When we first catch sight of Jovan Bridges aka Yvie Oddly, she’s up in a room chaotically adorned by vibrant wigs. It’s a few days before her biggest creative project yet; an eccentric full-length album.
As the drag industry takes the brunt of COVID-19, Yvie has been grateful for the opportunity to explore new things. “Honestly, it’s a blessing being able to find so many creative outlets to work in during a period where live performances aren’t necessarily something that I can rely upon in the ways that I was able to in the past,” she admits. “It’s nice, because I feel like my drag is able to shine in spaces where I’m able to put hard work and time into my concepts. And it’s refreshing to come to a period where I’ve gotten to do a lot of that. Even though there’s a lot I’ve had to sacrifice for it.”
After deciding to name the album after the drag house she’s spent the last five years a part of, Yvie describes how it’s shaped her experiences. “The house itself is this really weird energy, it’s been a place where people, at the nightclub I worked at, have lived out for a decade. It’s got a lot of like queer nightlife in it. So, it’s been a party house plenty of times and it’s been a saviour for people who need it too. I’ve taken in people from Arkansas off the streets before. So, it serves so many purposes and getting to have all that chaos showed me a unique way to tackle drag, to tackle life, and how to embrace all these crazy elements and channel them in a way that at least makes sense for you.”
Over a year has passed since Yvie Oddly was crowned the winner of season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Now, the quirky queen is leaning to her musical sound, but Yvie still has some final things to say about her big win. “It would be nice to be taken seriously. That respect you get on Drag Race, especially if you win. Once you get on Drag Race, I feel like your goal is to find a way for yourself and then branch out into the world to be known for more than being a Drag Race girl. I’ve always had an affinity for music and I’ve always written raps; it’s just about taking myself seriously. I hope this album is fun, campy and it helps, at least, establish that I’m a three dimensional person and I’m here to give you some good music and a fun time,” she explains.
When it comes to big musical figures Yvie’s go-to point of comparison is Drake. “I’m not really a big stan girl,” she tells GAY TIMES. “I don’t treat the idea of any other celebrity that way. But, I am impressed looking at what Drake has been able to do with his career. He’s been making music non-stop for the last decade. He came from a place that we wouldn’t traditionally associate with a Billboard chart-topping rapper. I’m just inspired by people who break boundaries like that. There’s way too many people who inspire me and Drake is a good example that I think kids will know.”
For Yvie, making a debut album wasn’t about reinvention, but undertaking a creative venture. “I feel like this album for me was just about committing to a project. I had gotten a taste of making music with ‘Dollar Store’ with the last song challenge on my season of Drag Race. I got to see if I could take myself seriously as an artist and put out a finished product,” she outlines. “I’m really proud of the album because it’s all over the place and it’s got something that is for everybody. There’s not a single track on there that I think everybody will bop to except for Hype because if you don’t love Miss Vanjie, then you’re wrong. It’s an experience, a snapshot of, all of the chaos that’s gone into my life in the last year. Like I said earlier how I’ve just been able to turn it out. It’s not even necessarily all of what I’d like to make musically. I’m just excited for the future, to be honest.”
Now the record is out for everyone to stream, Yvie has a specific set of takeaways for fans and listeners. “First of all, listen to it, take it seriously, I hope they enjoy what I’ve done. Hate it and react with how you feel about it,” Yvie lists. “I hope it makes some sort of an impact on the community. I wanted to branch out and to be able to share my art with so many other different types of people. I’ve just found that it is a really fantastic way of conveying what has always been really important to me, so now I want to put my two cents in.”
Yvie’s colourful album is packed with unique tracks, but one will, no doubt, grab your attention, and it’s called Karen. With the climate of the election looming, it was impossible to ignore the subtle loaded meaning behind the track name. Off the back of it, the drag queen confesses she’s not afraid of ruffling a few feathers with her art.
“It’s a combination of circumstances,” says Yvie. “Growing up Black and feeling like I have to explain why I know that my life is different. I feel like it’s something that we’ve all known and just kind of accepted as truth, but it’s not really talked about until the last decade or when the Black Lives Matter movement gained steam. So, I was just angry. I wrote a diss track. Plus, my boyfriend’s mum is named Karen. She, unfortunately, wants to be an ally and is not.”
Naming the track Karen isn’t just a personal reference, but one that holds wider significance. “I don’t think she ever will listen to the song. I haven’t even met her yet, for this reason of allyship, because it’s very difficult for me to get down with people who want to do good, but aren’t willing to do the hard work it takes to be good,” she says. “I don’t need lip service. So, this song is for all the people, all the allies, all the people who are against us. I think the most dangerous thing is thinking that are no issue when it comes to hating black, people hating gay people, more than hating other people. Because, I think, that’s always going to exist. It’s important to acknowledge the fact that it does exist and that we need to actively work to fight it.”
With diss and hit tracks aside, Yvie definitely has a favourite few off the album. “My favourite track changes depending on mood. I start all over the place. I’m all over the place!” she laughs. “Some mornings I wake up wasted and I feel like Garbage Juice and shout that around. After a long day of working I just want to take a nap so I like to sing that with my boyfriend. I love Watermelon Bubblegum. There’s one for every mood. My top three are Hype featuring Vanji; it’s a good good time to shake your ass song and we all need it. I’d recommend Sick Bitch if you’re young and into noise, and I recommend Watermelon Bubblegum because it’s smooth.”
With a debut album to her name and a Drag Race title under her belt, Yvie feels she has done enough to deserve her platform and fame. “I think, if nothing else, I’ve done more than enough to prove that I deserve to win. I don’t owe it to fans or anyone but myself, because I did the hard work. Any hard work I do now, going forward, should just solidify reasons why I’m already there in the history books and it’s not changing,” she says openly. “If you don’t want to take me seriously as an artist, there are plenty of reasons. I’ll continue to give you them and try to change your mind, but ultimately that’s up to you.”