Meet The Pie Baking Drag Queen Bertha Mason
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 the pie baking drag queen Bertha Mason. She dishes out sass while teaching people how to bake pies. It’s part Food Network part Dame Edna and all fun. This month and in June Baking With Bertha is coming to NYC. This ain’t your ordinary drag show.
What’s more important- cooking a good meal or looking fabulous while doing so?
That is not an ‘or’ it’s an ‘and’ situation. You have to do both. I think it’s always important to accessorize and I like when my meals accessorize my clothes so everything is one uniformed package. And everyone likes a good package.
What are your baking shows like?
All my live shows are around a baking demo and there’s always a story and a theme. When I’m playing Bertha the stories start off kind of simple, kind of hometown spun stories about her relationship with her neighbors in Minnesota. They all seem very innocent then they start to turn into weird areas of sadness and fear.
Where does your love of baking come from?
I was raised in a house where everyone baked pies. A lot of the women in my family weren’t expressive or open but they would communicate their happiness and sadness and their love through food.
Describe your look.
I serve up fishiness but its tuna noodle casserole realness.
What’s Bertha like?
She’s a baker, some might say a master baker. She’s a drag queen who makes pies and delivers this kind of wholesome look but it’s like giving razor blades in whipped cream. There’s always something sharp and sad and mean about Bertha.
Do you lip sync?
This is where it gets very meta. Bertha will lip sync but she’ll only lip sync as men. So it’s me, a man who’s dressed as a woman who’s dressed as a man, lip syncing.
What kinds of reactions do you get from other queens?
A lot of drag queens think “Who are you? What are you? Are you Mrs. Doubtfire? Are you Dame Edna? What are you supposed to be?” I get that a lot. Drag queens are drawn to me because, as Bertha, I’m very matronly and I’m very buxom. There’s a certain amount of comfort and old style camp to it.
You’ve been performing as Bertha for over 20 years how have you seem drag evolve?
I am of a certain age and I remember when drag was very special and different and kind of like a secret society and now it is becoming kind of a mainstream product which is both good and bad.
Does Drag Race set unrealistic expectations for audiences at drag shows?
I think Drag Race is a double edged sword. It is wonderful that people are able to see this subculture. I think it is, in a way, a challenge because it allows a certain kind of drag to be seen and that drag is very fierce and polished and expensive and it narrows peoples focus on what drag queens are. For me, I think people are going to want me to be that fierce queen who’s very bitchy and full of reads and wears fabulous clothes but I am a different kind of drag and I like the fact that all kinds of drag can exist.
You cooking show Baking With Bertha is being held at the Church of The Village. That seems like a unique venue for a drag performance.
I was looking for a place where I could bring this kind of campy mid-western wholesomeness. This is the church where PFLAG started in 1972. It’s a very progressive, liberal, anti-racist, LGBT friendly radically inclusive church.