Abby: Hello Tammie Brown!
Tammie: Hello! How ya doing Abby?
A: I’m great!
T: Thank you for stopping in to say hello here in Palm Springs at Toucans — What a lovely bird.
A: Indeed. Is it your favorite bird?
A: What is your favorite bird?
T: An African grey or the cockatiel. Or I like The American Eagle. How about that? Stars and stripes!
A: To me, you are all about making people smile when you perform. Would you agree?
T: Yes. I would like to send people home with a positive message and that they feel good. That’s the truth. That’s what it’s all about for me. Entertaining is making people feel good and to energize them.
A: What do you call your style of dance?
T: I studied Middle Eastern dance for two years and then I focused on watching a lot of disco dancers and videos. And I just like to dance so it just comes out of me.
A: When you dance you get that sideways motion going. How do you do that in heels?
T: Someone once said I was like a spider… It’s just practice wearing heels and not being afraid. That is something that always came naturally to me as a youngster was the high heels. In fact my mother had some really nice high heels that I ruined running up and down the stairs.They were emerald green snakeskin shoes. I think they were four-inch heels. That was kind of the start of that. That was at the age of 12.
A: You got a jump on me. That was something that I never mastered.
T: I like those high-heeled shoes. I really do. There is something special about them. Originally they were made for men. So there you have it.
A: I didn’t know that.
T: Women take these things over, fashion, you know. It’s more appealing these days for women to be more fashionable than males. But it’s changing a little bit.
A: You bring your own style of fashion. What would you call it?
T: Bohemian fashion. Bohemian style. When you look around in nature, what is nature like? If you look around in nature, it’s all different colors and all different kinds of things mixed together.
A: You are a very positive person and are very inspirational to people. There are a lot of people out there right now who need inspiration, who have been bullied and put down. What words would you have for them?
T: There were times when I would get bullied. In Junior High School one teacher told me, “I just want to let you know they are not laughing with you. They are laughing at you.” And that was not an easy time for me but I fought through that.
In high school I was openly gay. There were always times that people would say nasty things or smirk at me. I’ve had people come up and knock me in the hallway before. Teachers would automatically take them aside and do something with them. There was a time when my car was scratched. Someone came out and keyed my car. There were also people there to protect me. And there was a time, too, when even teachers and people in the community – philanthropists – would support me and protect me. A: So you had someone to watch your back?
T: I remember when I started doing drag in high school plays. My dad had come home and he got really upset that I was still running around the house in drag. He said, “We should just kill him and bury him in a hole in the back yard.” Anyways, I’m friends with my dad now.
A: Wait, wait, wait! Your dad said that to you?
A: And he meant it?
T: I don’t know what he meant. Who knows?
A: Did you feel safe at home?
T: Oh I felt pretty safe. I mean, they have their drama. My parents. I felt safe at home. For the most part, I just ignored him or whatever. I was strong enough. I didn’t care what he said. I told my theater department teacher who was letting me do drag, who was a really nice man and he wasn’t gay. But I did tell him about this and we kind of made jokes about it.
A: So comedy has been your strength?
T: Well comedy has been my strength too. I can relate with comedians about that stuff. I just like to make remarks that are kind of funny. Or I like to come in and say something that’s funny or might come off abstract . But if you listen it will make sense.
A: I have listened to you and sometimes it takes me a moment to catch exactly what you mean. When you were on RuPaul’s Drag Race, you think that they didn’t understand your humor?
T: Right. Some didn’t. But I think some did. And some people came up to me after the show and said the producers made a mistake. They were so upset that they had fired me because I made for good TV. Because every time I was on those first two shows I made “Talk Soup.” And every other gossip column there was writing about the show at the time.
A: Now one thing I found very interesting about your show was that you lip synced to your own song. Now how novel is that in the drag world?
T: Lady Bunny released her own songs, I mean her own parodies. And I do know that it is pretty novel, though most people don’t have their own songs. And then there are a few that have their own songs and they sing them themselves.
A: What can you tell me about your music?
T: I can tell you I have an album on iTunes. It’s called, “Popcorn.” Get it and put some butter on it! I also have a single called “Disco’s Undead.” And for most of the songs on the album, “Popcorn” and the single, “Disco’s Undead,” there are videos. And there’s videos for “Clam Happy,” “The Ballad of Tiger Lilly,” “Whatever,” and “Shaka Buku U.”
A: Now you are known for having some amazing photographs.
T: Definitely! I have been so fortunate to work with some amazing photographers. My latest photos have been with Dusti Cunningham. Earlier this year I got to work with Mark Cartwright. I have also been able to work with Austin Young. You can check out most of my photos on my Facebook page – but I am maxed out on friends – but you can still see my photos and on my Tammie Brown fan. Yes I do like my image. It’s a benefit to work with so many different photographers that are so talented. Be able to build crazy different looks.
A: Did you get any of your inspirations from the movies?
T: The movie “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” and “Tootsie” were major inspirations for me. Dustin Hoffman’s character, Dorothy Kimberly: she always stood up for what was right, and she didn’t hold anything back.
A: Yes, you are a lot like Dorothy Kimberly.
T: Yes, I am a lot like Dorothy Kimberly. I think a lot of people need to see that movie. Actually, I was talking to Nina Flowers last year when we were doing the show, and she wished she was more like me and stand up, be more aggressive in telling people how it is. And I told her the movie “Tootsie” was a big inspiration. And that’s why she was a big inspiration in drag. People should stand up for things… shouldn’t be calling people Boogers.
A: You are referring to the “Heathers and the Boogers” from season three of RuPaul’s drag race?
T: Yes and I’ve heard it before that. For the past three years I’ve heard that word “booger.” I’ve never really liked it. If you’re going to call them anything call them ‘sisters in need.’ And you can quote me on that, “sisters in need.” We all start off somewhere but no one deserves to be called a booger. That is degrading. Here we are supposed to be some sort of community that is supposed to be fun-loving and wonderful, especially drag, and the way the TV show is coming out isn’t representing drag in a good way. And I remember times when I had anxiety dreams and things like that when I was first starting out in drag. And why would you want to put someone new through that when it is supposed to be their own creation?
A: I see your point.
T: This is your own creation. What you’re doing in drag, it’s your dream. You want to dress up like a young lady or you want to dress up and here you are doing it and then have them degrading you. That’s great. That’s not going to fly in the Tammie Brown book!
A: That’s what I like about you, your passion.
T: It’s just not right!
A: Tammie Brown realness.
T: It’s not right! It’s like littering. Littering is for losers.
A: I know that you do a lot of volunteer work at the Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Center. Do you have another benefit coming up?
T: Yes. Ongina and I are Honorary Trail Guides this year for the Saddle Up LA AIDS Benefit Trail Ride. It is on Saturday, July 9th. We are looking for riders and donors. I even have a western outfit to wear!
A: I would be happy to make a donation. Where do I send it?
T: Go to this website: http://www.saddleupla2011.kintera.org and you can choose the rider that you want to sponsor. I know you will put it under Team Tammie!
A: Of Course I will. Tammie thank you for sitting and talking with me and giving us all a glimpse into your life.
T: Any time Pootsie Wootser!
You can get more information on Tammie Brown here: http://tammiebrown.net/