The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
There have been some big changes taking place in the Big Apple even though you might not have even realized it. With Bianca Del Rio winning the most recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, she’s clearly not going to be around nearly as much, that leaves a larger than life and an obnoxious void in the city’s drag scene. Mimi Imfurst has moved on to greener pastures and a fresh start in the City of Brotherly Love. Dallas DuBois retired from drag and moved to LA, presumably after the Rockettes refused to hire her. Epiphany is spending large chunks of the year overseas and I can’t blame her even slightly for that. But even with the outgoing talent there is still a lot of established talent in the city as well. Drag Race villainess extraordinaire, Phi Phi O’Hara made the move from the Windy City to New York. Legends like Lady Bunny, Sherry Vine, Hedda Lettuce and others are still killing it. The cupboard is clearly not bare.
But now, more than ever, there is a young, hungry (by hungry I mean ambitious…and, well…hungry queens out there. Most of these skinny bitches need a sandwich or three) crop of young drag talent ready to burst into stardom. As a part of this series, NewYorkNowNext, we’re going to be taking a look at some of this talent that is blooming all around the Big Apple. Ladies and gentlemen, I am very happy to talk with the fabulous Dusty Ray Bottoms!
Chiffon Dior: Hi there Dusty! It was so good to finish up my Glam Awards night by you seeing you at Pieces but I can’t believe its been over a year now since we last talked on the record! How are you doing gurl?
Dusty Ray Bottoms: Hiiii Chiffon! Wow it has been a year! I’m very well! Glad to have my feet in the air on my night off, no pun intended!
CD: Wait, aren’t your feet usually in the air AT work??
DRB: They ARE! I might be the luckiest I know. *Laughs* No, but really I’m literally Miss Pieces now so it seems time has been spent on the knees these days… Wore out!WHERE IS THIS GOING?
CD: I’ll let that knees comment go without judgment. Rent needs to be paid. So let’s pick up where we left I guess. Last year you finished first runner to Alexis Michelle in season five of So You Think You Can Drag. How did that experience affect you as a queen?
DRB: That was one of the weirdest days I’ve ever had! It all happened so quickly and felt. I experienced ALL of the emotions in the span of four hours! I was in my ninth month doing drag when I did that competition. It was like a personal drag boot camp! Snagging second, as hard as it was at the time, was honestly the best thing that could have ever happened to me. If you always focus on you and make sure what you’re showing is your very best, you’ll be taken care of in one way or another. There’s always someone there you don’t know watching! That night/ the entire competition was an amazing platform for just that and I’m very lucky to have been able to use it for that. That’s what I wish I could have told myself back then, “Calm down girl! You all won!” *Laughs* So I’m booked more now and my skin is a little thicker. I’m not mad.
CD: What opportunities opened up for you after SYTYCD?
DRB: Well I got booked THREE days a week at Pieces BARTENDING AND GIVING SHOWS! I got my first solo show Frisky Friday’s (which is every Friday night show at 11 with special guests)! I’m also there for Had it Happy Hour (Every Saturday 2-8 $3 Margaritas Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s)! I bartend and do a number or two from behind bar! Then at 4pm a new queen hits the stage and gives shows till 8pm! It’s such a great time!
On top of that, I can’t give all of the details away but I’m also working on a play with a real company that has great possibilities. It all transpired from them being at the finale so that was pretty awesome! I’m going into a first table read Monday to hear the script out loud that was written by my boyfriend Marc Singer! It’s such a kismet situation! So exciting!
CD: Let’s go back in time a bit. Where are you from originally?
DRB: Louisville Kentucky! It was a very artsy town but also sports driven. My Grandfather was an Evangelist and my father also a man of God. They both were pretty strict in my upbringing. I also went to my dad’s high school where he had played ALL THE SPORTS and some of the teachers were his friends. I never got away with anything. Dad got me a basketball but I wanted tap shoes! Dad wanted me to go out for football. I wanted acting classes. *Laughs* There was always some sort of struggle.
CD: So who won that struggle?
DRB: *Laughs* WELL I was pretty much always in a show, If not two at a time I was THAT kid.
CD: An artsy overachiever?
DRB: Yes but I really couldn’t talk about anything else.
CD: What was your first exposure to the world of drag?
DRB: Divine in Hairspray! I was probably five or six years old and I was so confused. I remember asking my mother about the actor. I didn’t get it at the time then shortly after I came across Rupaul and again I asked my mother all the questions.. I never confused wanting to put my mom’s heels on and all those things we do though. They definitely sparked an interest and of course I wanted to know more.
CD: So once you figured out what drag was, you knew you wanted to be a part of it?
DRB: *Laughs* well SECRETLY. I wouldn’t have told anyone I wanted to be fabulous! I wasn’t comfortable with being in my own skin back then and by the time I was old enough to see my first drag queen, I was scared of them! I liked how regal they were but I just didn’t know how to process it all when in person. You don’t have much exposure to drag queen’s every day in Kentucky! *Laughs* I never even thought that this would be a thing that I do full time! I literally tried it out one night cause I wanted to perform and not at an audition. It was for the season 5 finale of Drag Race. All of my friends got dressed up. I even hired a makeup artist! We all went to the finale. After that night I had to perform somewhere!
