As one of the biggest names in New York City’s drag scene, many fans were left wondering where Brita was at the end of last summer. The activist/performing dynamo took a social media hiatus, and ended up leaving New York City completely for Hawaii. Recently returning to social media for the first time, Brita honestly has spoken about her issues with substance abuse and mental health, and how she is re-emerging stronger and healthier. I exclusively spoke with Brita about where she has been and how she is, how online vitriol contributed to her issues and how activism has become such a major part of who Brita now is.
Michael Cook: How have you been?
Brita: I have been much better; now that I have been here, I have been okay. It is a process. I am going through the motions of re-loving my self and finding joy. The summer was really hard on me; with a breakup, everything happening online and Drag Race. I was also sexually assaulted and that really fucked me up. When it rains, it really pours.
MC: We spoke after your Drag Race elimination and you were very positive about the season and your experience, and then it seemed like things shifted in your life. For you personally, when did you know that things had gotten out of hand?
B: Honestly, it’s been for a while, I have known for a while. I actually started developing a problem when I started doing drag, that is where it began. I would always use alcohol and drugs as a way to convince myself to get on the train in drag, to get to the gig. I would use it as “you got this, you got this” when I would be nervous. Then I would tell myself that I could not perform, that I could not do it, unless I was wasted. I would tell myself that unless I had two shots of Fireball and two drinks in me, I would not be able to perform. I just kind of kept telling myself this and then over time it became “well I can just get drunk at work, this is fun”. I handle myself very well when I am drunk. I don’t look sloppy, and I don’t slur my words; until I start slurring my words, but that’s only if I have had like a bottle to myself. Of course, I started getting into a bunch of drugs. Those were just random, when I was out just because I wanted to have a good time.
MC: How bad did the substance abuse get?
B: This summer, I was doing everything to numb myself. I would eat 400 mg of THC at once because I needed to make sure I could not feel my body; I didn’t want to feel anything. I was drinking, I was also taking opioids, I was taking everything, anything I could get my hands on. Cocaine was big one, and I was really doing all of it because I had no more self-confidence. Usually in New York, I can go out and I got my people and our community, and people that know me. I usually have that support system to back me up and to give me those extra confident words that help me keep on going.
On top of having really bad asthma and why I shouldn’t be drinking, I was born with a liver disease, I have chronic Hepatitis B since I was a child; this shit is gonna kill me. I also have a heart condition on top of that. With all of this, I almost had heart attack and went to the hospital and that was the first time it really hit me. When things got worse and I broke up with my boyfriend, I stopped taking my medication because I wanted to hurt myself. I am honestly on about fifteen different pills to just maintain everything. Once I stopped taking my medicine is when everything fell apart. Then I started just using heavily to not feel anything and I really wanted to hurt myself. I didn’t care anymore.
MC: How did your experience on RuPaul’s Drag Race factor into everything that went on this year personally?
B: I was so angry because people were coming for me constantly and also shaming people who knew me really well from different chapters of my life and saying to them them “how could you support this horrible person”? I was just down in the dumps, but kept saying to myself “you got this, you got this” kind of like what I did on Drag Race.
The reason it seemed like I was overconfident on the show was because the entire time I was saying to myself “you got this, you got this, you’re from New York, you got this sis, you’re fine.” It came off in a different way, but I was honestly trying to convince myself “you’re fine”. Also, I am very sensitive. I can dish it out, but honestly I cannot take it, especially to that severity. A lot of it was due to the pandemic, everyone was on their phones and everyone was online, they didn’t have anything else at that time to do at that time. I was also at my parents house with my parents at that time, and my own cell phone was my only source of communication at that time, so it was the only thing I saw over and over. The show would be released in Turkey and I would get cursed out in another language about how horrible I was.
MC: The fandom of Drag Race is very active and can be extremely positive and there is also a toxic aspect of the fandom where the hatred goes a step too far online. Did you see a tipping point where you saw that vitriol directed at you?
B: Everything was great when the promos came out, VH1 did a great job with those. During the second episode is when everything started to really happen and turn. Even New Yorkers were pretty rough; someone emailed me and said that if they see me, they are going to spit on me and push me onto the subway track at the station; that was at the beginning of the pandemic.
