AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– So who is Patti O’Furniture?
Patti has entertained audiences from LA to Boston and New York to New Orleans, working at legendary clubs with more “RuPaul’s Drag Race” queens than she can count. But as Patti says, she is a Southern girl at heart who’s proud to call the Carolinas home.
One thing has remained consistent since that very first show 23 years ago, every dollar that Patti collects on stage gets donated back to the community. All of her tips are donated to causes, including HIV and AIDS prevention and education, the environment, and local arts organizations. To date, she has raised more than a million and a half dollars.
The character, Patti O’Furniture, was born from a dare in 1999, according to college professor Pat Patterson.
“By day I’m a college professor. And teachers are always challenged with how to motivate their students. My students wanted to put on a drag show on campus and they needed to raise some money and they didn’t have it. So I said, okay, here’s your motivation. Your motivation is if you raise the money, I’ll get in drag. And they had the money the next week.”
And that put the pressure on Patterson to come up with a character.
“I then had to scurry around and create the character that you see before you now. She looked a little bit different back then, but it was like the scene in Cinderella, you know, where the little mice scurry away and come back with ribbons and things- and create Cinderella’s dress. I was with some friends over Labor Day weekend and they said, we got you, don’t worry. And they scurried around and brought wigs and shoes and costumes and makeup. And that’s how my nickname, “The yard sale with legs,” was born. Because everything I wore the first time I performed was borrowed or loaned to me by different friends. And that was almost 23 years ago.”
The HBO series “We’re Here” featured Patti, brother Olin, and their father.
“It was the first time that my father had ever seen me perform. And it was also the time I had ever seen my very big, very straight, very bearded brother in drag. But I love the message of “We’re Here”. And, you know, we both grew up in the same hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina. And I love that it showcased small town, Southern values. You know, we talked about church, we talked about family, we talked about all that, but we layered it with love and acceptance and inclusion.”
“To see my father clapping and standing up and crying at one point- it was really powerful, ’cause while we were filming, we were so in the moment, we couldn’t see what was going on off stage. But also having my little brother go 110% all in to show how much he loved me and the things that he would do to show the world that love. And that’s just the message of “We’re Here”. It’s magical. All the towns that they go to, they tell these really powerful, impactful stories. And I’m just thrilled that Olin and I were able to be a part of that.”
Patti O’Furniture is a drag queen, an emcee, an impersonator, and a comedian. who appeals to different audiences, from private parties to officiating weddings to corporate clients,
In March, Patti hosted a show at USC Aiken.
“As an educational show. We entertain the students, but we also took questions and answers and helped dispel some myths and helped send a message to the students at USC Aiken about being inclusive and letting them know that the USC Aiken campus was a place that everybody should feel welcome and safe.”
For Patti, drag is not about sexual gratification, but playing dress up.
“It is very much playing dress up. I’m a theater professor by trade. I love creating a character. And so it has nothing, at least for me, I can’t speak for the entire world of drag. It has nothing to do with anything sexual, it’s about entertainment. It’s about presenting a character to the world. I tell people if they meet any actor, the actor you meet is not the character that you saw them play on the screen. And it’s the same for me.”
“It’s another myth that all drag queens want to be women. Or drag kings, which is a woman who dresses as a male character, that they wanna be men. And I don’t think that’s the case. Some of our trans brothers and sisters use drag as a, sort of, gateway, or a test to see if they feel comfortable, or to see how the community will react. But for the most part, I think that drag is meant to be fun. It’s over the top. It’s outlandish.”