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 her 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. Most of these skinny bitches need a sandwich or three) crop of 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 Miss Judy Darling!
Chiffon Dior: Hi there Judy! It was so good to meet you the other night at the So You Think You Can Drag Grand Finale! How are you doing on this divine fall afternoon gurl?
Judy Darling: HIIIIIIIEEEE! Yes it was wonderful to finally meet you! And SYTYCD was a magical night, I’m sooooooooo unbelievably proud of my bestie and sister Heidi Haux on all she has accomplished! As for today I am well, still a little shaken by the tragedies around the world we’ve suffered…it can be a very scary place this world we are in. I am just so thankful I get to live in a place where I am able to follow my dreams and passions freely and if I can make someone smile and laugh for a little bit while I work, I’ve done my job and feel very fulfilled an artist!
CD: Very well said! Speaking of Heidi Haux, you made a surprise appearance, albeit in video form, in one of her madcap finale numbers. How did that all come together?
JD: *Laughs* YAS! well, Heidi and I have a theatrical and movie making background, so to speak and one of the main reasons we started doing drag was because of a TV show we are developing. It’s very autobiographical – kind of a love letter to our group of friends and the characters we’ve met in NYC nightlife. We are lucky enough to have a brilliant producer attached, Katherine Paige, and it was her push and loving suggestion for us to start doing drag to help further our project. Little did we know we’d both take off so quickly *laughs*. The video came about because Heidi used a beautiful home movie during one of her numbers during SYTYCD and she really wanted me involved (And I did too) in her finale number but because of my weekly Thursday night gig at Pieces (Thirsty Thursdays/Witchly Business 11pm), we knew I couldn’t be there in person. She asked originally for me to do a voice over and I suggested she bring back the video again. I think it’s so important to play to your strengths as an artist and Heidi is an amazing film maker, so it made total sense to me for her to show and utilize that to her advantage! It’s such a wonderful feeling to have a creative partner that can help grow and expand an idea with. It’s hard on your own sometimes!
CD: Well it came together wonderfully! It was pure madness at times but it was entertaining as all hell! You started talking a bit there about your background. Where are you from originally?
JD: I’m a Cali boy! *Laughs* North Ca, Napa Valley.
CD: So how did you wind up in New York City? Wait, I know how this goes based on every single one of these interviews. “Well Chiffon, I was a musical theatre major in college…..”
JD: Performing Arts with and emphasis in Musical Theatre! *Laughs*
JD: Yes, I went to AMDA and split my time between here and in Los Angeles.
CD: This is my not shocked face Judy.
JD: *Laughs* I’m very thankful for my performing background! I think it’s so helpful in my chosen profession. *Laughs*
CD: So how did you wind up here full time?
JD: When I was here for school, I fell in love with the city. After living in LA, anywhere else seems like THE BEST! At least it does to me, I’m not an LA kinda gal. I prefer to be a West coast Boy on the East coast. New York just “eats” at a much different metabolism! *Laughs* I’m much more of a fast pace kinda gurl!
CD: Let’s not talk about your metabolism gurl! I threatened to airbrush pounds on to you in that picture we took the other night!
JD: *Laughs* Yes. I am skinny. My weight has been one thing in my life I’ve not had to fight for. I’m very lucky in that department. I think not drinking has given me a home court advantage. *Laughs* BUT I LOVE getting others to DRINK! *Laughs*
CD: EVIL! I tend not to like queens whose waists are the same size of one of my thighs but you seem okay…I guess!
JD: *Laughs* So glad to make the cut!
CD: So what was your first exposure to the world of drag?
JD: GAWD, ummm I think it was RuPaul on TV and I know I saw Shequida on The Ricki Lake Show. My Grandma Bev LOVED talked shows and Ru had a drag competition or something on the show and Shequida won! *Laughs* It was before Drag Race.
CD: What was your impression of it?
JD: OH I LOVED IT! But wouldn’t realize until a few years ago that was what I was suppose to be doing! I always loved playing dress up- acting out woman roles in movies and TV. In high school my cousin Josh took me and his brother to a gay bar in San Francisco where I met the amazing Juanita More! That was a big deal.
CD: So at what point did you realize, “I don’t have enough duct tape in my life!”?
