From a very young age, Edie was chasing a dream common to many young girls: She wanted to be a showgirl. Except Edie is actually a boy.
A dancer since age 8, Christopher Kenny spent years as a professional ballet dancer, but he never stopped chasing his real dream, the lights of Broadway, the big show. And if the way he's gotten there is a little unusual, well, that's okay with him. Now the central emcee in Circ du Soleil's Zoomanity show at the New York New York in Las Vegas, Edie is taking a short break in that grueling schedule to take his act on the road -- he stops through Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret tomorrow night. In advance, we caught up with him to talk drag, dance and why drag queens are basically bar clowns.
Westword: You started out as a ballet dancer, right? Christopher Kenny: Well, I started out at eight years old as a dancer in a dance school; me and my brother and sister, we all took dance classes. My sister started when she was three years old, and she was dancing for a year, and me and my brother were like, "that's easy, that's easy" -- we were eight and nine -- so my dad's like, 'oh yeah, you want to join?' and we're like, "yeah, sure, why not?" because there were boys dancing at that studio, and there wasn't any kind of a taboo or anything negative.
So we're like, "yeah, sure, whatever." And then I just became addicted. It was just tap and jazz in the beginning when I was eight, nine, ten, but then I started taking, like, gymnastics and ballroom. And the local ballet company saw me dancing in one of our final recitals when I was seventeen and asked me to come and take classes, and I said, no, I'm not really interested in ballet. But then they offered me a full scholarship and said they would put me in the company, and I said, "well, alrighty." But it was really, I just got addicted.
WW: So at what point during all this did you make the transition from ballet dancer to drag queen? CK: I was in the ballet for eleven years, and my heart pangs were still that I wanted to tap and jazz dance -- I wanted to be on Broadway, I wanted to be in musical theater, so I danced with four different companies across the country and moved to New York, but of course it doesn't just happen the moment you get there. And they were amazing gigs, but I was having a little bit of trouble at different points.
So a friend of mine came on Halloween from Chicago and said, "Hey, we're going to do drag on Halloween," so I agreed to it, and then the next thing I knew I was offered a job that night, hosting Monday nights at this little restaurant in the West Village. After fighting it for a while, I agreed to do it because the money was really good and it was only three hours of work. And then all of a sudden the performer kicked in, and people started showing lots of love, like, "Hey, we came back to see you," and I'm like, "what?"So I just started doing it - every week I'd have a new outfit and a new song, and it just started to grow and explode, and there was a point when it just got so big that I just had to decide, like, "are you going to do this?"
And it really turned out to be quite an amazing ride. My two biggest dreams came true because of Edie: I got a Broadway show because of Edie, and I got Circ du Soleil because of Edie. So it was a blessing in disguise -- a blessing in drag.
WW: Tell me about your role in the Circ du Soleil. CK: It's a show called Zoomanity, and it's the third show that was brought to Las Vegas. They wanted it because the New York New York hotel was brand new, they wanted it to be, like, a New York show, they wanted it to be sexual and sensual and really sexy. So they thought that, how cool if the emcee of the show was a drag queen? How very downtown New York is that? So they hired a man named Joey Arias, who's just a New York City legend, and he did it for four and a half years. And then they did a nationwide search looking for the next emcee when he left, and I ended up getting the part.
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It's quite an honor, because Circ du Soleil -- when they look for a new talent, they're looking globally. They pull their artists from all around the world.
WW: You said earlier you were initially reluctant to take on the role of a drag queen. How do you feel about it now? CK: You know, I'm a dancer -- one number we're gangsters, and one number we're hookers, whores, thieves, so playing the roles was very easy for me, and it's really fun to play all these characters. So to do drag is just yet another character. It's exciting, because it's a character that I created, and it's very flattering when you create a character that people want to hire you, they want to hire that character, they want to see that character. And I love Edie, I think she's a really great chick.
I think my only hesitation with it was any negativity that the outside world would see to drag. Kind of like, whatever they think. Drag was created, like -- you know, we're basically like clowns; a guy puts on a dress, it's hilarious, he walks into a bar, it's hilarious, he's the belle of the ball, everyone's having fun -- it's a bar clown. But some people don't understand it, they don't get it, it's just, why is that guy in a dress? It's just for a laugh, but some people just take it very seriously.