Alec Mapa cruises Joe’s Pub for Pride
By Randy Rainbow
(As seen in HX Magazine, 6/27/08)
Brace yourselves, Rice Queens! After spending the past year parting the gay seas on Atlantis Cruises and rockin’ the boat on both Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives, America’s Gaysian Sweetheart Alec Mapa is docking his dinghy at Joe’s Pub in NYC over Pride weekend to tell all (in a fierce little number specially designed by Project Runway’s Malan Breton, no less), and he wants to see you there!
Randy Rainbow for HX: Tell me about this show we’re all attending at Joe’s Pub.
Alec Mapa: The show is mostly my new stand up. In addition to working on Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty, I've been cruising all year. I did six Atlantis Cruises, and one with Rosie O’Donnell, so I’ll be talking about some of those experiences. You know, when you’re on a cruise with 3,000 gay men for an entire year... ya see things!
How was that Rosie cruise—with all those lesbians and children running about?
It was great. It’s wonderful to see that gay and lesbian parents are just as overwhelmed as straight parents are. My partner and I attended all the gay parenting seminars. We’re educating ourselves.
Are you hearing the pitter patter...?
When I was on the cruise, I was thinking, “Oh yeah! I wanna be a parent,” and my partner had a huge panic attack about it. He was like, “I'm not ready... there’s too much responsibility...” So my therapist told me to table the discussion, and that’s exactly what I did. Now, six months later, my husband’s talking about it again, which tells me he just wants it to be his idea. He’s such a top. So I just have to play “Chinese wife” and set it up for him to discover America. “Yeah, honey. Great idea. Let me give you a foot rub.”
Do you prefer we drink before your show or come fresh and get sloshed as the night goes on?
Drinking is great, ’cause I look really hot with beer goggles on. And listen, I’ve been performing for drunk gay guys at midnight, so I know all about short attention span theatre. But really, working in front of an exclusively gay audience for the past year has been such a blessing. First of all, it’s the toughest audience you'll ever have because we're all smart and funny to begin with. I mean, we’ve all had the same rotten childhood. Everybody’s quick, everybody’s camp, and so you learn how to work fast and be really dirty in a really clever way.
And I hear you get pretty dirty.
Yeah, I do. I get to say things Disney will not let me. I also travel around the country for the Human Rights Campaign, and I'm on the advisory board of the Matthew Shepard foundation, and it’s interesting to take the filthy act I've been doing in the middle of the ocean for drunk gays and transfer it into, let’s say, a hotel ballroom in Louisiana and hear the gasps. It’s a whole new thing.
I’ll bet we won't even need the beer goggles. Rumor has it you've been working out quite a bit and are anxious to show off your new rack.
Yeah, I’m stunning. It’s all part of my midlife crisis. I turned 43 and I didn’t buy a sports car; I bought six months with a trainer. I now see the value of having one because I would never work out this way otherwise. And I realize what it takes to look like this: It takes a village. I mean, I have a trainer, a Pilates instructor, a facialist… I’m like one of those old-ass rides at Disneyland that has to be refurbished every few months. They gotta sandblast me and install new safety belts so no one falls off.
What primary responsibilities come with being “America's Gaysian Sweetheart”?
My ongoing process as an out gay person is to teach myself to embrace all the things I’ve been taught were negative. I spent the first half of my career looking at my sexuality and my ethnicity as liabilities, and the minute I embraced them, I realized they were actually assets. I worried what the effect of coming out would have on my career, when the truth is that I really didn't have one until I came out. It's the first authentic thing I had to offer. So the message I try to get out there is “Come as you are! Be who you are right this second.” No need to pile on all that other bullshit.
Do you find any negative connotation in the use of terms like “gaysian” or “rice queen”?
Not really. I think it depends on how they’re used. My show out in L.A. was called No Fats, Femmes, or Asians because I used to see that all the time in personal ads. We experience so much ignorance and judgment from the outside world that I think we can afford to be kinder to each other within our own community. And that's not always our first impulse. As gay men we're so hung up on terminology and masculinity. We'll put a guy down for being a bottom—we'll turn that into something negative! I say gay sex is like the best Christmas present: It’s fun to give, it's fun to get, and even if it doesn't fit... it's the thought that counts.
I love Christmas. Are you excited about Ugly Betty coming to New York?
I'm sad that 300 crewmembers had to lose their jobs in Los Angeles, but I am excited. There’s an energy to filming on location in New York that can’t be matched by anything. And so much of Ugly Betty is site-specific, like Fashion Week or the latest art opening. Now we'll be able to incorporate those actual events into the show. And it’s so great to be a part of that group.
