If you know Brooklyn drag, you know Merrie Cherry. And even if you don’t, a quick Google search will show you that she is considered one of the Mothers of Brooklyn drag.
Merrie Cherry is the alter ego of Jason Ruth, originally from Berkeley, California, now residing in Brooklyn. Cherry founded the drag competition DRAGnet, as well as the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards, and she’s one of the founding members of Bushwig. To say she’s followed her own philosophy would be an understatement.
Drag is an art form full of extravagant outfits, unforgettable performances and big personalities. But people struggle to truly define it: what really is drag? While that question may never have just one answer, Cherry, who dressed up for the first time 13 years ago, believes she became a true queen when she started working within the community.
“Working with the community is so important if you’re going to be a drag queen, and in my opinion, if you’re not doing at least three events to raise money for your community, you’re doing something wrong,” said Cherry.
It was Cherry’s mother who first inspired her: “She took me to the soup kitchens at a very young age,” she said. Her mother had the ability to form a connection with anyone, having Cherry wait with her while she talked to people from all walks of life. This “gift of gab” is something that Cherry also has, and it shines both on stage and off.
Though all of her achievements speak for themselves, Cherry embarked on a new journey this year: season four of Dragula, a popular drag competition television show.
“I had been thinking of being on Dragula since the first day I heard about it,” Cherry said.
However, before filming this season of Dragula, Cherry had to return to Berkeley and take nine months off from performing to take care of her grandmother, who recently passed away.
“This year [doing Dragula] just felt right . . . I had just lost my grandmother and I wanted to take my mind off of my loss,” she said. But taking nearly a year off and then returning suddenly came with its own challenges, and unfortunately, Cherry was eliminated from the competition on episode four.
She said the show “was [like] a bootcamp, which is why I think I struggled to be honest.” The show distracted her from the loss briefly, but as Cherry put it, “You can’t fight mourning.”
As for any ill feelings towards her fate, Cherry said, “at the end of the day, I don’t regret anything I do in life. You just have to learn from it. If I had to do it over again I would have waited one more year to do Dragula because, mentally, I was not there and should have been focusing on grieving.”
Still struggling from the loss of her grandmother and the loss of the competition, the time after filming was difficult for her. What has ultimately kept Cherry going was the memory of her grandmother and the community that she returned to back in Brooklyn.
“I just want to make her proud,” she said of her grandmother.
Now, Cherry is happy to be back at her home base. “Every time I go out of town, I’m just excited to go back to Brooklyn.”
“The community of drag and nightlife, although it can be destructive at times, they know how to protect their own,” she added. “Brooklyn has diversity, and I don’t mean just in color. I mean that in gender, in style, in performance style . . . There’s diversity all over Brooklyn, and I love that shit.”
Even though you will no longer see Cherry on Dragula, you can see her doing gigs all over Brooklyn. Just check out her Instagram for upcoming shows. You can also look forward to her upcoming podcast with Madeline Hatter, coming next year. She’s also in the process of writing her one-woman show and a Christmas play.
Featured Image: Patrick Donovan
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