The family of an 11-year-old Brooklyn boy known internationally as one of New York’s most talked about drag queens continues to receive death threats, as well as investigatory visits from city social workers, weeks after writers for conservative and pro-life websites ignited a firestorm over his recent performance at a Williamsburg bar.
Mom Wendy Napoles said haters of her son Desmond Napoles — who performs in drag as Desmond is Amazing — filed more than 150 complaints with the city’s Administration for Children’s Services after his December show at 3 Dollar Bill, a Williamsburg gay bar. Video of that performance went viral when critics attacked the performance as exploitative “pedophilia” because Desmond wore a crop top while accepting cash from the crowd.
Each of those complaints necessitates its own 60-day investigation, resulting in almost daily home visits from agency inspectors — some of whom arrive as late as 3 a.m., according to Napoles.
“We’re prisoners in our own home,” she said. “They’ll come anytime.”
The mom, who said she vets all of the venues where Desmond performs to ensure they’re safe and appropriate, blasted her son’s critics as homophobes, claiming it’s perfectly legal for a child to preform at a bar if accompanied by an adult.
“No clothes came off my child,” she said. “I don’t understand how people can believe he was stripping. There was a lot of homophobia there.”
A Child Services spokesperson would not comment on any individual case, but said the agency’s policy is to consolidate duplicate complaints, all of which are screened by a state registry that determines whether they merit an investigation by local authorities.
But Desmond — whose mom said is depositing all the money he makes performing into a trust fund he can’t access until he is 18 — isn’t letting the uproar over his passion get him down.
The fifth grader, who rose to fame after being caught on camera dancing in a rainbow tutu at the city’s 2015 LGBTQ Pride Parade, said the joy he finds dressing up in wigs, skirts, and lipstick is only bested by the thrills his performances bring to his fans.
“I like performing so much,” Desmond said. “I like to entertain people. It makes them happy.”
Ever since he could walk, the Brooklyn-born-and-bred youngster showed a performative streak, and his interest in drag dates back to when he habitually stole clothes from his mom — who is now her son’s assistant — to create gender-bending characters he’d act out at home, Wendy Napoles said.
But after a six-year-old Desmond went trick-or-treating dressed as Elsa from the movie “Frozen,” Mom’s old duds just didn’t cut it anymore, and he started asking for his own feminine wardrobe, according to Napoles.
“He went as Elsa for Halloween, and something really clicked for him,” she said. “After that, every time we went to the store, he wanted a skirt or a dress.”
Unsure of their son’s burgeoning sense of style, Napoles and her husband took Desmond to a therapist, who advised neither discouraging nor encouraging his behavior, and suggested it could just be a passing phase.
It wasn’t, said Mom.
“It was never a phase for him, and soon dressing up at home wasn’t enough,” she said. “He wanted to dress up and go outside — then he wanted to perform.”
Desmond made an early drag appearance in a music video for fellow queen Jinkx Monsoon — who won the fifth season of television’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” competition series — but his career really took off after his Pride appearance went viral, Napoles said.
Since then, the boy has rubbed shoulders with RuPaul at the iconic queen’s DragCon convention, walked the New York Fashion Week runway as a model for designer Gypsy Sport, and signed with a talent company, which started booking shows for Desmond earlier this year, according to his mom.
On stage, the tween wows spectators by doing impersonations of celebrities, including Gwen Stefani, whom he channeled during his so-called controversial performance at 3 Dollar Bill, and Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz from the film “Beetlejuice,” Napoles said.
And although Desmond may have inherited his early wardrobe from his mother, she said his penchant for performing in front of an audience is uniquely his own.
“He has no nervousness,” said Napoles. “He just gets up there. I don’t know where he gets the confidence. I could never do it. I would die.”
This story originally ran in The Brooklyn Paper, a sister Schneps Media publication to Gay City News.