Saturday, March 2, 2019

Drag365: #8- Witti Repartee

Name: Witti Repartee

Where can we find you out and about?: I’m often seen at Rockbar (where as the “Queen Mum” I’ve starred in staged readings, judged competitions, co-hosted fundraisers and where I throw my annual 39th Birthday Party), but can also be found at Excelsior in Park Slope hosting the Oscars, their annual Pie Baking contest and other special events, the Eagle, where I’ve been the host of Halloween and numerous Team Eagle events, and as a member of New York’s chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour.

Why Drag?: Drag gives me an opportunity to play a character and perform songs that a guy generally wouldn’t do.  It’s a fantastic outlet for someone with a theatre background who never followed that path as a profession.

What made you start drag?: When I was thirteen, I was rooting through the costume collection during summer theatre camp and chanced upon a purple suit that was very similar to the one worn by Dana Carvey’s Church Lady on "Saturday Night Live."  One or two “Isn’t that Specials” later, and I was hooked.  I started doing it more seriously in college, and then performed around New Jersey before meeting my drag mother in a production of La Cage Aux Folles in 1997.

Who are you drag inspirations?: Easily, the “Charleses” – Busch, Pierce and Ludlam.   Beyond that, it’s a blend of Agnes Moorehead, Bette Davis, Bette Midler, Rosalind Russell and Bea Arthur.

Your favorite part of drag is _____?: Giving newer queens a platform to take the stage, own the spotlight and shine!  The shows I produce are always variety-style revues, and I always have a couple early-career queens in the lineup:  I wouldn’t be who I am if Victoria Weston hadn’t taken me under her wing in 1997 and given me a slot in her show on Fire Island.  I was untested, untried and made a mistake or two, but with guidance learned who I was, where my voice was and how to hold an audience.  It’s my job to help provide that for others, when and how I can.

What is your number one makeup secret?: Let the lash glue dry completely.

The three must haves of drag are _____?:  Lashes that fit your face, shoes that you can stand in on a concrete floor for three hours, and confidence.

Who are some of your favorite drag artists, designers, stylists, producers, etc. to collaborate with?: My sisters Pepperica Swirl and Farrah Moans are amazingly fun to plan and host shows with.  Excitingly, Pepper (PlanetPepper) designs almost all of my custom clothing, and Farrah (MOANS) is an amazing jeweler!  My hair designer, Izzy Decauwert, is phenomenal:  5 years at Hairspray and she makes fabulous structural wigs that hold up!  I’ve had a lot of fun working with Jason Romas at Rockbar on staged readings, and my favorite producer is the co-founder of Kaleidoscope Collaborations, Nick DiCeglie, who is a gem and a gentleman.

What has been the most rewarding moment in your drag career?: There are two that vie for it:  stepping down in 2013 after a year as Empress XXVI of New York:  my Emperor, Ritz Kraka and I made over 160 appearances, 16 trips around the country and gave away or made possible over $120,000 in grants through our work with the Imperial Court of New York.  Emotionally, though, it would have to be Folsom Street East 2016.  It was a week after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, and instead of the comic number I’d planned, I had to sing "I Am What I Am."  We were all scared, and singing that song with an audience of thousands of people was such a unifying and grand moment.  I hope the audience remembers it as well as I do!

If you were to do one character on Snatch Game, who would it be and why?: Oh lord.  I consider myself an actor and a singer, not an impressionist.  The perfect character on Snatch Game has to be A) someone you can do well, B) someone who has enough catchphrases or tics that they can be exaggerated, and C) someone who is enough of a pop culture icon that the audience is going to buy in.  The two that have worked best on the show, to me, were Bianca del Rio’s Judge Judy and Jinkx Monsoon’s Little Edie. (Although Ben Delacreme’s Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley and Paul Lynde were also exceptional.)    Who would I do?  Bette Davis or Bea Arthur, probably.  My Holland Taylor would slay, but these days people just know her as Sarah Paulson’s wife.  Which is sad.

How can drag change the world?: Right now, we all need to smile more.  Drag can add joy.  Marie Kondo approve.

What is the biggest tip you can give a queen starting out today?: Know who you are.   You’re not playing yourself in a dress, you’re creating a character:  who is she, where does she come from?  Every song, every costume choice, it all needs to hang on something and the arc of a well developed character is it.

Social Media: @wittirepartee on Instagram and Twitter

For more on Witti, visit and follow @titndrag365