National Queen of the Month
BeBe Sweetbriar burst onto the world stage as the quintessential performer who wants to have fun. After less than 5 years of entertaining people, she has proven that she has the heart and soul to keep her legion of fans compelled by her every creative move.
The beauty of BeBe Sweetbriar goes beyond her transformation on stage. It is that she has what it takes to be a multi-faceted entertainer who strikes a resonant chord with each project.
With her single “Save Me”, BeBe won critical acclaim especially amongst those artists and professionals in the UK. Gaydar Radio in London was the first to embrace the drag chanteuse and provide a forum for UK listeners to be introduced to her lyrical messages set to a dance beat. Along the way, she has continually won accolades as a singer, actress, and activist. She has performed on various stages across the U.S. and has been the opening act for Kelly Rowland, Alec Mapa (Ugly Betty) and #1 Billboard Dance Artist Kristine W.
This past December (On World AIDS Day), she released her 2nd single on independent label Pornstar Records, “Free To Be”, which immediately became a Gaydar Radio playlist hit. With this song BeBe addresses the freedom we all should have to be who we are without conformity, a creedance she lives by both professionally and personally. As with her first single, “Save Me”, international producer/dj DJ Pornstar composes the beats that underly the powerful message making it a dance anthem to be enjoyed by all.
“This time around we wanted to make an anthem that crosses all genders, sexual preferences, races and religions,” says Sweetbriar. “We wanted people to hit the dance floor and literally feel free to let go. Let all their day-to-day anxieties out to the beat and let the lyrics resonate with them.” The accompanying music video directed by acclaimed independent film maker Amir Jaffer and co-produced by Sweetbriar takes the song a step further by touching upon the Orwellian “Big Brother” theory in its production.
In film, BeBe has co-starred in two independent projects, Under One Sun (Aisha Media) and Devious, Inc (Hella Fresh Films – Australia Film Festival entry) displaying her wide range in acting with dramatic and comedic roles, and participating in the executive production of Under One Sun and the soundtrack recording for Devious, Inc. Currently she is starring in another Aisha Media short-film, Hours, due for release later in 2012. BeBe can also be seen as hostess on the new internet show SF Tonight (SFTonight.com). As a columnist, She has gained national prominence with her syndicated celebrity interview column, FAME, on Edge Media Network (EdgeOnTheNet.com), the largest LGBT news and entertainment network in the world, with interviews with Lady Gaga, Academy Award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (MILK), Tony Award winner Jennifer Holliday (Dreamgirls), Grammy winners Dionne Warwick (That’s What Friends Are For) and Cyndi Lauper (Best New Artist & We Are The World), and award winning playwright Del Shores (Sordid Lives, Southern Baptist Sissies), to name a few.
An unwavering advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality and the fight against HIV/AIDS stigma, BeBe has been recognized by the State of California’s Senate with a Certificate of Recognition and by San Francisco non-profit organizations with the coveted Sylvester Award of Inspiration.
ArizonaDrag.com is proud and honored to be able to highlight the career of Bebe Sweetbriar as our National Queen of the Month.
What was your first experience with the art of female impersonation?
Probably like most queens, I did my first drag dress up during Halloween. But my first performance came a few weeks later at a musical production at my church, believe it or not.
Following that first experience, what made you want to get into the profession?
It all really happened by chance. I was getting requests to perform more and more, and my day gig at the time, required me to travel a lot, so it was getting in the way of accepting more opportunities. So I quit my six-figure a year day gig to do what I have grown to love doing.
How did you get your name Bebe Sweetbriar?
That came from my first performance in my church’s annual musical fundraiser. When they asked me to perform in drag, my character needed a name, and I remembered an episode on “Will & Grace” where they talked about how you got your porn name by using your first pet’s name as your first name, and the first street you lived on as your last name. BeBe was my cocker spaniel as kid, and I was born on Sweetbriar Way.
What is your style of Drag?
That is always a tough one to define for me because with any art, you hate to be pigeon-holed into any category, but I definitely am more classic/old-school drag or female impersonation than any other style.
What makes you different than any of the other female impersonators?
