Welcome to LGBTQ+PHX, where we highlight the people and places of Phoenix’s LGBTQ+ community.
If you’ve only ever seen Phoenix drag queen Joey Jay through a TV screen, you might find it surprising that this often-wigless wonder only first donned the accoutrements of drag and got up in front of an audience for the first time about four years ago.
“The first time I performed in Phoenix, I was incredibly nervous,” Joey says. “Drag wasn't my main goal when I first arrived to Phoenix, but a friend of mine talked me into doing their show. Today, I still perform in the show as one of their main entertainers and hosts.”
That’s just one more reason this city is proud to have Joey Jay as its first representative on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the Emmy Award-winning show that has werked its way into the hearts of America.
The cast of season 13 was unveiled late last year and the first episode aired Jan. 1, 2021 (we're still anxiously waiting to find out who the last "Shantay, you stay" will reveal as America's Next Drag Superstar). For those of you who tuned in late or have yet to watch — mini spoiler alert — our beloved Phoenix queen was sent home at the end of episode 5.
So, naturally, we caught up with the fierce and fun-loving Phoenician to find out more about her experience, her future plans and all her favorite things about this city.
“She’s whacky, she’s crazy, she’s an adrenaline rush,” is the way Joey Jay describes herself in one of the shows memorable soundbites. "I really enjoy an expensive alternative/edgy look," she adds in our interview. And don't we all, sis.
As you can see, Joey Jay is always serving slay-worthy looks, still her experience on drag's biggest stage provided her with some important reminders about staying true to herself.
"Getting on 'RuPaul’s Drag Race' has given me a lot of validation," she says. "I learned that if I ever question my look or aesthetic, to just remember that I was selected for the show because I was being myself." To anyone else out there who needs to hear these words, she adds, "don’t forget who you are, even when you are being critiqued, because whatever you are doing is working."
Since relocating to Phoenix from Wisconsin about four years ago, Joey Jay has become a proud ambassador of the nation's fifth-largest city.
"I love that Phoenix is a big city, but doesn’t have the fast paced environment like other major cities. Everyone in Phoenix is so welcoming, chill and relaxed," she explains. "The LGBTQ+ community here is incredibly diverse. I feel that everyone is incredibly supportive of each other and we really stand up for one another."
Don't let the heels fool you, this queen can also be spotted on many of the local trails and soaking up the iconic Sonoran Desert sunshine. And when she's out of town for a gig, this is precisely the hometown flavor she brags about.
"I am always talking about the hikes and the weather," she says. "I have never lived anywhere where I can wear shorts year-round or drive 10 minutes from home and climb the top of a mountain. Phoenix is such a beautiful city."
Joey Jay has shared photos enjoying Mother Nature, both close to home on some of our top 10 hikes as well as such day-trip worthy destinations as Snow Bowl in Flagstaff and Devil's Bridge in Sedona. She also has future ambitions to continue exploring some of the Sonoran Desert's most iconic gems one day (when they reopen safely).
"I really want to see Antelope Canyon as well as Havasupai Falls," she says. "Havasupai is where Beyoncé shot her recent film, Black is King. It was stunning!"
Editor’s Note: To minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to further safeguard the locals and their traditional lands, the tourism suspension at both locations has been extended. For the latest information on Antelope canyon, click here, and for Havasupai, click here.
Naturally, we asked this fixture of the local drag scene for her nightlife and gayborhood recommendations, too.
"I’d have to say that I find myself at ... Hula’s Modern Tiki most often," she says. "I really enjoy a mojito or a mai tai. I'm always in the mood for brunch." (Click here for additional LGBTQ+ owned restaurants.)
As for ambiance, it's the patios of Phoenix for this queen (we stan a patio, too).
"If I want to head out after the show, I usually find myself at The Rock in the Melrose District."
The Melrose District is also home to the patios of Thunderbird Lounge, Restaurant Progress, Stacy's @ Melrose and Charlie's (complete with outdoor drag stage). You'll find another patio at Kobalt Bar, just a quick sashay away from the Melrose District at Park Central Mall. Located right on the Valley Metro Rail line and surrounded by dining options, this hidden gem is Joey Jay's home bar. Another favorite is the food truck-turned-brick-and-mortar restaurant, Phoenix Coqui, which is also located not too far away.
While Joey Jay "can’t be too revealing" about what else she has in the works, she says keep your eye out on her social media — @joeyjayisgay on all platforms — and check her out in the line up (select Fridays) at Kobalt’s weekly show, The 4SOME Revue, beginning at 10 p.m. at 3110 N. Central Ave., #175, Phoenix. Reservations recommended.