Getting Serious with Shirley U. Jest

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Photo by Richard Rothstein

Hi everybody! I am sitting here with one of my favorite queens in New York City, my good friend……oh….Shirley U. Jest? I didn’t realize you were here. I mean, hi! Good to see you gurl!

It’s always a pleasure to see you, Chiffon. You’ll pay for that later, though! *Laughs*

If I didn’t pay for it later, I would never get any but I think we are talking about different things. How are you doing honey?

I’m doing pretty great! I’m swimming waist deep in creativity which is how I prefer things to be.

Oh Shirley….that’s not creativity you’re in but I’m sure a little penicillin will take care of that lickety split! In the meantime, how about we delve into your origin story, shall we?

It was a dark and stormy night…oh wait, I don’t think that’s it.

I think we should avoid risking legal action against you. Where are you from originally my dear?

I was born and raised in Columbus, OH. I actually grew up five minutes from west campus of Ohio State.

Ohio State, that explains your passion for football right? *Laughs*

Foot what?

*Laughs* Of course! So what was your first exposure to the wonderful world of drag?

To be honest, that’s always been a hard a question for me answer. I watched drag in movies like most queens. If we’re talking my first forays, I did a little theatrical drag in high school and college. If its exposure to actual drag, it would be living in DC and backup dancing for the girls in the former academy.

What made you want to get your start in the world of sequins and sore feet?

That one I can absolutely answer. When I first moved to New York, I worked in a Hell’s Kitchen bar where not only did the entire staff follow the queens, they two in house queens themselves. Listening to everyone discuss the finer points of drag and flipping through the gay magazines, it really made me wonder what kind of girl I would be. I owe my real curiosity to that bar staff.

And that kind of girl was half queen, half Muppet right?

Arms flailing and everything.

So you took the lyrics, “Its time to put on makeup. Its time to dress up right.” quite literally then?

There was never a truer motto for my entertainment! *Laughs*

Photo by Richard Rothstein
Photo by Richard Rothstein

So far you’ve mentioned DC and Hell’s Kitchen. What was the reason behind those moves from Ohio?

When I graduated from college, I needed a change of venue since I didn’t get into the grad schools that I had originally planned on. Since I had fraternity brothers collectively moving to DC and a degree in music education, it seemed like a natural move for someone needing a support system and a new place with new teaching opportunities.

Sex scandal with a Congressman I assume?

Funny you should mention because I actually did work on the Hill for a period of time in the Library of Congress. Another story for another day *Laughs*. Well, when I wasn’t getting the work as teacher, I did what I have always done when there is down time: perform in a show. Theater was always a passion but something that I reserved for a hobby. It wasn’t until I started earning equity points that I figured that it was worth pursuing. Since, I had always dreamed of living in New York, I decided to take a real plunge into my dreams.

Where did the character of Shirley U. Jest come from?

I have always been such a fan of old movies and classic Hollywood. I love Sunset Boulevard, Singing in the Rain, Hello Dolly, and the like. There’s something that has always dazzled me about the grandeur of those movies and the iconic elegance. My look and appeal follows a lot of that aesthetic.

Surely, you can’t be serious.

Hey, that’s my line!

Shirley, you can’t be serious!

Wise guy, eh?

Photo by Richard Rothstein

So that brings us to a little venue known as the Metropolitan Room where you emerged victorious in a fight to the death with several other drag queens….or something like that right?

Yeah, that sounds about right. *Laughs* Actually it was New York’s Next Top Drag Queen, a six week live-singing competition with a different theme every week. I had an absolute ball in that arena. Not only did I feel like I was really in my element, I worked alongside some of the nicest queens ever.

Nice queens? Wait, I thought this event was in New York City?

Whoops, did I say nice? I meant cutthroat and vicious. Yeah, that sounds better.

And you won the whole damn thing! What was your prize for winning, like a basket of muffins or something?

And they were absolutely delicious. But seriously, the grand prize was $500 dollars and a time slot for a one night only cabaret showcase in their establishment!

Oh right! That’s even better than carbs! And that show just so happens to be THIS Sunday night right?

That’s right! I have been slaving away all Summer conceptualizing, writing, producing, and rehearsing and we’re coming down to the nitty gritty of it all. I’m so excited to put something up on stage that is all my own creation. I pretty much eat, sleep, and breathe this show now.

Is that how you stay so thin?

Who knew being hungry for fame could be so literal?

So let’s do the shameless whoring of the show! What’s it called? When is it? How can people get tickets? What other queen that I would really like to force feed carbs to is also in it?

It’s called JEST A GIRL: A TALE OF QUEENS AND SHOWBIZ. Using my love of showbiz movie musicals, I made my own wonderful comedy about a queen moving to the big city for drag. I’m so proud of this work. It’s Sunday, October 2nd at 9:30. You can get tickets at the door or you can get them in advance online on the Metropolitan room website. I’m really excited to be working with Nomi Sas who has agreed to be my guest star and character foil. And you’re right: if I’m thin, Nomi must have a tape worm. She looks amazing! Not to mention she’s a comic riot.

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And if people can’t get enough of you after that show, where else can they see you?

They can find me at Rockbar down on Christopher street every other Tuesday doing my solo show, JEST THE TIP from 7-9.

What about your social media?

I gave up my street corner.

That’s a rough break. I know you were making coin there! But I meant on the interwebs.

Of course! I have a profile page, a fan page, an Instagram handle, and a Twitter account too. I did want to mention that I have some surprises on the way. In addition to the showcase, I’m looking to drop the web series within the next few weeks and I’m hosting a Halloween screening of Hocus Pocus next month at the Cinema Village on East 12th street. I am always updating my pages and social media for upcoming gigs.

What about your Christian Mingle account?

I save that one for political officials.

Photo by
Photo by Thomas Trinity

In the mean time, are you down for a few lighting round questions?

I’m always down. That’s what it says on my Grindr profile.

Must have makeup item?

My OCC Stalker lip tar. Perfect shade of red.

Drag role model?

Jinkx Monsoon

4am post drag food craving?

Microwave popcorn

Best part of drag?

The wide array of reactions from walking down a busy street in a gown.

Worst part of drag?

Sore feet

Most surprising thing about you people might not know?

I didn’t come out until I was 23.

Person you most want to work with?

Miss Piggy

If not for drag, what would you be doing?

Teaching music wondering what might have been

Guilty pleasure?

Steven Universe

Last one, most embarrassing song on your phone?

Crash My Party by Luke Bryan

*awkward stare*

Haha there’s something about that country song!

Of course dear. Looking ahead to the future, what goals do you have on your drag bucket list that you would still like to accomplish?

I want to open for a Drag Race girl, perform on Fire Island, make a drag movie, and ultimately perform on a Broadway stage.

Well I think we have just about reached the end her my dear. Jokes aside, I think the world of you and I hope this show is a big success. Do you have any final words of wisdom to leave the WERRRK.com universe with?

1. Never believe your dreams are unreachable 2. If you’re not happy where you are, it’s always as simple as leaving 3. Be bold and share your emotions with the people around you. And I must say that I think you are amazing, Chiffon. Thank you for all that you do in this community.

Thank you so much! The check is in the mail Shirley.

About Chiffon Dior 468 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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