Yvie Oddly is the stage name of Jovan Bridges, a drag queen, performer, and Season 11 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In this interview, Yvie tells The Orchard a lot about what gives her a sense of pride, X-Men as her icons growing up, and what she wishes the world would understand about drag and drag queens. She also talks about abolishing fear, shame, and stigma, pushing aside everything we are taught when we’re younger about identity.
What does Pride mean to you? What brings you a sense of pride?
Pride to me means living unapologetically. It means sticking out like a sore thumb in the hands of oppression. It means showing up and shouting out in a world that never stops trying to silence us. And, most importantly, it means using that voice to speak out against injustice and discrimination in EVERY form. That’s why going to the Denver Black Lives Matter protests and seeing such such a strong queer presence has made me the proudest I’ve ever been.
Who were some figures growing up that inspired you to be your most authentic self?
The X-Men. I loved them because they were each such complex individuals with emotional backstories and relationships. Then on top of that they banded together as a family to fight a war on discrimination from BOTH SIDES. Plus, they all turned fierce looks that were extra extra ANY TIME ANY PLACE! Icons!
How do you promote your most authentic self?
It’s a daily task that begins with abolishing fear and shame. We grow up learning to feel ashamed of so many aspects of our identity: our bodies, our feelings, our desires, down to the very act of being alive. So to be able to promote my most authentic self takes a lot of self-reflection and self-love. I have to rewire the way I perceive myself, actively assessing MY feelings and desires. It’s the only way to drown out the fears, stigma, mores, and taboos that hold us back.
How would you describe the experience of being on RuPaul’s Drag Race? What did you learn from that experience?
Hard and cold. That competition was the most difficult thing I’ve ever put myself through because Drag Race challenges you in so many ways while stripping you of so many security blankets. But that’s why the stories it tells are so good. Cold because that studio was always freezing; I wish I had a real blanket too.
Where does your stage name “Yvies Oddly” come from?
People kept calling my performances weird so I created a name to match it. I’m even Odder than audiences can expect.
What do you wish the world understood better about drag and drag queens?
As more people have been introduced to the art of drag, it’s begun to gain some mainstream popularity. I only wish that more of the people who fell in love with drag through platforms like RuPaul’s Drag Race would do more work to support their local drag communities. Only then would they truly be able to grasp that drag is more than some sport: turning expensive looks and doing splits. It’s the colorful heartbeat of the queer community that celebrates passion, expression, and the freedom to love yourself unconditionally.
You started officially releasing music within the last year. What has it been like exploring your musical side? Have you always been a musical person or is this a newer avenue for you?
Since my first opportunity dipping my toes into musical waters I’ve been yearning to explore this outlet, but wasn’t giving myself the chance or credit. I was afraid that it (and I) wouldn’t be good enough, but then I remembered who I am.
I grew up putting on shows for my family. I wrote angry raps whenever I’d get in trouble. I pursued a degree in MUSICAL theatre. So I remembered that what’s important to me is doing what I love and now I’ve got a thousand notes in my phone filled with bars, hooks, and melodies. You have to feed your passions if you want them to flourish.
What new projects or music do you have in the works?
I’m super excited to announce my first full length album, Drag Trap, coming this fall. It’s a collection of songs I wrote over the last few years that talk about a bevy of my experiences. There’s songs about my sex and love life, fame and success, and, of course, shopping! Plus I got to collaborate with some really amazing artists and producers (including a lot of my Denver queer family) so I can’t wait for the world to hear it.
How do you promote inclusivity within your community?
Since I began producing and hosting shows in Denver four years ago I always had the goal of bringing the “Queer” back into heavily LGB spaces. My casts prominently featured people of ALL races, sexual orientations, gender identities, and mediums of artistic expression (not just drag). My events focused heavily on intimate conceptual performances, asking my performers to tell their stories rather than just bop at a club to Top 40. Since then I’ve taken my Drag Race platform to invite people to do the same across the world. I encourage my fans and followers to keep challenging their perspectives on normalcy. The odder the better.
In your opinion, what do you want to see from your colleagues when it comes to being an ally?
I want to see people who are ready to do the hard work it takes to actively dismantle a broken system, starting with their own implicit biases. I’ve heard a lot of rhetoric implying we all need to go home and check the racists in our lives (which we do) but that work begins with ourselves and spreads far deeper than race alone. How diverse is YOUR social circle? How do YOU act towards different types of people with different backgrounds in your workplace? On your screen? In passing? If you can’t check even the small ways you have been complicit in the oppression of disenfranchised minorities, then how can we truly affect change?
How will you be celebrating Pride this year?
Even though I won’t be able to hit ACTUAL stages this Pride season I will still be taking part in a number of digital pride productions including Werq The World: Pride Castle, benefitting The National Black Justice Coalition. Otherwise, I’ll be celebrating pride living out loud and queer like I do every day.