“I knew going into this year, it was going to be the year of drag for me,” Martina Brookshire says, looking out at the ocean as she talks to GAY TIMES onboard the Valiant Lady cruise ship. She wasn’t wrong – drag is now Martina’s full time career and she is currently performing as The DIVA as she sails around the Mediterranean with Virgin Voyages. Her show – Around the World in 80 Minutes – is a highlight of the experience. It incorporates live singing, dancing and lip-syncing, among many other things, resulting in what she calls a “mishmash” of British and American drag. “Because it’s such a brand new experience, I guess we have a lot of different input, like, one of our queens named Titty Kaka, she had a big hand in making this show, and she’s from London – so she’s a British girl,” Martina explains. “And then we had our input from the American side, and then we came up with this mishmash of things.” The audience has the opportunity to get involved in games that involve swinging a ball between your legs and/or strutting your stuff down an imaginary catwalk. It’s all very camp and, spoiler alert, you get a stunning free cocktail if you take part.
Originally from Las Vegas, Martina says she is “a singer first,” which influences the type of show she puts on. She first got into drag about a decade ago when she was working on a Christmas show in Florida, where she lived at the time. “And this bar up the road was like, ‘Hey, we saw your Christmas show. We want you to come sing.’ and I was like, ‘Okay, perfect’ – but I know nothing about drag at that point. Like, nothing at all. And then it just spiralled from there and I did about two years of doing drag, like, every day – that was my life.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Martina found herself having to adapt to the ever-changing world we were all living in. “So I was like, well, let me get my wedding officiant licence and then be the only live singing drag queen in Vegas, like, to marry people! So that’s what happened and I started doing that literally every day and I just went full force in.” As her drag career had been on the “back burner for a little while” at that point, her husband watched YouTube videos to help her learn new makeup techniques. “And then I was lucky enough to be asked to join a cast of live singing drag queens in Vegas and it’s called Faaabulous,” she continues, stating that she will return to the show whenever her time with Virgin Voyages comes to an end.
Given that the Valiant Lady has a clientele that hails from all over the world, Martina has the opportunity to bring drag to a new audience every time she performs as The DIVA. “And if they’ve ever been wanting to experience it, they can do it here because they can leave whenever they want,” she explains. “You didn’t pay for a ticket to be here, you know, you just paid for the cruise and I’m just the entertainment.” Although this is something she has experienced in the past, Martina never lets it get to her: “I’m just like, alright, it wasn’t their thing. But the people that are here that are going to stay, they’re the ones that I’m just focused on.” She has even had people who looked “scared” during Around the World in 80 Minutes approach her with praise afterwards: “But it is funny because I will get people throughout the voyage that I saw sitting there, like, scared, but then they’ll come up to me later and be like, ‘That was the best show I’ve seen’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, okay, good. So I changed your mind, I guess.’ So it’s good to see that and see all the different cultures that come through.”
Around the World in 80 Minutes is “completely different” on each ship, as the queens get to adapt it to their style of performance. She explains: “And that’s what I love about it, because it’s just, a kind of a blank book – you have the basics and then you just run with it. And you just put it together and make it your own and you get into the groove of things.” Martina adds that although she “won’t do the cooter slams” or “the back bends”, she will “give you something that’s funny!” There is even a “showstopper” moment involving a Barbie doll – but you’ll have to get on board to learn more about that. “I cannot believe that’s actually – we thought of that,” she giggles.
Looking to the future, Martina is excited to continue working with Virgin Voyages as drag has become “a full entity” in the onboard experience and “more shows are coming.” She is also confident that “drag is really going to take off” for her even more than it already has: “I’ve literally pushed all my boy stuff away. I’m not going back on ships as a male singer anywhere. I have a husband, I have two dogs, I have a house. I’m just ready to, like, relax. But this was an opportunity to grasp a hold of.”
To learn more about Virgin Voyages and to book tickets on its Irresistible Med trip, click here.