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 talking 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 are a ton of 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 Miss Nomi SAS!
Chiffon Dior: Well hi there Nomi! I’m so excited to get to talk with you this afternoon while I put the finishing touches on this pot of soup I’m making. When I talked with Chelsea last week, she had just finished up rearranging Paige Turner’s Barbie collection. Are you part of her personal sweatshop labor as well?
Nomi SAS: Hey there Chiffon! I’m so happy to have the non-union night off!!
CD: I think you’ve earned after all the work you doing last Thursday night at So You Think You Can Drag! If I recall correctly you were the choreographer, performer, microphone holder and afterbirth/lunch meat cleaner upper. Did I miss any of your duties?
NS: Don’t forget about child wrangler! All in the spirit of Chelsea Piers, Once a swing always a swing!
CD: In all seriousness though, anyone who reads me knows that I think SYTYCD is the best drag competition in the city and you have been a huge part of that, choreographing all of Paige and her dancers’ (the Spitfires) numbers. How did you get involved with the event?
NS: I actually made my debut during the 3rd season of SYTYCD!!! I watched my Drag mother Crystal Demure, win the crown the 2nd season, so I thought I’d kick up my heels and defend the family crown…that part didn’t go over so well BUT I was lucky enough to have Paige express interest in collaborating in dance numbers for her and the Spitfires! Little known fact, I was actually a spitfire before they were even called Spitfires!
CD: Is that back when they were called the Swallowfires?
NS: You got it! I always swallow, its just rude not to!
CD: Where are from originally and what made you want to move to the New York?
NS: Originally I’m from Tampa Florida, in fact, Fifi (DuBois) and I went to High School together! I went to an arts high school and they told us to go “the farther North, the better” so I wound up in Philly for college and moved to NYC the summer after graduation.
CD: So let’s go back in time a bit. How did you get your start in magical world of drag?
NS: During regular people hours I would consider myself an “actor” but I wasn’t doing much of that so I took a year off to re-focus my general “ness” as a performer. During that time I was looking for a creative outlet and the 3rd season of SYTYCD had just kicked off. This was back before they even had a set cast. Anyone could come for how ever long they wanted too and I mean some nights there was close to twenty of us back there! I went in during Musical Theatre week and WON so I ended up sticking for the rest of the season!
CD: So your first time performing in drag was actually AT SYTYCD?
NS: I made one performance a few months before at Paige Turner’s Virgin Show at Vlada but I was too drunk to remember how it went.
CD: Well, this city loves a drunk virgin! How did you decide on your name? I have a hunch about the first name.
NS: *Laughs* Well Nomi is based on the infamous Nomi Malone from the movie SHOWGIRLS and SAS was inspired by the Broadway legend Rachelle “SAS” Rak.
CD: I was right on the money with my guess! *laughs* You mentioned before that Crystal Demure is your drag mother. How did that relationship come about?
NS: Crystal and I met a few months after I moved to the city. We were both performing off-broadway in a musical about Fire Island! From day one the rest of the company thought we knew each other from before but our first meeting was actually the first day of rehearsals! Ever since then there has been an amazing, strong and inspiring relationship! During the time we were doing the show, she was competing in season 2 of SYTYCD and we would all leave our show and walk her to the theatre and see the show!
CD: What was your first memory of drag when you were growing up? Not counting Bug Bunny of course.
NS: I had always paraded around in a can-can skirt growing up but I didn’t know you could do that and get paid for it!! but My first memory was probably that Project Runway episode where they created looks for some amazing queens Varla Jean Merman and Hedda Lettuce were the stand outs for me! My grandfather and I actually got into a very heated argument because he didn’t want me watching that episode.
CD: He wanted to watch it in private?
NS: *Laughs* it was quite moment in life I would say!
CD: Like we said earlier, you’ve been choreographing for SYTYCD. Did you go to school for dance?
NS: I went to college for Musical Theatre but at my school, when you’re a senior you can basically create your own “specialty”. It was called the independent study program and it was a great way to eat up a bunch a credits to keep your full time scholarship and cater the program to your personal interests.
CD: Gee, “Musical Theatre”….I really should just automatically plug that answer in every time I ask this question. *laughs* So was choreography your specialty?
NS: I JUST GOT OFF THE BUS AND I WANNA BE IN A BROADWAY SHOW! *Laughs* Yeah that was me. But as far as the other question, yes choreography was the focus of my senior year! Annnnd a 5 6 7 8!
CD: See, I needed a school that would have let me specialize. The closest thing I have to a specialty is my ability to maximize a Chipotle burrito these days. Oh….a burrito is solid food dear just so you know.
NS: It doesn’t stay solid that’s for sure! God, I haven’t had Chipotle in over four years?
CD: I know! I saw your abs the other night. Now my own abs….its been a while since I saw them. So after you competed in season three, where did your drag career take you?
