Diva Watch 2015: Meet Vandy J. Sexton
In Diva Watch, we'll profile the passionate, diverse and fascinating performers who light up Denver's drag community. We're expanding on our Diva Dozen list from earlier this year by asking a series of questions to get a peek underneath the make-up.
Meet Vandy J. Sexton, aka Jasmine Sexton. What's in a name? Whether you're meeting Vandy for the first time or remembering her early days on the stage seven years ago as Jasmine, one thing remains constant: Vandy J. Sexton is one of the most bubbly drag performers you're bound to run into in Denver's scene. Her smile enters the room before she does, whether she's dominating a Taylor Swift song or even something a bit "naughtier"; Vandy has her heels planted firmly on the ground and her hair climbing swiftly to the sky. We asked this Longmont native and representative of the famous Sexton clan to sit down and spill some T with us.
Westword: You're also known as...
Vandy J. Sexton: Vandy is my real name. I got tired of using two Facebook accounts, so I kept Vandy J. Sexton as my main one. Vandy is a common girl's name in Thailand, so I don't mind being called by my real name. Maybe my parents knew I was going to be fierce one day…
I am a lady, so I will never give out my real age. I'm also Asian, so I could be 104 years old.
Caretaker. My father was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago, so I take care of him full time.
Tell us about the first time that you ever performed in drag.
The first time I performed in drag was at a Latin bar called Tequila Rosas. I was painted by my drag mother, Kiera Sexton. It was a Christina Aguilera mix and everything just felt natural and right. The crowd loved me and the rest was history. That's when Jasmine Sexton was born.
What is the origin of your drag name?
When I was first painted by my mother, Kiera Sexton, it was on a Halloween. That’s what most gay-curious twink boys do: They use Halloween as an excuse to dress in drag. We came up with different names — Lotus, China — since I wanted something Asian that would fit me. Then I remembered how much I loved the movie Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. So that’s where Jasmine came from. Jasmine Sexton is a Disney princess!
What cultural icon do you admire the most and why?
Cultural Icon? Michelle Kwan! OMG! If I could’ve been a figure skater, I would’ve been one. She's amazing! She never won a gold Olympic medal, but I just remember each time she skated and every time she fell she always got back up on her feet and did her best. She could’ve gone pro her first Olympic year, but she didn't. She remained true to herself and gave us so many amazing years of performances as an athlete and competitor. She's so inspiring! She skated with her heart, which is what I try to do when I'm on stage and tell a story and entertain the audience.
Explain what it feels like to get into all of your drag and hit a stage.
Well, for shows it takes at least three to four hours. I'll have a cocktail here and there, take some breaks, but I like to take my time to make sure everything is the way I want it to be. From head to toe, once I'm in my costume — hair, makeup — it feels great. I feel like a superwoman! However long I planned the look for that particular night, having it all come together the way I envisioned feels amazing! Hitting the stage for your song feels like a natural high — the best feeling ever! Everything that I was worried about involving my life, family, friends or just thinking too much is suddenly gone, and I've escaped into either playing a character or hyping up the crowd. It feels good to make other people feel good, smile and enjoy themselves.
Who/what inspires you to keep pulling out the makeup brushes every day?
What inspires me to pull out the makeup brush? I'm married to my makeup box! Makeup is therapy to me. It's like a painter painting a canvas. I like to get lost with my brushes, listen to awesome music and create something beautiful — which is Jasmine/Vandy. Makeup is as essential to me as my cell phone!
Favorite brand/item of makeup?
I love all kinds of makeup. If I could afford MAC I’d say MAC, but most of us aren't as fortunate as others and if you’re a good makeup artist you don't need all the expensive stuff to look good. My favorite eyeliner is actually Almay from Walgreens, and their Cody powder is an essential must-have for me.
Name three very important items in your purse/drag bag you can’t leave home without.
Lipgloss: My lips have to be shiny and glossed, no excuse. Lipstick: I’ll have a drink or two, so I always make sure my lips have color and are on point. MAC blot powder: Controls any oils or shine, and helps when you’re dancing and in a hot sweaty club!
When you’re out in drag, what one thing does everyone want to talk to you about? What do you wish they would actually talk to you about?
There's not one thing that people talk to me about or that I would like to talk about with people. It’s mostly engaging with other people, making sure their presence is known. Everyone I see at the club, I try my best to let them know that they matter — whether it’s a simple hello, smile or hug. I see them and they see me. Let’s have a good time and laugh.
If your drag persona had a theme song, what would it be?
"Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus! We're only here for a short while; let’s have a good time and enjoy each other’s company while we can, enjoy our time here, LAUGH and dance. "They're playing my song/ You know I'm gonna be ok/ Yeahhh, it's a party in the USA"
They’re casting the movie about your life: What actor and actress would be perfect to play both sides of your coin?
I'm just going to say Leonardo DiCaprio — and this will be the movie he will finally win an Oscar in!
Which is harder, given your drag profession: tucking (the legendary act of hiding a man's "candy" while performing) or having a relationship?
Definitely having a relationship. I've proclaimed myself as the Asian “fish” of Denver, so tucking…no problem. My vagina is not the problem, men are! Hahahaha. If we’re discussing relationships with men or getting married…ummm, yeah. Next!
What does the word “family” mean to you?
Family is EVERYTHING! I was the best man for my brother’s wedding and didn't realize how small my family was until I was standing there making the best man speech. Our family sat and fit ONE table. The rest was all of my brother’s wife’s family. My parents were survivors of the Cambodian genocide. Almost all of my family were killed by Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, so what was left was my mother, dad, an uncle, half-brother and half-sister and some distant cousins. The rest have been all wiped out, gone. Since I was born here, my parents never made it feel like our family was small. So much love and support. My parents did their best to raise me. Maybe a little over-protective when I was younger, but I understand now.
RuPaul has said, "As gay people, we get to choose our family" — and these are words I hold true to my heart! In the gay community I have a big family! Friends, drag, you name it. I'm an aunt, sister, mother, gay uncle, everything! When I first came out, I started backup dancing for people at the clubs and gay pageants. The Sexton family was a family I was most attracted to. I felt I fit in with them the most. Not only did I get to learn makeup tips, hair and costumes, but I was taught a lot of life lessons from Kiera and Christian (now ex-husband): How to be gay and a fierce drag queen 101! From my immediate family to Kiera and Christian, I credit them for helping me mold who Vandy J. Sexton is today! So what does family mean to me? Family is life!
There’s a bank error in your favor, giving you $15,000. What’s the first thing that you buy?
$15,000 in my bank, what’s the first thing I buy? Booooooobs!
When we check back on you in three years, what do you think you will be up to in your drag career?
Hmmmm, I don’t know...and I don't want to know! Not knowing is good for me. I do want to travel more with my drag. I just got done performing at Cornell University in New York and did a party out there. More traveling gigs would be fun. Hopefully sometime in the three-year span I will have learned to sew. That is my next thing.
You can catch Vandy J. Sexton performing at Drag Nation and Tucked at Tracks and every month at Circuit Saturdays at City Hall.
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