I was lucky enough to speak with New York City drag star Miz Cracker this past Monday night about her wonderful fundraising event to benefit the LGBT community in Uganda. Since she is one of the smartest queens I have ever met, this interview went in all sorts of directions, both humorous and serious. But more than anything, this interview is worthwhile. Worthwhile because because it helps to shine a light on the plight of the LGBT community in Uganda, a country where being gay can be punished with time in prison. Please enjoy this interview, share it with friends to spread the message and please contribute to this worthy cause if you can.
Hi there Miz Cracker. Its good to talk to you again. How are you doing this evening?
Honestly, I’m very in-my-head. Thinking about my problems and America’s problems. Some of them overlap.
I’m right there with you. The vote to leave the European Union over in the UK, makes me worry about what might happen here this fall.
After Bush, anything is possible. But I think smaller than that. I don’t think much about elections and politicians. I think about Americans themselves, how troubled we each are. Ask me anything about Bernie or Hillary. I don’t know anything. Not one fact. All I know is the phrase “November election,” which I heard on the news once. I think that’s when the election is going to be.
How much has Orlando affected your mindset right now?
It’s an odd thing to say, but I’m much more affected by the reaction to Orlando than by the event itself. I see two things going on: people exploiting the event to draw attention to themselves, acting like it’s about them; and people trying to present it as a moment of solidarity and unity. I wish people would stop repackaging what is truly a mystifying, horrifying loss.
I understand where you are coming from. The variety of thoughts and focus in the aftermath was almost mind boggling to me. Some were so poignant and some….well, they just made me shake my head.
It reminds me of Hollywood studios that adapt books with sad endings into films with happy resolutions. You destroy the meaning when you alter the end. This is a sad ending. There’s no silver lining here.
Do you think there is at least an opportunity to do some good though?
I think there’s an opportunity to help the people who need financial support at this moment. Anything beyond that—I can hope, but I can’t feel optimistic. Isn’t this a nice talk? This is why I have no friends.
You just need to find your Pooh and Christopher Robin who will accept you Eeyore.
Katelyn (Katelyn is Cracker’s cohort in the strangely addictive “Okay Katelyn” videos. Like this one.) has accepted the Piglet mantle. Which I think makes Monét X. Change Pooh, and Judy Darling Rabbit. I was like, “Katelyn are you sure you want to be a PIG?” She was like, “Oh yeah. They’re PINK, hello!”
“Okay Piglet. Its time for dinner!”
Okay, that’s a keeper.
You’ll have to excuse me. I’m now visualizing Winnie the Pooh characters having the puppy Snapchat filter forced on them.
So this past weekend here in New York, was Pride. Did you have a good Pride?
I really did. I cut out of work early with the Hardware girls, Monét X. Change and Jasmine Rice. We ordered burgers and talked about everything that’s wrong with America until we had totally lost our trains of thought.
Is that the 3 Train?
L Train. Very bumpy.
What did you think of President Obama officially making Stonewall a national monument? Seeing the Orlando memorial out front really gave me pause.
I hope that making it a monument will make it part of America’s official history. But considering how the West Village recently tried to push Boots and Saddle, a drag venue, out of the neighborhood because they didn’t want to deal with the queens, I don’t really see how an official nod from on high represents opinions on the ground.
You don’t think progress is progress, even if its measured in inches? I mean nearly fifty years ago, the NYPD were raiding Stonewall. Now in the days after Orlando, they were standing guard over it.
Oh I think there’s incredible progress. My lady friend Monear recently yelled at her father for ignoring the progress America has made, telling him that if he refused to see growth, he’d never get out of his chair and help push things along. But I can’t help counting the lives and stories lost while we wait for change.
For someone who talks about things being bleak though, you’re not exactly sitting around waiting for change. The main reason I wanted to talk with you tonight is about your GoFundMe effort to benefit the LGBT in Uganda. That doesn’t sound like the action of someone who thinks all is lost. (Please check it out here and contribute if you can. We’ll wait for you.)
Having a pessimistic outlook does not stop me from wanting to stick it to homophobes. My GoFundMe project is going to do just that—it’s going to help queer people in Uganda gather to celebrate and educate themselves at a time when a homophobic government would like to see them vanish. All the money goes to support a four-day queer event—Pride Uganda 2016—which includes a march, seminars, and a drag pageant God damnit. How can you be a homo and not support that?
How did this event get on to your radar? I’m going to assume you were checking out the Missed Connections on Craigslist: Africa.
Okay, you are really funny today. I’m not even laughing at that because it was so real.
I’m not pretty enough to not be funny.
Well, my best straight friend Ben introduced me to an incredible woman named Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi, who has been photographing the LGBT community in Uganda for years. Diana’s images are just like her—beautiful, captivating—and they made me feel like I knew the people she depicted. So I had to get involved. Later on, I got to know a queer advocate in Uganda, and I asked her what someone like me could do to help. This is what she wanted—donated wigs and heels, and some money to make Pride Uganda 2016 happen. It was strange to hear from her after Orlando. She was so deeply concerned about queer people here, so genuinely hurt by what happened. Yet most of us here aren’t aware that LGBT people in Uganda are being wounded and murdered regularly. Readers, imagine that while I’m talking I’m wearing a fabulous gown. Whatever it takes for you to stay interested in what I have to say. Or pretend I’m an article of clothing Beyonce wore once.
Well to be fair, you’re combining gays AND black people, two groups that large swaths of the country aren’t too keen on. Its like the Reese Peanut Butter Cup of American prejudice.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, ha ha!
