Naysha Lopez – the Chicago native drag star who has starred on an international platform – is the character who the real-life Fabian Rodriguez created as an outlet for the femininity that he always felt, dating back to childhood.
“Miss Lopez is an entertainer in all forms, a beauty queen and an extension of all things beautiful and feminine that I have felt. She is a whole lot of realness,” Lopez said.
Lopez, 36, a lifelong Chicago resident who now lives in Elmwood Park, is a resident performer at Hydrate Nightclub
in Boystown, but, due to the pandemic and Hydrate having been closed since mid-March, she is now working at Kit Kat Lounge and occasionally at The Baton Show Lounge
Lopez is a local star who also has shined on the high-profile national stage.
“My character has evolved style-wise, but I have always been pretty sure of my esthetic and who I was as a character … so I would say that I have matured and have opened up myself to being more receptive of change and the growth of my character. You have to roll with the times or you'll get left behind,” Lopez said.
“I have had quite a few people influence me during my career, such as (the late) Tajma Hall, who taught me how to value myself and my artistry, to be professional and always be a lady. My gay dads, Christophe and Paulo, have always pushed me to be better than I was the day before. They challenged me and have taught me so much about how to be an adult with good work ethic. Paul Lopez and the legendary Miss Ketty always taught me to remind people of where I come from, Puerto Rico, and do it with pride.”
Her pride and joy also is, without question, Chicago and its rock star-filled drag scene.
And Lopez is every bit a shining diamond in this city. She is, after all, a former Miss Continental winner and was one of 12 contestants to compete on the eighth season of RuPaul's Drag Race.
Sure, her stay under the RPDR spotlight was short-lived, but she never lost her luster.
“Winning Miss Continental (was) one of the biggest accomplishments of my life and one of the proudest moments of my life,” she said. “It put me on the map … it was one of the best things to ever happen to me.
“RuPaul's Drag Race was a blessing. It was the best and worst experience of my career. The best (parts included) the additional traveling, better pay and more. The worst parts were the toxic fandom that comes with the experience.”
The negativity, she admitted, “made me want to quit drag.”
Lopez has moved past the negativity and is “a much stronger individual because of it and also a stronger artist,” she said. “So, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity and definitely would do (RPDR) All-Stars, if the opportunity were to present itself.”
And yes, “I still enjoy (the show) very much.”
Lopez said the past six months or so have been a challenge, to put it mildly. The pandemic closed bars, such as Hydrate, where she's a regular, and stopped the show, as we were accustomed to seeing Lopez.
She did, though, host all of the Quarankiki fund-raising parties, presented by Hydrate and Elixir Lakeview. She also since this past March has had time to grow artistically and evolve – “and just make the best of the extra time,” she said.
“For me, the lowest point (during the quarantine) was being away from friends, (not having the chance to) connect with my audience, seeing co-workers and just being out there having a great time among talented, loving people. That really was the hardest thing for me,” Lopez said.
The Quarankiki parties, which were weekly Saturday night circuit-style music fests via Zoom, were a definite highlight, she said. The quarankiki's raised more than $70,000 to support the bar staffs, artists, drag queens and dancers.
“I spend a lot of time (during the quarantine) with my family, (including) my nieces and nephews, which was great and an unexpected gift,” said Lopez, who also adopted a dog, Chase, a Doberman/Great Dane mix.
“But, I miss performing, especially at Hydrate.”
The pandemic canceled countless gigs Lopez had slated for 2020, including One Magical Weekend in Orlando, Florida, which was postponed until June 3-7, 2021.
“I was really looking forward to (that event) because it (would have been) a weekend that I get to kind of lay back and relax and enjoy the weekend in Disney as well as perform at the closing party,” she said. “I also was looking forward to Miss Europe Continental, which was to be held in France. I'm so sad that that (event) could not happen.”
She also shed a tear that Northalsted Market Days was cancelled, as that's her “favorite weekend of the year.”
“After the pandemic, if you don't come out a better person, then you should re-evaluate all the things that you have going on in your life because we've been given this gift of time … it's the silver lining and we should be using it to really focus on getting better, being better and more. So, there have been some positives,” to the pandemic.
Lopez has some out-of-state gigs still confirmed for 2020, including one in Texas and another in Indiana.
“I'm taking it slowly; I'm being very cautious and selective (with) performances,” she said.
Lopez also is preparing to compete for Mr. Continental, which will be held next Labor Day. “I want to be the first entertainer to win both the Miss and Mr. Divisions of a national pageant,” Lopez said.On Stage With … Naysha LopezThe Quote:
“I've lived quite an exciting life and still have so much more to do. I would love to share my story with everyone.”Chicago's Drag Scene:
“Chicago has a great drag scene. It's very diverse, but, that said, the only thing I don't like is the segregation between the different scenes of drag queens. I just wish that we, collectively, (were) a little more open to showcasing that diversity which the Chicago drag scene has.”The Naysha Lopez We Don't Know:
“I don't think there is a Naysha Lopez that you don't know. A lot of the qualities of my everyday life also apply to Naysha Lopez the character, so I feel like you all know me.”