Stardom is never truly born overnight. There is a certain curation of artistry necessary to discover, and birth, a star. There must be the perfect combination of talent, performance, style and poise in the essence of all of our idols. The thing about Star quality is that you see it the moment lights strike their silhouette as they take the stage. I have been blessed to be able to detect that quality in artists. I look for that technicality and je ne sais quoi when watching any performer. It’s an undeniable force when you see artistry immortalized in front of you. It happened instantly the moment I laid my eyes on The Dragon Sisters. They graced the stage of the infamous queer venue 3 Dollar Bill, where I produced a queer festival in 2021 during the first NYC Pride post pandemic. They were the opening act for my headliner Cupcakke, and they immediately commanded the audience, including myself, setting the tone for the evening. I remember leaning towards my friend and eagerly whispering, “Those two are the ones to watch!”. About a year and change later, I got the chance to catch up with Glam Award nominees, The Dragon Sisters, to inquire further on how these two stars were born.
First off, introduce yourself and tell us a little about each of you!
OD: My name is OD I also go by Odessa AKA Big Dragon. I am the southern belle of the group. I’m from Richmond, Virginia. I’m a Virgo, and a multi hyphenated performance artist. I’ve been making art, creating, educating, performing, all over the world for just about 15 years.
Issa: And my name is Issa. I’m from the Bronx, I go by all pronouns. So that’s, he, him, she, her, they, them. I’m from the Bronx. I am a multi disciplinary artist, as my sister is as well. We went to school together in North Carolina, which is where we met 14 years ago. I had a lot of experience in musical theater and arts until I went to North Carolina and began focusing on dance where I trained in classical dance at SUNY Purchase. From SUNY purchase I continued to have a career in contemporary dance, and began to venture into different avenues including fashion, music. Now we’re super focused on music. Um, and still working in dance and theater. Yeah, The Dragon Sisters are very much like our second life.
OD: This is very much our second life. We have taught dance all around the world. We’ve had separate careers as well. I’ve performed with Bill T Jones, the Metropolitan Opera House, the Martha Graham Dance Company, etc. The Dragon Sisters feels like our third career.
Well, look, that leads me to my next question: how did the Dragon Sisters come into fruition and what was the origin of the Dragon Sisters and the name?
OD: Well, there are a lot of different reasons. We worked so closely together, before we were the Dragon Sisters. Issa and I were creating, choreographing, producing, and teaching a lot in the city. We were working with a lot of other artists and we were learning so many different things about so many other art forms. We just finally got the courage to put all of our strengths in one pot and work as a duo and a house of ourselves. People would say “You two move so well together, y’all should always be together.” And we were already kind of doing that, but without a name. So then Issa started doing drag as her own persona, in her own expression. And I was very much playing security guard and manager of that, just making sure she felt safe everywhere she went. It was just us. We didn’t really know anyone else in the drag world. We were taking a chance and inserting ourselves in this community, humbly obviously. It started going really well and people were receiving us with so much respect.
It was a time for me to start expressing myself in that way and let myself feel free, it just made sense that we did it together. I would always call, you (Issa) my little baby dragon sister. Because of the overall image of a dragon, you know, it’s the serpentine, legendary creature. Sharp, but also feminine. Hard but soft. Ambiguous in size but feels larger than life. A dragon has a lot of power around it. It’s something you see in a lot of cultures all over the world. And it just fit us really well, I think.
Issa: You know, we were looking for a place to put all of our disciplines and all of our experiences in one place. And the beautiful thing about drag, being your own persona and creating your own music is that you have the potential to do all of it. You can really build yourself from the ground up. And it led us here.
I love that. I love that. There’s just nothing like The Dragon Sisters baby! How would you describe your sound?
Issa: It’s a fusion. Me being from the Bronx and my sisters from the South. I feel like that fusion creates a unique sound and dynamic overall. The sound is influenced by some of our favorite artists. I find our experience, our background in dance and knowing how to use energy and building tension in the moment that we create for the performance.
OD: Like Issa said it’s a fusion, the fusion of hip hop, rock, soft metal, trap, drill and R&B. It’s all just from our perspective, the sounds that tell our stories and, and also the sounds of how we feel and the sounds of how we like to move.
We think about our music in relation to us as movement artists, it’s like, you know, what makes our souls move? What makes our body move? What, what feels good inside our spirit, bones and muscles.
Issa: Yeah. It’s a lot about representation to create what we didn’t see, what we don’t see what was held from us growing up.
You both are the creme de la creme of performance here in NYC. How do you prepare before your shows and keep up the stamina especially when you do multiple gigs a night?
OD: We get asked this question a lot. “What is the preparation for what y’all do?”, “How can you possibly get ready for a show at that time of night?” And the answer is, we spent a lot of years training and studying under the teaching of so many different experts and masters of their craft, idols of ours. So many teachers of ours that we’ve known, just through the simple practice of touring the world all year round with these companies. It gave us a different set of tools. You know what I mean? It just prepares you differently as a performer when you. Not only a reference, but education and training and we always understand that’s like something that everyone can’t afford. A special part of us is that we can tap into our bodies faster and quicker, especially together in the synchronized manner. We’ve trained so many years together and we just know our bodies.
We always make sure we warm up and make sure that we touch in with each other. We also always make sure we rehearse every week, at least twice or three times a week. Whether we’ve done the number a hundred times or just made it up like rehearsal is very, very important.
I’ve been tuned in so I know what you both have accomplished so much, but for people that aren’t familiar with the Dragon Sisters: what has your career been like thus far?
