Hi there Gina Tonic! How are you enjoying this unseasonably warm and/or unseasonably cold weather? I have to cover both extremes because I think Mother Nature is off her meds.
As an ex-pat from sunny California, I’m ready for some warmer weather!! I got all dressed up this morning for a cute Spring day and had to throw on an extra scarf or two or three.
I swear if we get any more snow, I’ll do….well, something.
My biggest regret is, for the third winter in a row, not sledding or building a snow person.
Snow person, how incredibly woke of you!
Chiffon, I can’t believe you know what woke means! Anyways, why do we always have to make men out of snow? I’d love to see a snow drag queen, actually. Has anyone on reddit ever done that? Do we have an intern to check on that?
We? Do you have a mouse in your pants? You know what, don’t answer that.
So you said you’re originally from California. I have to ask, if there ain’t no party like a west coast party, how did you wind up in New York City?
I’m sure this comes as no surprise to you at all, considering I’m a drag queen working in New York City, but the bright lights of Broadway called to me!
I’m bracing for the two magical words I hear in every NYC queen interview. Musical and Theater.
But there’s a plot twist: while I did study musical theatre in college, I was primarily a Directing major. That’s what I initially wanted to do when I moved here. Unfortunately, as few jobs as there are for drag queens, there are even fewer for a twenty-something who wants to be a director.
You know, I DID notice that you are extra bossy now that you say it.
Funny enough, though, things have come full circle, and I directed a show for one queen and have another one in the works.
I love a queen who can segue right into shameless self-promotion! Now I am going to take a stab her and say you directed Gloria Swansong‘s Judy Garland show.
Yes, that’s right!! I helped Gloria with some staging for her piece from I Am My Own Wife for the finale of So You Think You Can Drag. And I guess she liked me so much, she asked me to helm Judy At The Green Room, which was 90-minutes of nonstop Judy Garland lip syncing.
How did it feel to be on the other side of the drag curtain?
So relaxing for a change! It’s a nice change to show up to the gig in jeans and sneakers, for once.
If you’re not wearing jeans and sneakers, you’re not doing drag directing!
Yes, and the best part is you don’t need to wear nails for drag directing, either.
But alas, a queen cannot exist on directing alone! How did you get started in drag? Was it back home in California or did this city do what it usually does to theater boys, force them into a dress?
Here’s the story: I went to college at UC Irvine, and originally majored in, you guessed it, musical theatre. My first year, I wasn’t cast in any of the shows, but the second year, I was called back to be in the ensemble of our main stage show, The Threepenny Opera. Not only was I surprised to see my name up on that list, but I was called back for the female ensemble. I thought it might have been a mistake since my boy name is gender neutral. Sure enough, they were looking to cast a man in drag for one of the female roles. I got the part, and that was my first experience in performing in drag. The director of that show was the head of the directing department. He convinced me to take his class the next semester, and a few months later, I was a directing major. After college, I got involved with The Illyrian Players Theatre Company in LA that explored gender in their productions. They cast me in a drag role in Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill, and I also performed in drag for a few of their fundraisers. When I first moved to New York, drag stayed on the back burner for awhile. I brought it all with me, but it sat under my bed for the most part. That is, until my friend Ruby Powers invited me to be in one of her shows, which is when Gina Tonic was born!
Now the name Gina Tonic is ironic right, since you so rarely imbibe in alcohol?
I only drink on days that end in Y.
Sounds about right. So how long did it take you to figure out who Gina Tonic was, considering your prior drag was more character roles?
That’s a great question! It honestly took me about a year to figure out who Gina was. I didn’t have a crystal clear idea of who the character was until after So You Think You Can Drag, but I think that performing in that competition really helped to give me an idea of the character that I wanted to portray with my drag. Week after week, I would hear from the judges and audiences what they enjoyed most about my performances. I had originally set out to make Gina a drunk middle-aged housewife, but people received her as a young, bubbly, and quirky. When Chelsea Piers was a guest judge, she pointed out that my style of performance tends to take classic drag and give it a modern touch. I’ve mixed up all these ideas and created this modern day dumb blonde with a love for old movies and classic Broadway shows.
You mentioned So You Think You Can Drag, what made you decide to apply for one of New York’s most prominent drag competitions?
I’ve been a fan of the competition for a few years and figured there was no time like now to give it a shot.
What was the most surprising thing for you once you were a part of the competition?
I didn’t get my own dressing room! Actually, I was really impressed by how professional the whole production was. The producers called each of us individually to let us know we’d been cast, and we were given all the rules and guidelines up front.
