Singer, comedienne and self-described “white rapper” Wendy Ho (aka Wendy Jo Smith) wants to change attitudes through laughter.
“When I first started it was more just about being funny and shocking, but what I have come to realize is that doing this has freed a part of myself that was taboo and that I was ashamed of and that is what the gay crowd understands,” says Smith from her home in Los Angeles.
Taking charge of her own sexuality and recognizing that being a powerful funny woman on stage isn’t going to be applauded by white male America, Smith has found herself a magnet for gay men (and not a few lesbians).
“Gay men really respond to a woman that has a certain masculinity about her,” says Smith. “I’m a female drag queen and straight men don’t get that.”
Starting out with her unique brand of humour in the straight comedy clubs of New York City, it wasn’t until Smith was asked to perform at a Christmas show in a gay bar that she found her true followers.
“The response there was so wonderful and there was this instant ‘we get you’ response,” she says. “Comedy is still primarily a boy’s game and going into a [straight] comedy club you are very much aware that [straight male audiences] will see you as sexy or funny, but doing both is confusing to them.”
Picking up the “Ho” nickname in college, Smith began her career as a serious singer and actress, but finally gave into her funnier side when she began rapping and audiences kept demanding to see more of that side of her especially since there so few female rappers, let alone white ones, at the time.
“When I first started doing rap I was one of the first white female rappers, and certainly the only white female rapper who was doing comedy,” says Smith. “That is obviously changing now, but when I started it was different”.
Growing up in Ohio, Smith obviously gets her talent and love for comedy legitimately.
“My family thinks it is all a little crazy and shocking, but I can’t say they are surprised by it,” she says. “Even though I grew up as a conservative Catholic, humour was still a big thing in our house.”
Just don’t expect to see her father out at one of her shows anytime soon.
“My dad thinks it is really funny but he isn’t comfortable going to gay bars where I usually perform,” she laughs.
Wendy Ho performs at The Cobalt on Main Street on Saturday, June 22, 2013 with the evening hosted by East Van drag queen Peach Cobblah and featuring music from DJ Jef Leppard. Advance tickets are $12 available at Priape on Davie Street and Red Cat Records on Main Street.