One part skilled singer, one part comedienne, one part white rapper, and ALL flamboyant entertainer—Miss Ho is ready to serve up the blatantly irreverent humor and raunchy R&B tunes that have earned her icon status. The Kansas City native turned cult-sensation will return to the stage at Just John’s, April 15 along with St. Louis’ own Dieta Pepsi.
Vital VOICE recently caught up with the diva to chat about her upcoming show, her gay appeal and dealing with critics.
Colin Murphy: How did the persona of Wendy Ho come about?
Wendy Jo Smith: Wendy Ho makes up one room of the house of “Wendy Jo.” She has ALWAYS been there. From when I was five watching and singing along with the “Good Times” and “The Jeffersons” theme songs to when I was performing Michael Jackson songs for my best friend in elementary school behind the church, who happened to be a black girl named “Tameko.” There have been spurts where this aspect of myself didn’t come out, because I was either made fun of or socially shunned for being this way: loud, boisterous, outspoken, and voluptuous. When I went to college I started writing raps about other students and teachers, and performing at parties. People started calling me “Wendy Ho.” For a long time, I just kind of considered her a “party trick,” and it was just something that continued to follow me from each place that I would work from where I went to college in Springfield, Mo. to Kansas City to Chicago to New York, people would inevitably hear that I write crazy raps and songs and would clamor for it at parties. One night in the early days of struggling and living in NYC, I was at a well- known Broadway director’s house-party and a close friend of mine got everyone to demand that I perform on the spot! I was scared, but did it anyway, and after receiving a standing ovation, I decided it was time to take Wendy Ho a little more seriously. It was time to “come out.”
CM: Who has inspired you as a performer?
WJS: I love me some strong bisches that aren’t afraid to break the mold and honor what I call “an aspect of the goddess” i.e. Madonna, Cher, Bette, Erykah Badu, Gaga, Margaret Cho, and Kathy Griffin.
CM: Why do you think that you connect with gay audiences the way that you do?
WJS: Because I, like many gay men and women, had to embrace a side of myself that I thought was shameful because it wasn’t “the norm.” I had to let that side of myself that is loud, colorful, flamboyant, nasty, sassy and PROUD out of the closet.
CM: When did you first become involved in the LGBT community?
WJS: My first love in high school was a gay boy who came out while he was with me—him breaking my heart, and me loving him anyway was my first experience with the word “gay.” I actually ended up introducing “my first gay” to his now husband. The gay community has always been the first to applaud my sensibilities as an artist, and since most of them are the funniest, most creative, and amazing people I’ve ever met—it’s not hard to understand why I stick around “the gays”.
CM: You’ve called yourself a female drag queen – could you talk a bit more about
WJS: A drag queen to me is one that exaggerates femininity with the bold use of theatrics: wigs, costumes, bold performance. What I do is right on par with a newer version of Cher or Bette Midler’s live shows—you know the bawdy, brash, over-the-top bisches who happen to love a wig!! Since drag has gone so main stream, “female drag queen” is a great way to sum up what I do, but it really is just a blanket statement for the visual aspect. What I actually write about and sing about talks directly to what it is to be a female living in the United States of America in 2011.
CM: For those sheltered few who haven’t experienced a Wendy Ho performance – what
are they missing out on?
WJS: Songs and stories about: sex, drugs, poop, stealing purses, Oprah Winfrey, and my grandma’s vagina delivered by a white trash girl gone ghetto fabulous who also happens to have a big booty and powerhouse vocals.
CM: How do you respond to your critics who say you are politically incorrect for
exaggerating black stereotypes?
WJS: I have chosen to take on the stereotype that was actually given to me as a woman who happens to LOVE to sing gospel, blues, R&B, spitting funny verses that rhyme, and has a big “black” ass. I was kicked out of choir for sounding too black in high school, and had no one praising my body type, except for black boys for a LONG time. Since I don’t fit the “nice, skinny, white girl” mold, I’ve been cast as trash or “wigger”—those “big booty white girls who get with brothas.” So I’ve decided to embrace the role by breaking the mold. I take MY stereotype on, dismantle it, and reconstruct it as drag. I create a satirical musical narrative sound track, which is a big middle finger to the mainstream, and a laugh to all of the cultural expectations that we still place on women. There is no way a white person is going to tread into this territory without offending. What’s funny to me, as a performer that works in this drag culture, is that I get called racist, while drag queens are called “illusionists,” and celebrated for presenting over the top female stereotypes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offended by it! I love my fellow drag artists, there just never seems to be ANY kind of offense taken to men acting like stereotypes of women.
CM: What new projects are you working on?
WJS: Right now I’m touring the US and working on producing my next music video “Yes, I’m a Ho!” For more info, please visit: www.wendyho.net
BY: COLIN MURPHY – SENIOR WRITER