Pride month kicks off this weekend, and with this being the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, it will be up to all of us to be as vocal and as proud as we can be! What better way to kick off our Pride in the biggest and loudest way possible than with some fierce drag queens?! This year, RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni Scarlet Envy and Naomi Smalls are hitting Asbury Park N.J. with New York City/New Jersey’s stunning (and acrobatic) Jolina Jasmine! With beats supplied by DJ Tyler Valentine, the ladies are starting Pride properly with their “Werk” event at The House Of Independents in Asbury Park, N.J. I grabbed some time with both Jolina Jasmine and Naomi Smalls, and they both chatted with me about everything from their career journeys, thoughts on Drag Race, & some advice for the girls who are still coming up the ranks!
Naomi Smalls: Naomi, you’re heading to Asbury Park for “Werk” at The House Of Independents with Scarlet Envy and Jolina Jasmine. Is it your first time working with either of these ladies? First time in Asbury Park? The town is already buzzing with anticipation!
Michael Cook: Yes, this will be my first time in Asbury Park! I am so excited to come and perform alongside both Scarlet and Jolina. If anybody knows me, they know that I am a HUGE Wendy Williams fan. Wendy Williams grew up in Asbury Park, and I’m definitely looking forward to getting my selfie with Wendy Williams Way!
MC: Your RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars journey ended earlier this year; as some time has now passed since the experience, what are your best memories of it?
NS: You know, there is something about makeover challenges with me. My favorite part of drag is really conceptualizing and creating something out of nothing and then trying to tell a story out of it. The fact that I could do that during both seasons is amazing. I definitely wanted to go into All Stars and get the crown. Then I kind of saw that was not going to happen, but I didn’t let that stop me from trying to give the judges and the runway my best every single week. It was also nice to go back into the competition with a whole new sense of confidence. I was able to go in there and say “This is what I do well” as opposed to figuring out what I was doing while I was on Season 8. I was definitely much more comfortable.
MC: What would you tell a queen that is getting ready to try out for Drag Race? Any advice once you’re get the call that you’re actually going to be on the show?
NS: I’m going to sound like a corny coach, but practice really makes perfect. We live in a time where anything we want to know is at completely at our disposal; YouTube changed my life. There’s always room for growth and improvement. Also, I think a lot of the queens would say to do not read the comments; don’t read Reddit, don’t look at your Twitter — but I never really understood that advice. I have a very healthy relationship with constructive criticism, so instead of necessarily reading all those things as negative and insults, think of how you can apply that to how you present yourself.
MC: Could you ever see a world where you would actually take another crack at the Drag Race crown?
NS: Definitely not!
MC: Your single “Pose” was your own ode to fashion and runway culture. When can we expect some more music from you?
NS: “Pose” was a project that I worked on specifically for All Stars. Through working on “ Pose”, I realized how fun it is to transport your audience to a world where I get to create through music, visuals, and styling. I definitely would love to explore more of the music/video/art directing world sometime in the future.
Michael Cook: You’re kicking off Pride month with an appearance at The House of Independents this weekend for the “Werk” event! What’s it like performing alongside talents like Scarlet Envy and Naomi Smalls?
Jolina Jasmine: It’s extremely rewarding to know that my hard work and the vision for my art has allowed me to get to a level in my career where I’m able to perform at such large scale venues alongside major names like these two ladies. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities where I’m allowed to do so. It’ll be my first time working with Naomi & Scarlet, but I know it’s going to be a fun time!
MC: What is it like getting to showcase your talents in your hometown during the biggest weekend of the year for the LGBT community?
JJ: It’s an honor. We have so much talent here in Asbury Park. Although our drag community is small, there’s still a lot of competition. So to be chosen for this event is truly gratifying.
MC: Are you bringing any of your fellow local Jersey girls along with you?
JJ: Yes! I always like to try and support other local talents as much as I can. Joining me on stage with be another local queen who goes by the name of Tastie. She along with her boyfriend Tom, who’s drag name is Morrigan Von Haunt, are both incredible people. I’m super excited to share the stage with her!
MC: Jersey is known for its up and coming drag scene. What do you think it takes for a local girl to truly hone her craft and move up in the ranks?
JJ: I think it takes a number of things. First, you absolutely need to know who you are as not just an entertainer, but also a person. If you try and create something which isn’t true to yourself, then you’re going to constantly be looking for validation through others because you don’t have it within yourself. I also think it takes a lot of humility. A sense of entitlement will get you nowhere, so always be humble. And lastly, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication!
MC: You’re now a cast member at Pieces in New York City’s historic Greenwich Village. What is it like to be a true NYC girl and work with some of the biggest names in the city? Any favorite memories so far?
JJ: New York City is amazing. I don’t know how else to describe it. I’m just honestly so lucky to be a part of that scene. I’ve worked with so many amazing queens such as Brita Filter, Pixie Aventura, Jasmine Rice LaBeija, Bootsie Lefaris, my good sis Honey Davenport, and so many more! To be honest, every time I am in NYC I always come back home with a memory. One that stands out to me is being a judge for Phil Chanel’s “Polish The Queen” talent show at the legendary Stonewall, hosted by Kristy Blaze. That night, I was able to actually watch a show where new and up-and-coming talent came in, competed, and I was able to critique and offer them tips on how to excel. Truly an extraordinary night!
MC: Can we expect to see you anywhere in particular for World Pride in NYC?
JJ: I have quite a few things coming up for World Pride. But I’m keeping them hush hush until contracts are signed! (haha) They will be great though! All upcoming events will be promoted on my social media and I can definitely say this: Pride month is easily my busiest month yet!`
MC: What gives you the most pride as a performer and as a person?
JJ: As a performer, I take pride in my work ethic. I never realized how hard I actually work until one day I stopped and l realized everything I’ve accomplished over the past few years and where I am today. As a person, I take pride in so many things. I take pride in my self awareness, being a good friend, being a go-getter who doesn’t give up all while staying true to who I am as a person. It’s important to have pride in something, otherwise, you’re not giving yourself any credit for anything you’re doing in life no matter how big or small. So find something that you’re happy about and share it with the world.
Follow Naomi Smalls at https://twitter.com/naomismallsduh
Follow Jolina Jasmine at https://twitter.com/jolinajasmine1
Tickets are still available here: