Joey Jay is a Leo who loves attention, so they found the ideal occupation for that—drag.
Jay is doing something right. The Downtown Phoenix resident is one of 13 new queens competing for “America’s Next Drag Superstar” on season 13 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” It begins Friday, January 1, on VH1.
“Drag is perfect for me,” Jay says. “I try to be a political advocate. When you do drag, you are obligated to be a political advocate. With Black Lives Matter and the previous presidency, it’s been a crazy year. I use drag to my advantage.”
At first, Jay wasn’t sure how they could support Black Lives Matter, out of fear of offending someone. So, Jay asked their mother—whom they call a “short Jewish woman who works the voting polls”—what they should do.
“I told her we had some protests coming up and I wanted to help out, but I didn’t know the best way to do that,” Jay says. “She said to go to the store and grab a bunch of cases of water and drop them off. I wasn’t sure, though, if I should stay or leave. She said to ask.
“I parked Downtown and carried two giant plastic-wrapped containers of water seven blocks so I could go to where everyone was. They said, ‘Thank you so much. Hold this sign.’ Every single day after that, my friends and I put on Black Lives Matter shirts, went down there and started marching.”
The back story
Jay was born in Iowa City and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. Jay spent the last six years of their time there in Milwaukee.
The ballroom dancer moved to Phoenix to open a studio. However, an injury sidelined those plans.
“You would think that would have been devastating,” Jay says. “The timing was perfect, though. When I look back, I was definitely getting a little burned out. It was my cry for help, my last hurrah. When I was injured, I kept everything on good terms. I wanted to come back if I could.
“It’s important not to burn bridges. I just try to remember it takes a lot of energy to be angry or frustrated. If I get into an argument with a friend, I just move past it and accept those differences. I just move forward.”
Jay went into corporate America and started doing drag on the side four years ago last November.
“I had a lot of friends who did drag and had a dance background,” Jay says. “I kind of worked with them. I would fly with them to whatever city or drive with them. One day, I decided I could do a really good job doing this.”
Apparently, Jay is doing well, if he made it to “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
“Stay tuned” is all they would say, with a laugh.
“Seriously, the audition process was very long and extensive. On top of it, we’re currently in a pandemic. There were a lot of layers, from start to finish. I turned my audition (tape) in around January or February, and then I found out in June. We filmed July to August. To sit tight and wait for everything to air, that’s a whole ’nother layer of things.”
Before Jay auditioned for “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” they were doing one drag show a week. Now Jay is keeping busy frequently performing at Cobalt in Downtown Phoenix.
“We’re not doing 9 to 5 anymore,” Jay says with a laugh.
Jay’s brand is a bit different from the other contestants. They use natural hair, which is multicolored and shorter, instead of wigs.
“I consider myself a lipstick lesbian, bad-ass punk rocker—like Pink,” Jay says. “It’s not like your traditional, stereotypical drag look. To have someone like RuPaul say, ‘You got the job and you’re slaying,’ feels so good.
“RuPaul has so many accomplishments: a star on the Walk of Fame, a huge list on IMDb. RuPaul calls me by my name and tells me I’m doing well. I’m untouchable no matter what.”
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” debuts Friday, January 1, on VH1
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