NS: So after season 3, the winner, Lady Bukakke, asked Chelsea and I to be regulars at her weekly New World show. We ran the gamut of gigs…performing here, hosting there until we got asked to cover for Paige on Tuesday at Xes. That night the bar manager asked us if we wanted to take over the Monday night after Kitten (Bob) and Frostie (Flakes) closed Sisters. A few months later we opened #GYPSIES and Chelsea has been carrying that bus and tuck show now for over two and half years!
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?
NS: Honestly I feel so disconnected from the “Biz” sometimes. Its crazy to stop and think about it because everywhere I scroll every fag-mag I flip through, everyone is always creating and making their own opportunities! I feel very lucky to see the evolution of a lot of queens in the city: from Paige to Bob, Fifi to Brenda, Ari Kiki to Pattaya, Jada to Chelsea any one of them would fill that slot because they each bring something new to the NYC drag nightlife, Shitty Faggotry. God that was so Miss America!
CD: I think the other two or three queens that are left in the city that you didn’t mention are going to be SO offended Nomi!
NS: Like I said, Shitty Faggots! *Laughs*
CD: How do you feel the drag scene in New York has changed and evolved in the time you’ve been following it?
NS: I certainly feel like things have gotten more grand as far as the looks and production quality! Its like everyone is building up their stock in order to prepare for Drag Race. Maybe I just know more places to go than I did before but there’s something to do at a different part of the evening, every night of the week and there’s always a new queen making her debut. I feel that every corner you turn, there is a new queen. Everyone wants to do drag! Before when a new queen made her debut she was a Norwegian GEM so to speak, it was an event. I’m missing the backstory from the “just got off the bus” girls. Although that could be all the Halloween costumes that are popping up on my news feed.
CD: Some of those Halloween queens need to be pushed right back ON to the bus!
NS: That’s why I stayed in last night! But alas, it is now forever immortalized on the interwebs.
CD: Smart girl! So in a world that is now even more crowded by Halloween queens who woke this morning with the itch to do more drag (or is that Chlamydia?), what do you think makes you stand out from the crowd? Like in city filled with talented queens, what is about Nomi that makes people notice her?
NS: *Laughs* oh you’re too kind! You make it sound like I actually have a drag career!
CD: Well, you do a bang up job holding the microphone for starters!
NS: That was my workout for the day!
CD: I’ve heard about that whole workout thing that all the kids are talking about these days.
NS: Yes, come on down to David Barton Gym! We can hook you up with a personal training session and a blow job in the steam room!
CD: I’m suddenly more interested in fitness!
NS: When people come to see a Nomi performance, they are getting Broadway 100%. You are seeing third chorus girl from the left, stepping out of the ensemble for first time playing for the third Balcony at Radio City. For me, its that theatre background that been instilled in me. I may have done a particular number dozens of times but each time I try to perform it as if I’m doing it for the very first time. I’m doing numbers that I want to do in a way iI ant to do it. I’m telling a story that means something to me and at the end of it, if you are smiling or laughing or feel any sort of emotion then I’ve done my job as a performer. I like to say Nomi has the little Gwen Verdon Twinkle when she played the hooker with a heart of gold and I think that shines through when I hit the stage.
CD: Except you’re an actual hooker with a heart of gold?
NS: And abs of steel!
CD: You don’t need to keep rubbing those in to me Nomi!
NS: I’m just preparing for the soup that you have cooking!
CD: I’ll try to resist the urge to bitterly load you up on bread and other assorted carbs. So sharing a bowl of soup with me aside, what goals do you have for yourself going forward?
NS: Moving forward, I’d like to get reacquainted with the drag scene. I’ve been “out of the biz” for a while and i would like to make a come back. I don’t know when. I don’t know how but I think you’ll start to see more of Nomi out and about soon. Chelsea and I are always having heart-to-heart talks about where we want to take our careers as #GYPSIES and we have some projects we would like to take on together as well as just pushing my own look queens. The blue hair from SYTYCD Halloween was a whole new eye opener for me!
CD: That blue hair looked SO cute on you! I didn’t realize it was you at first. So, I’m not rude, just unobservant. In the meantime, where can people come and see you do your thing?
NS: We have the SYTYCD Closing coming up November 12th and on Dec 4th I’ll be performing at the Metropolitan Room with Urban Stages Winter Rhythms Cabaret Series. Its a wonderful series that will benefit Arts and Education! And I’m sure I’ll crash one more performance of #GYPSIES before the closing of Xes.
CD: Well, we’ve just about reached the end here Nomi but I am so happy we had time for a little girl talk. Following what you said, I can’t recommend catching the finale of SYTYCD on the 12th enough! So before we call it a night and have some soup while we discuss those special gym packages further, do you have any final words of wisdom to leave the kids with gorgeous?
NS: Oh thank you Chiffon! and YES! Save the roaches to your joints because you can break them up into your bowl to smoke later! Never say no in improve and COME SEE CHARLIE CHAPLIN!