Tiffany Mott-Smith calls herself a “Jackie of all trades” and lists producer, historian, chanteuse and more among her job titles. In fact — see below — the tired, old “what do you do” question annoys her to no end.
In addition to pursuing a Ph.D. by day in LGBT health policy and practice at George Washington University, she performs by evening as Dainty Dandridge, a local burlesque star who has found a niche among queer black D.C. performers. Look for her and colleagues on Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at GALA Hispanic Theatre (3333 14th St., N.W.) for Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret presents “Black Friday!,” which promises a live DJ, vendors, prizes and performances by the “Chocolate City Kitties” such as Aurora Wells, Syxx De Leone, Kristen Briscoe KStar and many more. Tickets ($35) are available at chocolatecityburlesque.com/tickets.
Mott-Smith, a Detroit native, lives with her partner, Lee, on the U Street corridor. She enjoys glitter and long bike rides in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out for six years although my mom definitely caught me smooching with a few little WWF-obsessed tomboys as a wee lass. Little ones were the hardest to come out to by far. I was so terrified I actually avoided talking to some family friends for quite some time.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Every black queer woman I have ever met is my hero. They are some of the strongest and most dynamic people in the world. I love and admire them all too much to choose.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Too many to name. I really adore Tropicalia. They’ve got amazing art everywhere from the walls to the literal stairs. But I love a good circuit party and tea dance — Maracuyeah, Ladies Takeover, Bodywork, Overeasy and FreakOUT are among some of my faves.
Describe your dream wedding.
Big. The biggest. I mean Princess Di big. Giant puffed sleeves with a 12-foot train, gold plated bounce houses and several ice cream cakes with butter cream frosting.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
For me, there is no such thing as a non-LGBT issue. Queerness does not exist in a vacuum and as such neither do queer people’s issues.
What historical outcome would you change?
I think it would’ve been nice to see waves of feminism be more inclusive. It’s heartbreaking when I meet people who are policing of folks because they’ve decided their line of work, gender presentation, style of dress, cultural nuances and what have you means they are not a true feminist.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Watching the “Remember the Time” music video (Michael Jackson) after “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” I sat there surrounded by my cousins, waiting patiently for it to come on the television. When it did, it was awesome — a feast for the eyes.
On what do you insist?
Everything. I am a completely unrelenting Taurus with a touch of Gemini.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I split my days between my dual personalities so I have two posts. Pensive afropunk Dainty posted how news of another black child being killed by police made her afraid to become a mother. Striptease connoisseur Dainty posted about how producing Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret while simultaneously casting for this season’s Best of Burlesqueer has reignited her awe of black queer performers and the magic they do.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“The Lack of Derriere Diaries.” It would be in the self help section next to my other book, “What Dat Dainty Do: The Art of Making Inappropriate Small Talk.”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I don’t think it’s possible to be more queer than I am now, but I would sure try!
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I am one of those kooky Catholics, so I believe there’s a beautiful God waiting to give us all a big hug and reunite us with loved ones who’ve passed.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Be brave. Our lives literally depend on LGBT leaders being the bravest and most determined they’ve ever been.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Pizza and rhinestones. Also love.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
All lesbians are cisgender butch women who alternate between wearing sensible shoes and searching for home improvement projects. My shoes are anything but sensible, I don’t even know the last time I held a hammer and I am definitely gayer than a picnic basket.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Gigola.” It’s stylish and brooding.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Asking others, “What do you do?” It’s such an overwhelming question. I’ve never quite mastered the art of fitting all my work and play into an amended elevator speech, and I don’t see why I should expect anyone else to either.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
My first set of pasties! They literally cover my entire chest because I was terrified to show it to anyone. I just remember my burlesque mama Lushes Lamoan giving them her blessing and feeling like I was made of diamonds and pearls.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That I could be a stripper and a Ph.D. I was sure one would cancel out the other back then. Turns out, not so much.
Coming to D.C. was the first time I felt like I was surrounded by unrepentant blackness. I regularly saw black people with natural hair and people still thought they were beautiful. They owned businesses and were CEOs. They were nerdy and they didn’t feel the need to hide it. Their words were respected. They were respected. It was really intoxicating. From then on I told myself, “I’ve gotta get back to the Chocolate City.” And here I am.