MC: Would you do it all over again if given the chance?
B: Yeah. If I had the chance to do it again, I would definitely keep my mouth shut. While I was there, I kept saying to myself “I feel like I am doing a good job, why am I being overshadowed?” I could have gotten angry in Untucked, and when I did the first time, I immediately apologized. If I could re-do it, I would. I would play the nice game; it really messed me up. I also would not be so nervous. I kept a video diary and looked back at it and it was from right before I left for Drag Race. I was saying “I’m really nervous, I need to get out of my head”. These are the exact same words I am still saying watching and reliving it.
MC: This was not your first time on reality television and your last experience on Shade: Queens of NYC was different, correct?
B: Absolutely. The thing I loved about that show with Jasmine (Rice LaBeija), and Marti (Gould Cummings) and the other girls was that they cared about our stories and they listened to us. We were in charge of our storyline and what we do within out community and it focuses on those aspects of things. I want to create more content for myself and continue to do television, but I don’t want to be under someone else’s pretenses to tell my story.
MC: You have now transitioned from performing on stage to taking to the street essentially, from the Women’s March in D.C. this past winter to being a National Co-Chair for Drag Out The Vote.
B: I feel like there are so many great things about me and what I am doing within my community that are very much like what drag queens did in the beginning during the Stonewall uprising, The Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence’s work, and the work of those during the early days of HIV/AIDS. I want to tell that story. I want to be the queen for the people to do what queens have been doing from the very beginning, being spokespeople. And that is what I am doing and what is helping me get out of this funk.
MC: What steps have you taken for yourself to get better and emerge a stronger person?
B: I took all of September off. I made sure that I got the help that I needed and I went to a rehab program. I booked my ticket to Hawaii and I turned off my phone I blocked every single person that reached out to me. I needed to do this for myself, and by myself; this wasn’t for anyone else but me. I have become very spiritual over this, I have been seeing a tarot card reader and a spiritual reader and they all could see what was going on with me. All signs pointed to me being with my family and Mother Nature, and that pointed to me being in Hawaii. I’m staying here for the winter, and will go back to New York if I need to. I think this is good for me; I don’t think being in an apartment cooped up with four other people would be good for me right now.
MC: You are a National Co-Chair with Drag Out The Vote and you are have a new single ‘You Brita Vote, Kay?’. Do you think your political activism has in a way, saved you?
B: Absolutely; it is going beyond that too. Once the election is over, I am going to focus on the actual issues at hand. Protecting our trans brothers and sisters, HIV care, and that we as a community and as a nation are protected. I recently did a New Now Next profile and there was so much hate from Trump supporters from it. I was actually speaking with Marti Gould Cummings and they said “what do you do if there is a Trump supporter at one of your shows?” I think that it is really important to create those numbers and that environment that is welcoming to everyone so they can use it as a learning experience. They knew walking into that space that is was a gay venue. Hopefully by watching my show, I will be able to open their eyes at the very least to what is going on in our country to what is affecting us as a community.
MC: Now that you have re-emerged, have your New York City and Drag Race sisters been supportive?
B: Absolutely. I didnt talk to anyone in September at all, but they did reach out. I just needed to be silent and read a Brené Brown (laughs). We actually have a group chat that we are always talking about on Instagram. We did the Halloween special together that I filmed in Hawaii, and that was great. We are all very close, we have a great energy together and they have always supported me in every single way. It sucks because I am not really out in the world right now, but that is what I need to do right now. I need to just focus on me so I can be the best activist that I can be to help other people.
MC: Where is Brita a year from now?
B: I wanna combine performing and activism. I want to do scripted and queer stories, I want to do television. With Pose coming out and so many other things, I think it is time. Since drag is at such a high mainstream level, I think it is time to tell those stories that have not been told. I would like to do that, along with activism. Performing is where my heart lies. I need to do it in order to survive. I hope to do it and blend poignant and important numbers that blend the two issues and also make them funny. Just be really smart about it. Hopefully I will be able to tour the world and have people get to see me.
Follow Brita on Instagram