I did my first number in drag in January of 2013 at Boots and Saddle! Terra Grenade gave me my first spot! That performance was TERRIBlE! I sang Son of a Preacher Man get it? First time I left the house in my own beats. It was rough!
CD: It always is! But were you hooked or discouraged?
DRB: Hooked! I wanted to try something else or do it another way. I knew that once I could could properly express myself the way I wanted too (because you’re so limited to what you know starting out) I could be doing what these other girls are doing! And I wanted that. I wanted to entertain MY WAY!
CD: Where did the name Dusty Ray Bottoms come from?
DRB: Dustin Rayburn is my boy name. My nick name was Dusty Ray and a coworker used to poke fun and call me a bottom! Hence “Dusty Ray Bottoms.” He would say “big ol bottom!” Dusty Ray Bottoms!? I LIKE IT! *Laughs*
CD: Way to turn a negative into a positive!
DRB: End bottom shaming! It’s literally the worst!
DRB: HASHTAG DUH! Would that be insensitive to have #bottomlivesmatters on the back of my first T-shirt? What have you done Chiffon!?
CD: Not if I get partial credit and a percentage all sales. If you’re not offending SOMEONE, you’re not doing drag.
CD: How did you actually wind up in NYC from Louisville?
DRB: I’m an actor and I moved to here audition and all that! But I didn’t want to leave the city once I got here! This was now home!
CD: Can I go ONE interview with you gurls without hearing, “I came to New York to be an actor.” or “Well I was studying musical theater.”? Just one, is that too much to ask Dusty?
DRB: Yep I guess I can get in line with the rest of’em!
CD: So one of the main focal point of this series is how with some of the more established queens in the city are moving on to new projects and phases in their careers, there has been a bit of a vacuum at the top of the NYC drag scene. Who do you think is poised to fill that void?
DRB: Lord I hope it’s nobody new! *Laughs* The people on top in this city weren’t always. They have been pounding the pavement for years really getting to know their community whether it be coworkers or audience! They’ve sharpened their claws, they’ve done their time, They’ve really earned it! I really admire and respect those queens! I hope to fill those shoes in some capacity in time but most importantly, leave my own to fill!
CD: How do you feel the drag scene in New York has changed and evolved in the time you’ve been following it?
DRB: I feel like drag is getting harder and harder to make a profession in this city. Everyone wants to be a drag queen these days cause it’s popular! And that awesome! I just wish there were more venues!
CD: There really is just an absurd amount of talent in this city. So in light of all these talented bitches, what do you think makes you stand out from the crowd? What is about Dusty that makes people notice her, aside from speckled eyebrows?
DRB: Dusty is a beautiful storyteller who is so expressive through her performances and really LIVES in her numbers. For someone who doesn’t give a [email protected], she’s extremely welcoming of her audiences. She has a good time and lives with them and that’s contagious! She’s like your favorite aunt that lets you cuss and light her joint, I mean cigarettes.
CD: Looking ahead, what kind of goals do you have for yourself as a queen?
DRB: I want more! Would love to have a show with one of my sisters! That would be everything! I want Dusty bigger, I want more people to see her and have opinions and discussions hehe yah know! Who knows? I just want to perform. As long as I have that, I’m a happy guy! PlusI want the play I’m working on to NAIL and go to Broadway that’s a DREAMGOAL! Its also a goal of mine to have you follow me on Instagram!
CD: Pffftt….I already do gurl…..oh, you mean the readers. Yeah, do that people.
DRB: Mahahahahaaaaaaa! I was about to say why aren’t you following me Chiffon??!!!!
CD: I just double checked. Totally following you! And I may have low key been making sure you were following me.
DRB: *Laughs* I AM! I swear!
CD: Yep, that story checks out. So for now if people want to catch you so they can say they saw you before your play made you a huge star, where can they find you?
Thursday- Boots and Saddle 10-12 “ITS MEEE OLIVIA!”
Friday- Frisky Friday’s! Pieces show 11
Saturday- 2-8 Had It Happy Hour! Pieces!
I pop up at LOOK QUEEN every now and then at The Monster Bar on Sunday nights too! Did I tell you I’m the current reigning and the FIRST MISS LOOK QUEEN by Bob the Drag Queen Scotty Roxs and the Look Queen Girls!?
CD: I was not aware of that!
DRB: Every last Sunday of the month Look Queen at The Monster Bar has a competition to have a month reign as Look Queen. Each month’s winners go up against each other at the end of the year for MISS LOOK QUEEN. I won my month and THE YEAR! It was one of my favorite moments this year for sure!!! $1,000 aside, it’s just such an honor. That party is very special you should spend your Sunday nights there or at least go to the competitions each month! Some great stuff gets turned out there! I think it’s important!
CD: Condragulations honey! I will have to look into that! Well, I think we have reached the end of the road here my dear. I just wanted to say I became a fan the instant I saw your Deven Green number at last year’s finale and remain one to this day. I’m excited to see what comes next for you. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our reader?
DRB: Thank you Chiffon! Love talking with you! Love one another because the world is scary!
Thank you to Jenn Witek Photography for providing pictures of Dusty.