There’s a “bold, in-your-face” aspect to Monet X Change’s drag that keeps her on the map as one of New York City’s rising queens.
“I know I work it,” Monet, 27, says. “I like looking very urban chic and giving you that New York City vibe, and I’m still holding onto a big part of me, which is my blackness and I love it.”
The Bronx queen, who says she can often be found pairing dreads or braids with an African print, is one of three New York City contestants left in the running of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 10.
“I don’t see any of those hoes as a threat. I am fierce. I am from New York, and I got something to say and I’m gonna slay the rest of them,” the queen boasts.
On a Tuesday afternoon, Monet X Change shows face in a blinged powder blue dress and blonde Marilyn Monroe-inspired wig. “Something like this takes me about 45 minutes to an hour,” she says.
The queen’s evolving look is deeply influenced by the city which has several “factions” of drag, she says. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Monet moved to the Bronx two years ago, which isn’t exactly ideal for a working queen.
If you’re unaware, Bronx and Staten Island are the two boroughs the scene hasn’t yet expanded to. “My drag in the Bronx is me coming home from the gig at 4 a.m. in dress and a onesie walking into the bodega,” she says.
Still, Monet makes it work booking gigs in Manhattan’s hottest clubs like Industry and Hardware Bar.
We sat down with the queen to find out more about the city’s ever-evolving drag scene.
It’s tricky because New York has so many factions. Brooklyn is a more experimental, more artsy drag, whereas Manhattan, is I want to say polished … In Brooklyn, they’re like girl, I’m going to sit on stage and eat a jar of mayonnaise and give you a crazy kind of experience and people are gonna live for it and they’re gonna gag. I am a Manhattan girl. I work in Manhattan four, five times a week. Manhattan is the queen of drag for me right now.
You live in a nabe where drag is pretty nonexistent at the moment. Do you think that’ll change?
Oh, yeah. Let me tell you something, the New York gay neighborhoods shift every couple of years. When drag was booming and exploding it started right down in the West Village. Stonewall, Monster, The Hangar. Then, it shifted up to Chelsea. Now, it’s in the Hell’s Kitchen area.
There are three new gay bars being built up in Washington Heights and Harlem. So, I feel like soon it’s going to transition to the Upper West Side and Harlem. It’s going to keep shooting up. Soon, we’re going to be doing drag in f****** Vermont girl. Living our drag dreams.
Does being a New Yorker give you a competitive edge in “Drag Race”?
We’re very bold. We mean what we say and we say what we mean and in the confines of drag, you need that. That type of personality reigns supreme because when people watch you on that tiny box in their living room, they want to see someone they can feel represents them no matter where they are. You want to see someone who speaks and lives their truth. I think New York represents that.
How did you come to find your drag identity?
I like to say my aesthetic is unapologetically black. Being black was something I wasn’t always comfortable with or something I thought of as pretty or something to celebrate. Coming into my 20s I was ready to celebrate that. That’s a big part of my drag, also mixing and using a lot of urban properties. Like just looking very urban chic.
Was it a process to get where you are?
A lot of drag is just going out and seeing how something looks. Photographing it and then deciding, oh, that’s what I”m going to do every time or I’m never doing that again. To me, that’s the only way to learn.
Leaving your apartment is literally 80 percent of the battle because that’s the only way to learn is to have the balls to step out of your apartment on 262nd Street in the Bronx in full drag no matter what people are going to say to you on the bus or train and just live in your truth. That’s the only way to become a better drag queen and embrace what’s inside of you.
Tell us about your wildest drag performance in NYC.
I want to say it was about three years ago there was a magnifying glass on the whole eating epidemic and how America is so unhealthy. I made this fat mix that culminated with me at the end of the number. I get a big mixing bowl and I put mayonnaise, Crisco, Siracha, Fruity Pebbles and something else and mixed it all together and ate it. I remember I put that spoon in my mouth and the entire audience let out an audible “ahh.” That’s what New York drag is, girl. I was feeling very Brooklyn that day.