Delilah Brooks and I are sitting near the stage at Barracuda, a Chelsea club where she will perform later in the evening, and suddenly she pauses. She’s repeating a series of four numbers to me, and it takes a moment before I realize they’re part of the address of the house where I grew up. The suddenness is a part of Delilah’s style, but when you’re a psychic drag queen, surprises are just a part of the package.
Halloween night on Out TV in Canada, the Bronx-born, Westchester-raised Brooks will be making her television debut on Psychic Queen, a show about the nightlife personality’s day-to-day life and foray into her psychic gifts. The Delilah Brooks sitting next to me is bold and brassy. She’s an Italian mother in lingerie with a Joy Behar quality when she tells her jokes, talks about her family, or talks smack about others. The drag comedienne on the couch has come a long way from the little boy in the Bronx she once was, struggling to come out and suffering from addiction in early adulthood. Now, she says, there’s so much negativity and fighting in the world she just wants to make people laugh. “I’m just trying to bring the joy!” she says.
Brooks’s personality is heavily influenced by her large Italian family. Living back in the Bronx, she stays close with them. Her psychic abilities were touched upon young, confirmed by her grandmother’s similar gift. When she was 16, she told her family what she was experiencing before being sent to a psych ward. After that, Brooks kept her abilities a secret. “I was a teenager, so I was partying, but once I got out [of the psych ward] I just went numb to shut off that side of me,” she remembers. “It wasn’t until I got sober that I had the balls to look back on this and realize that it’s not scary. It’s my life.”
On the show, Brooks’s gift is still very new to her. She’s exploring her abilities with close friends and family. On the pilot episode, she toys with her roommate, her straight, male, lifelong best friend named Chris, pre-disapproving of his upcoming date. “I torture him,” she says. “Chris and I have known each other forever, so there’s a lot going on in that relationship.” When Michael Buckley visits, the internet celebrity and host of the YouTube show What the Buck (and the only new acquaintance on the pilot episode to get a reading from Delilah), things go sour. “I let him have it, girl,” she says with a cackle. “I’ll never forget it. He pissed me the fuck off.”
Familiarity is important to her while exploring “the gift.” Her biggest fear is telling someone something that’s incorrect. Snippets of information come in at random for her; she mentions places I’ve lived and visited, and my zodiac sign. The latter is the easiest for her to identify in others, often because of the personality characteristics the identification of the sign can break down. Over the course of Psychic Queen, Brooks spends time exploring the universe of spirituality like Buddhism and Santeria, “just to figure out what’s going on,” she explains. “Without drugs and alcohol, it’s a lot easier to understand what’s going on spiritually,” reflects Brooks on how far she’s come in her journey. “You don’t take a tab of acid and tell people you’re Jesus. That only happened once!”
Now Brooks is taking everyone else on her journey, opening a window to her daily life, drag career, and psychic abilities. “That’s the good thing about the show. It’s not just about me working; it’s about me in my life. You see everything!” In between filming, she’s continued performing all four of her weekly shows all over Manhattan while doing press for the series. Still, as she takes this next big step, she sees herself as a work in progress. “I’m just doing the best I can with what I have,” she says. “That’s the show’s motto.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 31, 2014