What are you most proud of from that experience, aside from being the biggest ham during the weekly interviews with WERRRK.com’s backstage correspondent, Strawberry Fields?
I really loved my Elaine Stritch performance for Legends & Divas week. Up until then, I mostly performed mixes, but that night, I performed a song straight through, and it gave me more courage to perform whole songs, rather than mixes.
What projects have you been up to since SYTYCD ended?
Well, the day after the finale of SYTYCD, I got laid off from my day job. At the time, it felt like the worst thing ever. But since then, I’ve started performing in two weekly shows.
Is that the one with the donkey down in Mexico you were telling me about?
Yeah, I lead a donkey all through out the streets of Mexico City while lip synching to Cher.
I’m pretty sure you’re not doing a donkey show right dear. Never mind. So tell me about your shows.
On Sundays, I perform in Sisters Drag Brunch at L&W Oyster Co from 12-3. They serve some delicious food and unlimited drinks while Gilda Wabbit and I lip synch and sing live. We perform everything from Abba to Wicked! On Tuesdays, we have a show called Gayme Night from 8-11pm. It’s a modern take on retro game shows, where we play boozy games like Drinktionary.
Gee is that all? All that is missing is having your own new fangled YouTube channel like all the kids are doing.
Oh my god Chiffon Dior, what a good idea! Let me grab my phone and start shooting something!
You kids today and your phones!
I know! It feels like we’re always on them. The trick these days is to make my shows more interesting than Candy Crush!
Sorry, I missed what you were saying. I was busy playing Fruit Ninja.
But you are right Chiffon! How’d you guess?? Now that I’ve taken New York City by storm, I figure it’s time to tackle the next frontier, the World Wide Web!
So you’re doing bedroom camera porn? That’s great Gina!
That was one time!! I’m starting off with a series called Snooze or Booze (Check it out here and here!), which is a drinking game take on the classic Drag Race recap. I’m featuring a new guest queen each week. For episode one of season 9, we made two episodes of Snooze or Booze with Gilda Wabbit as my guest host.
Wait, Gilda who? Wasn’t she briefly famous for something?
Yes, and only briefly! She’s probably best known for being the Romy to my Michelle.
Oh okay! Now I remember her. So the better though, when are you going to have a video series called, “Damn Gina!“?
Oh yea! That’s what all the boys say to me when they see me walking down 5th avenue!
Obviously! Duh! What do you think it is about your look that causes all that street attention?
Probably my charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. Although one time, I saw Billy Eichner filming his show when I was on my way to a gig. And I was so upset that he didn’t stop me to play one of his quiz games.
Well that was a sneaky little Drag Race plug you worked in there! Does that mean you are applying for season 10?
I can neither confirm nor deny. To be honest, I never learned how to drive so maybe a drag race wouldn’t be the best thing to have me do.
Maybe “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” is more your speed then?
That sounds perfect!! I would also love to be the first drag contestant on Big Brother.
Well I will keep my eyes on the TV in hopes of seeing you soon then. In the meantime, are you for some lightning round questions?? cue dramatic music
Must have makeup item?
Ben Nye Super White Powder.
Drag role model?
4am post drag food craving?
Cocoa Puffs or Tacos.
Best part of drag?
Making people smile!
Worst part of drag?
My feet are always in pain.
Most surprising thing about you people might not know?
I’m a natural blonde
If not for drag, what would you be doing?
I’d be a flight attendant.
Eating a whole carton of ice cream in one sitting.
Death row last meal?
Really good General Tso’s Chicken with fried rice and a spring roll.
Netflix binge recommendation?
I was hoping you’d ask! Great British Baking Show!
Second favorite cocktail?
Last one, most embarrassing song on your phone?
I have a random instrumental track from Walt Disney’s Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
Besides a successful run on “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?“, what other goals do you have for yourself on the proverbial drag bucket list?
My #1 bucket list item is to perform on a Broadway stage!
Well I will keep my fingers crossed that we we see on you on stage on the Great White Way sometime soon, as opposed to the street corners over there.
I will have my fingers crossed, my toes crossed, and like a lady should, my legs crossed!!
Because you’re nothing if not a lady! In all seriousness though, I wish you the best of luck going forward and remain a big fan of yours. Do you have any final words of wisdom to leave the readers with?
Yes!! I think so many people sit and wait for success to come to them, but my advice is to go out and ask for what you want so you can make it happen.
Thank you to Zoë Dunford of ZBD Photography for letting us use her photos for this piece. Be sure to like her page here!