Where are you originally from? How did you end up in New Orleans?
I grew up in Baton Rouge and started my career there. I moved to New Orleans on April Fool’s Day 1996 for a job in the cosmetic industry. When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to retire from drag and just be Mitch. Obviously that didn’t go so well.
How long have you been doing drag?
I try not to think about that.
How did you select your drag name?
I began sneaking into bars when I was 17. Shortly after I turned 18, I went to a bar called Le Bistro’s Bayou Landing on Highland Road, which had a talent night. Two weeks later, I entered the contest. I knew I had to have a drag name. I had always loved Suzanne Somers from “Three’s Company,” so I selected Suzanne. For my last name I chose Shariff, as in Omar Sharif. At the contest I was the fifth of eight contestants and when the MC called Suzanne, I didn’t hear my name. I had always had a list of favorite boy’s names and girl’s names. My favorites were Alexander and Tiffany. So when I finally went on stage, I performed as Tiffany Alexander. I won the contest and the name stuck.
Did you have a drag mother?
Funny story. I dropped out of high school and earned a G.E.D. My mom insisted that I attend the school’s graduation ceremony. The night of the graduation ceremony, I was in the Miss Greater Gay Baton Rouge contest, which I won. The following night I did the regular show. The special guest was Lady Rhonda Robbins. I had never met her. I was excited to meet her because she was the diva of Baton Rouge at the time. She always wore a crown and had a title. We chit-chatted before the show. During the show, she tipped me two one dollar bills. After the show, she asked me questions–“How old was I?” “Are you enjoying this?”–and so forth. And then she gave some advice. She said there will be people in your life that like you but don’t like you doing drag. Don’t let them stop you from doing it. Rhonda said she saw something in me and gave me encouragement. She was the only person who ever saw great things in me. I was small and petite; the others were taller and bigger. Those words gave me encouragement to go on.
Do you hold any titles? If so, which ones?
Early on I noticed title holders got a lot of bookings, which I needed, so I began entering every contest I could. My titles include: Miss Gay Louisiana America (twice), Miss Gay Louisiana U.S. of A., Miss Apollo (Baton Rouge and Lafayette), Miss Baton Rouge, Miss Capital City, Miss Louisiana, Entertainer of the Year, King Cake Queen, and Southern Decadence Grand Marshal.
What is your most embarrassing moment performing? Proudest moment performing?
Most embarrassing … it was so long ago. Thank god there were no cell phones/video back then. I was performing at Mirror Lounge in Baton Rouge. To get to the stage, we had to come down a staircase, which the audience could see. The performer before me had spilled a drink on her way down and when it was my turn, I slipped, fell down the stairs, and slid onto the stage. It was quite an entrance and the audience thought it was part of the act since my performance required me to act drunk. I had a knot on the back of my head for a week. My proudest moment was when I was crowned Miss Gay Louisiana America in 1991.
What is your favorite venue at which to perform?
Oh, Jesus. My home bar, the Bourbon Pub.
How does your drag persona differ from your non-drag persona?
Tiffany is much more outgoing than Mitch. As Tiffany, I’ll talk to anyone or approach cute guys. I’m shy by myself and don’t socialize without being in drag. It brings out a different personality. I think that’s why a lot of us do drag.
If you could change one thing about the drag scene in New Orleans, what would it be?
Oh, god. I don’t have enough time. There are multiple things. I think some of the younger entertainers believe that when older, more experienced entertainers give them advice, they consider it bullying. It seems bullying has become their new favorite word. Also, body padding is essential to drag. There’s more to it than just make-up and a wig and a boy body. I wish the younger queens would respect the older queens and realize we want to help them. The one thing that really pisses me off about the community as a whole is the disrespect I get from younger entertainers and others who call veteran performers “old.” I remember one time I was talking to Aubrey and a guy about my age, when I said I considered Aubrey my drag daughter. This a-hole says, “Don’t you mean granddaughter?” I played it off, but I thought it was rude and it really pissed me off.
Your zodiac sign?
Taurus. My birthday is May 16, same as Janet Jackson. Cher, my idol, is also a Taurus. As you age like fine wine, it’s not that important to always be right. I go with the flow more now. I was more stubborn when I was younger.