How 'bout that Season Finale? Did you have any interaction with Naomi Campbell and Lindsay Lohan—or were they roped off the entire time?
Lindsay shot her scene on a different set, so I didn't see her. I did get to hang out with both Naomi Campbell and Vanessa Williams in the outfield in a little director's chair, and I have to tell you... it felt kinda fabulous. While we were sitting out there, there were tons of paparazzi shooting Naomi coming to the set and leaving the set. There must be a lot of footage of me looking directly into the camera and waving. In fact, I'm sure I ruined a lot of shots.
Have you heard the rumors about an Ugly Betty musical?
A musical? This is the first I’m hearing of it.
Michael Urie said in a recent interview that it’s a possibility, and would apparently like the TV cast to also be the Original Broadway Cast.
Well, he’s a singer and dancer, so he’d be great. Sure! We can all be on TV and on Broadway, and Disney can milk the Ugly Betty teat dry! With special guest star Zac Efron or something.
Any word on Vern’s return to Desperate Housewives?
I cornered Mark Cherry at a fundraiser and said, “Okay, I just wanna know... did I die in the tornado?” And he said, “You’re not dead. We just haven't figured out how to bring you back yet.” So there’s talk. That's another fun group, and a really queer set. Both Betty and Housewives are the two most positive, gay-affirming sets in Hollywood. You can show up and completely be yourself. It’s all the gays who used to write on Golden Girls. I mean, talk about being around smart, funny people all day.
Of the female casts of both shows, who are the tried and true fag hags?
Eva Longoria—I'm not even kidding—has her own orbit of gay men, which is why she always looks so amazing. At any given time she has, like, seven gay men surrounding her, attending to every eyelash, lip line, and nail tip. Her hairstylist is this huge muscle queen named Gabor—like Zsa Zsa. He's seriously about 6'5", and Eva’s like 4' and change. Whenever he does her hair it looks like somebody playing with a rag doll. She loves the gays, and they love her. And the same can be said of Vanessa Williams. She knows which side her weave is glued on. Both women are really cognizant of their gay fan base and are very savvy about it.
You also hosted the groundbreaking Transamerican Love Story for Logo.
Yeah, that was another sort of yummy bon-bon because I’m friends with Calpernia [Addams] and with Andrea James. Logo approached me and I said I would do it, but that I didn't want it to be Jerry Springer-y. The guys have to know they’ll be dating a trans woman and want to date a trans woman, and that’s how it turned out to be. The show is very self-deprecating and very conventional in that it’s just a regular dating show with a bachelorette who happens to be transgendered.
Do you think it achieved the public response it set out to regarding its depiction of the trans community?
I think it did. Andrea and Calpernia said they find people are always too focused on their transition story, like it’s the whole thing. It would be like if all people ever asked you about was coming out. That’s definitely not an insignificant part of your story, but there's a lot more to it. Also, there’s hardly any visibility at all for that community, and when your story isn’t being told it’s really easy for you to feel invisible. That was my feeling growing up as a double minority. I didn’t see any Asian people on TV, and certainly no gay Asian people.
As fate would have it, you were the first recurring gay Asian character in television history on Some Of My Best Friends. Do you think of yourself as a pioneer for your people, or just an Asian Rhoda Morgenstern?
You know, it didn't even occur to me while I was doing it. A network executive pointed it out to me after the job was over, and I was like, “Yeah, I'm the first!” Interestingly, that part was supposed to be the fat best friend, not the Asian best friend. And I remember reading the character description and being liberated by the fact that I seemed completely wrong for it. I thought, “Well, they're not gonna go with me, so I can just do whatever I want.”
It must have been a transition for you, coming off all these super queer shows and onto the set of You Don't Mess With The Zohan.
I had just come from doing a gay cruise in Mexico to being in an Adam Sandler movie, and all of a sudden I was the only girl! But I embraced it and ended up having a really good time with those guys. I just flirted with everybody.
Does it piss you off that you're consistently mistaken for much less glamorous Gaysians like Rex Lee of Entourage?
[Laughs] Well, this is where it trips Rex up: We were both invited to this two-day Emmy gift-giving suite, where they give away all this free swag—blenders, watches, jeans... it was ridiculous. Anyway, I went the first day and he went the second, and every single vendor he approached said, “We already gave you stuff. Why are you back here?” It makes me think, “Wow, I guess we do all look alike.” I think it pisses Rex off more. But I say, “Listen, it could be much worse. I mean, look at me. I'm fuckin’ adorable.”
America’s Gaysian Sweetheart, 9:30pm, Jun. 28–29 @ Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St, 212-967-7555, $30.