JD: *Laughs* Well, lucky for me I don’t use much of it! If Jinkx Monsoon can win Drag Race without tucking all the way, so could I! *Laughs* It was about a year ago. I had always loved drag and the idea of becoming a queen but it was more than that, it was really about accepting myself. I decided 2015 was going to be the year I stopped hiding, I would show and express all sides of me. It really boils down to loving yourself. How was I expecting to find a successful relationship when I wasn’t honoring who I truly was? Judy was a way for me to do that, to step through the fear and embrace me for who and what I’ve always been.
CD: How did you first time in drag happen?
JD: Well, the first time I was three! *Laughs*
CD: You’re quite the drag prodigy then!
JD: Truly, I’ve been wearing my Grandma’s and Mom’s clothes and shoes since I could walk! *Laughs* I was always putting on shows and acting out stories. But then a rule appeared and almost ruined my fun! I wasn’t allowed to be a girl for Halloween. That was the “rule” but I found a loophole! I could be a Witch! *Laughs* So, I’ve really been a Witch for as long as I can remember! My Dad gets a laugh about it now. All those Halloweens have finally paid off!
CD: It ALWAYS comes down to Halloween, doesn’t it?
CD: And where did the name Judy Darling come from?
JD: Judy for Garland of course – huge Wizard of Oz fan. And Darling is for Candy Darling – the ever glamorous and brilliant Warhol muse. I like to think of Judy Darling as a cross between an MGM star and a Warhol kid.
CD: Once you decided 2015 would be the year of no more hiding, how quickly did it all come together for you as a drag queen?
JD: Well, I’ve been prepping since 1987! *Laughs* But it’s so about timing, the saying ‘Opportunity meets preparation’ rings very true. I started thinking about doing drag off and on for about four or five years but it wasn’t until this last January I stopped making excuses and just did it. That’s really when I put myself out there – but the reason I think I found such quick success was due to where I was mentally. When you enter anything under the mindset of conquering your fear, sharing yourself, and to create, you’d be hard pressed to not find success in some way. I like to think of myself as a very direct and upfront person and I have often found the best thing in life is to ask for what you want. That’s what I’ve done this year and it’s paid off not just in work, but friendships. There are so many wonderful relationships I didn’t know I needed in my life until I start doing drag . This business is about relationships so not being an asshole is also helpful *Laughs*.
CD: “Not being an asshole”…..what a novel concept, not just in this business but in this world!
JD: YES! I think we should make it a Law of the Land!
CD: I agree! So the focus of this series we’re doing here is how the New York City drag scene is going through a bit of period of change. What changes have you seen in the time that you’ve been a part of and for that matter, have been following the NYC drag scene?
JD: Yes, I think it’s evolving greatly! A lot of that has to do with the fact that drag is now much more “mainstream.” We had Drag Race and so many other examples of it in film and TV. We also are living in a society that’s starting to realize that the gender roles and classifiers we’ve created are not correct and now terribly outdated. The “blue and pink” Boy/Girl ideas that were beaten into my Grandparent’s and Parent’s generations are beginning to unravel. That is what drag is for me- we are the leaders for the “new order” in a way. NY drag has been part of a revolution – one that has been waging for years. But again it goes back to timing and I truly believe that this is a time for great change and evolution. I believe the drag scene will change greatly as our world does – and hopefully the world will catch up to us.
CD: You mentioned the magic words…Drag Race. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about it. What do you think of the show and would you ever want to be on?
JD: I love it! *Laughs* But if you had told that boy in college he’d be a full time drag queen in NYC in five years I’d never believe it! I remember where I was when I saw it for the first time… *Laughs* I was hooked and have love it ever since. Is it the end all, be all, no of course not. Is it a huge springboard for a queen? YES, if you know how to use it correctly. I’m very excited about this coming season. It will be the first that I’ll be a working full-time queen. Feels very different to me this time – and yes, I have or course thought about it…but it’s so much work! And getting on seems even harder! I know queens who have applied every season! But again it’s about timing, and who know’s where I’ll be this spring when they start casting for season nine. All I will say, is nine is a magical number. *Laughs*
CD: With some of the more established queens in the city moving on to new projects and phases in their careers, there is a bit of a vacuum at the top. Who do you think is poised to fill that void?
