New Jersey’s drag scene is if nothing else, diverse and packed with talent. This year, Crystal Envy rose to the top of the crop of ultra-talented Miss Paradise contestants to snag the title of Miss Paradise 2022. With a pause in live performing occurring during Covid, this New Jersey based performer (and full-time makeup artist) is embracing the diversity of Asbury Park itself, and plans to “push for more inclusion, diversity and more safe spaces” this year. I spoke with Crystal as she prepared to take the stage for the debut of Envy Friday’s at Paradise this past Friday. We spoke about her Florida drag family & their influence on her, what she’s learned by working with Real Housewives of New Jersey like Dolores Catania, and what her newfound title means to her.
Michael Cook: What made you initially launch your drag career?
Crystal Envy: I originally started doing drag in high school, trying to find myself and who I was as a person at my core. However, I stopped once I graduated high school, but decided to RELAUNCH my drag career during Covid because I was 1) so incredibly bored, and 2) I knew my skill set was 10X better than when I was younger. I wanted to see where it could take me, and let me tell you, the last two years have been insane, and I couldn’t be more grateful for this journey!
MC: How do you describe your drag aesthetic and style?
CE: Crystal is this otherworldly creature; she’s hard to describe completely. Her drag and style are always ever-changing. She can be super glamorous and sexy while at the same time showcasing you something super unique and never before seen. She’s hyper-feminine, which I usually show through classic pinup silhouettes that have always inspired me.
MC: You are one of the top makeup artists in the state and have worked plenty with Real Housewives like Dolores Catania. What has working with RHONJ legends like Dolores taught you not just about interacting with colleagues and dealing with conflict? Any advice you’ve gotten?
Ohh, stop, don’t make me blush! I love working with Dolores and some of the other girls! Being in a super competitive and growing industry like makeup artistry, you have to be able to adapt to whomever you’re working with, and I think that’s why I have been so successful. Fast forward to now, I’m able to implement that skill into my daily life as well as my drag life. When it comes to conflict, you have to face it head-on, and communicating how you’re feeling is very important and something I’ve slowly learned over the years. I think that’s clear when watching Housewives, no one’s afraid to say how they’re feeling.
MC: Who is your drag family and what have they taught you the most?
CE: I come from the house of Ember’s, a drag family based in Tampa/Orlando, Florida. I “met” my drag mom Jade online when I was super young at 14, and she has shaped me into the queen and man I am today. I’m very grateful for her, as well as all my sisters. We’re a “high-drag” / pageant” type of family, but I love it. We have high standards, and I learn from them every day; I’m just very grateful to have a support system like them. My drag sister Athena, an AFAB queen, dressed me for the pageant. Without her, I would’ve been running around like a chicken without a head backstage. My other sister, Natalie E. Devine, a holder of multiple titles, came and saw me win, so it felt so great for her to be there and make her proud!!
MC: Florida’s drag styles are so diverse; how does Florida drag differ from Northeast drag from your perspective?
Floridas drag is HIGH drag, with HIGH standards. It’s very top 50, looking gorge, dancing the house down, type of vibes. I think Jersey drag is pretty similar in some ways, but Jersey is just a bit gaudier (obviously). I think what I do and what I present stands out to many people in this area which is why so many people resonate with what I do; I’m a blend of many drag cultures blended into one.
MC: What were some of your biggest inspirations for not just your Miss Paradise talent, but your full Miss Paradise package and aesthetic?
CE: My package was a complete and utter portrayal of what Crystal likes to embody and serve every time she’s on stage. First, of course, my presentation of Iconic Women was the glamorous Marilyn Monroe. It must’ve been a good fit because I chose to do her for my prelim and won. Next, I decided to do “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” which was Liv Luxx’s and former Miss Paradise, Paige Turner’s, winning talent song/talent number. My evening gown was inspired by Cinderella’s ball gown color palette, with an updated silhouette and different hair color. My talent, however, was a LABOR of love, and I’m so grateful for my team, who was able to help pull this off. My choreographer, Robert Wilday, fully understood my vision and went ham on this choreo, and pushed me harder than I ever have. My mix and set design were inspired by Kameron Michael’s Werq’s World 2019 tour, and my costume reveal was inspired by Rose’s Mary Queen of Scots tour she did earlier in 2020. I’ve always loved the evil queen and such polished queens like Kameron and Rose, so getting to put my spin on all of it was terrific; I’m so proud of the entire package.
MC: You won the Miss Paradise pageant this year. What does that truly mean to you?
CE: It honestly still doesn’t feel real, I’ve been working towards this goal of mine for the last year, and I can’t believe I achieved it. I actually can because I worked my ass off for it!! It’s such an honor to get to represent the legacies of so many fabulous queens who have walked through the doors of Paradise before me. I’m someone for other queens to look up to now, just like I look up to so many queens, which is the coolest part.
MC: What does Paradise and the Asbury Park community mean to you? Do you feel it’s a truly collaborative and welcoming community for all styles of drag?
CE: Paradise is home to SO many people. It’s one of the most important, if not the most important, LGBTQ+ safe spaces in New Jersey. Safe spaces are so important because they bring us together even when we feel like we don’t belong in so many places. When you enter the doors of a space like Paradise, you know you are welcome regardless of who you are or where you come from. I think we can continue to push the boundary everywhere for new and exciting styles of drag!
MC: What do you want to accomplish the most with the platform that Paradise and the Asbury Park NJ community offers?
CE: This year, I want to push for inclusivity, diversity & expanded safe spaces. I want to bring us all back together after the last two years we’ve endured. I feel like now it’s more important than ever to bring people together and spread LOVE. That’s what I plan on doing during my reign.
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