Serving fluidi-tea: Levonia Jenkins at Oasis
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With song titles like "Crackpipe," a parody of the Amy Winehouse hit "Rehab," as well as a video titled "So C*nt", Levonia Jenkins is pretty outrageous. Jenkins, a self-described YouTube sensation, brings her stage act Gender Fluids to Oasis on July 12.
A drag queen with a beard, Jenkins claims to be a "Like Whore" in a video in which she demands that people like her Facebook and Instagram posts.
"I'm a like whore, I need more, more, more" she sings. "I'm so hungry for likes, Sally Struthers did an infomercial about me!"
Jenkins is all about self-promotion. She is the brainchild of performer and Saturday Night Live associate producer Greg Scarnici, who says that Jenkins is his "alter-shego."
"Shego is just a play on ego and Gender Fluids is a play on being gender fluid and ... you get the gist," Scarnici tells Bay Area Reporter. "Wordplay is a huge part of drag culture and I like to incorporate it into my work."
Scarnici, who has lived in New York City his entire life, said that he has no coming out story, because everyone knew he was gay before he did.
"Like most gay artists, I started entertaining family and friends as soon as I cartwheeled out of the womb," he recalls. "Comedy and performing always came naturally to me, and I started getting on stage during the fifth grade for a talent show, which led to character parts in plays in high school and college. From there I started doing my own public access TV show, Talking Trash, and then did my first one-man show in the East Village in 1995."
That show was called Man-a-Thon. It featured nine gay actors who lived in the same apartment building. At about this same time, Scarnici began working at SNL.
"I work closely with the writing staff, who come to my department to rewrite their sketches throughout the week," he said. "We're the ones who alert every department about casting changes, costume changes, and music additions. I also work closely with the director as he shoots the musical guests and cue him so he is able to cut the song and catch all the best elements of a performance."
Scarnici explained how his "alter shego" came to be.
"Levonia is a non-gender-conforming bearded woman, a.k.a. Italian, who hails from Brooklyn, New York," he said. "She's sort of an absurd R&B singer from the '80s who makes '90s-inspired house tracks and talks in her own kind of made-up language. Levonia was created on Fire Island during a drunken brunch when my friend Johnny Lopez and I decided to shoot an impromptu video we posted on YouTube. The video went viral and voila, Levonia Jenkins was created!"
Scarnici added that he's gotten no backlash for using terms like "shego" or "half-woman" to describe Levonia.
"Nowadays, everyone is so concerned with being PC and worrying about whether the Woke Police are going to arrest them for using the wrong term," he said. "In this case, I'm a bearded drag queen who does comedy - I'm from the LGBT community, who toys with gender identity, and if someone is offended because this character is a half-man or half-woman, they should ask themselves why their concept of gender needs to be so binary. For me, doing bearded drag is a way to confront people's concept of gender identity and make people realize that gender is fluid. Half-man, half-woman; call shim what you want. It's all love!"
Scarnici is also an author. His cleverly titled book I Hope My Mother Doesn't Read This is now available through Thought Catalog Books. He admits that, when writing it, he realized that many of the stories were salacious and that he honestly thought, "Gee, I hope my mother doesn't read this story about me accidentally doing a bump of crystal meth with my coke dealer when I was 19." And so his book title was born.
So what do his mother think of Levonia?
"My mother and father are from another generation, so they don't fully understand drag, let alone bearded drag," Scarnici said. "But as I've started to find more success and she's seen people reacting to Levonia and wearing her T-shirts online, she's starting to see the joy in it and what Levonia brings to people."
And now San Francisco audiences will have their chance to see Levonia Jenkins in the flesh when she takes to the Oasis stage. Levonia will, according to Scarnici, "be singing her greatest shits, lip stink, debut original parodies, share her spin on gender identity, hook-up apps and so much more. A cabaret en-gay-gement not to be missed!"
Levonia Jenkins, Gender Fluids at Oasis, 298 11 Street. Thursday July 12, 8pm, $20. www.gregscarnici.com www.sfoasis.com