Atlanta’s own Phoenix made a splash on season three of RuPaul’s Drag Race and, although she sashayed away too soon, she hasn’t simply rested on her laurels. This 21-year drag veteran has helped bring talent not only to the Peach State, but to the Drag Race and Dragula runways as well.
Phoenix sat down with us for an exclusive interview and shared what she’s been up to since the show, how she balances performing while introducing the world to new queens thanks to her Dragnificent competition, shares beauty tips and answers the Socialite Seven in our exclusive interview. You didn’t get to on season three, so now here’s your chance to get to know this radiant performer.
I saw Joseph Shepherd’s “Exposed” interview, which was amazing, it was probably one of my favorite ones that he’s done because we got to know a lot more about you.
I’ve seen his interviews before and I actually loved them because like I said in my interview, being on the show, people just have this immediate perception of you and, and it is just so not how most of us really are. And it’s really funny that some of the queens who are fan favorites that come across very nice on the show are actually some of these unpleasant people in person and then vice versa, you know, like some of them, they have this kind of aggressive personality on the show when you meet them in person, it’s very, very different. I think with these interviews, you get to see a little bit more of a personal kind of perception of them. It’s a little more in-depth and it’s just outside of the television show, so I was happy to do that one.
So, just to catch everybody up, what you’ve been up to since Drag Race?
Since Drag Race, I run a lot of the shows around Atlanta. Future is now my fourth bar that I’ve been the entertainment director of. I’ve had my hands in most of the shows around the city, even bars that I’m not the entertainment director of, they still come to me for advice and that kind of thing. I also run a lot of stuff with Atlanta Pride. I run all the entertainment for South Carolina Pride. So, you know, I definitely have dabbled more in the business side of drag, which I love. Like you had said earlier, you know, in Atlanta the drag had kind of died off a little bit. And this was around when I was at Jungle and I kind of stepped in and started some new stuff that kind of brought the drag scene back to life a little bit.
I was the first person to bring Drag Race girls to Atlanta. No one else had done that. I jumped in and started doing it and now they’re here all of the time. I love the art form of what I do and it’s more than just a television show and I want to make sure that Atlanta is known for good drag all around, whether it’s a Drag Race girl or a local girl or whatever that may be. I love just displaying great drag.
Do you think Atlanta has a specific type of drag or do you think there’s something unique to Atlanta?
I used to definitely think Atlanta had a specific kind, but you know, Atlanta at our core will always be the glamour drag. You know, that Southern good pageantry kind of drag. I think we’ll always be that at our core, but you know, we’ve really kind of opened up to a lot of different styles. I mean, we really have everything now but in the end, I think, whatever style of drag you do, it’s going to be clean. It’s going to be polished. It’s going to be put together – and I think that is something that Atlanta is just kind of known for that, which is not a bad thing to be known for.
We’ve had a lot more Atlanta queens show up on Drag Race like LaLa Ri and Angeria Paris van Michaels on season 14. Who do you think are the up-and-coming queens who are making an impact in the Atlanta scene right now?
The biggest one is Brigitte Bidet. She’s just phenomenal. She literally is one of my favorite queens on stage and off stage. I think RuPaul’s Drag Race is a fool to not have already cast her. She has literally every quality that you would want to be on that show and I think she’s making a huge impact with the Atlanta scene. You know, LaLa Ri who was just on it, definitely people love her here. I mean, honestly, I think the biggest one is, Brigitte, who has not been on Drag Race.
You run your own drag competition now. What’s it like for you to be on the other side of the judges’ panel?
You know, it definitely plays a role with what I’ve experienced, but I do it because, coming up, when I first started, it was a completely different world and drag has always been very cutthroat in Atlanta because we’ve had so many queens here, but only so many spots. So, drag has always been very, very cutthroat. And when I was coming up, there really weren’t people that just wanted to help you and wanted you to be better. You know, you had your people that would give you advice but they really did not want you to be any better than them.
When I cast a show, I want every single girl to be as good as the next one because the way I look at it is no one can take my spot. You know what I mean? No one can do what I can do and I can’t do what someone else can do and I want every girl in my show to be just as good – and I think the way that we get there is to not be scared to teach and to help others and help these upcoming queens. And I think Dragnificent is a great way to do that. It’s a great way to put on a good show for the audience but also hopefully these queens walk away learning something.
