Entertainment » Theatre

Wendy Ho :: Singer. Rapper. Truth Teller. Ho

by M. M. Adjarian
Tuesday Aug 17, 2010

Not everyone can handle a ho, especially one as provocative and straight-up street as Wendy Jo Smith, aka Wendy Ho. Part comedian, part singer/actress, part white rapper, this edgy performer is a self-proclaimed "female drag queen" who defies professional definition, breaking - and making - the rules as she goes along.

Ho - as Smith prefers to be called - began her life in an Ohio trailer park. As a child, she spent time listening to her parents' R&B record collection, watching reruns of comedy shows like Good Times and The Jeffersons, and playing with her best friend, a black girl named Tameko Cook.

These early influences had a profound impact on her artistic development. By the time the Toledo native was in high school, she was already focused on acting. She also sang, but was rejected from choir and musical theatre roles for sounding too black. It wasn't until she was in college in Missouri, however, that she found her performance identity. A rap she wrote became so popular among her peers that she - or rather, her wigger alter-ego Wendy Ho - got asked to perform at parties. She's been doing live shows ever since.

In 2002, Ho took her act to New York City. She lived hard and on the edge in Harlem, where she followed her call to sing and act. After five years of struggle and, at times, engaging in petty theft and drug-dealing to make ends meet, she released her first CD, The Gospel According to Ho. One single, "Bitch, I Stole Yo Purse!" became a cult Internet sensation and the video earned notoriety on the Logo Network as the Funniest Video of 2008.

The gay community wasn't the only one that had taken notice of Wendy Ho. In a January, 2009, the FX network aired an episode of Nip/Tuck about a fictional white rapper, Hot Coco, seeking a butt augmentation to complement her newly discovered black heritage. The character, played by Jennifer Coolidge, owed much to Ho. But neither Coolidge nor anyone affiliated with Nip/Tuck - including the creator, Ryan Murphy - ever acknowledged that point.

It was only last April that Coolidge finally admitted to The Advocate that she had studied Wendy Ho's work very carefully prior to filming. "They showed me the Wendy Ho video [The Gospel According to Ho] before we did it and said, 'Do a funny version of this.' I was like, 'I'm not going to be cooler than Wendy Ho, that's for sure.' Wendy Ho is about as cool as it gets."

Despite the lack of respect and delayed recognition, the "hardest working Ho in Hobiz" and her raunchy performance art have still managed to thrive. She has appeared in comedy clubs like Caroline's on Broadway, Comix NYC, and The Comedy Store (LA); music venues like Joe's Pub and Don't Tell Mama's; and off-Broadway theatres like The Zipper Factory and Ars Nova NYC. And in 2009, she toured gay bars all over the country and did live shows on the gay cruise line, Atlantis.

Now based in Los Angeles, Ho has been spending 2010 putting together her second album, Yes, I'm a Ho!, to be released in early fall. She recently performed her "Ho Show" at Busby's East, and appears this week as part of Cut&Paste Rock&Roll - described as "the biggest and queerest event of the year" - in Long Beach. The fundraising event, at DiPiazza's Long Beach, features ten out-and-proud bands.

Ho recently spoke with EDGE with refreshing cheek and fierceness about "ho-dom" and surviving (in) a profession that routinely criticizes her for pushing the limits of comedic convention.


A total package

EDGE: You sing, rap, do stand-up comedy and even act. Do you feel more comfortable in one area than in another or do you consider all areas equally strong?

Wendy Ho: I feel most comfortable singing and acting, probably because I’ve been doing those two the longest. The rapping and the joke writing/delivery are more difficult, but when I’m in my groove and on top of my game - in other words killing - they are probably the most fulfilling because of the fact that they are difficult. I like to overcome--pun intended!

EDGE: Since you do so many things, what would be the general name you would give to the "total package" and why?

Wendy Ho: I would give the name of the total package: Wendy Ho because I bring pleasure to the masses for money.

Story continues on following page:

Watch this video introduction to Wendy Ho




Watch this video of Wendy Ho singing "I Stole Your Purse":



Her gay following

EDGE: What do you believe makes you, a straight performer, so rabidly successful among gay audiences?

