Fun Woke Giving: Interview with Cookie Diorio
“Stay woke and have fun” has become the motto drag songstress Cookie Diorio adopted to describe her philanthropic show Art of the Heel. Though many artists are civically engaged and tie their work into giving back to their respective communities, few do it in such a unique way as Cookie—one of Philly’s most talented drag queens. With Art of the Heel, Cookie is beautiful, comedic, and grounding all at once—a hard plethora of traits to balance in one performance. We reached out to Cookie to learn more about the passion and creativity behind this show.
FringeArts: What was the initial inspiration for Art of the Heel and the social justice aspect woven into it?
Cookie: Since November 2016 I have been intrigued by and experimenting with the idea of civically engaged art. I was constantly asking myself how I could use what I do as a singer, songwriter and drag artist to help promote social justice. I decided just to “do what I do” in a way that allows my audience to engage with and learn about different social issues and the organizations tackling them. Art Of The Heel as a project was directly inspired by a concert that I did last winter to raise funds and awareness for The Attic LGBT Youth Center.The name, thought up by my brilliant husband, is a play on the title of a well known book with the last word replaced with HEEL to represent what I do as a drag queen (and I don’t wear heels shorter than 5 inches!).
FringeArts: What attracted you to the three charities that you chose to be part of Art of the Heel?
Cookie: I have the utmost respect and admiration for the folks at Valley Youth House, Women In Transition and PennFuture. These organizations do amazing and hard work to propel our community forward and I value that greatly. In my cabaret acts, I talk a lot about my personal life and experiences. Many of those experiences have been shaped by some of the same issues that these organizations tackle: I have close friends and family who have struggled with homelessness and housing insecurity, I grew up in a matriarchal family and have seen the effects of gender-based violence and drug abuse, and I grew up in a rural community very much in touch with the environment. I have always been taught to stand up for the things that I believe in and I am proud to lift my voice in support of these causes.
FringeArts: You mention special musical guests from opera to blues. Should we expect any surprise drag queens to join you as well?
Cookie: The special guest artists that will be joining my pianists Jillian Zack and Matthew Brower—the legendary Germantown blues band Stevie and the Bluescasters, the chamber piano/vocal duo Albatross, and rising operatic talent Garrett Obrycki with pianist Jose Melendez—are phenomenal, must-see performers! However, for these three engagements I will be the only drag queen on the bill (**wink**).
FringeArts: Describe Art of the Heel in three words!
Cookie: Fun. Woke. Giving.
FringeArts: Have you done a benefit series like this before or is this new territory for you as an artist and musician?
Cookie: I have sung on programs to raise funds for many organizations over the years, but I have never been at the helm of or so personally invested in such a project. This is the first benefit series that I have organized. It has been an exciting and inspiring process because I am learning so much about nonprofits in Philadelphia, meeting people who are incredibly passionate about the work that they do, and connecting with my music colleagues in completely new ways.
FringeArts: What is your personal artistic goal for Art of the Heel?
Cookie: It is my goal that Art of the Heel will help people connect. I want to use my art to help people learn more about each other, our community, and our society as a whole. I also hope that I can bring the message of important organizations to new audiences in Philadelphia and across the nation in a way that is both enlightening and entertaining. I have been using the phrase “Stay Woke and Have Fun” when describing the project lately.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us Cookie Diorio!
Art of the Heel
$20 / 90 minutes
September 8 at 7:30pm: William Way Center, 1315 Spruce Street
September 16 + 23 at 7:30pm: First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut Street