Love is in the air. This month for Valentine’s Day, I sat down with the Queen City legend and “virgin goddess” herself, Gypsy Starr. What’s her story anyway? It all starts with dinner for two at my fave gayborhood diner Dish. Keep in mind she just had a cocktail.
As a child, Gypsy grew up on a farm in West Virginia and at an early age ran away from home to live with her aunt. “I always knew I was different … and I often would lie in bed and wish I would wake up a girl,” said Gypsy. “I always identified from a woman’s perspective and didn’t know anyone else like me growing up. My aunt understood me.”
I asked Gypsy when she first understood or heard about transgender people. “Phil Donahue, I think,” said Gypsy laughing. “Yeah, I had a TV down the hall from my room and there were three queens on Phil Donahue from the movie ‘Paris is Burning.’ I thought, oh my god, there are people like me in the world.”
Gypsy recalls her aunt taking her to a gay bar and that is when she saw her first drag show. The bar was called South Seas. Gypsy can’t remember if she was 16 or 17, but for some reason she remembers the date being June 26. She says that the bar was small with a stage in the center. She was scared to death and didn’t know what to expect. “All of a sudden this beautiful black woman walked to the stage. She looked like Diana Ross,” Gypsy recalled, her face lighting up in the moment. “That very next night, I painted my face, stole some earrings from my mother and wore a jet black wig with heels and came out.” It was her aunt who bought Gypsy her first set of falsies and her first pair of high heels. “I was so scared to go to the counter. She did it for me.”
Gypsy Starr spans over three decades of drag from when she first started performing in West Virginia in the ‘80s to today. She first came to Charlotte by chance on one weekend with her good friend Coti Collins who was performing in a drag show at Oleen’s Lounge. She laughs, “I never left. I met a man that night and three days later he said I did not need to leave. He would take care of me. He was my first husband.” It must be her cocktail kicking in from dinner, she sheepishly continues: “I was young, dumb and naïve, but he was good to me.”
From that moment on, Gypsy was a regular at Oleen’s, performing for nearly 15 years before the bar closed. She also performed at Scorpio and today you can find her on Sunday nights at “Gypsy Starr’s Legendary Divas” show. Indeed, she is a legend in the Queen City drag community and, more than likely if you do drag, you have had help or advice from Gypsy at one time or another. Be warned, if you don’t want advice, don’t ask — she has been known to make a drag queen cry.
Gypsy candidly shares her advice for new drag entertainers: “Just because you wear a dress, wig and high heels, does not make you a drag queen. Remember you have to be able to capture an audience… and I don’t like copycats. If you’re coming out on stage, be yourself. Copies are never as good as the original.”
Gypsy prizes the family she has created over the years in the drag community. Despite being a virgin, she has a number of drag children too. It must have been immaculate conception. Gypsy credits her drag family for helping her through difficult times in her life. In 1994, Gypsy survived a deadly sexual assault outside Oleen’s in the parking lot after performing late one night.
“It doesn’t bother me to talk about it any more. The potential for it is always out there,” Gypsy opens up. “After a show, a man who had been waiting for me in the parking lot threw me into a car by my hair, drove away… we parked somewhere, smashes a beer bottle, stabs me in the throat, pushes me out of the car. I knew he was going to kill me. He kicked me again in the face…. I thought this was it.” Listening to Gypsy continue telling the story, you can see the strength of a survivor. “It took me years to be comfortable sharing. I am not afraid. You cannot live in fear.”
Gypsy’s story is a stark, horrifying reminder that trans women are disproportionately impacted by murder and violence today. I respect Gypsy’s openness and thank her for sharing. She cautions others to “always be aware of their surroundings.”
Since Valentine’s Day is upon us, I asked Gypsy to conclude dinner by sharing the ultimate secret — what type of man would make her lose that virginity? “Well, I have had five husbands so I am not easy to live with,” she laughs. “I used to like wild boys but that has definitely changed. I love a sense of humor, honesty is important. I like masculine men, tall, dark headed, thick men… the ones that make me feel petite and tiny.”
Oh, and as far as Valentine’s Day gifts, Gypsy says she loves a romantic walk and diamonds. She adds: “I believe every girl should have the four animals of life: A mink to throw over their shoulders, a Jaguar to drive, a tiger in bed and a jackass to pay for it all.”
A girl can dream. Love you, Gypsy! : :
DRAG TIP: “Just because you can get it on, does not mean it fits,” Gypsy chides.
— Buff Faye calls the Queen City her home and performs to raise money so she can find a date on Christian Mingle (and raise money for charities). Find her at your favorite bars and hot spots. Plus don’t forget her monthly Sunday drag brunch and regular Friday night party bus. Learn more at AllBuff.com. Follow on Twitter @BuffFaye.
Don’t forget to find Gypsy Starr at Scorpios on Sunday night. Plus this Valentine’s weekend, check out the Bar at 316 hosting Andrew Christian Model Topher Dimaggio. Win a free Valentine dinner date with Topher and give back to LGBTQ Youth. Go to CampusPride.org/Valentine.