Drag artist and LGBT youth advocate Rhedd Rumm

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Drag performer Rhedd Rumm is also an LGBT youth advocate.
Drag performer Rhedd Rumm is also an LGBT youth advocate.
Rhedd Rumm is passionate and works outside-the-box. She works closely with New Jersey LGBT Youth daily

From Leigh Bowery to Sharon Needles to Lady Hennesy Brown (look her up-trust me), a huge part of drag has always been about shock, and working way outside the box. New Jersey based performer Rhedd Rumm has the market cornered on finding new and innovative ways to present her drag to her audiences throughout the region.

I caught up with Rumm to chat about the state of drag today. We discussed how she got her start in the business and kept her individuality. We also talked about her work with LGBT youth offstage and helping the next generation be as forthright and as outspoken as she is. Well, almost; there is definitely only one Rhedd Rumm.

Michael Cook: How did Rhedd Rhumm get her start in the New Jersey drag scene?

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Drag performer Rhedd Rumm is also an LGBT youth advocate.
Drag performer Rhedd Rumm is also an LGBT youth advocate.

Redd Rumm: I got my start at The Den in New Brunswick. I was performing at Alexis Milian’s Diva Showcase and I was an outlier from the start. No one knew what to make of me or think of me! When I wasn’t there, Lady Marisa and CeeMor Cox opened their stages to me at Georgie’s and Cascada in Asbury Park. All three of these places gave me the chance to grow into the batshit, yet gracious performer I am today!

It’s so hard to stand out in New York City and in drag; what made you want to start showcasing your talents in NYC?

RR: It was actually on a whim. My sisters Jolina Jasmine, Franchesca (at the time), Rose, and myself wanted to do New York City for the longest. So we decided to just go up on a Sunday night to The Monster for Look Queen. It was the perfect night, it was the night of the GLAM Awards and everyone was coming to The Monster for the after party. I took runner up and Jolina won the competition that night. From that night on, the two of us were getting booked left and right. We wanted to go out there because we wanted a change of pace and to see if NYC was really as crazy and over the top as people say. Needless to say, it is, and I could not have been more happy to be included to this day in NYC!

What are some of your career highlights so far?

RR: I have done a lot in my career so far in such a short amount of time. And there are many things I would consider a highlight. But for me it would be anytime I get to host college drag shows and interact with LGBT youth. When it comes to them, most of the time I find, I am their first in-person exposure to what a drag queen actually is — or someone that is being who they are authentically. It is a humbling feeling hearing the roar off 200 college kids when you hit the stage and [they] want to talk to you afterward. As well as talking to the youth about who they are and who they want to be. It is something that really makes me smile and keeps me going.

What is left that you want to achieve as Rhedd Rumm? Any aspirations to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race perhaps?

Drag performer Rhedd Rumm is also an LGBT youth advocate.
Drag performer Rhedd Rumm is also an LGBT youth advocate.

RR: For me, I’d say being on TV in general is something I want. Drag Race is still in my sights and maybe I’ll keep gunning for it, but there a lot more opportunities out there these days that line up with what I want to do with my drag career. I’ve put my name out there to many different media outlets. Who knows; maybe you’ll see me on a 4K HD TV in Best Buy one day!

Speaking of Drag Race, several NYC girls have won. How do you think the show as a whole has been for the drag community?

RR: New York City knows what to do when they want to produce a winner, that is for sure. Drag Race is a double edged sword. It has done so much for the drag/LGBT community in the ways of bringing it to the mainstream and highlighting not only what it actually means to be a drag performer, but what it means to be a LGBT person of color. And those of us Trans, HIV positive, and trying to make it day by day. On the other hand, while it did give a voice to many up-and-coming performers, it also has skewed a bit of what drag is. If you go on Instagram, you see many, many new performers that go into it thinking, “I’m skinny, I’m white, I’m pretty and I can split, BOOK ME!”  That’s a harsh generalization, but it is something that is on the rise and needs to be addressed.

You are the force behind the “Fresh Face” pageant and have helped give a start to so many younger queens in New Jersey. What do you think newer drag queens need to know to make a start in the business?

RR: Fresh Face is becoming bigger and bigger each year, I gagged the contestants by getting the Boulet Brothers’ Assistant to come out this year. For new drag performers, I would say there are three important things. Be yourself and unapologetic about it. Do your research on not only drag history, but drag styles and performances as well. And lastly, practice and workshop. I do not mean staying in your basement in front of a mirror painting and twirling, I mean, if you are able find a stage and start performing whatever wild ideas you may have because you will never know if they work unless you have that feedback from your peers. I’ve had many ideas that went over amazingly in my head, but crashed and burned on stage. So you just got to try.

What do you do when Rhedd Rumm is not on stage?

RR:  I am a person who wears many hats. I’m a caterer, personal chef, a seamstress, and actor. At the front of it all, I work at an LGBT youth center called Project REAL here in Asbury Park. Our mission is to provide an all inclusive space for those that need it as well as doing HIV intervention and sexual health education for young gay/bi men ages 18-29. I love plugging my work whenever I can! (@projectrealap)

What do you think are the biggest issues facing the LGBT community? And what do you see as your part in helping to address them?

RR: With things like LGBT people not being counted in this year’s census, and the possible erasure of trans individuals, I will say this time and time again, continue being yourself. Just continue putting it in people’s faces that can not take it. Continue fighting back. At the end of it all, you being yourself, and causing a stir about it, is the best way to ensure that we as a people are not erased and we are counted in EVERYTHING! Let your voice be heard!

What does “pride” mean to you?

RR: Pride means to me being able to be your authentic self without fear and giving love to those around you that need it the most when they are unable to be themselves.

Most important, where can people see you perform?

RR: Well this girl has been all over the east coast recently. And at some venues you’d never expect (Elk’s Lodge anyone?), but watch out for me at my mainstays. I am all over New Jersey and New York City. Check out my Facebook (Rhedd Rhumm) and my Instagram (@rheddrhumm) to truly stay up to date!