We’ve had great queens come from Dragnificent. I mean Violet Chachki came from Dragnificent, Biqtch Puddin’ came from Dragnificent, you know, a Dragula winner and a Drag Race winner. LaLa and Abhora gosh, I mean, there’s been so many queens that really go do great things that kind of started with Dragnificent. Now, I’m not going to take credit for their careers! No, I believe they definitely felt what a competition was like by being in it and definitely grew from it. I’m so proud of them. I really am.
Now you had brought up some things in the conversation with Joseph about working in the clubs and such. What drives you crazy about working in clubs?
I love anyone who’s a fan of what we do. The only time I ever get aggravated is when we’re treated like a novelty for someone else’s bachelorette party or birthday party. My thing is like, you’re here to watch me. I’m not here to watch you. And we do deal with these bachelorettes who come in and want to take over everything and pull on us and tug on us and I’m like, honey, I’m wearing your rent on my body right now. You know what I mean? If they’re just enjoying what we’re doing, enjoy your time, have a good time. You know what I mean? But I think there is a line, but you know, I welcome anyone who loves what we do, please come see us.
So, how do you describe like your style of drag?
You know, my style of drag has changed so much and it is always kind of changing. When I was on Drag Race I had a shaved head and I would glue stuff to it. I sat there at our reunion show, completely shaved and painted up the side. Now I do more of a glamour style drag, a little more fashion-oriented, but that being said, I perform a lot in the circuit scene with the big circuit parties. Then, I do go a little more androgynous when I perform there. So, my drag is kind of just all over the place, which is what I love about it. I’ve created this character that I believe doesn’t really have a specific style. And if you look at my photos throughout the years, it has always changed. It could be a character illusion, or like I said, androgynous or high glam and I think that’s what the fun part about drag. It’s really just makeup, it washes off. Just put it on there, see what it does and if you don’t like it, change it.
You’ve gone from the performing to the booking and the production end of drag. Is there anything that you haven’t tackled yet professionally that you would want to do?
Oh my gosh. I’ve done a couple of little things with acting. People have come to me a lot with music and it is definitely something that I want to dabble in. I’ve just got to find the right pairing. When I first came out, I had so many different DJs or producers that would send me stuff and it just never was what I had in mind. And I did not want to be one of those queens who just puts something out just to say I have something out, because let’s be real, there’s maybe a handful of Drag Race girls that have music out that is worth a shit. The rest of it is just very gimmicky. It’s not something you would ever hear on the radio or ever hear at a club. It’s very gimmicky, that kind of thing. I just would rather not put anything out than to put something out and then 10 years later go, “Oh my God, what did I do that for?”
You know, I do have some DJs who have sent me samples of stuff that I’ve kind of thought about, and it’s a little more circuity, a little more dancey, that kind of thing. That would probably be the only avenue that I would go because I don’t necessarily sing, that’s just not my not my gig. So, I think music would probably be one avenue that I haven’t ventured into that does interest me, everything else I’ve kind of played with. I mean, I did MTV’s Teen Wolf, I had a speaking part on that. I have done little cameos in movies and I was a makeup artist on HBO’s Doom Patrol. I’ve done drag all over it and just, you know, I’ve kind of ventured into a lot of stuff. That is one of the weird things about Drag Race you know, some of us have done other things, but you don’t get to hear about it. You know, if certain queens do you know anything at all, they can sneeze and they’ll write an article about it. So, there are things that some of us have done and just, no one has any clue about.
I’ve been on other television shows and done makeup for all these people and people don’t really know that kind of stuff, but it’s just part of the game. That’s why I said in that interview that we all have not had the same experience. We have not all had the same opportunity because it is just that. I mean, we were all on the same television show, but I have not had the same exposure as some other girls have and that’s why I’ve kind of lost my interest in going to DragCon or going out to LA to get filmed. They haven’t really given me a reason to want to be overly involved in it because they have not put any interest in me. I’m just not one of these people that are just going to beg over and over and over and break my neck to be a part of something when it’s not mutual. I feel like with Drag Race we’ve all kind of built the show, so whether you were the first person to go home or you were the winner, it took all of us to create what RuPaul’s Drag Race has become. And I hate that some girls don’t get any opportunities.
My heart belongs to the earlier seasons because you all are really the pioneers and structured the show and made it what it is now. The show wouldn’t be what it is without the queens on the first couple of seasons.