Issa: It has been very fulfilling. Having been through, uh, a journey that led me through many worlds and many industries. This is my third career at this point. It feels like, not necessarily that I’m moving on from what I’ve done in the past, but that I bring it all with me and that it builds on top of itself. It feels so special because it also feels like the very beginning, you know.
We found the best platform to tell our story, and the story is still being written, right?
OD: Aside from us having our individual accolades, a lot of people in their respective worlds would say, wow, that’s like the peak. Once you dance at the Center Opera with the Metropolitan Ballet? What do you do? And for us it’s like, it’s always been under someone else’s name. It’s always been under someone else’s vision. It’s always been with another company.
You know, how many times I’ve been in the New York Times, Boston Globe, LA Times, and my name was incited because I was with the Martha Graham company. And finally, now we are having the opportunity to build a career that’s solely based off of. Our names, our image, our vision and our goals. This is something we literally created one day in our one bedroom apartment while we were in the thick of living this New York City life.
And we were like, you know what? Let’s take our lives in our own hands and let’s create something new. This was the turning point and the biggest point in our career. Since then, you know, we’ve been in Vogue, we’ve been in Billboard, we’ve been in L Magazine, we’ve been on New York Post and Vanity Fair. We’ve performed for New York Pride, been on stage with Nina Sky, we’ve met Rihanna. All those things are so beautiful! What makes them so much better and so much more juicy is that it all came from something that we literally fabricated outta our imagination.
Can you give us one “WOW” moment that made you realize the world of performance was the right path for you?
Issa: I think it was the first show where we had our name and we were produced on a bill as The Dragon Sisters. That was very validating, but then seeing the crowd’s reaction that wasn’t a queer crowd or a crowd that we would expect to be open to our type of art.
And they really, really received us extremely well. It was the first time we said, “Wait, this is IT! We have to do this again.
OD: Yeah. I remember. We both froze up. The energy was so overwhelming for us. We performed, I’m gonna say hundreds of times together before this day.
But the day that we showed up as the sisters It was really special. We premiered a duet of ours called Second Act, which we have been working on for the past two or three years. In contemporary dance you work on a piece for a very long time. We premiered it at St. Mark’s Church, which is a very iconic downtown dance, avant-garde art space in New York City. So that was a very big moment for us to present this very contemporary piece of art to this crowd. And then right after that we were going to our first gig as The Dragon Sisters. It was such a different world and rush. It was almost like we got stunned by the possibilities.
Issa: Yeah, it was like a foreshadowing and like the epitome of where we wanted our careers to go that night we performed in an environment where we felt safe and we felt confident, then we took off.
What are some obstacles you face as POC, queer entities within the entertainment industry? And how are some ways you fight these obstacles?
OD: I feel like the obstacles that we have been up against a lot of times have to do with solely what we look like and the fact that we come as we are. In the industry, as in any field, being black, Latin X and queer is extremely challenging to fit into any world. Especially with our size, we get a lot of intimidation from people because we just tower over people and we’re bigger than most people and on top of that there’s two of us. We are naturally kind, generous, loving, humble people but those are still the obstacles we face. Also, people don’t always see it for duos because it’s harder to book us cause you’re paying for two people.
It was really hard for us to find ways to pay us two and not one. That is something we’ve overcome a lot more these days, but when we first started it was something that was very hard to humbly change. Not demand that we get paid, but show people why we deserve to both be paid.
Issa: I would say the biggest obstacle for me has been, real connections. We try to be extremely generous with our energy with people so we can still make connections and feel relatable, you know?
What/ who inspires you?
OD: Whoa.. Erykah Badu is a big inspiration. Missy Elliot is a huge inspiration. We love Queen Latifah. I love Da Brat. You know, anybody who’s mixing the lines of gender fuck, I’m so into that!. Beyonce has been an icon of mine forever, as far as performers go. She has been feeding me and giving me inspiration for so many years.
Bone Thugs & Harmony, Nicki Minaj, Solange, Prince, Miley Cyrus, Dolly Parton, Selena, Luke Paul, Destiny’s Child, TLC, and Xscape.
Besides our music influences, we’re influenced by film and theater and other iconic duos like the Nicholas Brothers for their style and fashion. Our partners inspire us as well. We’re extremely inspired by them and our family. The world around us is just like a huge pot of inspiration that we take what we want and make what we need.
Who are 3 people you wish to work with in the future?
Issa: Beyonce, B Ames, Doechii.
OD: Beyonce,Nicki Minaj and Lion Babe.
What is on the horizon for the Dragon Sisters and what should we keep an eye out on?
OD: We are releasing new music this month. Um, uh, we’re very, very excited about it. Um, it’s one of our favorite songs to date. It’s definitely a new sound for us. We’re working with some new producers. We went out to LA and recorded with a lot of cool people so you can expect more music.
Issa: You can expect us; wherever you’re reading this at, we will be visiting your city or your town VERY soon. Big dreams and big goals get bigger, literally every day. More music, more fashion, more tv, and more transcending art from us.
CONNECT WITH THE DRAGON SISTERS:
Talent | @issabigdragon & @odessabigdragon
Story | @dezordie
Produced | @Zapmancreativehaus
Directed | @pmaxc2490 & @felipezavaz
Photos & edited | @felipezavaz
Styled | @badboyrory
Fashion | @theconfessionalshowroomnyc
MUA | @yvonnetheartist @lijhajade featuring @thecreativemakeup and @danessa_myricks
BTS | @nicapra
Location manager | @ashleycastro_
Crafty services sponsored | @chacartyboards