BROOKE LYNNE HYTES
BROCK HAYHOE // NASHVILLE, TN
Brock Hayhoe, 34, originally from Toronto, Canada is a professional drag queen in Nashville, Tennessee. From his early days of drag to now he's always been fascinated with dressing up and entertaining. His first love was dance, but when he was introduced to drag, it all changed.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF
I was a professional ballet dancer for six years before I started doing drag. I was in South Africa for two years and New York for four years. I was burnt out and didn't really like what I was doing anymore with dance so I moved to Toronto and started doing drag full-time. I did that for three years in Toronto. Then I won a big drag pageant in Chicago called Miss Continental. The owners of Play, where I work now, were at the pageant. They offered me a job. I applied for a work visa and I got it and now I'm here. It's been two and a half years.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP AS A KID?
It was okay. I grew up in a very Christian home like a lot of gay people. I came out when I was 18. My parents weren't thrilled but they didn't kick me out of the house or anything so in that way I had it better than a lot of people. And they've kind of slowly come around to it - my mom especially. It was okay. It could have been better. It could have also been a lot worse.
What is Drag?
There's so many different kinds of drag now. My definition of drag is dressing up as a different gender than what you are for the purpose of entertainment.
When did you discover drag?
The first time I saw a drag queen was when I was 15. I was with my friend and we were at ballet school in Toronto. My friend showed me a video of this ballet company called Les Ballet Trockadero in New York. They were all men in a drag ballet company and so they do the male and female roles.
I thought that was so cool and knew I wanted to do that. When I was 19, I auditioned for them. The director told me it would be hard for me to get a work visa because I had no professional experience. They said they really liked me but wanted me to come back in a couple years when I had some more professional work experience.
So I got the job in South Africa. I was dancing there for two years and then I contacted Les Ballet Trockadero and told them I had a lot of press and experience. I asked if I could come now and they said yeah. I moved to New York and was there for four years.
THE FIRST TIME...
I ever went to a live drag show I was 19. The ballet school I went to in Canada is right in the gay village of Toronto. So I kind of saw drag queens walking around because we had to walk through there to get to school. I went to my first bar and I saw my first drag queen. I started doing a little bit then for a year just amateur nights and stuff, and I loved it. Even when I was little I loved dressing up in women's clothes and with dolls - you know all of the tell-tale signs.
One of the first drag queens I ever saw eventually became my drag mother, which is like a mentor for drag queens. She showed me the ropes and helped me get booked.
So Seeing it is one thing, and Doing it is another. WHAT MADE YOU DO WANT TO DO DRAG?
I've always been interested in it ever since I was little. It was something that was always there.
What was it like in the beginning?
In the beginning it was fun, and it was scary. I was terrified the first time I stepped out of the door in drag. Going out the first time, I was so nervous. I lived around the corner from the bar I was going to like 250 feet and I remember walking out the door and thinking that people were going to see me in heels. It was just scary. and I looked terrible. But at that point, you don't even realize you look bad. You think you look like the best thing in the world, but you look back now like, oh shit.
What's it's been like being here in Nashville?
It was a really big adjustment - especially from Toronto. My friends drove me down and we arrived driving into the city and I had a panic attack like 'What the fuck did I just do?'. I hated living here. Hated it for the first two years and I'm slowing getting into the rhythm of things here and meeting people. I just found I had nothing in common with anyone here. It was hard for me to make friends. I didn't feel like I fit in or had anything to say to anyone.
What's beginning to change now?
I don't know what happened honestly. I don't know what switched I guess I suddenly became more social. I'm pretty quiet person. I like to keep to myself especially since my job is so social and requires me to be so friendly to everybody. I think I've always been a lone wolf.
WHERE DID THE NAME BROOK LYNNE HYTES COME FROM?
Well, I have several drag names. My first one was Carmen. Then I was Bianca. I'm terrible at coming up with drag names so my name came from my drag mother whose name is Fahrenheit. She's transgender and a popular drag queen in Toronto. When I lived in New York we talked a lot online. I told her I was really unhappy and I wanted to come back to Toronto, but I didn't know if I could make a living doing drag. She said she thought I could. I remember, I came up to Toronto for a month while I was still living in New York and I did some shows. She booked me at one of her shows, and brought me on stage, and introduced me as Brook Lynne Hytes and that became my name. It's a great name, and I love it.
what's the preparation like?
