New York City is known for many things: unreliable transportation, great food, and attitude. But what’s the most fun attribute? The Drag Queen scene, without question.
And that is where Isaiah Cruz comes in. A fellow writer for spoiled, Cruz is the brains behind #CocktailsandContours, a new video series dedicated to showcasing the styles and stories of some fabulous local Queens, including Avant Garbage and Emi Grate.
The videos feature Cruz as his alter ego Bella Noche, a mermaid princess who loves all things glitter.
The videos are hilarious and give some insight into the ups and downs of the drag life, but they also leave the viewer wanting more, particularly wanting the story of Bella herself.
And this need is what lead me to a cute walk-up in East Harlem, drinking wine and getting painted as I learned about the nuts and bolts, or more applicably, the rhinestones and fake lashes, of Bella Noche.
Before Cruz was Bella, he was just a born-and-raised New Yorker and club promoter, and actually got into drag by accident. His first show was a first-timers showcase hosted by Sutton Lee Seymour. Cruz went all out with makeup and heels, and sang Sofia Carson’s “Rotten to the Core,” from the Disney movie The Descendants.
Bella even got booked for another show that very night, and in January 2016, the hobby materialized into an actual pursuable talent.
According to Cruz, the name Bella Noche was one of the hardest parts of finding the drag persona. One original name choice was Terra Dactyl, an homage to Power Rangers, but Bella Noche spoke to Cruz. Meaning ‘beautiful night’ in English, the name has Spanish flair, which speaks to Cruz’ heritage.
It also sounds like the song ‘Bella Notte’ from Lady and the Tramp, which fits Cruz’ self-proclaimed ‘Disneyhead’ title.
A darker connection is the reference to a non-lethal shooting at Bella Noche, a popular nightclub in Baton Rouge. In recounting the drama, witness Hazel London infamously said, “If you can’t go to Bella Noche’s, where the hell can you go?”
Cruz said that countless people have quoted that to him, but it’s all part of the job, and fortunately, Bella doesn’t mind. “Bella is basically a magical mermaid that loves talking to people,” noted Cruz as he worked on my contour.
This gift of the gab is what inspired Cocktails and Contours, as Cruz wanted a platform for Queens to discuss what makes their drag unique. Of course, “everything is better with a cocktail,” and Cruz’ favorite cocktail is the mojito.
Instead of mojitos, we were sipping red wine as Cruz described Bella’s aesthetic, emphatically stating, “I love color and I love gluing things to my face.” The look is also inspired by Disney’s Ariel, whose face just happens to be on Bella’s makeup bag.
While Bella isn’t the first ‘ethereal siren’ to grace the stage, Bella has an unshakeable warmth and sense of curiosity. Bella also has a healthy dose of confidence, which Cruz said has helped him with his own self esteem.
The self-esteem and enjoyment of the work is enough to keep Cruz coming back, but that doesn’t mean the drag life doesn’t come with its struggles. There’s a lot of competition, Queens can be shady, and makeup can take anywhere from one to two and a half hours.
Nevertheless, Bella loves what she does, and has gotten creative to afford the lifestyle. Cruz finds Bella’s looks in thrift stores and department stores, and uses paint brushes instead of makeup brushes.
It’s all about getting the job done and looking fabulous.
[Feature Image Courtesy Instagram]