A Moment of Epiphany

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Picture from Arosa Gay Ski week in Arosa Switzerland

Chiffon Dior: Hello there Epiphany! It was so good to see you on Sunday at brunch! Thanks for making the time to talk with me tonight. How are you doing this evening?

Epiphany Get Paid: Hey hi! Thanks for coming to brunch Sunday! I’m wonderful! Wrapping up some loose ends here in New York City and getting ready to head to Berlin for a few weeks. I’m premiering my first ever solo show there and I’m super excited!

CD: Well let’s jump right into “Epiphany at the Juniper” then! What is the drag scene in Germany like? How did that show come about for you?

EPG: Gosh the drag scene in Germany is exploding. Especially in Berlin there are many different genres of queens working on all levels of nightlife. Just like New York there are all kinds of sub-cultures of drag and pockets of gay subversive queers that I really adore. Having performed there already for over ten years, I’m one of the established queens there even though I live here. Berliners are fascinated by New Yorkers. I go there almost every six weeks and I work my ass off, I’m very in demand. As far as my solo show, I’m opening a new gay performance venue and restaurant called Juniper, which is in the Axel Hotel. They have given me the privilege to be their star performer for the opening weekend, this Sunday, March 6th. I feel very honored and humbled to be a part of this power house venue right in the heart of gay Berlin.

CD: If they’re really fascinated by New Yorkers over there, I could think of a few we could send them free of charge. What brought you to Germany in the first place?

EPG: *Laughs* They are accepting refugees for now! I went there first with my drag wet nurse Sherry Vine. She invited me to do a rock show since I also sing live and they love that. The Germans were quick to hire me again and I’ve been going back ever since.

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Photograph by Maddelynn Hatter (WERRRK.com’s 2015 Drag Photographer of the Year)

CD: Aside from the well known love of all things David Hasselhoff, do you notice any big difference with the crowds over there?

EPG: *Laughs* They don’t tip. When they go out to a club they get crazy, irreverent, messy. But the government sanctions clubs as a place to do that. It’s in human nature to want to let loose sometimes, in Europe they understand and don’t fight against this. In a cabaret venue like Juniper they may seem on the outside more reserved but that’s only because it’s not the correct venue. If a place is classy, and serves gourmet food, they understand the difference.

CD: They serve food? Well, I guess there is something about drag queens and a big bratwurst that would seem to go together.

EPG: *Laughs* Not bratwurst. Juniper is a very posh and high quality place. It’s unlike anywhere drag queens perform in New York City.

CD: It sounds very Fabulous Baker Boys to me.

EPG: It’s really classy but unpretentious. And though I may resemble Michelle Pfieffer from a distance, she will never be me.

CD: Let’s go back in time a bit shall we? Where are you from originally?

EPG: San Diego.

CD: What was your first exposure to the world of drag growing up?

EPG: The first drag queen I ever remember seeing was RuPaul. My mom subscribed to all the fashion magazines so that Mac Viva Glam ad was pretty powerful to me as a little boy. I didn’t understand it but I knew it was fierce.

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CD: At what point did you know that it was something you wanted to be a part of?

EPG: I didn’t ever really want to do it initially. I was a bus boy in the gay neighborhood in San Diego when I was nineteen and couldn’t get into the gay clubs that all my older friends would go to. A bunch of the drag queens they were friends with put me in drag so I could get in. It didn’t take long to see that it was in my blood, then we started going to Los Angeles and I would work there. It was kind of a snowball effect I guess. Then when I moved to NYC, I worked as a waiter at a Chinese mafia run karaoke bar downtown. For Halloween I did drag and they lost their minds and asked me to host in drag weekly. It was my first gig in the city.

CD: How did you decide on the name Epiphany Get Paid?

Epiphany Get Paid was never supposed to be my actual drag name. It was always Epiphany, which came ironically from not having any drag name. I was out one night dancing as I had been for a few months nameless. When a couple lesbian girlfriends of mine asked me why I hadn’t named myself yet I said “I guess I’m waiting for an epiphany”. We all looked at each other and that was it, the name was born. The Get Paid part came from another ironic place, Facebook, the ultimate final say in names. This was during the early years of Facebook when it was in its infancy and we thought nothing would replace MySpace. A couple college friends of mine suggested FB and so I decided to make a profile. It wouldn’t allow me a profile without a last name so I chose the most appropriate thing my mind could come up with. Now Facebook has become this global thing and the last name became symbolically tied to the first.

CD: What makes someone want to leave the flawless weather of San Diego for New York?

EPG: I was restless, I needed a big push to broaden my horizons. My parents were very supportive and were like, “If you never do it, then for sure it will never happen.” I came here with my best girl friend who was a model at the time and we starved together, cried, pushed hard, made mistakes and made it happen. Now 13 years later I think it was the best decision I’ve ever made. The weather in San Diego is always flawless, and it’s still there available for me whenever I want.

CD: What was the “it” you came here seeking?

EPG: Something other than sunburns and Republicans.

CD: Good reason. So it sounds like you came here without intentions of doing drag. Did the drag bug bite you hard after that Halloween or were you just happy for the gig?

EPG: I just did it cause it was something I knew would make an impact. I’m not someone who really has the “drag bug”. I was just happy to work, but when I noticed that I could make more money doing that than working at my day job at Bloomingdales I jumped at the chance to trade up.

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CD: You mentioned before how you enjoy singing live. What is your background as a singer and a performer?

