Photos By Courtesy of Jay Frantz
Jay Frantz is a Chicago based male pantomime performance artist with pageant titles under his belt that include Mr. Chicago Black Universe and Mr. Gold Coast Continental. Frantz has brought his energetic style of performing to numerous venues across the country. Currently he’s part of an ensemble cast performing at the weekly shows on Monday night at Jeffery Pub hosted by Savannah Van Cartier and Terri D’mor. Frantz talked with PrideIndex as he prepared to celebrate his tenth anniversary as one of the Chicago’s hottest performers. He shared with us how his career got started on a dare, what he does to prepare for a show and confirmed that all those rumors about him being a momma’s boy are true.
PRIDEINDEX: How do you plan on celebrating your anniversary?
JAY FRANTZ: There’s an event on Monday February 4th at Jeffery Pub. The show starts at midnight. I’m part of this new ensemble cast that performs at the Pub every Monday. It just so happens that February 4th, my tenth anniversary falls on a Monday, so that’s perfect. It’s going to be pretty much a typical Monday night, but I have a few surprises. I’ve invited all of my family, friends, co-workers and their baby mommas to come out. We’re going to start off by sitting around talking, and listening to music then the show will start. I’m going to perform two songs; opening up the show and closing out the show. The hosts Savannah Van Cartier and Terri D’mor along with the rest of the cast members will be there too. We do have a few surprises for everyone so I think that it’s going to be a very good night.
PI: You’re teasing me by saying “surprises.”
JF: I know. (Laughs)
PI: Details. I need details.
JF: (Laughs) (Pauses) It’s going to be some folks performing that have not been out in a while.
PI: What else? Are you going to jump out of a cake or put whip cream all over yourself and invite a lucky person from the audience to lick it off?
JF: (Laughs) No I am not. (Laughs)
PI: How did you become a performer?
JF: It’s kind of crazy. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only person that’s done this. It’s kind of like when you hear your favorite song on the radio and you perform in the shower. I’ve always done that for fun and imagined what it would be like to perform on stage. I ended up performing as part of a dare. My friends Jermaine, Jonte, Alvin and Tony took me out to the Taste Entertainment Center to see a drag talent show. A performer named Sparkle was performing a Missy Elliott song featuring Ludacris and needed someone to perform Ludacris’ part so my best friend Jermaine told Sparkle to ask me to perform with her. It’s funny because I said “Yes” but remembered looking around at everyone there like I was crazy, and thinking why did I just say Yes so fast? When it came time to perform I just did it, I was good at it too. Sparkle won the talent show that night and shared her prize money and tips with me. I was so excited.
My friend Jermaine dared me to come back the next week and perform something on my own. So I did because I didn’t want to lose the dare (which turned into a bet.) I went home that night and prepared to perform Justin Timberlake’s new song “Cry Me a River.” I made up a quick dance routine, put together an outfit based on what I saw in the video and went to the club that next week which was February 4th.
At the time I’d only knew two drag queens that I was pretty close with, Sparkle and Ayanna Frantz. I asked my then aunt Ayanna Frantz “why do these performers have these different last names or family names?” I was planning to go there and perform as “Jay.” Ayanna explained why they did it so I asked if I could use her name. She agreed but told me that at this point she would no longer be my Aunt Ayanna, she would be my drag mother.
That night I came in second place, Ayanna’s won first place. The money I’d won that night for putting on a show was good! I’d gotten a lot of compliments for my show. I told my friends Alvin and Jermaine I could get used to doing these songs and getting paid and I was going to start to do shows. And that’s how Jay Frantz the performer was born.
When I first started out I was known as the boy that danced with all that energy. I started to perform slow songs and got into character, and costume that’s when folks started booking me to perform out of town. I really made a name for myself as a performer.
After seeing different pageants on tapes from my Uncle Fairies’ collection I decided that I would get into the pageant stuff too. It is 10 years later and I have won four pageant titles and have performed across the country and now I am part of an ensemble cast again.
PI: Who is your favorite female entertainer?
JF: Ayanna Frantz is my favorite female entertainer. I love that she’s my mother because she’s a great role model, and I like the way she entertains. She can perform almost naked and tear the club up or she could be fully clothed and still perform well.
PI: Any female influences besides Ayanna?
JF: I would have to say Ms. Tierra Russell because she gets into character and does all kinds of different songs too. I love any entertainers who can get into character and perform different genres of music.
PI: Do you have any favorite male entertainers?
JF: When I first started performing there were not that many male entertainers. You had Tim Bohar; Terrell Luv DuPree was out of town at the time. I grew fond of Kennan Luv because of how smooth he was; I liked his costumes and different clothes.
