It's been shown that one thing us New Yorkers have to do to make it in this city is tap into each and every talent and unique drive we have to stand out from the crowd and claim that spotlight.
Meet Joshua Potter, lovingly nicknamed Shua, who's a spirited Broadway actor, singer and dancer turned business owner turned drag queen, who also has just recently won the special Halloween amateur chef episode of Chopped on Food Network.
With a type-A personality and a vision to not only succeed but go higher than even his initial dreams were, Shua's is a story that proves that with hard work, listening to your instincts and refusing to give up, anything is possible in this city.
But let's start at the beginning.
Shua's NYC story starts on July 4th, 2006 when he arrived in the city with dreams of being on Broadway. Within two weeks of incessant auditions, he landed a five-week role in La Cage aux Folles, the musical that the hit movie The Birdcage was adapted from, at the Gateway Playhouse.
After two years of doing regional theater in shows like Hairspray, Shua landed his first big stage role in Mary Poppins, which came to the New Amsterdam Theater in Times Square on its 2009 North American tour.
"It was an amazing feeling to see the fruits of my labor pay off," he says. "Every actor knows that auditioning is the real job. Doing the show is the bonus." Over two and half years, Shua traveled with the show, hitting big cities like Chicago and Los Angeles along the way.
As the tour came to a close, Shua decided he was going to venture into yet another realm not for the faint of heart, and help some of his fellow Broadway artists at the same time.
Make Some Green While You Clean
Money can be hard when you're pursuing the life of an artist or performer. Saddled with a savvy entrepreneurial brain, Shua created Broadway Maids in 2012 as both an additional source of income and a way to offer jobs to performers that were in-between shows.
"All of our cleaners are artists that are usually auditioning around the city for parts," Shua explains. "It's hard to find a job that's flexible enough to accommodate your availability while you're pursuing your passion. I love that I can do that for these artists, who also happen to clean a mean toilet."
Now in its fourth year of business, Broadway Maids has developed a solid repertoire of regular clients and is taking on new ones all the time, handling everything from standard and deep cleans to move in/move out cleaning and even AirBnB flips!
The Queen Has Arrived
In that same year, Shua gave life to another creation, and one that would change the course of his life forever. "I hadn't performed in over a year and was starting to feel that itch, and not from an STD," he admits.
He had taken Broadway Maids out to Fire Island that summer and befriended a number of the drag queens who did shows there. "I was bored and decided I needed a project," Shua says. He found his project in Cherry Grove with the Annual Miss Fire Island Pageant.
"I thought to myself, 'I've done drag before, I'm artistic and I'm pretty f**king gay, so why not?'" He spent the next six weeks practicing and putting together looks for the competition and thus, Schwa de Vivre was born.
"I named her Schwa de Vivre since all my friends call me Shua and in French, joie de vivre means 'joy of life,' which basically sums me up as a person," he recalls. From there, he spent the next two years making a name for himself in NYC's nightlife scene as a vivacious host and memorable performer.
"I got swept up in it," confesses Shua, who's mainstay was a weekly cabaret show at The West End Lounge on the Upper West Side. "I felt safe there to explore who Schwa was, to be over the top and not feel judged. I felt very loved there, both by the amazing staff and by the audience."
In 2014, Schwa competed in Season 5 of Paige Turner's "So You Think You Can Drag?" show at New World Stages, where he placed in the Top 4. "I learned a lot about who I wanted to be and what I really saw for myself, which wasn't being a nightlife queen," says Shua.
"What I do is uniquely fabulous and is better on platforms that reside on a film and music plane. I got opportunities that I never would have otherwise though, and decided that my drag will live on in other mediums."
You've Been Chopped
One of Shua's other passions is cooking, which has taken him to new heights even he didn't see coming. "When I got to college, I didn't know too much about cooking but I learned because I had to," he says with a laugh. "It was a lot of trial and error, and now and then I would call my dad for advice."
As time went on, Shua honed his love for cooking. One day, a casting friend of his got in touch that they were looking for people who played dress-up to be on a Halloween episode of Chopped on Food Network. "I immediately said yes," he recalls.
In August of last year, he was officially cast to compete in the episode as Schwa de Vivre. This past January, he went in for a 15-hour day of filming. "I wasn't nervous, just excited," he says. "It was so fulfilling for me to be on a recorded TV show. I'll never do a live competition ever again."
The episode premiered October 3rd and his one-of-a-kind personality and wit combined with his more than impressive kitchen skills earned him the crown of Chopped Champion at the end of the day. You can check out the full episode here... but only if you're in Canada.
"I felt the same emotions watching the episode back that I did that day," he confesses. "But I belong on television. When you combine your passions, magic can happen."
Coming Full Circle
Shua ultimately combined all of his talents and make the life that he wanted. After filming their first commercial this week, he is launching a brand new video campaign and YouTube channel of short "how-to" cleaning videos starring Schwa de Vivre in "Clean Like A Queen" for Broadway Maids.
He has also returned to the stage in the hilarious Off-Broadway play Daddy Issues at the St. Clemens Theater, running through November 5th. "It feels like home, and I'm having a lot of fun with it," Shua says.
"Where I've come so far has actually been a happy mistake. I've learned it's good to plan to a point, but sometimes the most amazing things happen when you veer off your current path and accidentally find an even better one."
With sights set on further expanding Broadway Maids as well as returning to Chopped one day to defend his crown, Shua found a place for each of his talents and passions, which have allowed him to pave his way to becoming a blossoming success story in NYC.
His advice to those searching for success in this city is simple. "Use every skill and bit of leverage you have to make it work. Do what you love in a way that will bring you happiness and fulfillment. Oh, and money."[Feature Image Courtesy FaveCentral.com]