Drag star Rify Royalty isn't afraid to defy expectations — and show a little skin!

As Brooklyn's self-proclaimed "premiere slutty sad girl," Rify Royalty embraces the unexpected when it comes to drag performance, gender expression and onstage looks.

Video Transcript

RIFY ROYALTY: Anyone can do drag. You just have to be entertaining. I don't care about your gender, where you come from, or what you look like, you just need to be fab. And when people leave my shows, I want them to feel that about me. I want them to be like, oh, she's the one. And I want them to feel happy, or turned on, or confused, all that jazz.


Hi, I am Rify Royalty. I live in Brooklyn, New York. I'm a drag performer, artist, producer, and I am Brooklyn's premiere slutty side girl. Sharif was raised in Cairo, Egypt, and I lived there until I was about seven. Then I moved to the exotic land of Jersey City, New Jersey, where I graduated high school, and I lived in Jersey up until then. And then I met a boy and moved to New York.

So I grew up Muslim and Egyptian, but also mixed race. My mom is white. My dad's Egyptian, so I grew up in two very different cultures under one roof. It was kind of strict, but I still found ways to sneak in my favorite magazines, and movies, and things like that. I was a bit rebellious. I've always had a love for performing and the spotlight. I was always in drama, or choir, or fashion club, or student council.

My first drag performance that I saw, I was a senior in high school. And there was a club called Escuelita. And I took my best friend at the time. And I remember the show starting shortly after midnight, and I was just so blown away by the looks, by the craftsmanship, by everything. It was just-- it was a very magical first experience. Rify Royalty happened kind of by accident one year during Pride when a friend of mine asked if we would dress up together. And I said, sure.

And then I just would go out to parties dressed up. You know, it was an artistic outlet. And then I started getting hired to go-go dance. At this point, I was working in a cosmetic counter at a department store and doing my nightlife gigs. And then I was like, well, what if I just did nightlife full-time? So then I started doing performance gigs and go-go for gigs. This way, I was working five, six nights a week, and I never went back to retail.

Now I'm doing drag, but I still take my clothes off because it's fun, so--


I got my start in Brooklyn. Manhattan drag was a bit more polished. It was all about Broadway, so I didn't really fit in with the Manhattan drag scene. The Brooklyn drag scene, when I first started out, was super alternative and diverse. Just queens pouring milk on themselves, or fake blood, and it was chaos. There was a sense of community. It's important to support each other and lift each other up. So I try to go and support my sisters, and they'll do the same for me.

Out of drag, I typically don't wake up 'till 11, then I take my ass to the gym. I like to work out about five to six days a week. I like looking kind of muscular and drag, kind of boyish. For me, drag has never been about gender illusion so much as it was about just being glam. The mustache never mattered. I never wear body. I don't tuck. I don't wear pads or any of that. I'm just me in my muscular femme form.

For me, the most fun thing about drag is the look. My fashion inspiration for Rify would be iconic women of the late 80s, early 90s. Naomi Campbell, Pam Anderson, Lil Kim, women who showed a lot of body on the red carpet. I like to coin myself as Brooklyn's premiere slutty sad girl. So I'll do Lana, or Sinead O'Connor, or Kate Bush, anyone sad. I think when you book a drag queen, you expect them to be high energy, and cartwheels, and flips, and I don't do any of that.

That's just not my tea. I like to look back to the queens who inspired me when I first started going to drag shows. Literally, the curtains would open and you would see this goddess there, drenched in rhinestones. And they'd come out and do a sexy, seductive slow number, get their coin, and then go. How are we doing, metro?


Are we ready for some more shows? When you come to one of my shows, have no expectations. You're going to get what you're going to get, and you're going to love it, and you're going to tip me. And then you're going to tweet me, and you're going to post about me on Instagram, and you're going to tell all your friends about me. I want people to know that there are Middle Eastern queer drag queens. We exist. We're out there. We're a very niche group of people, but I'm happy to represent us.