After season three, it exploded. I mean, season four is when the prize went up to a $100,000. Season four is when the reunion show became a huge event in a theater where people came and sat and watched. The werk room changed in season four. Season three was when it really got noticed and then season four, you watched it explode. It did take the earlier seasons to turn it into what it is now and it’s good. I actually was just having a conversation about this the other day with a friend. And I feel bad for some queens that were on the show or have been on the show that aren’t really doing anything. I’m very fortunate here where I live, to have continued to work and grow and that kind of thing, and some girls have just not been able to do that because where they live doesn’t have a scene like in Atlanta. I mean it’s kind of hurtful for some of these queens to just stop with Drag Race.
I use Coty Air Spun powder because of you. Do you have any makeup tips for anybody that’s aspiring to do drag?
My big thing is, and I tell all the girls, you know, Air Spun powder from Coty is a cheap product. You know what I mean? Ben Nye is a pretty decently priced product. Morphe is a great product. The one thing that I tell people to invest in are their brushes. If I was going to tell you one thing to invest in, it would be brushes, because your brushes can definitely make a huge difference. The cheapest brush I will go with is Morphe, but it really does make a big difference. So that’s my tip.
What’s next for you?
We’re actually starting an “Atlanta All-Stars” show on January 11th and basically what that is you have to have five years or more experience. It is a seven-week competition and the prize is $5,000. It’s definitely for more established queens. There’s not really an audition process, basically they submit and then I’m casting it from there. I’m really looking forward to doing this because there hasn’t been a competition like this ever in Atlanta. A lot of people do newcomer things, but this is for girls who are already in the game are already working, have a fan base and, you know, it’s $5,000. That’s a nice little prize package.
Well, thank you for bringing so much talent into the Atlanta area.
Like I said, I love drag and I said in my last interview that no matter if I stopped today or tomorrow, I would still be a fan of drag. I love to be able to display lots of different kinds and just give platforms to people that enjoy doing what I do.
Phoenix answers the Socialite Seven
Who has been the biggest influence on you in your career?
The biggest influence in my career? Shawnna Brooks has probably been the biggest influence. She’s been in my life for my entire career and I still to this day am completely captivated by her. And I just find myself continuously fangirling and watching what she’s doing and learning from her still 20, 21 years later.
What are three things that you cannot live without in your life?
Oh my gosh. Without saying my friends and my family, because they are a huge part of my life, but my bed. I love to be at home and laid up in my bed, it’s kind of like my sanctuary. It kind of unwinds me from the week. I’ll also say my friends and my family.
What is your dream lip-sync song?
My dream lip sync song…I’m trying to think of what my favorite one is to do. My go-to when I just need something to do and I’m feeling it is this song called “All the Way Home” by Tamar Braxton. I love that song. I love to perform that song. It’s probably my favorite one to do.
What talent or skill would you love to wake up with one morning that you don’t possess now?
Actually, we were talking about earlier to be able to sing and have a great voice. I love people that can just belt out and just sing and I could sit and just listen to someone all day. I’m friends with Adam Lambert – not to name drop – but when I first moved to LA, we went out to karaoke and they took me out and I didn’t know who he was. I knew he kind of sang, but I didn’t really know. And he got up there and just lost his mind. And for someone to be able to do that in just a little taco restaurant at karaoke and have that kind of a voice, it’s just insane to me. So yeah, to be able to sing.
What is something that your fans would be surprised that you’re a fan of?
Oh, baseball. Some people are like, “Wait, what?” I played baseball growing up and I love watching it now and I go to games. I think people automatically assume that drag queens are not into sports and aren’t athletes and that kind of thing.
What are you asking Santa Claus for Christmas this year?
Well, this year – not to be a Debbie Downer – has been a pretty awful year. We lost my sister to COVID on September 25th. So, I’m asking for happiness for my mom and for her to find comfort. That’s what we’re needing right now for myself, my mom, my whole family, we need some comfort. That’s definitely what I’m asking Santa for.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of advice I’ve been given is to do you. Like, with drag, there’s going to be so many people that are going to tell you how to do this, how to do that. And I tell people to listen to everything because, you know, I think some people don’t want to listen to anything. Some people want to listen too much and at the end of the day, you need to just do you. If you’re enjoying something, no matter if someone tells you “I don’t like this”, if you truly enjoy it at the end of the day, and it truly makes you feel happy doing it, do it. Do you. Do what makes you happy. Because one thing I’ve definitely learned is life can change so quickly and right now, it’s all about being happy.