Drag Superstar Yvie Oddly Talks Vegas, RuPaul Residency and Songwriting

When artist and RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11 winner Yvie Oddly has down time, she makes sure she doesn’t. Downtime isn’t really downtime, in this way. Instead, it’s just time to do or make something else.

When Oddly won the 2019 season (a truly coveted feat), she didn’t rest on her laurels, either. Instead, she went out and recorded a new album, Drag Trap, which she released a year ago (October 23, 2020). One might think that after achieving such a major milestone, there might be only parade floats and flower bouquets. But for Oddly, there was recording booths and turning lyric notes into full songs that would go on to earn millions of streams. Even today, as Oddly performs in a RuPaul’s Drag Race Las Vegas residency, she is working on creating and completing other projects when off-stage.

“It’s a very strange city,” Oddly says of Vegas. “I love people-watching here, where everyone feels free to take off their chains and do whatever it is they’ve always wanted to do. But, honestly, the best part about Las Vegas for me, about this experience, is just being in this one place and having time and stability to create more art.”

In Las Vegas, Oddly is performing five nights a week for RuPaul’s Drag Race Live! which features a number of fan-favorite queens from the now infamous reality show, including Oddly. But in between shows, Oddly is able to write and record music, create outfits, paint, act—whatever she wants. In some ways, this free time comes as a surprise to the Drag Race winner because, often, there are more responsibilities, more traveling. She’ll take it. But while Oddly is a multi-faceted artist, it’s music that’s been with her from the beginning, and its music that’s subsisted ever since.

“From birth,” Oddly says with a big laugh, “Music is just one of those things I’ve always been really passionate about. Even though my mom only played the same six cassette tapes and CDs in the car growing up, I would just see how deeply she was moved by all of it.”

Some of those artists in regular rotation included Sade and Toni Braxton, The Police, and Bob Marley. But her mom’s album collection wasn’t the end of it. Oddly, who grew up in the Denver area, says she always had support from both family and teachers growing up. The schools she went to as a young person focused on exposure to the arts, creativity, expression. As a result, she was always singing, dancing, hopping up on surfaces, and performing. She rapped with friends, memorizing verses and making up their own.

“After coming to terms with the fact that art has no boundaries,” Oddly says, “I decided to jump all in. If music is that important for me to listen to, then I wanted to create some, too.”

One specific and major breakthrough in Oddly’s life came when a drag queen visited her college in Denver. By this time, RuPaul was a household name, her reality shows already popular. Oddly (born Javon Bridges) was an artist already but wasn’t seeing the success she wanted. But once she took some time to think about drag, something clicked.

“When I saw that she was coming,” Oddly says (she thinks it was Venus D-Lite), “I thought, ‘Oh my God, this could be my great opportunity to try something new with my art!’”

Maybe she would get good at it, maybe she would end up on RuPaul’s show. But for any of that to happen, she had to try. So, that’s exactly what she did. And as Oddly got more and more confidence and more and more success, she began to filter every bit of her creative self through the art of drag. Oddly dropped out of college a semester after D-Lite had visited and she began to pursue her dream. So far, so good. Yet, all the while, she jotted notes and lyrics to herself on her phone to one day record.

“It was in the back of my mind since competing on the show,” Oddly says. “I spent a year and a half just writing all of these songs in my phone. Just writing my experiences and it wasn’t until the pandemic that I had enough time to be in one place to really put myself into making a project.”

Oddly says she’d already written and recorded four of the songs beforehand with the intent of someday releasing music. But thanks to the mandated lockdown, she got down to business.

“I bought a bunch of recording equipment,” she says, “and set it up myself. I recorded everything from this tiny little closet in my apartment and I put it out there.”

The drag queen’s 2020 LP, Drag Trap, is a success. It shocks and shakes. It’s like sonic-smelling salts. It’s also infused with Oddly’s signature ability to walk a tightrope between depth of meaning and humor. For her, a joke is second nature. Life is too crazy to take yourself too seriously. In fact, that’s a major ethic to the art of drag. It’s a subversive form and a beautiful one.

“It was mostly just about trying to get out as many of these ideas,” Oddly says, “as many of these quick little snippets that had just been running through my head.”

As a performer, Oddly is always searching for the best way to interpret a piece of music. Style, style, style. Each night the audience is different, their expectations unique. So, it’s about learning the tricks of the trade to be effective. Music and drag are all about communication. Feeling your best and delivering it through art. In that way, both are healing and, Oddly says, self-affirming.

“Drag gives everyone the power to be exactly what you want to be,” Oddly says. “That’s the kind of power really most people ever feel during Halloween or a drunken night at the club.”

Photo By Denise Truscello

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