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Nobody knows when or why it happened, but it most definitely is happening: Brooklyn drag is having a moment.

Sure, Sasha Velour helped boost the borough’s profile as a drag mecca when she won Season 9 of Drag Race (she was v vocal about her Brooklyn pride). And yes, insane Manhattan rents have made Brooklyn an obvious heir to Wigstock’s throne for years (BK’s version is Bushwig and it’s huge). But those two things alone don’t fully explain the proliferation of endlessly creative queens arriving on the scene.

So what makes Brooklyn drag so special? Where are the best parties and performance venues? And how has Sasha Velour’s high-profile RPDR victory changed things?

To find out, we had photographer Eva Zar kiki with 20 of Brooklyn’s fiercest queens. Check out her portraits and interviews below for all the haute looks and hot tea BK’s finest have to offer.

1. Crystal Mesh / Jacob Liddell

What makes the Brooklyn drag scene different from anywhere else?
We aren’t all trying to fit into the same mold. Creativity, individuality, and pushing the boundaries of drag is what the Brooklyn community is all about.

What’s a typical Crystal Mesh performance like?
I try to mix it up. I write and produce my own songs, so I’ll usually perform those at larger scale events or if I’m traveling. At my weekly party, Oops!, I’ll give you a funny or stoopid lip sync. I’m a theater kid but I can’t dance to save my life, so I gotta make people laugh. It’s all about connecting with the audience.

2. Dynasty / Andrew Nguyen

What makes the Brooklyn drag scene different from anywhere else?
Everyone—regardless if you're a queen or just a supporter—is encouraged to reach their full potential in regards to their individuality. But more importantly, we all truly love and respect one another, and everyone's drag motivates us all to dig deeper into our own drag and talents. All of us Brooklyn queens are fucking crazy and so loving. It's very special. 

If you were mayor of NYC, what’s the first thing you would change?
I don't know, but do you ever think about how the richest people in the city live in skyscrapers like medieval kings and queens hidden in their lofty castles above all of us peasants? It's weird and messed up. So I'd start a revolution of creativity and freedom and love with all my sistas at my side.

3. Esther


How would you describe your drag aesthetic?
The scene in Jennifer's Body when Megan Fox pukes black oil. 

If you were mayor of NYC, what’s the first thing you would change?
Revoke the archaic, racist, prohibition-era cabaret law.  

4. Jacquée Kennedée / Brandon Kennedy


What makes the Brooklyn drag scene different from anywhere else?
We're less afraid to be messy/unpretty (not that we can't do polished glam too!). Also, a definite emphasis on blurring the binary expression of gender rather than a total switch from male to female and vice-versa.

What’s a typical Jacquée Kennedée performance like?
I personally love to perform an emotional, dramatic-ass musical theater song or a power ballad. I think it's so fun to just stand there and be sickening without having to pull a bunch of stunts (no shade to those types of performers!). It's also a wild feeling to do a whole four-minute number with the audience completely silent until the climax of the song and they lose their shit. 

5. Jeffrey Scott


What are your favorite clubs to host/go to/perform at in NYC?
My favorite party to host definitely has to be Frankie Sharp's Something Special. There's always tons of hosts and performers who bring their own brand of creativity and energy to the party that makes the night exceptional every time. And then once a month I go to Ladyfag's Holy Mountain because who doesn't love a theme party?

If you were mayor of NYC, what’s the first thing you would change?
I would lower everybody's rent. Seriously. The cost of living in NYC is so expensive, but honestly I just love living here so much because of the people and the opportunities that exist in this city that I just get over it and pay the expensive rent anyways. But imagine the things I could really do if my rent wasn't expensive...

6. Lady Bedbug


What’s a typical Lady Bedbug performance like?
Cheeky poetry, burlesque striptease, angsty lip sync, live singing, mild acrobatics, wig reveal, and creature puppets that all work to disturb the gender binary. Bedbug has to find strength inside, the creature puppet is eaten alive, and femmepremacy is restored.

