You can bet the stars of NYC’s latest drag series “Shade: Queens of NYC” have some pretty wild stories about performing at the city’s hottest LGBT bars, from Stonewall Inn to Barracuda.
The new Fusion TV docu-series, which made its debut earlier this month, follows eight rising drag stars as they try to make it big in the industry. The 12-part, half-hour series aims to give us all a look behind the makeup, lip-synching and glamour to highlight what it’s really like for queens on the brink of stardom.
“Over the past several years, drag queens have taken center stage in culture and on TV, but we’ve mostly only seen one facet of their lives.” Daniel Eilemberg, president of Fusion TV, said in a statement. “It was important that we more wholly highlight drag queens, looking beyond the incredible artistry to showcase the people behind the performances and capture the dynamic spirit of this community.”
Keeping on trend with digging deeper into the lifestyle of the city’s fabulous performers, we asked the eight queens to spill the T on their most memorable drag experiences in New York City (and beyond).
New episodes of “Shade” air every Thursday at 10:30 p.m., but a true drag fan wouldn’t watch alone. Local bars including Therapy, Barracuda, Pieces, Hardware and Rise Bar host weekly viewing parties so you can glam up with friends.
Jada Valenciaga, Washington Heights
"My most memorable drag moment was just recently in a show at Barracuda (275 W 22nd St.). I am normally known as a dancing and twerking queen in NYC. But for one of my numbers in the show that night, I stood center stage and sang Andra Day's 'Rise Up.' People come to drag shows to get away from what is currently going on in our world and have fun and I just wanted to give a little hope in my number that night. At the end of the number, a well-dressed man in a suit came up and gave me a $50 and two $20 bills, grabbed me and hugged me as tight as he could and just whispered, thank you ... thank you so much. I needed this. Thank you. Meanwhile, the crowd in the back was standing and clapping and people were crying. It was a moment where everyone felt safe and loved and empowered. I was able to provide hope for those who may not have had any for about three to four minutes. It feels good when you know you're making a difference."
Paige Turner, Hell’s Kitchen
"I once pulled off a surprise engagement. I called an unsuspecting guy to the stage to dance with me at New World Stages (340 W 50th St.), then his boyfriend hiding behind a curtain switched places with me and proposed. It was magical and not a dry eye in the house. they have since named their dog Paige Turner!"
Brita Filter, Washington Heights/Hamilton Heights
"This one time, I was performing at Boots and Saddle (100A Seventh Ave.), 'I'm Every Woman' by Chaka Khan. This drunk girl celebrating her bachelorette party came to tip me a $20 during the lyric, 'I'm every woman, it's all in me.' Then, she puked on me. It's how I got my tag line ... Brita Filter: Anything But Pure."
Tina Burner, Chelsea
"One of the most memorable drag experiences I've had is being able to put together a fundraiser in Cherry Grove, Fire Island to raise money in support of the victims and families of the Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting [June 2016]. Having all the performers on the Island come together from different venues and the entire community joining in to raise $10,000 in just a few hours was simply amazing. It's reasons like that, that being a drag queen and using it as a platform, is so important. Sometimes, we lose sight that we have the ability to help our community and seeing everyone pull together despite any differences to support our own was something I'll never forget."
Marti Gould Cummings, Hell’s Kitchen
"One of the most memorable experiences for me in nightlife was when I was performing at The Highline Ballroom (431 W 16th St.) for The Ali Forney Center in September 2017. Downtown drag artist Mrs. Smith was playing electric guitar while I sang Ozzy Osbourne "Crazy Train. The venue was packed, the energy of the room felt so intense. I truly felt like a rockstar and it was all for a good cause. I was proud to be able to use my drag voice to help an organization like Ali Forney. It really made me realize the power of drag, because that event had over 20 queens performing and we raised $40,000."
Chelsea Piers, Hamilton Heights/Harlem
"I'm part of a rotating cast of live singing queens for a series called DIVA at The Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher St.). While touching up my lipstick in the dressing room one day (June 2016), I reflected on the bar having just been named a national LGBT landmark by President Obama and felt so grateful to be a part of its rich legacy. I also realized that Id be singing show tunes in full, high whore drag at The Stonewall on what happened to be Judy Garlands birthday. It was officially the gayest night of my life."
Jasmine Rice, Hamilton Heights/Harlem
"The day I sang for the first time in drag for the Miss Industry Pageant in 2015 at Industry Bar (355 W 52nd St.) is a real standout. I have never sung live before and no one really knew what I could do as an opera singer. Of course, I took home the title of Miss Industry 2015 that night."
Holly Boxsprings, Washington Heights
"A big turning point in my career was when I decided to impersonate Kathy Griffin in a mix about her interaction with Celine Dion at The Glam Awards last year at Stage 48 (605 W 48th St.). I had always been a fan, but I never realized how similar Kathy and myself behaved, delivered a joke with a story and used our hands to accent everything. It was the first time I revealed back into the same dress I started with. First a Kathy dress, then a Celine style gown, back to the Kathy dress and then a final huge gown reveal under that and the crowd went wild! Since then, I've just become a bigger fan, a better impersonator and held my title as a reveal queen!"