Chiffon Dior: Well hello there Schwa! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. How are you doing on this Labor Day holiday?
Schwa De Vivre: Hi! I’m fabulously recovering after a delicious weekend in Asbury Park with my best friends. Looking forward to catching up on sleep tonight!!
CD: I feel you there. I need a holiday to recover from the holiday usually. So tell me about how you got your drag name. You’re definitely the first queen I’ve ever met named Schwa!
SdV: My boy name is Joshua, and my friends started calling me Schwa (the end of Joshua) back in 2000, way before I started doing drag. A “schwa” is also a phonetic symbol, and I studied phonetics and linguistics as part of my actor training, so it just fits! When I started drag I added my last name “de Vivre,” a play on the french phrase “joie de vivre” which means “the joy of life”
CD: That’s very unique! I love it! How did you get your start in the world of drag?
SdV: I’ve always loved performing, and the idea of transforming oneself and putting on a show. I dabbled with drag in high school and college, and always used Halloween as an excuse to dress up. Then I spent two summers in Fire Island and became friends with some amazing queens. I decided to enter Miss Fire Island for something fun to do, and fell in love with the art of drag while preparing for that. Now its my new career path!
CD: We’ve been talking about how the drag scene in NYC is in a little bit of a state of flux. How do you feel the drag scene has changed in the time you’ve been around?
SdV: Well I’ve only been emerged in the world of drag for one year, so I haven’t seen much change. It does seem that there are more girls on the scene trying to make things happen – and that’s awesome. As long as you work hard and are nice – I’ll be a fan of your drag!
CD: So with some of the bigger queens in the city moving on to new projects and phases in their careers, there is the beginning of a vacuum. Who do you think is poised to fill the void?
SdV: God, I have no idea! Probably the girls who have the biggest balls – their tucks are always the tightest too. I’m always poised to fill a void or two, so I’d definitely say me.
CD: Since your….ahem…TOP pick is yourself, what do you think your personal style of drag brings the scene that is unique?
SdV: It’s what’s bubbling underneath my drag that’s unique – my passion to be onstage and entertain. It absolutely fills me with utter joy! I am most comfortable onstage.
CD: You mentioned earlier that you’re trained as an actor. Did you know at a early age that that is what you wanted to do? Where did you love of performance come from?
SdV: Yes, I always knew. I dressed up as a little boy and always danced around, singing, and putting on shows. I told my mom in 6th grade, “Mother, I will be an actor, and I will be on Broadway“. Then I never stopped working hard and dreaming big! I was lucky enough to make my Broadway debut in 2011 and have had a very fulfilling career in the musical theatre world. Drag is my new way of putting it all out there, in exactly the way I want to! I was in the 1st National Tour of Mary Poppins for over two years, then got transferred into the Broadway Company. It was absolutely amazing! I loved every minute of it and sure do miss those steady paychecks!
CD: What are these “steady paychecks” you speak of…..says every drag queen out there?
SdV: Laughs Exactly! Luckily I own a house cleaning company, so I make my own schedule and don’t have to rely on drag to pay the bills. Of course, the goal is that some day soon drag WILL pay the bills!
CD: As opposed to drag CAUSING the bills?
SdV: PREACH! Luckily I only buy $10 dresses and I wear a size 7 (in women’s shoes), so Payless is one of my favorite shops!!
CD: SIZE SEVEN???? This interview is over! Storms off
SdV: Laughs I know! All the queens with normal men-sized feet hate me so much!
CD: Absolutely. I totally hate you now although being able to buy normal sizes would be SO damaging to my bank account so I should probably count my blessings. Since you’re just getting started as a queen, I know you still have your whole career ahead of you but what are some of the goals you have in your drag bucket list?
SdV: I want to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race for the exposure. I know its not the only way to make it big, but as of now in the drag world, it’s the best way to get seen by SO many people. I want to create a one-woman show that I can tour around the world with. I want to record albums, and do TV & film.
CD: So until all that comes to pass, where can people see you performing?
SdV: I do a drag variety show with my sister Alexis Michelle every Wednesday night at 11pm at THE WEST END LOUNGE (107th and Broadway). I’m also competing in Season 5 of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DRAG at New World Stages. You can see me there every Thursday for 9 weeks, starting September 11th at 11pm. And of course, you can see me at odd hours of the day behind your local dumpster giving $2 hand jobs to those in need.
CD: You’re doing the Lord’s work Schwa! Thank you so much for time gurl! Do you have any final words of wisdom before we call it an evening?
SdV: My advice to anyone – Never stop dreaming, always know you can do whatever you put your mind to, work your ass off, be grateful for your true friends, and have a fucking blast!