How has RuPaul’s Drag Race impacted Brooklyn’s drag scene?
It has granted a legitimacy to the art form in the mainstream, which has also turned something subversive and fringe into something commercialized. But hopefully that mainstream gaze grants greater visibility to gender nonconformity so we can all live free of aggressive binaries one day.   

7. MEGABABE

 


What are your favorite clubs to host/go to/perform at in NYC?
Pizza Party, Boobie Trap, Metropolitan, Macri Park, The Rosemont, and your Dad’s bed.

What’s your favorite thing about being part of the scene?
Seeing so many different types of people express themselves in such diverse and inventive ways has really expanded my mind creatively. Coming from an extremely  religious, homeschooled Texas background, I still find myself peeling back layers of old ideas and beliefs. Being in the midst of the queer Brooklyn community has helped to lovingly expedite that process.

8. Merrie Cherry


How has RuPaul’s Drag Race impacted Brooklyn’s drag scene?
There are more queens living off of drag here then ever before. RuPaul and the team behind the show have really created an industry outside of bars and clubs for us. The children should never forget that.

What’s your favorite thing about being part of the scene?
Having a weird life unlike most people. I turned my back on that 9 to 5 life and it was hard in the beginning because you are told all your life that’s the only way you can be successful and comfortable. THAT’S A LIE! You can't help but feel you are in a special club where you have to bust your ass to stay in it, but the outcome with staying in can be beautiful.

9. Mini Horrorwitz 


What makes the Brooklyn drag scene different from anywhere else?
BK is freaking FREEDOM. Brooklyn drag allows you to create and express whatever form of art that you wish to express. I didn't know I was an artist until I moved here. Brooklyn drag has really helped mold me into the alien/human/clown that I am!

How has RuPaul’s Drag Race impacted Brooklyn’s drag scene?
More recently since Sasha Velour won Drag Race it has greatly impacted us. We have always been brave and ready to show what we are capable of, but now we can do that on a commercial/national scale. Brooklyn is Queer Mecca and the country knows it now. Brooklyn is the future of drag.

10. Panthera / Alika

If you were mayor of NYC, what’s the first thing you would change?
My real answer requires more time and would probably turn into a novel, but for now let's just say I'd like all Popeyes, McDonald’s, and my local deli's grill to be 24-hours. Fast food after a long night of drag and drinking is highly necessary, always.  

If you could perform in any other city, where would you go?
I'm really inspired by the drag coming out of London and Manchester. The looks and level of creativity are so inspiring. I would love to have a chance to experience it firsthand.

11. Pauli Cakes

How would you describe your drag aesthetic?
While I appreciate drag and am inspired by many queens, I do not consider myself a drag queen per se. I consider myself more of a look queen and a character. I am more inspired by the general concepts of fantasy, morbidity, and the uncanny than I am the formal canon of drag or its histories. I like blurring dichotomy.

What are your favorite clubs to host/go to/perform at in NYC?
My fav clubs to host and perform at are mostly self-sustaining D.I.Y venues that foster more diversity and creative expression, like Spectrum at the Dream House and the Glove. I also enjoy hosting Frankie Sharp’s Something Special and Ladyfag’s Holy Mountain, which I recently hosted for the first time.

12. Pepto Dismal
 

What’s a typical Pepto Dismal performance like?
My performances are usually conceptual, with a strong political/social message and a specific narrative I'm trying to get across. Whether I'm asking questions or giving answers with my performance is up to the audience to decide. If I'm performing in a dive bar, I'm still going to treat it like the Whitney and vice-versa. It sounds high-brow but it usually just ends with me in a thong, covered in Big Mac sauce.

What’s your favorite thing about being part of the scene?
Being validated for your vulnerability, artistic integrity, and progressive social impact in a peer group of likeminded queers while the existential dread of the 21st century sets in and your generation finds seemingly countless and unending ways to dissociate from reality and any tangible sense of community, responsibility, or optimism ... is a close second to the free drinks.