Well different only in terms that there are not as many of us as with those that lip sync is that I sing live when I perform most of the time. And I use my drag persona as a vehicle in the arenas of film, music recording, and hopefully soon, product merchandising.
Do you remember the first song you performed, the first stage and how you felt about it?
Other than my church performance, yes,my first stage performance was during a drag night called Charlie Horse in San Francisco run by the ever so fabulous Anna Conda, and I lip synced to Natalie Cole’s “Mr. Melody” and scatted my way to stardom. Lol. It was a newbie night so it was quite fun to perform with other girls who were cutting their teeth.
What was or still is your main goal when you became an entertainer?
To bring pride to the art and profession of drag, and to continue to push myself to widen the acceptance of drag as a true art form.
What has been your greatest moment as an entertainer? What was your most embarrassing?
My greatest moment as an drag performer has been speaking to an performing for an assembly of middle school kids in San Francisco and have over 200 kids rush me afterward for my autograph. My most embarrassing moment was chewing gum flying out of mouth when I opened a show for “Ugly Betty”’s Alec Mapa and I had to somehow maneuver to pic it up off the stage while performing.
What’s the best advice that you can give a upcoming entertainer?
Be true to the art that “you” want to present. Nobody can tell you what is right or wrong with “your” art because it is your art. You are your own Picasso and bucking the norm, styles, trends is what keeps the art of drag interesting.
Who inspires you as an entertainer?
Wow, that is a tough one because I draw inspiration from so many people for various reasons. But what inspires me to continue to do what I do is that people “listen” to what I have to say when I am in drag. That is funny to me. Outside of drag, I just blend in with the rest of the world of folks, but as BeBe, people stand up and take notice. As long as that continues, this bitch will keep painting this face.
You’ve been involved in pageantry and won two of the three prominent drag pageants, Miss Gay San Francisco 2008 and Miss Desperate Diva 2008. What does winning those titles mean to you?
Miss Gay SF and Miss Desperate Diva were both working titles in that their main focus was raising money and bringing awareness to specific causes. That was very important to me. I don’t consider myself a pageant queen at all because most pageants really don’t have any responsibilities to them. These two titles gave me a platform on which to speak, and I used them to gain access to arenas I had no access to before to be heard. Just as in my current win as the Queen IX of the Krewe de Kinque of San Francisco where I, and my King Tony Leo, lead a team of volunteers in raising money for people and groups around the world, having a title and doing something good with it was and is important to me.
You have worked tirelessly fundraising throughout your career including having your own charity organization, but have also raised money for AIDS Housing Alliance, Under One Roof, Larkin Street Youth, GLAAD and Richmond/Ermet Aids Foundation just to name a few. What is it about fundraising that is important to you and that you enjoy?
Unfortunately, our world operates around those who have money. And when you have none, you become insignificant. Raising funds for groups in need that provide services to individuals in need is so important because without money to operate they cease to be able to carry out their mission and goals. So, I try to help in that are as much as I can.
What is your charity all about?
My BeBe Sweetbriar Foundation is actually on hiatus at the moment, only because if I am going to truly spearhead a foundation that gets money from those that have to give to those that do not, I want to do it right. Currently there is so much going on with my career that I am not able to keep such an organization working. So, I am working through other larger organizations and foundations to accomplish the same goals.
Speaking of your charitable work, it earned you recognition by the California State Senate with Proclamation from Senator Mark Leno and you were awarded the Sylvester Award of Inspiration. What did meaning that award mean to you and being honored in such a grand way?
That was so unexpected because it came only 2 months after returning to the scene from my illness. No one should go into doing work for others with the expectation of being recognized for it, and I am no different in that. To have openly gay California State Senator Mark Leno, and then, openly gay San Francisco Board of Supervisor Bevan Dufty present with such an honor and certificate was simply beyond belief. One of my proudest achievements to date.
You’ve done some acting including the independent film “Under On Sun” which is co-produced by Amir Jaffer. You played a transgender woman and the movie was about religious, racial and gender issues. Tell us about that experience.
