Phreq of the Week: Alex Kacala aka Tammy Faymous

When we went to meet with our newest Phreq of the Week, he strolled in wearing all black, rockstar shades and platform heels that would make even the most confident person in the room drop their jaw. Alexander Kacala is a star. He sat down with us to talk drag, Philly and of course, his other half; Tammy Faymous.

Phrequency: How did Tammy Faymous come to be?

Alex: I originally started doing drag as an Amy Winehouse impersonator, for fun, as a joke. I was doing it sporadically and I was always dressing up for drag parties but I would secretly go to Bob and Barbara’s and I had really wanted to be doing it on that level. It’s kind of daunting. Drag can be very overwhelming if you’re an outsider so I was nervous about the whole thing.

I was also professionally performing in musical theater but I wasn’t really getting recognized. I was auditioning a lot and I wasn’t getting cast and if I was cast I was always in the chorus. So I thought that doing drag would be a good opportunity to perform professionally. I’d be doing what I want to do and all of the opportunities are my own. I’d be giving myself a chance instead of waiting for somebody else to give me one, because in musical theater, you’re always auditioning and you’re always trying to fit a cookie cutter role that somebody creates for you. I’m very feminine and flamboyant and I felt like I wasn’t able to mold myself into what people wanted me to be . I realized that I could create who I want to be and just be that.

Emily Doofnoggle of QREAM saw me at the Barbary last year, and she told me she was doing a drag show and looking for people to be in it, so I told her I would do it. That was my first professional gig as Tammy Faymous.

The name came from “The Eyes of Tammy Faye Bakker”, which is a documentary. She was this evangelist from the late 80s, and her and her husband created this Jesus Amusement Park and they also created a channel for Evangelist Christianity which she sang on. She was very ecocentric, she was kooky and she wore a lot of make up but she was also a huge advocate for the gays. At the same time it turned out that she and her husband had laundered all of this money, so it turned out to be a huge scandal and then they were essentially black listed from the world. She then had a talk show and ended up being the first person to publically interview a person with AIDS on television. At the end of the movie my friend and I were crying hysterically, and my friend ended up saying, “Tammy Faymous would be an amazing drag name”, and I put it in my phone, and months later I ended up using it! People love it.

P: It's a rad name! What is your best performing moment?

A: Well I’ve definitely have some bad ones! I performed at the Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret and had a terrible performance. It was really daunting. That same night, I had a performance at Bob and Barbara’s and I felt like that was my chance to redeem myself. I was going to sing “I Hate Myself for Loving You” by Joan Jett, and I forgot my CD! So I ran back to Fishtown to get the CD, I hand the DJ the CD and I get up there. When the song started I realized it wasn't the song that I gave them! It was actually “Wig in a box” from Hedwig, and I’m just like “oh my god, this song is going to be horrible. It’s a long song, it starts off as a ballad, and nobody in here is the type of crowd that will sing along with this.” I decide to just do it, and for some reason some people actually did know it, and the people who didn’t know it absolutely LOVED it. The host of the show even came up to me afterwards to tell me that it was amazing. That was definitely one of my best moments because I went into it feeling so low and it turned out so great.

Photo Credit: Marie Alyse Rodriguez - Taken at Factory Girls

P: Can you tell us some of the places that you've performed?

A: Definitely a wide variety of places, including: Milkboy, The Trocadero Theatre, Barbary, Kung Fu Neck Tie, The Dollhouse Review at Voyeur, Prohibition Bar in Atlantic City, World Cafe Live, L'Etage with Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret, Bob and Barbara's.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Hernandez - Taken at Dragapalooza

P: Is it ever difficult to have a separate personality?

A: It can be. The reason that I started doing drag was because I felt that I was singing and nobody was listening, and then I put on a dress, and they were. For instance, with Lady Gaga, people have said things to her about being a stripper and she would reply, “well I was playing the piano in clothes, and people weren’t paying attention. When I took my clothes off, they were.” It’s really just me, I may dress differently and act a little more crazy but Tammy Fayemous really is me.

I also have a very professional day job. My full time job is acting as Marketing Coordinator for CITYSPACE, a boutique real estate firm located in Center City.  While performing is very important to me, I have a strong passion for public relations and marketing as well. Our branding and style at CITYSPACE is unique to us and the experience we give our clients is exceptional. Located in a historical Rittenhouse mansion from the 1870's, CITYSPACE is a very special accepting place and I love working there. 

P: Is that a difficult lifestyle?

A: (laughs) Sometimes I definitely do not wake up in time to get in at 9 am, it can be difficult to balance the two. If somebody challenged me at my job about it, I would tell them that this is who I am and that they need to take it or leave it. I don’t think that would ever happen, but I’m very proud of what I do and people in my life need to accept that.