13. Pissy Pussy


What makes the Brooklyn drag scene different from anywhere else?
There's just so many different drag subcultures that other cities can't offer because of the drag norm that is shown in the media. In Brooklyn everyone just wants to be different and crazy.

What’s a typical PIssy Pussy performance like?
My typical performance is always very choreographed. I love a gaggy dance moment. And it's usually to Madonna honestly.

If you were mayor of NYC, what’s the first thing you would change?
Pay club kids/drag queens for every photo they take with some tourist.

14. Rify Royalty

What makes the Brooklyn drag scene different from anywhere else?
Drag is drag no matter where you go. Brooklyn just cares less about physical appearance and more about shows. BK has some pretty dynamic and weird drag shows.

If you were mayor of NYC, what’s the first thing you would change?
We need more sex positivity i.e. more sex shops, clubs, and saunas. But also the fucking MTA is terrible in the city, so maybe I'd work on that too. 

How has RuPaul’s Drag Race impacted Brooklyn’s drag scene?
Before, the scene was too punk rock to care. But seeing some of your own make it on the show changes the game. Only a bit though. 

15. Ruby Fox / Robert Jones

 


What’s a typical Ruby Fox performance like?
You’re going to see 5 splits and backflips and a couple death drops on a good day lol.

If you were mayor of NYC, what’s the first thing you would change?
I would make sure pigeons stop shitting on everything.

If you could perform in any other city, where would you go?
CHICAGO. I recently traveled there to check out the nightlife scene and it’s a spitting image of Brooklyn’s scene. Accepting, nurturing, and full of talent!

16. THEE SUBURBIA

How would you describe your drag aesthetic?
Funny, extraterrestrial, out of this universe, the last peppermint in your mom's church purse that saves you from falling asleep during the sermon, and a ‘90s baby ... with amazing hair. 

What’s a typical Suburbia performance like?
None of my performances are typical, but I always consider how to entertain my audience while exploring my current fascinations. Recently my performances are centered around the time that Suburbia is living in. It's a world of the future in quotes: robots, mediocrity at it's worst, no sun, hope for electricity, plastic body parts—hair included. My performances are rituals and spells to make you love/hate/feel anything but apathy towards me.

17. Tyga Tonic


What’s a typical Tyga Tonic performance like?
I’m not a huge dancer, so I rely on my face to show emotions and sensual antics 

What’s your favorite thing about being part of the scene?
The sense of community. I know my girls have my back and they know I have theirs

If you were mayor of NYC, what’s the first thing you would change?
Make a law to pay club kids and drag queens an actual living wage.

18. Untitled Queen

What’s a typical Untitled Queen performance like?
Emo ‘90s, odd and unexpected combinations of costume and song.

What’s your favorite thing about being part of the scene?
Being with a group of friends and other creative people, getting to make the kind of work you want without compromise.

If you were mayor of NYC, what’s the first thing you would change?
Better treatment of the homeless, affordable housing.

19. West Dakota

How would you describe your drag aesthetic?
I'm the black mirror of drag. 

What are your favorite clubs to host/go to/perform at in NYC?
For performing, Bizarre in Bushwick. For partying, The Rosemont. For casual drinks/food, Julius in the West Village.

20. Zenobia


How would you describe your drag aesthetic?
Hot black trans bitch, but I’m so much more.

What’s a typical Zenobia performance like?
I’m all about soul, finding how i relate to a track on a deep level and allowing that connection to manifest in my body. Also I only perform songs I know the lyrics to.

What’s your favorite thing about being part of the scene?
The opportunity to collaborate with other creative queers, especially other people of color/trans and GNC people. i find the product—whether it’s hair, an outfit, a performance—is always made that much more magical by working together.

Photography by Eva Zar