Q&A with Paige Turner
For Paige Turner when it comes to drag, character counts. The “Showbiz Spitfire” from New York City is often called the Holly Golightly of drag in the metropolis, as when she hits the stage she goes on an irresistible-charm offensive. With all-live singing, Paige Turner presents a night of musical theater comedy taking the traditions of Broadway and braiding them with drag, pop culture, and cabaret. Her show Slurp is currently New York’s longest-running drag show, and has made her one of the city’s biggest stars in one of the most competitive drag scenes in the country. And now she’s returning to Provincetown with her new show Louder! Faster! Funnier! after making a splash in August. Paige took some time to chat with Provincetown Magazine about how Barbie and Pee Wee Herman are her ultimate role models, how to stay relevant as a drag queen during a global pandemic, and how rainbow sneakers are crucial to being prepared for anything in today’s world.
Provincetown Magazine: When did you first ever do drag? When did you start as a professional drag queen?
Paige Turner: Truth be told, the first time I ever did drag was when I was 8 years old. I dressed up as Peter Pan, having just seen the musical, and lip-synced to the Mary Martin recording in an elementary school talent show. So I was a boy, playing a girl playing a boy. Everyone was very confused. Thus began my love of theater. Ironically, this month is my 10-year anniversary of working as a full-time queen.
PM: Did you land on the drag name Paige Turner right away or did you go through a few that didn’t stick?
PT: Paige Turner was always the name and I love the backstory. I went to school for musical theater. The piano player’s music during a rehearsal was falling and he said, “Quick, I need a page turner!” I said, “I’ll be your Paige Turner.” And oh what a great name. I love that it’s connected to my theater roots, since I’m definitely a musical theater comedy queen.
PM: Who are some of your drag influences?
PT: I am actually very inspired by Julie Brown from the 80s. I even open this show with one of her songs. Anyone who created a character is high on my list: Pee Wee Herman, Phyllis Diller, Carol Burnett, and of course, Barbie.
PM: Prior to the pandemic, what was the drag scene like in New York City?
PT: Well, I’m not gonna lie, it was ah-mazing. You really could see any type of queen, any night of the week in so many different types of shows throughout the city and the boroughs. Lots of work and lots of opportunity.
PM: What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you during one of your shows?
PT: Audiences just love when things go wrong or are unplanned. I have the longest running drag show in New York City, now in its 10th year, called Slurp, my catchphrase for cute boys you’d like to ****! I am known for getting boys to strip on stage. I would have to say boys picking me up or just crazy tawdry scenarios onstage, like grabbing me and kissing me. Unfortunately none of this will probably be able to happen ever again! I’m glad we have all those videos. Slurp has since transferred to online the moment the pandemic hit.
PM: What were your first impressions of Provincetown back when you made your debut here?
PT: Well I knew it was a good fit for me, because I consider myself an entertainer who does a drag character, not really a drag queen first. I definitely knew of and responded to the queens that did perform here on a regular basis and loved their work and knew they were hardcore entertainers. Working in Ptown means you have to write, sing live, and be able to do a show by yourself for the most part. It was something I always wanted and just continued to work towards it till preparation met opportunity. I’ll quote a fan from this past August when I did the show in Ptown: “Paige, remember when you first performed here and begged us to come to your show on the street and now we’re your biggest fans?!” It took a bit of proving myself, but definitely has paid off.
PM: What does Provincetown mean to drag queens?
PT: I think it’s a safe space for sure, but it’s also a space to be creative and gain a fan base and connect with a hardcore group of people that love the shows. Is it competitive? Yes, but it’s also very supportive amongst the other queens. I’ve never experienced any sort of rivalry or other nonsense that can happen. When I first started here (this is my fourth time) I felt very welcome from the established queens here and knew I was in the right place. Very grateful.
PM: How is it performing in a gravel parking lot in high heels?
PT: Well, I was encouraged NOT to wear high heels and it was the best thing any venue has ever said to me! I broke my toe (not from drag) at the beginning of the pandemic, so thankfully I had all that time to heal. I wear rainbow sneakers in the show and what I lost in inches I make up for in hair!
Paige Turner presents Louder! Faster! Funnier! in the parking lot at Pilgrim House, 336 Commercial St., Provincetown, Thursday, October 8 through Saturday, October 10 at 8 p.m. Tickets ($35) are available at the box office and online at pilgrimhouseptown.com. For more information call 508.487.6424.