JD: Haven’t I been doing that already? *Laughs* No really, I am one of the luckiest people in the world! I get to create and put on shows with a bunch of my best friends! I can’t think of one queen I work with that isn’t amazing at what she does!
CD: Well, you haven’t worked with me yet. That would change your tune.
JD: I won’t buy it for a second – you’ve been a DREAM to work with!
CD: With seemingly busloads of new queens arriving daily at the Port Authority, what do you feel that you bring the scene that is unique? What makes Judy stand out from the crowd?
JD: Well, having that theatrical background doesn’t hurt! *Laughs* I think the thing that people find the most unique about me is how accessible I am. I’m kind of a chameleon in that I can float around, I’m not just a Broadway queen, or a strictly pop, or comedy, or just focused on my looks. I like to be able to kind of fit in to any place and venue. One of my co-host and sisters Miz Cracker says my draw is that I’m “nice” – ‘everyone wants to be Judy’s best friend when I’m on stage…’ I’d like to think that’s true.
CD: One good place all these future BFF’s of Judy Darling can see her is tomorrow night and every Monday after that is at Hardware for Broadway Monday’s where she will be filling the shoes of our favorites here at WERRRK, the delightful short-haired diva, Sutton Lee Seymour. How did this opportunity come about for you?
JD: YES! I’m so excited! Again right place at the right time – totally timing here! I was in talks with the owners already about working together and developing my now Thursday night show at Pieces. I had guest hosted and guest starred for a few different queens at the two different locations and I just asked about it. I knew Sutton was leaving us and I love Broadway so dearly so I just let them know I was interested and then boom, it was mine. I am so thankful to both Justin Buchanan and Eric Einstein for both these huge opportunities, not to mention the great Justin Luke for taking a chance on a queen he’d never worked with! I’m one lucky Broadway Baby!
CD: So this Monday night, what can everyone expect from you?
JD: Well, first I’m thrilled to have as my first guest Justin Luke’s amazingly brother Jared Zirilli! I’ll be doing some of my Broadway favorites! Maybe even a Broadway Themed Drag Suicide!
CD: You already artfully worked a few plugs into this interview but where else can people see you if they want to shove money into your cleavage?
JD: YAS! Never a wrong time to tip a drag queen! Broadway Mondays at Hardware – Broadway clips start at 7pm show at 10pm, Tuesday is Knockout Tuesdays at Barracuda with Miz Cracker at 12! and then Thirsty Thursday at Pieces at 11pm!
CD: You already mentioned Drag Race but what other goals have you set for yourself going forward as a drag queen? What’s on the old drag bucket list?
JD: The main goal is the TV show Heidi and I are writing. I want to help shatter and break gender roles – in other words get ready to see me as Maggie the Cat in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof *Laughs*
CD: I can honestly say I was not expecting to hear that sentence when we started this interview.
JD: NO? *Laughs* What did you expect?!
CD: Literally anything else?
CD: You’re a part of history here Judy as you’re the first New York City queen to take part in this mutual partnership that WERRRK.com has developed with Jenn Witek Photography, as witnessed by all of her beautiful shots that she has provided exclusively for this piece. Jenn is a mutual friend of both of ours….in fact, she basically demanded this interview take place. What was it like shooting with her?
JD: Awe! I adore her! It was great! She’s so good, it took only a few moments! We did it outside of Pieces before my show – Two…ummm what to call them..”Fans” come up to us while she was taking pictures! One of which was driving by in his truck and parked to come stare at me! Her pictures are so good, she stops traffic!
CD: The glamour of a photo shoot!
CD: Well my dear, I had so much fun talking with you today! I’m excited to see you this Wednesday night at the Glammys. I wish you the best of luck with Broadway Mondays and all your other shows going forward. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our readers Judy before we call it day?
JD: Yes, I’m very excited about the Glam Awards this week! Fingers crossed! And thank you so much! I’ve so excited! And as far as “words of wisdom” I guess it would be to always be yourself, everyone else is already taken. Don’t take anything personally. And NEVER stop doing what you love and brings you the most joy – life’s too short to be otherwise occupied.