P: We've heard that you're known for a specific physical trait, can you tell us about that?

I am a hairy drag queen and that is one of my calling cards ... that and singing live. While I shave my face, I don't shave my arm pits and chest. It surprises a lot of people and I get a lot of ignorance thrown my way. What I think people don't understand is I am not trying be a female impersonator. I am a drag queen. And that can be many different things to many different people. To me it is what I make it. Some people use to BEG me to shave and I told them I wouldn't. It's probably stopped me from being booked for some gigs but those aren't people I want to perform with or for. Now, people accept me for that facet of my drag persona and think would be dissapointed to see anything else. If you stay true to yourself and say fuck you to the haters, people will not only begin to accept you, but celebrate you as well. 

P: How would you describe your style?

A: A lot of my style comes from my three best girlfriends. We are always borrowing and sharing each other clothes, much to their chagrin because I take advantage of their closets more than they take of mine. Both Tammy and Alex feel comfortable in black, so most of my wardrobe is that. Alex loves wearing black skinny jeans with black boots and a black v neck (to show off my chest hair) with a cardigan. That is what I feel most comfortable in. That is what I think fashion is. Not trending towards the latest fads but finding what works for you and wearing it. Tammy loves wearing leather, lace, ripped fishnets, sequins, glitter and six inch black heels or boots that I can never really perform in. I really only have two poorly maintained wigs, a black bob I call Uma and a long brown one I call Caroline. I'll never, ever be a blonde. 

Photo Credit: Ellei Johndro - Taken at #faymeproblems

P: Is there a specific way you do your make up?

A lot of people usually help me with makeup ... I am horrible at it. I have a problem touching my eyes and usually don't even know where to begin. I have gotten better however at doing it on my own. The thing is, I don't believe in quintessential drag makeup for myself. If other's do, that's totally fine by me. That's you, do you. I am in awe of what some of the queens can do backstage in the dressing room. I am just a very impatient person and can only sit in a chair for so long. So give me eye liner, long fake lashes, and a bright lip and I am good to go. That's me, I'll do me. 

Photo Credit: Ellei Johndro - Taken at #faymeproblems

P: How would you describe the drag scene?

A:The drag community in Philly has really evolved in the past few years. That is not to say that there wasn't one before ... it has just changed and only for the better. Philadelphia is a small city and the gay scene in it is even smaller. With drag, there are so many larger than life personalities that it is easy for heads to bump and queens to clash. I have had negative things said to me and said about me.  I myself have been found guilty on more than one occasion hurting someone else's feelings only due to my own insecurities and short comings. It became a competition for me even when it wasn't. I took a step back and a break, and said," this fighting and drama shouldn't be what defines our community. We really need to stick together and love each other more because if we don't have the support of our own, how will we have the support of others." I think a shift has recently occurred and there is more acceptance now than ever. 

Photo Credit: Ellei Johndro - Taken at #faymeproblems

P: You have a party called #faymeproblems. How did that come to be?

I was a really big part of QREAM, but that really was Oscar Wildechilde's show. #faymeproblems is an opportunity for me to host a night that includes my favorite queens, kings and DJ's. Ellei Johndro from Shadowscene is our photographer. I absolutely love her work and think it is a great representation of us. I don't believe in taking anything or anyone too seriously, especially myself. That is #faymeproblems. An opportunity for people to come be themselves and just have fun. Brecht said the temptation to behave is terrible, and hopefully I have come become known for being very good at behaving very badly. Our next #faymeproblems is September 20 at PYT, but I am also planning on bringing the party to other venues across the city. 

P: Do you have any advice for anyone who’s aspiring to break into the drag scene?

A: I’ve had a few people on Scruff ask me how to get into drag. I would love to help anybody who wants to break into the drag scene. I can’t do make up, I don’t do my own and I feel like getting your make up and look right is a really big part of being successful. My advice would definitely be to find something unique and special about yourself and let drag magnify that. It will make you successful and it will make you happy. Kelly Cutrone says, “normal gets you no where” and while drag is obviously not normal, there is that classic behavior of drag and that’s just boring. You need to find something different about yourself, find your niche. I think that drag can give someone the opportunity who isn’t confident to be confident. Sometimes you’ll see a huge difference in the way “Joe” acts, as opposed to “Joe in drag”. I think that’s what is exciting about it. It gives the opportunity to people who may not be able to express themselves on an everyday basis. It gives you the chance to

Thank you for such a wonderful interview Alex and Tammy.

If you're into Alex and Tammy as much as we are, be sure to catch Tammy perform at 
TABU on August 31, September 4th, and September 8th.

Don't forget to follow them on Twitter and friend them on Facebook!

Photo Credit: Marie Alyse Rodriguez - Taken at Factory Girls