PI: How do you prepare for your performances?
JF: For whatever song that I plan to perform I’d watch the videos and try to get that exact look or something similar to it. For one of my earlier performances to Nelly’s “Pimp Juice” I had worn a little mink coat or pimp-look. It’s about looking at the videos and if it is hot I’ll try to do that. If I did not like the video I would try to step outside of the box and do something that complimented that song.
PI: Do you ever sing live or can you sing live?
JF: I am not a great live singer. I used to be in a choir when I was younger. I can sing a little but it’s nothing that could get me on American Idol.
PI: Talk about your pageant titles.
JF: The first title I won was called Mr. Hot Boy at Imla’s Lounge on the Southside. The second was Mr. Gold Coast Continental, a prelim to compete in the one of biggest pageantry systems in the country. When I won Mr. Gold Coast Continental it was mixed with all sorts of emotions for me. I think folks were a little surprised I’d won because I competed against some real big names in the business so it was a huge thing. The third title I won was Mr. Chicago Black Universe which qualified me to compete in the Black Universe Pageantry System in Atlanta. And my fourth title was Mr. Krave, which took place at Club Krave on south Western Avenue in Chicago.
PI: Are you going to compete in any pageants this year?
JF: Yes, I want to go back to the Continental Pageantry System, so I am going to have to find a prelim to compete in to qualify for the big pageant on Labor Day Weekend.
PI: There was a rumor going around that you were a little bit nervous in competing in the Black Universe Pageantry System in Atlanta. Is that rumor true? If so, why were you nervous?
JF: I actually competed in the Black Universe Pageantry System twice. The first year I competed I was very nervous because it was different than competing in the Continental Pageantry System. When you compete in either system you have to bring it on; when I went to Black Universe pageant it was different because it was the South, not the North closer to home. I was in a place where all the other contestants knew each other and here I was the new kid on the block so to speak. Truthfully speaking each time I compete I get a little bit nervous.
I’ve come to realize that it really boils down to what you do on stage that night. You have to give it your all for the audience and the judges no matter what.
PI: You have a cut clean reputation. You are known for not cursing, not lying, etc. Are you a momma’s boy?
JF: My parents, who are still together to this day, raised me right. I just got closer to my momma. I did not have the best relationship with my father; my mother spoiled me and showed me love no matter what. She raised me not to do drugs, lie, cheat, steal or curse. I don’t have any piercings or tattoos on my body. I guess I am a momma’s boy. (Laughs)
PI: No vices at all? Do you drink or smoke?
JF: I have never smoked cigarettes or even tried to smoke weed. I do drink; at one point I used to drink only 4 times per year for special occasions only. As far as any other vices like smoking or pills I have never tried any of that stuff.
PI: What do you like to do when you’re not performing?
JF: I am a big music head. I love to listen to music, going to the movies and hanging out with my friends, making people laugh and traveling. I am very much an adventurous person so anything that’s fun and exciting and that’s going to keep me out of the house I am down for it. I really just like to have fun and being happy.
PI: What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
JF: (Sighs) That’s a good question. I cannot think of anything that is too wild. I guess I would have to say going out of town to Atlanta and hanging around my Uncle Fairies. We partied, cracked jokes, hung out at Lennox Mall but I ended up waking up with a slight hang over. (Laughs)
PI: You have a huge following of fans, what makes you so lovable? Are you approachable?
JF: Yes I am approachable. Some people think I’m mean, because I don’t smile and they’re afraid to say anything to me in the club but I am very approachable. I am respectful, friendly and not arrogant.
PI: Have you ever perform with Ayanna?
JF: Yes, I have performed with her. We have done quite a few songs together. And they have become personal favorites where folks have suggested that we perform a certain song. We have great chemistry on the stage, we both feed off each other and it is very good. I love performing with her.
PI: Tell me something about yourself that no one else knows?
JF: I am quite educated and smart. I got good grades in high school and in college. In high school I was in the National Honors Society, I was a nerd in school. A lot of people don’t expect that from one their popular entertainers.
PI: What brought you out of your shell?
JF: The music. But I guess I am still in my shell. Because when I meet someone at the club and let’s say we started dating and hanging out they say, “Are you really this quiet?” When they see me in the club dancing and then see me outside the club I am more reserved. They cannot figure it out. And when I meet someone outside of the club and they come to see me perform their mouths drop because they cannot believe that I am that little sweetheart, performing with all of that energy. It’s kind of like my alter ego. So again it’s like the music that gets me and makes me become a different person.
PI: What’s next for you on the horizon? In the next ten years?
JF: I would like to be in the movies. (Laughs) I am not the best singer but anytime you have certain artist that cannot sing at all and make it, then I know I can too.