While on location in Key West, Florida, Jessica McKnight Photography had a great opportunity to work with the wonderful Deja from 801 Cabaret on Duval Street. 801 is known for their world class Dragshows and Deja is one of the hosts. Beyond a fabulous photo session that delivered some of our favorite images from our time in Key West, we also had a chance to sit and talk with Deja and are delighted to share our Q & A in this one of a kind featured blog post.
Q: Where are you from?
A: "I am from Ormond Beach, FL which is just a little north of Daytona Beach. I am a true Floridian, growing up on the beach. I was even a Daytona Beach Lifeguard when I was in High School."
Q: When did you become a drag queen?
A: "The first time I did drag was for Halloween in 1998. My group of friends liked it so much that they convinced me to do it again for New Years Eve. Soon after, it became a regular thing."
Q: how long have you been a drag queen?
A: "I have been doing drag for 22 years now. I have been working at the 801 since 2006."
Q: When did you start working at 801 & how did you end up working at 801?
A: "I started visiting Key West in 2003. The first time I was at the 801, a drag queen named R.V. Beaumont invited me to do a guest spot in her show. I did one number. I quickly became friends with the other queens that were working at the 801 at the time. The more I would come visit, the more they would invite me to perform. When I moved to Key West in 2006, Sushi (The House Queen) allowed me to work on Thursday nights. After a year or so, the situation I was in that allowed me to move down here started to change. Needing to make money in order to survive, I went to Sushi, and she put me in the show full time."
Q: What is the favorite part of your job? What is your least favorite part of your job?
A: "I absolutely love being on stage performing numbers. That is definitely my favorite part of doing drag. I am not going to lie, I HATE getting ready. I wish I could just step into my section, spin around, and magically be made up."
Q: How has Covid affected your job? first for the better and also for the worse?
A: "Covid was definitely challenging for us. We were officially closed for business on March 17, 2020. Sushi was immediately on the idea of the drag queens making and selling masks. It turned out to be a great way for us to make money during the shut down. Sushi had a queen on each available sewing machine she had while others cut out strips of elastic or were ironing the finished product. I did all the fabric cutting. Our masks were in such high demand that some days I cut fabric for 14 straight hours. When we weren’t making masks we started doing virtual shows. They were fun, a bit awkward at times, but it allowed us to do some entertaining, which I love to do. Slowly we got back to stage performances at our club, but things still weren’t back to normal."
Q: What are some things that you wish people knew about your job when they come to see you?
A: "When people come to see our show, we usually go over some guidelines with our audience at the beginning of the set. Most Importantly, it is an audience participation show. We encourage people to make tons of noise, to sing along, and of course tipping is always appreciated."
Q: What is some advice you would give to someone who was looking to become a drag queen?
A: "If I were going to give advice to someone starting to do drag, I’d say don’t be afraid to be different. Drag comes in all sorts of forms. There is no right or wrong way. Also, know your words."
Q: What is your favorite song to perform to?
A: "Choosing a favorite song to perform is very difficult for me because it changes all the time. I am a huge Whitney Houston fan so that’s always a safe bet for me. Recently I have been loving Jesse J’s version of “Killing Me Softly” and on the more upbeat side I like to do “Dance Monkey"
Q: Do you have any drag role models?
A: "I was lucky enough to start doing drag in Orlando, FL. When I was there, I worked with some of the best entertainers in the country. The one who helped me out the most is my “Drag Mother” Nazhoni. The others I looked up to were Carmella Marcella Garcia, Danielle Hunter, Page King, Cezanne, Darcel Stevens, Tasha Long, and Armai to name a few."
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
A: "Unfortunately, I’m not sure where I see myself in 5 years from now. Due to covid-19 and the drastic changes we have had to make in the past year, I’m afraid that drag might have to turn into a hobby not a living. Only time will tell how things turn out."
Q: If you could leave one impression in this world, what would you want it to be?
A: "If I could leave one impression in the world, I would hope people remember me as kind. I try my best to do right by everyone!"
Q: Aside from being a drag queen, what are your favorite hobbies during your off time?
A: "When I’m not doing drag, I like to cook. I went to school for culinary arts. I also like to garden. I grow a lot of my own herbs and vegetables. Something most people might not know is that I’m a Notary, and I’m Ordained. So if you want to be married by a Drag Queen, I’m your girl! I would someday like to own a bed-&-breakfast where I could combine all of my hobbies."
Q: What has been one of your most memorable experiences as a drag queen?
A: "After 20+ years of doing drag, it is very difficult to pick a most memorable experience. Drag is a job, an artform, and a way of life. Each night is memorable, whether it may be good or bad. I am definitely looking forward to many more memorable nights in the future"
“Loving you is easy!” (that’s my catch phrase) - Deja
And well Deja we couldn't agree more... Loving you certainly IS EASY!