You actually encouraged people to bring heels and wigs to your show at Therapy last Thursday to send to Uganda. And in the grand tradition of fundraising, you bribed people in an effort to get them to participate.
Yeah, anyone who brought a wig or heels that night got a raffle ticket and a chance to win a Perfidia wig. And Perfidia is among the best wig stylists in the nation as far as I know. Gays can look at it this way. Africa is a primarily black neighborhood right now, and we love gentrifying those. Does that help anyone take an interest?
So wait, are we sending wigs and heels over there or opening a Whole Foods? I’m so confused.
Trader Joe’s actually. Managed by a Belgian King. Hash tag colonialism. Hash tag horrifying jokes. Hash tag high brow.
You actually went over to Africa earlier this year. What was that experience like for you?
Senegal is the only place in the world where I’m happy. I leave my phone behind and forget America completely. I don’t speak any English there. I love Senegal so much, I took my mother and sister this last time, and for a minute we thought we might just stay. But when we looked around, we saw absolutely no queer faces and we remembered, ah, queer people die here. There was this terrible moment where my friend and I were listening to French radio, he actually switched it off when a story came up about gay rights. I switched it on. He switched it off. And so forth. It was this really ugly moment between us.
How do you move forward with someone you consider a friend after something like that radio incident?
I just learned the answer to that question! Years ago, I taught English to a group of West African guys in Harlem, who have since moved away. All of them very devout, so to create a safe learning environment I did not disclose my sexuality, AKA the demon hunger inside me. Flash forward to a few weeks ago, one of them called me and said, “Hey, I’m coming to visit you!” Mind you, this guy had mentioned many times that homosexuality is the worst crime. So what could I do? I had to send an email like, Hey, I’d love you to come see me but I have to tell you who I am. And he accepted me. He was cautious. But he accepted me. Because, by overlooking his prejudices, and ignoring my own, I allowed us to make a friendship that transcended our problems. The moral of the story can be found in The Little Prince: see with your heart. Your brain gets in the way. So what if my friend can’t stand gays right now. Maybe we’ll both change our minds about a lot of things before we kick off.
What is the appeal of Senegal?
Senegal has some of the most incredible food in the world. Imagine Indian food—sauces on rice—but richer, and peanut based. Then Mbalax music is beautiful. The presence of Islam is beautiful. And the people I know there have done so much for me, accepted me. There’s a Wolof phrase I can’t spell—but it means Everything is G-d. AKA you’re gay, that’s okay.
Nothing like a light, fluffy interview before bed.
I cannot wait to see this guy’s reaction when I dress up as Cracker. Hello, I’m the first openly gay man you’ve ever known aaaaaaand SHABLAM now I’m the first drag queen you’ve ever seen.
That should go just fine.
I hope Katelyn is snap chatting that moment. OKAY KATELYN, TIME FOR RADICAL CHANGES IN SOMEONE’S WORLD VIEW.
I’m looking forward to potential homophobic slurs spouted through a puppy dog filter.
When Katelyn and I pass, “Okay, Katelyn, time for dinner” will be our mark on the world. I was on the West Coast recently, out of drag, and people I didn’t even know were calling out “OKAY KATELYN!“. Like, there should be an Okay Katelyn Memorial Foundation that gives grants to drag enthusiasts, honoring our legacy.
“Okay Katelyn” would immediately be the best show on NBC’s fall schedule. Okay, we’ve strayed a bit off course. Let’s get back to the reason we’re here.
The Pride Uganda 2016 project is so important. Think about it this way: give one dollar to Pride Uganda, empower queers across the world. And then next time you cheat on your partner, and the guilt is eating at you, you can be like HEY, but I donated to an incredible cause. (Seriously, go contribute here. You’ll hate yourself less in the morning if you do.)
Not to toot my own horn but I skipped a couple of trips to Five Guys and donated to Pride Uganda 2016 because I think is an extremely worthwhile cause. If you can, please consider doing the same because literally every bit helps.
Oh, and I clocked that donation. Thank you.
It was my pleasure. Honestly, with this figure, skipping trips to Five Guys is probably a good thing.
I should have skipped the trip to those five guys last night. I’m JUST KIDDING. Two were passed out so they didn’t count. I’m kidding, I think one was in pretty bad condition. [Long silence]
somewhere a cricket chirps
Let’s make America great again.
I honestly have no idea how to respond to that.
Welcome to an interview with Miz Cracker.
I barely had recovered from the one we did a few month back to be honest.
I think we’ve just about reached the end here. Do you have any final words of wisdom before we call it a night?
Oh, I always deliver at the end, this is a lot of pressure.
Still the reigning champ of closing comments for any interview I’ve done is Broadway star Lesli Margherita who gave the world this gem, “Remember, five inch lucite heels instantly class up any outfit.“. Your move Miz Cracker.
I have such an excellent response to that, but I can’t because it would get me fired. So I’ll say this. The wisdom of our day is “cut toxic people out of your life.” Don’t do that, you toxic whiner. Put up with your friends the way they put up with you when you broke up with Trade and didn’t stop scream-weeping for six months. I mean, use your common sense. But don’t be so spoiled that you can’t weather hard times with somebody. I say this after two years of systematically phasing out every friend I ever had! Laughs
So wait, does that mean you’ll still talk to me after this or not?
[Seen 12:43 am]
So anyway, like I said kids, be sure to contribute to Bob the Drag Queen’s charity!
It’s called “Help Me Paint”. Just kidding. It’s called “Please God Help Me Paint”. She decided to be direct rather than clever.
This is why they say drag children should be seen but not heard.
Thank you so much for this interview!
Please check out Miz Cracker’s Slate article for more info.