By Ashley Naftule, January 2019 issue.
Two years ago, JayyVon Monroe posted a coming out as HIV+ video on Facebook. “It’s like coming out of the closet twice,” Monroe said ruefully as he disclosed that he was currently HIV Undetectable. Over the course of eight minutes, Monroe spoke passionately and eloquently about the need for HIV-positive people to be honest with themselves and the people around them. “You only get one body,” Monroe said, speaking with a sincerity that would surprise anyone who knew him from his ‘scene kid’ days.
In another life, long before becoming a Drag Supermonster sensation, JayyVon Monroe was one-half of the infamous electro-pop duo Blood On The Dance Floor. Named after a Michael Jackson banger, Monroe played alongside Dahvie Vanity from 2009-2016. Gaining notoriety for their edgelord lyrics and outrageous makeup and costumes (reminiscent stylistically of Japanese bands from the ‘visual kei’ scene), the band was part of a wave of Myspace bands. But their partnership fell apart after years of what Monroe calls physical and emotional abuse from Vanity. At one point, his former musical partner went so far as to insist that Monroe go out on tour without getting his HIV meds refilled. “I reluctantly agreed. against my better judgment. to go out on tour and was dragged all through the country, sick as a dog,” Monroe said in a statement after leaving the band.
To lend further credence to Monroe’s claims of abuse at Vanity’s hands: Blood On The Dance Floor was recently accused of numerous acts of sexual assault and misconduct.
Leaving those days behind him, Monroe found a new calling as a drag artist. “Drag has been like a second wave for me,” he says. Considering the garish and wild style Monroe and Vanity cultivated as Blood On The Dance Floor, it isn’t that surprising that Monroe would take to drag like a duck to water. But what is surprising is how quickly and assuredly Monroe made his mark as a drag star — within a couple of years Monroe was making a splash on the national scene as a standout on season two of Dragula.
“I knew the Boulet Brothers when I lived in California,” Monroe says. “When I started to do drag, they were among the first people to give me an opportunity to perform. So, when they had the auditions for the second season, I wasn’t really thinking about auditioning. But they were hinting that I should, so I went ahead and made a tape. A couple of days later, this all started taking place.”
On a show famed for featuring drag artists who take their craft into dark, almost grotesque places, Monroe’s persona fit right at home. As Dahli Delia, Monroe had created a drag character that looked like a glam rock horror show. “I look post-apocalyptic,” Monroe says of his drag persona. “A lot of people say that I look like I crawled out of a sewer.”
Dragula hitting the airwaves was a game-changer for Monroe, who was having a hard time adjusting to Arizona after moving here from California.
“I got here like a year-and-a-half ago,” he says. “I worked at a bar that had drag shows throughout the week, and it was making me antsy because no one was booking me. To be fair, though, I didn’t really take the initiative — I wasn’t about to ask anybody. There were like months that would go by and I wasn’t doing any drag; I was at the point where I didn’t want to do it anymore. So, when Dragula came up, that’s when I went hard in the paint. I feel now like I’ve finally made a home in Phoenix.”
One of the ways Monroe has made his mark here is with his monthly show Dahl Haus. Happening every third Friday at The Rock, Dahl Haus is an opportunity for Monroe to showcase the wilder side of drag that fascinates him. It’s also a show where sideshow performers and other non-drag performers get a chance to work alongside drag artists, giving the show an anything-goes feel.
While Monroe is dedicated to drag, music is never far from his mind. He even recently posted a call-out on Twitter for metal musicians and producers who are interested in collaborating. He’s coy, though, on what he has in mind for the future. “I’m not at liberty to say, but I have decided to change direction with music,” Monroe says. “I hadn’t done anything musically in a year or so, but now I’m feeling very, very inspired. We’ll see what happens.”
Monroe is a living testament to the resilience of the HIV+ community: He hasn’t let his status slow him down in the slightest. As he said in his video, the disease is no excuse for anyone not to live a normal life.
As for whether or not anyone in the drag world knows him from his Blood On The Dance Floor days, Monroe says it’s rare for those two worlds to meet.
“It’s very rare that someone at a show will say anything to me about it,” he says. “Most of the time it’s people messaging me on Instagram or something. It’s not ever kids. It’s always somebody who’s like, “Oh, I remember you from back in your band days. I love that you’re doing drag now.”