I get to work way earlier than I need to just because I like going into work and putting my make up on. That's actually one of my favorite parts. I love the process of that and transforming. I like to take my time. It's relaxing and zens me out for a little bit while I figure out what I'm going to do that evening and talk to some of the other girls. From start to finish it would probably take me an hour and a half.
Describe Brook Lynne Hytes. Who is she?
Brook Lynne Hytes is sexy. She's very sensual, very sexy, and a little bit stripper-ish. I find that gets me the most attention, and that's what people like to see the most. She's also a dancer. She's beautiful and entertaining too. But I'm also very goofy. I don't take myself too seriously. I allow myself to laugh at myself if something goes wrong on stage. What else can you do?
How is she different than you?
She's a lot more outgoing - but then I don't think she's that much different. When I get into drag, I don't become another person. It's still me. I am just an entertainer. It's just an extension of me. So I don't think there are a lot of differences between the two of us.
WHAT ARE THE REACTIONS YOU GET WHEN YOU TELL PEOPLE YOU'RE A DRAG QUEEN?
I've never had a bad reaction from anybody. It's usually like, "Oh cool, can I see pictures?" I always dread talking to a straight guy and telling them I do drag because they always just look at you differently. They never see you as the same person. It's weird. And especially because of the drag I do - very feminine and sexy - I think that makes them even more uncomfortable. I think it would be different if I were a comedy queen and did crazy big makeup and was really funny and campy but I think the fact that I try to look like a really beautiful, glamorous, Amazonian woman makes people uncomfortable.
HOW does that feel?
I'm used to it by now. I've never had a boyfriend. I've never been in a relationship, but that's also partly me because I am very independent. I am very selfish. I like doing what I want to do when I want to do it. I don't want to have to factor anyone else into my decisions. Sometimes it's obviously disappointing and can be a little bit hurtful. And then sometimes I don't want to date people or talk to them because I'm not attracted to them or don't like something about them, so we all have our things.
Drag just seems to be a bit of a stigma. There are guys that are interested in me even though I do drag but unfortunately I'm not interested in them back. It's that whole thing of if somebody is actually interested I'm like, wait a minute, why? It's hard but I've accepted I'll probably have a very solitary life in that way, which is fine.
There are a lot of drag queens who are in relationships. I see my friends and my parents in a relationship and it doesn't look like any fun. It seems like a lot of work, and I've never felt that way about somebody where I've wanted to commit to them like that and spend the time or give them that much of myself. I mean, I have my own set of issues and hang ups like everyone else, and I don't want to bring that into a relationship either. I don't want anyone dealing with it. Between my baggage and someone's baggage it's just like fuck.
WHAT DO YOU THINK DRAG MEANS TO THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY? WHY IS IT BECOMING More POPULAR?
It entertains them. I think a lot of times drag queens become spokes people for the LGBTQ community because people listen to them and people respect them. If a drag queen says something or does something, people follow suit and pay more attention. We're almost like ambassadors or representatives.
HOw is the drag queen community as a whole - In nashville and outside of Nashville?
For the most part it's very welcoming. There are a lot of drag queens in Nashville, but I don't find a lot of them perform regularly because there's really nowhere for them to perform besides Play and we have our set cast. We have an amateur night twice a night on Sundays and Thursdays but besides that I don't see a lot of new queens.
In general, it just depends where you go. The drag community is different everywhere. In some places it's very bitchy and cliquey and some places it's very open and welcoming accepting. It's just really depends on the city.
WHAT'S does IT feel LIKe to be up on stage in full drag and performing?
I love it. Some days I hate it. Some days when the crowd sucks I just want to go home, but when the crowd's energy is there and my energy is there it's an amazing feeling. It's like a high. It's like a drug. It's that adrenaline rush of being in front of people and enjoying what you're doing. We have to do seven numbers a night at Play, and I can't always get inspired to do seven numbers, but it's my job. Some numbers and sometimes I'm not really feeling it and sometimes I am. I can't say that every time I get out on stage I'm like 'Woo hooo!' sometimes I'm just like, 'Yeah, I'm at work doing my thing.' I get bored very easily too but the fun thing about drag is that there's always something new to try.
What's next for brock? What's next for brook Lynne Hytes?
One thing I've always wanted to do was create a one woman show and tour it around. I want to do residencies in Puerto Vallarta and Providence Town. Something like that would be amazing. I just want to do traveling the world doing drag. That would be the dream.