Meet The Hip Hop Drag Queen Of Boston and New York
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 interview series highlights the New York queens that stand out from the crowd, work their assess off and rock those heels til they bleed.
Meet Neon Calypso.
How did your family react to you coming out as gay and then as a drag queen?
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My family knew I was gay before I knew I was gay. When I came out they were like ‘We knew this. We were just waiting for you to tell us.’ When I started doing drag I was living with family that didn’t necessarily agree with it. It wasn’t anything that was talked about.
You’re from Boston but you also perform in NYC. How do the two scenes compare?
The Boston drag scene is similar to the Brooklyn scene where you have every type of drag thriving and trying to make a name for itself. In New York it’s more POC friendly and there’s more opportunities for queens of color.
You perform at hip hop drag shows. Is that a growing scene?
I would say there’s a growing scene for queens of color who are doing hip hop. Often I find the shows, in a lot of the drag communities, are white-based and they’re often white-run so you don’t necessarily see queens of color get the chance to do hip hop. In Boston I’m the only drag queen that hosts, on a regular basis, a hip hop catered night. There are other nights that are labeled ‘urban’ but they’re run by white queens.
So a black queen does ‘hip hop’ but a white queen does ‘urban’?
Absolutely. If a white queen is on a poster and it’s a night that’s hip hop based it’ll say ‘Urban Top 40’.
You’re pretty open calling out these double standards. Is that reflected in your act?
I’m very outspoken especially when I’m given an opportunity and a platform to speak out about things that I see. When I started drag I really focused on highlighting issues that queer women of color go through on a daily basis and bringing that into spaces that often wouldn’t highlight it. There were a lot of numbers that I did when I started doing drag that had spoken word. I find that when I do these pieces a lot of people listen to what is being said .
What issues do you talk about?
I’ve done pieces on capitalism. I’ve done pieces on being a black person and having an attitude and what that may look like. I’ve done a piece on eating disorders. I have a lot more ideas but you can’t go out and just do these pieces everywhere. I want my message to be heard directly to a specific type of audience.
What kind of responses do you get from audiences?
There was one gig I did in Washington D.C. and the second number I did was a piece about capitalism that went into Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money. The response from that crowd was amazing. They were like ‘We’ve never seen anything like this and we understand the message you’re trying to portray’.
It sounds like you’re really enlightening people.
I’ve brought those issues into spaces that are like ‘You know, maybe we aren’t recognizing what people are going through.’