talent to what the moment requires from me.
What was it like performing and meeting ADELE and Michelle Williams? What other celebrities have seen you perform?
Amazing and Amazing! Jennifer Lawrence was with Adele and it made me realize they are just people and this world is full of that, just people. I LOVED performing for Pablo Vittar (international pop star with 10+ million on Instagram) at my show, Zeta Haus Tuesdays at 10 pm at Rebar Chelsea, who stayed for the entire show and said some really great things to me. Recently two designers from NEXT IN FASHION were at my show. I always try to be gracious and present with anyone who comes and if they have a glamorous life then amazing!
What was your reaction when Wendy Williams mentioned you and showed the photo with you, Adele and Jennifer Lawrence during her FAN-OUT Segment?
“…… HOW YOU DOIN?” My friend knows how much I love me some Wendy and submitted my stuff. I was in Bergdorf Goodman buying some sneakers, you know the ones that look like socks, and got a call from a producer of the show. I was like say whaaaaat!?!! Hahahaha yassssssss kween! Then Graham Norton talked about it with Mr. Cummings on his talk show in the UK as well. Mr. Cummings owns the bar where I work the Glam Award-Winning FEMME PARTY at the Glam Award Winning bar CLUB CUMMINGS.