“Under One Sun” (which can be found on YouTube in its entirety) was my first film experience. I have since done another musical film called “Devious, Inc.” which played in the Australian Film Festival, and am currently filming another Amir Jaffer film called “Hours”. But working as an actor for “Under One Sun” was wonderful in that I had an opportunity to bring a character to life that was fictitious but represented the true struggle that so many transgendered people have with who they are and their religious beliefs. And to act as one of the films executive producers really gave me an opportunity to work behind the scenes in the development of the film and to have a say in its direction.
You write for Edge Media Network, which is the largest LGBT news and entertainment network in the world with a Fame celebrity Column. Where can you find this column and how did you get into writing?
Well, I have always been a writer. I went to college on a partial English scholarship. But, I started writing a column first for Gloss Magazine which is the largest gay publication in Northern California. Then I began writing a column for Gay.com, and from there Tobygo.com. Those two columns really introduced to the writing field as an interviewer and thus caught the eye of Edge Media Network. You can find my weekly column FAME online at www.EdgeOnTheNet.com and on the sites of any of it 23 branching network sites in major cities in the country. I also have links to my columns on my website at www.BeBeSweetbriar.com.
You’ve interviewed such stars as Lady Gaga, Dustin Lance Black, Dionne Warwick and Jennifer Holliday. Which was your favorite and why?
I am not sure I’d call the interview my favorite but it is definitely my most poignant and that is the Lady GaGa interview because it occurred at the beginning of her career as we know it now, and it was interesting to re-read the interview and see how the plans she had st out to accomplish she has stayed true to. I truly admire her for her drive and persistence. When you look beyond all the hype, she is really a study of true marketing and business 101 folks. I think my favorite interview has been Cyndi Lauper because she is such a gay icon, and a true representation that in order for the gay community to achieve our goals we need our straight allies.
As an entertainer you’ve been the opening act for such people like former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland, Ugly Betty’s Alex Mapa and dance diva Kristine W. How did you get involved with them and how was the experience?
I have been blessed to have worked with some marvelous promoters in the city of San Francisco, and it has been through these relationships that I have been able to perform before these people.
Your first single “Save Me” was released in 2008, a dance track with the lyrics “Save me from the night, Save me with your light”. Do you write your own music? What inspired that song?
I don’t write the music, but I write the lyrics and arrange the vocal melodies. That particular song, “Save Me”, was kind of what I was seeing in the nightlife scene at the time with so many young people falling into the traps of the sexual and drug freedoms that can be found with partying. I wanted to kind of twist that around a bit and have the party scene be the rescue rather than the downfall.
Your follow up single “Free to be Me” is out now, a nice dance track talking about freedom and free to be who you are. Is there a meaning behind the song?
Most definitely. I walk and talk this song every day. It is a testament that no matter who you are, or what you do, we all have a calling. I believe my God makes no mistakes. I was meant to be gay, meant to be a performer, meant to be a drag queen and with that meant to use these to make the world a better place, and No One is going to stop me from being me and accomplishing that goal.
I must ask after listening to your music, it has a inspirational sound to it “Save Me” & “Free to be me” so what of anthem to those who many may consider to be different. You struggled with your health and have since made a strong comeback. Did that experience change your perspective on life and inspire you to write about it?
My health struggles definitely gave me a different perspective on what life meant for me. No doubt. And yes, it most definitely has transcended into the messages I want to convey in my music, and all other creative outlets that I partake. Most people, including myself, did not realize how close to death I was, and honey I have way too much stuff to do to be taken from this earth now. It really strenghten my belief in my purpose on this earth and what I need to do to fulfill my destiny.
Where can people purchase your music?
My music can be purchased from my BeBe Sweetbriar Store at www.reverbnation.com/bebesweetbriar.
You’ll be visiting Phoenix, Arizona to kick off your “Free To Be Me” Tour, what can the audience expect when they come to see you?
They can expect to hear some live singing and music that will make your foot tap, booty shake, and mind think. I’ll also be introducing my next single release “Stand Up” during this tour.
Catch Bebe Sweetbriar as she joins the Outlaws on Friday March 16, 2012 at The Rock (4129 N. 7th Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona) for a night of Drag & Music. Celebrating Pandora’s Birthday. Showtime 10:00 pm.