Like a hurricane forced wind, Zeta Jones whipped into New York City and is one of numerous ladies who is helping redefining drag in New York City's ever changing performance landscape. Combining smoldering looks with acrobatically charged performances, Jones is becoming one of the hottest new names in the city. I caught up with her as she was kicking off an amazing new year of gigs to talk about her start in the business, her performance style, and what New York City drag darlings she has had the chance to share the stage with.
Instinct: For those that have never seen Zeta Jones on stage, how would you describe your performance style?
ZJ: I would say put the mind of a comedian into the body actress or pop star. I am pretty much the Bond girl you can get a beer with and a hell of an escape from everything that's going on in the world. I always tell people that I am three balloon animals away from being the most attractive clown at a children's party. “
You are known for some absolute dance floor stompers and have endless energy on stage. Any favorites that really stand out?
I always had such a big interest in so many genres of entertainment. I was the little boy-girl, putting old VHS tapes of movie musicals into the television, one after another. I stayed up so late watching them that my family called me “Midnight Markey, (Markey is my government name). I think to myself what would a show biz person do if they were in this changing landscape" That is take away all the “rules,” of drag and be something that is specific, but inviting and fun. I love to laugh and so taking the piss out of life, sharing that joy and feeling is what I want to bring to people. I live for material from the old school and remixing it with the new. I recently performed three different pop numbers and each of the artists sent me a message and commented on the videos on my Instagram (@zetajdrag). I said to myself, “ Okay this is a nudge from the universe to keep going and growing.” So I pick material from anything and everything, if it feels right then it will WERQ! Staying open is the real process of creating material.
How did Zeta Jones get her start in the extremely competitive New York City drag scene?
I grew up winning (laughs) mean "competing" in entertainment competitions, so I started hitting these local drag competitions. It was serendipitous because after my first competition, I got booked on a weekly gig which was surreal and humbling. I started "falling up" in a way because from there, I got another show with Maddelyn Hatter and hit landmarks that took other showgirls time to hit (being photographed for print ,weekly shows and even a Fire Island Stint with divas like Shequida and Shuga Cane ). I did all of that while maintaining my makeup artist career working on teams for Project Runway and assisting many amazing makeup and hair people. It was a busy bee kind of time that I have been grateful for and still continue to be grateful for now.
It's so hard to stand out in New York City and in drag; how have you carved out your own niche?
That's a good question. I was interested in being a individual overall. I took a look at the scene and didn't want to copy or shadow the other brilliant showgirls that were working. I looked at venues that didn't necessarily have drag and thought that's the way in. It ultimately worked in my favor because I made a lot of friends and opportunities for myself to develop into "me" further in my own time. So my key is to not stay in my lane but make my own lane with its own rules and regulations.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
The first time I was on a mic and finding out I had the ability to invite people in and make them laugh-the feeling was euphoric. I can win a crowd over in a way that's unique and no other queen could copy. While on set assisting makeup, the model found my drag pictures and called the photographer over and insisted he put me in his book, which is so friggin lit! . That led me to being a part of the launch party and being in the book itself ("Drags" by Gregory Kramer) Now my favorite thing is creating concepts and pitching them. There is that Joan Rivers Quote, “You can't get hit by lighting if your not standing out in the rain; “ I think now, baby let me show you my collection of stiletto galoshes because I am about to Ben Franklin my kite!
What is left that you want to achieve as Zeta Jones? Perhaps a crack at RuPaul's Drag Race?
Growth! I want to grow and work more and as much as I can cause it makes me happy. A question I constantly ask myself is how do I now make myself bigger into a experience, more then just a showgirl, but a show! As for Drag Race, can you believe I have never auditioned before?!? I have watched the show since I was a kid with my dad in our living room ritualistically and flash forward to now, it's something that I would love to be a part of like so many others.
Speaking of Drag Race, several New York City girls have snagged the crown. How do you think the show has been as a whole for the drag community?
It's great in so many ways because it opens up discussion and opportunities in people's hearts and places where drag artists weren't even a thought before. How's that for a pageant answer (laughs)?
You are part of a great group of New York City ladies who are bringing a fresh and new perspective to drag performances in New York City. Who are some of your favorite sisters to perform with and why?
Yeah, drag is really growing into something new. I love working with Maddelyn Hatter, she is this fierce beauty put through a acid trip filter but then she opens up that trucker mouth and you get a amazing person! Also, I recently worked with Holly Box Springs, what a funny lady that is great to watch and fun to kick it with any time. I love the showgirls that have positive energy and do their OWN material! One time a girl did one of my staple numbers at my OWN DAMN SHOW and everyone knew it; the the looks from the staff and people who were regulars that night! I don't think drag has any rules but be unique and when people see you, they get it.
You are going to be hosting at Atlas Social Club and are popping up at other places like Club Cumming and REBAR. What is it like popping up at so many amazing spots in town?
With all of that is going to be happening for me this new year all one can be is..tired! (kidding!) I am excited, energized and deeply thankful. I will be the ONLY 2019 Suzanne Sugarbaker catching the baton with a tear stained face!
The gay community has had a very trying year and many challenges. What do you think are the biggest issues addressing our community and what is your part to address them?
I think we live in a world that has suffering and pain naturally. As individuals in this beautiful community we should be mindful to not be a part of the problem. In Buddhism, it's called the middle path. Have humility and empathy for everyone's individual journey. I want to be a part of a process that encourages the equality and acceptance for every letter of the LGBTQIA community. I find educating myself on others experiences and encouraging activism for what you care about is a great place to start. Above all else, I try to be the most grown adult in the room while facing ignorance or injustice. I find, in order to take the chip off our own shoulders and helping to take the chip off others shoulders is fierce compassion. That can be injected into any problem social or political.
What does "pride" mean to you?
Pride for me is deciding to deconstruct the scripture of what society force feeds us as humans queer or otherwise, being true to you unashamed. We are EVERY color in a crayon box so why not lovingly use all of them!
Most importantly, where can everyone catch you perform?
As you mentioned Atlas Social Club Fridays Starting at 8pm for Drag Race. Then Club Cumming Femme Party Friday evenings. I am excited to be returning to REBAR CHELSEA in the New Year with a new Nnght. I am going to be apart of some cute brunches in the new year. I am expanding and working on new projects which are going to be fun, but too soon to talk about. All I can do it throw the ideas out there and wait for the ones that stick to stick ! So come check me out and lets get sticky but sweet!