Wendy Ho: I find that gay audiences have embraced my work because I so fully relate to their struggle. I’ve had to overcome a lot of social taboos to embrace this loud, raunchy, sexual, funny part of myself. I’m not saying that these are gay attributes, it’s just that these characteristics are not classically female in our culture. Being loud, raunchy, and lewd is still more of a boy’s club. I’d like to say the tides are shifting, but there are still way more male comics than female. I also notice that there are still many women who don’t embrace these attributes in themselves, well... until they’re drunk - and they don’t know how to harness the freedom. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich put it best, "Well behaved women seldom make history." So! I think I’m able to relate to gay men in that often times they’re not "classically well-behaved males," so I guess we just get each other. I, like Cher/Madonna/Gaga/Bette, have been called a female drag queen. Underneath the drag is a gay man, and underneath the gay man is... a mystery. HA!

EDGE: How have lesbian audiences reacted to your work?

Wendy Ho: That’s a toss up. I’ve done two shows that have been for primarily lesbian audiences. One (Julie Goldman & Eve Ensler’s Offensive Women Show) in which I was completely applauded and embraced. The other one was at a small restaurant, and I’d say it was like 60/40 split. 60 percent of them were into it, 40 were like, "check please!"

EDGE: What about black audiences-how have they responded to the Wendy Ho character, who in part is an homage to a dear black childhood friend, Tameko Cook ?

Wendy Ho: Clarification: Wendy Ho is not a character, she is a full-blown living, breathing persona. Calling it a "character," seems to water it down. Tameko definitely was an influence in my artistry, but this isn’t an homage to her. I have done a lot of black shows, and it has always been completely embraced. I mean, how mad can you be at a white trash woman that calls herself a ho? The joke is always on me, not at the expense of any audience member. Wendy Ho=Freedom, so I think anytime audiences witness someone freeing themselves onstage they’re either going to say "Amen." Or they’re going to feel threatened by their own little jail cells (minds).

EDGE: How much of Wendy Ho follows you off the stage and into real life?

Wendy Ho: The make up might come off, but she’s always a breath away.

EDGE: Would you consider yourself character in any way a feminist?

Wendy Ho: Yes,100% completely a feminist. I call myself "Ho," to reclaim the word. We still live in a world where there’s no male equivalent, with any real weight anyways, of the word ho, slut, or even bitch. I mean, how many times do we hear about gigolos in rap songs? It’s still a positive for a man to explore his sexuality through lots of experimentation, and pretty still much a negative for a woman to engage in that kind of behavior. And THIS is STILL bullshit.

EDGE: How would you define who/what do you think she ultimately is?

Wendy Ho: You’re gonna have to wait for my book, Memoirs of a Hobag, for the full answer, but in short Wendy Ho: Singer. Rapper. Truth Teller. Ho.

EDGE: Your humor is raw and raunchy: it seems you have no problem discussing taboos a lot of other performers wouldn’t dare go near. Is this just a perception?

Wendy Ho: It’s all perception, isn’t it? I can’t speak for every other performing artist out there, all I know is that my art is my freedom, and right now, my freedom requires that I work blue and say the word pussy . . .a LOT.

EDGE: What among your past accomplishments are you proudest of and why?

Wendy Ho: I’ve faced much rejection, had my work ripped off by a major TV show, and have had many people in the business continue to tell me, in one way or another, that I’m not going to "get away with this." The fact that I’m still standing, still nasty after all these years, is my proudest accomplishment to date.

EDGE: Tell me about the Ho Show - How do you see as the relationship between Wendy Ho and the four drag queens who shared the stage with you?

Wendy Ho: We are all performing artists tucking our privates (I’ve got a big pussy) and unlocking our freedom together. They are my sisters. I’m singing Sister Sledge right now "We are family! I got all my sistras and me!" okayyyyyyy! That pretty much sums it up.

EDGE: Where do you see your work going in the future?

Wendy Ho: Straight to heaven, and probably back again, I like the struggle down here.


Wendy Ho appears as part of Cut and Paste Rock and Roll on Friday, August 20, 2010 at : DiPiazza’s, 5205 East Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach CA. The event runs from 7:00 PM - 2:00 AM PDT. For more information visit the Cut and Paste Rock and Roll website. For upcoming appearances of the The Ho Show and other information about Wendy Ho, visit her website.


Story continues on following page:

Watch Wendy Ho perform "Fu!& Me":




Watch this comparison between Jennifer Coolidge and Wendy Ho on NakedBoyNews.com:


M. M. Adjarian is a Dallas-based freelance writer. She contributes to EDGE, the Dallas Voice, SheWired and Arts + Culture DFW and is a book reviewer for Kirkus.


Comments

  • jamal71, 2010-08-17 13:43:18

    What is a Wigger ? So if she is a Wigger that means black people are ??????


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook