Shuga Cain: NYC Drag Queen of the Week
There is no shortage of drag queens in NYC. You can’t throw a rock without hitting some twink in a dress who thinks he’s got what it takes to shantay down the runway just because he’s seen every season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race while practicing YouTube makeup tutorials. There’s a difference, though, between learning how to just paint your face and turning that face into a work of fucking art. This is the first in a weekly series that highlights the New York queens that stand out from the crowd, work their assess off and rock those heels til they bleed. Meet Shuga Cain.
How did you come up with your drag name?
I call my drag name a trifecta of things. I’ve always been obsessed with candy and baking. I’m also obsessed with The Color Purple, so Shug Avery from The Color Purple. As for the ‘Cain’ part- I grew up totally idolizing Candis Cayne. I’d seen her in the documentary ‘Wigstock’. One day I was thinking about my name and all three of these things came up at once and I was like ‘Oh my god my name is Shuga Cain’. It stuck with me and it’s so perfectly fitting.
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Tell me about the first time you went out in drag.
I was a Halloween queen when I was really young. I was like 18 or 19 and I was wearing the worst Spencer’s Gifts wig and pleather pants and a leopard top. It was atrocious. I had just come out and I remember walking around and duping some of my friends I went to school with. They had no idea it was me. It was a bunch of straight boys and they were cat calling me. I was laughing and a little mortified and then I turned around and they realized it was me and we just all laughed our asses off. That was the first experience where I thought ‘I can be passable’.
What was been your best night in drag so far?
I competed in the Look Queen competition this past year and I won. It was absolutely amazing. I worked my ass off for it for so long and I spent a lot of money and I had a bunch of friends help me out with it. I was on cloud 9. I really wanted to win, and I won.
Ru Paul has also gotten some backlash for saying that post op transgender women wouldn’t be allowed to compete on Drag Race. Do you think that trans women or even biological woman can be drag queens?
Absolutely. I really think that drag is for everyone and I’m accepting of anyone who wants to express themselves however they want to. I would never say, because you’re a biological woman or because you are trans, you are not a drag queen. We are all passing as something in our daily lives in some way shape or form and to exclude certain people from that just because of what they may or may not have, to me, I would never do that. I think anyone can do it and I’m super supportive of anyone that has the guts to throw on a bunch of make-up and wigs and get themselves in front of an audience and express themselves creatively.
What makes the drag scene in New York different from anywhere else?
I think the caliber of New York City drag is some of the best in the country. The girls here are really super talented and really funny and they’re very creative in their looks. A lot of the kids here come from a theater background. I feel like everyday is the drag Olympics in New York City. We’re working so much and there’s so many different girls it’s like ‘how do you stand out?’ and so you continue to work hard, we’re lugging all our costumes changes on the subway- it isn’t like any other place- through the snow, though the heat we are grinding.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started drag?
I wish I knew that you don’t have to take everything so seriously all the time. I think when I started drag I really wanted to make an impression, and I worked really hard, but I think I took it all a little too serious. I wish I just had more fun with it.
What’s the biggest misconception about drag queens?
That it’s easy (laughing). It’s a lot of work.
Shuga Cain performs Sundays at Voss Events Drag Brunch at the Highline Ballroom (noon and 2:30pm) and Monster Bar for The Look Queen (11pm), Wednesdays she co hosts Snatched with Jan Sport at Pieces Bar (10pm), Thursdays she’s at Hardware Bar for Get Lucky Happy Hour (10pm) and Friday’s she’s at The Laurie Beachman for Sickening Superheroes (monthly).