THE FIRST TIME I thrilled to the singular wit and compelling vocal and sartorial flair of New York City's celebrated Lady Rizo, she was a visiting artist performing at a popular monthly drag cabaret in Seattle called Bacon Strip. I thought to myself something exactly along these lines: "This is absolutely the most refined, charming, and seemingly anatomically correct drag queen I've ever seen. What talent! What grace! What EYELASHES! (Those suckers are feathered and a foot long, I swear!)"
As reality would have it, Lady Rizo turned out to be a 100 percent red-blooded, bona fide woman under that exquisite Marchesa dress and those feathered lashes (both hallmarks of her signature style), and nothing but honest X chromosomes fuel her formidable chanteuse skills. She's no lip-synching illusion. The lady formerly known as Amelia Zirin-Brown is a consummate cult sensation.
It was a stupid mistake, but not an entirely unreasonable one. You can hardly blame slightly-tipsy-at-a-drag-show me for mistaking the Lady for a very pretty boy in a dress—it was a damn drag show, after all. Her name appears on drag show lineups frequently. Among the gays especially, she's growing more popular than a glitter drizzle in a glamour drought, and style taken to such remarkable levels is something usually reserved for professional and very committed big-city drag stars. Few if any actual so-called "real girls" care to cultivate such precise feminine mystique and allure—or could even if they tried.
The Lady is famous for what she calls, "caburlesque"—her own sassy-yet-highbrow, polished-but-naughty miscegenation of vaudeville, performance art, cabaret, wit, and top-drawer crooning. (Plus, Marchesa!) She's gotten a lot of well-deserved ink lately—Village Voice, New York Times, New York Magazine, Men's Vogue, MORE!—and they've all jumped on the bandwagon, tripping over their collective thesauruses trying to capture the Essence of Rizo (or, as she calls it, inhaling deeply of her delicate armpit, "pheromones"). She's hosted her sold-out show at the East Village's famous Joe's Pub for the last three years, recorded with Moby (who adores her), and recently won a Grammy for a duet with Yo-Yo Ma and his famous cello.
With such momentum and an ever-blossoming base of fans, it only made sense that the release of her first album could not be far behind. And so it wasn't. Her debut features vintage arrangements, star-spangled collaborations, original material, and what she calls "theatrical explorations" of pop songs from every decade. The much-anticipated release coincides, of course, with a triumphant West Coast tour, including San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Portland, where she shall sing and quip and wink us all into loving her exactly as much as she deserves to be loved—drag queen eyelashes and all.