EPG: I was trained young. I started dance at 5, singing and theatre around 8. It’s basically something I’ve always excelled at. I lived in a wealthy community with a well funded arts program. I was in musicals back to back through my younger years. So in a way it’s kind of a part of my construction as an individual to be a performer. I think a fundamental part of doing drag is to be unafraid to step out of your door in full drag. I don’t give a fuck. Being in public is just like a stage except no one can get their ticket refunded.

CD: Season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race is starting up soon. Do you feel like the show has been a positive or negative for the business of drag? What do you think of them taking three New York City queens this time around, including Acid Betty who you have worked with a bit?

EPG: I feel like the show is awesome, beyond drag it increases the entire LGBT communities visibility which is a huge step for our representation in media. I fucking love the NYC bitches on this season, they are all friends of mine. Acid and I have been friends for EVER, we were even roommates in Hell’s Kitchen when it was cool to live there. And then Williamsburg when it was cool to live there. I think she would say the same; we have a mutual admiration and respect for each other. I’ve rarely had a friend who can make me laugh as hard as Jamin can. I’m intrigued to see how it all plays out because between Thorgy, Bob, and Betty, none of them came to lose.

CD: In between your globetrotting, you’re back here in New York now for a while and are working at Señor Frogs for Sunday Brunch. When did Drag Brunch become such a big thing in the city? It seems like there are several going throughout the weekend now and I don’t recall that many in the past.

EPG: God, it’s really a thing these days.

CD: How do you manage to keep it fresh each week as the hostess?

EPG: I really play off of the audience which changes every week. I perform very “off the cuff” so it works for me. Drag brunch is totally a big deal these days. (NYC Event Promotor) Brandon Voss knows how to capitalize on a trend. Less people go out on Sunday nights, but they still want their day off to rock, so they can do brunch and be in bed by 7pm. When I first got to NYC, Sunday nights were the best night of the week. Now people have to get to work on time on Monday mornings to pay their overpriced rent.

CD: You mean $2800 a month for a closet and a hot plate isn’t reasonable?

EPG: It is if you want your job to dictate your life.

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CD: Has that played a part if you spending large chunks of your year aboard, like in Greece for example?

EPG: I work in Mykonos. Greece has issues that Mykonos doesn’t share in. I’m not avoiding expensive rent or an expensive lifestyle by working there if you catch my drift. I work there because it was the only reasonable alternative to Fire Island. I had an ex who poisoned that island for me and so I felt like I needed to move on. I made some inquiries into Mykonos and got a small residency for that first season that turned into one of the largest drag shows in the world. The Greek people are very passionate and tenacious. They are an ancient culture of people who are super hospitable but know how to get what they want. Also Mykonos is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The water is crystal clear, it never rains, the houses look like a post card, the gay life is spectacular and most importantly the people there I now consider family. I will stay there every summer as long as they will have me.

CD: Do you feel like you have to change what you do as a performer when you’re in one of these foreign locales?

EPG: Yes, the language barrier definitely changes the way I host, and my song choices are vastly different depending on the country. Like Germans love the song Sweet Caroline, if you perform it they weep and throw money at you. In New York City, you’d get kicked out of the bar if you performed that.

CD: Speaking of performing in New York, you also have some shows coming up here as well. What can you tell us about those shows?

EPG: Yeah! I have a weekly party at Atlas Social Club in Hell’s Kitchen, it’s a really nice, chill party with nice and hot guys. Atlas is a good neighborhood bar that does really well with men and bearish guys, I totally feel like Goldilocks every Saturday! I’m also doing my first solo show here on May 6th! It’s called “Diary of an Incompetent Whore” at Pangea in the East Village. It’s sort of a hilarious reflection of my time as a queen here in NYC. It’s really going back to my roots, A cross of Sherry Vine, Kiki and Herb, Jackie Beat and my own stories about the crazy shit I’ve seen in drag. I have some great songs I’ll be belting out too!

CD: One night only?

EPG: I have to pack for my departure to Mykonos May 11th.

CD: If you see a suitcase shaped like me, don’t bother opening it, just put it on the plane. Also, have someone else lift it so you don’t throw your back out.

EPG: *Laughs* I know. Everyone wants to be stuffed into my luggage. It’s really a dream to do shows in Mykonos. Every year Mykonos accumulates another NYC girl. Now we have Roxy Brooks, Skyla Versai, and the legendary DJ Lina. And don’t worry about my back, I may be a pretty queen but I lift bro.

Epiphany and Roxy Brooks
Epiphany and Roxy Brooks

CD: Looking ahead, do you have any goals you want to achieve still as a performer, a drag bucket list per se?

EPG: I want to be is the best drag queen in the world and I want my husband and my family to be proud of me, simple goals.

CD: Thank you so much for your time tonight Epiphany! I have been such a big fan of yours for years now so this have been pretty cool for me. Do you have any final words of wisdom to leave the readers with?

EPG: Wisdom? Don’t use me as a role model! *Laughs* I mean what we do is difficult, nothing worth doing is ever easy. Artists really get the fucked up side of things sometimes, but you have to use that to enhance your art. My mom used to tell me, “if you aren’t living on the edge then you’re taking up too much room”.  That’s the way I choose to live.

About Chiffon Dior 479 Articles

Despite being a drag journalist for over five years, Chiffon only recently realized that she missed a golden opportunity back then to change her drag name to Rhoda Story.

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