After a two-year hiatus, Discovery Green is hosting its annual citywide LGBTQ celebration, Rainbow on the Green, this Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. The event is a pre-celebration for the 44th annual Pride Houston 2022 festival and parade on Saturday, June 25, at Houston City Hall.
Rainbow On The Green is featuring headliner The Kinsey Sicks, known as “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet.” This award-winning a cappella group has entertained and inspired millions around the world for more than two decades with its original music and comedy.
OutSmart magazine talked with two of the Kinsey Sicks members Nathan Marken (aka “Winnie”) and Jeff Manabat (aka “Trixie”).
Sheryl E. Taylor: Which letter of the LGBTQ alphabet do you most identify with?
Jeff (He/Him, She among close friends): I most identify with being a gay man. I’ve been out and proud since I was 13). I was very lucky to come out during a time when it was very rare for people to come out so young.
Trixie: I have to say that I am “sexually fluid.” I am open to anyone—male, female, or corporations—with multiple zeros on their bank-account balances. I love you if you love me back with your greenbacks.
Nathan: I identify as queer, which seems to cover a lot of bases. I’ve never been “in” the closet. Coming out was a matter of someone getting to know me. Also, I do identify as an honorary lesbian. I do have my “butch” moments, and I don’t just exclusively hang out with gay men.
Winnie: I am a lesbian and also fluid, even though I don’t like fluids that much—especially those of the sexual variety. But I have been known to have dalliances with other folks, too. I can get it done in style, of course, and boss you around when you need it, and you will love it.
Tell me about your life before The Kinsey Sicks.
Nathan: My life before The Kinsey Sicks was lovely and full in San Francisco, working in property management (after grad school) and performing in the Bay Area before joining the group, which I’ve been with for eight years. Since the pandemic, I reflected on why I joined The Kinsey Sicks and how it has enriched my life. It has been incredibly rewarding to combine my interests and talents as a musician, singer, and activist while having a platform to make the world a better place, to move the needle on people doing better, and calling out those who want to oppress women, queer and trans folks, people of color, immigrants, and underserved communities.
Winnie: I’ve been with the group since the very beginning. Nathan is the second actor that has played me. My life has consisted of a multitude of affairs (failed and otherwise) with up-and-coming celebrities. I’ve rebuffed the advances of Fran Leibowitz and Melissa Etheridge at the same time, and even Wanda Sykes in the early ’90s. I’ve worked as a Doc Marten foot model for a long time and sold Tupperware as a side hustle that has been remarkably lucrative.
Jeff: Before I joined The Kinsey Sicks, I actually saw one of their shows shortly after graduating from college. It was one of the most amazing, hilarious and important shows I’d ever seen. Not only were they combining everything I loved—music, theater, and comedy—they were saying things that were meaningful to the community. It was during the ’90s when the country was coming off the AIDS epidemic, and here was something that was unabashedly queer. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a part of something for the past 18 years and still having fun. While I experienced numerous opportunities before and during my time with the group, the bread and butter of my life is this wonderful dragapella group that is a unique and wonderful addition to theater. I can’t wait for people in Houston to see us perform.
Trixie: Thank you so much for asking the question about everyone coalescing around my incredible talent. The group should really be called Trixie and The Kinsey Sicks because I am the most fabulous, most glamorous, and most super-humanly flexible member. Everyone else I graciously call my backup singers, and they are extremely adequate. When I joined the group, everyone was so dazzled by my mere existence that they had to form a group around me. Otherwise, I would have blinded audiences with my fabulousness. The group is the bread to my extremely voluptuous and sumptuous jelly and peanut butter. Eat it up, baby! This sandwich is like nothing you’ve ever had before.
One word to describe your personality?
Winne: Lovingly snarky
Your favorite song to listen to or perform?
Jeff: When I’m not working, it’s “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn. The pathos of the song is transformed into something that is driven and ambitious, and it says to me that no matter what happens to you, you will move forward. My favorite song from the show is “Sounds of Sirens,” which initially is very comedic, super-fun and irreverent, but it catches you off guard as it takes you along a heartfelt and meaningful journey.
Trixie: I just love performing everyone’s favorite song, and even the other girls don’t want to admit it. It’s my solo! It’s dedicated to the love of my life. I love everyone equally, but the song is for my true love—venereal diseases. I’m so sensational that I can sing about my nasty illness!
Nathan: “Higher” by Taio Cruz is about being in the moment, living your best life, and loving music. In our show we do a Beach Boys parody called “Good Ventilation.” It’s a lot of fun, and the audience just can’t get enough of it.
Winne: Who doesn’t love a Jewish feminist anthem? My favorite is the powerhouse number “Nice Jewish Girls.” It’s been in the group for over 20 years, but our newer version fits me like a pantsuit.
Best part of performing?
Jeff: I love the process of discovering new ways to perform material that you’ve done many times. There’s something really special about singing that unites both the performers and the audience—it’s like a united elevation. It’s what makes theater such an ephemeral experience, and that’s why I keep doing it.
Trixie: What do you mean? Jeff, I don’t understand why you are being so generous. It’s all about the audience watching my magnificence. There is nothing more fabulous than an audience consuming all of me. I have so much to give. When I perform, I serve an incredible, delicious Trixie performance. Eat me up and I will feed you!
Nathan: I love the landing of a joke and the magic that happens on stage and with our audiences.
Winnie: My favorite part of performing is to say something, make a statement with our songs, and lift people up. At the end of our shows, we always remind our audience that when life gets you against the ropes, we have lots of merchandise to purchase which is always very satisfying.
What’s your best bit of advice for your alter-ego?
Jeff: Trixie, cool your jets! Make space for the others, they deserve to shine, too. Just because you’re brilliant doesn’t mean they can’t be brilliant alongside you. I can see your insecurities. The truth is that you are better than them.
Nathan: Winnie, you could use more pockets for your pantsuit and perhaps a fanny pack?
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Jeff: I have an identical twin brother who is also a performer in New York.
Nathan: I’m actually a really good cook.
What does Pride Month mean to you?
Jeff: It’s incredibly meaningful and powerful to live “out” in the open, make a career out of being who I am, and choose a life of my own that’s not just in private. My life is public, and I hope it inspires others to live their truth when people see that I am not embarrassed or ashamed of the life that I lead or the words that I say. There’s a community of people being out together, and once upon a time that was a dangerous thing to be. We’re doing it in a fragile state, which doesn’t mean we can do it tomorrow. We always have to fight for and justify our existence. We deserve to be here, too.
Nathan: It’s a privilege to be a part of Rainbow on the Green. It’s not just a Pride event, but an opportunity to uplift our community while also reflecting the diversity that Houston is. It’s part of a greater initiative, and it’s a huge honor to bring our unique point of view with the lighter fare of our tongue-in-cheek humor. It’s fun to push our comfort zones and make ourselves available to younger folks. If we can make a difference in one young person’s life, the world it’s wonderful.
What: Rainbow on the Green
When: 7 p.m. on June 24
Where: Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St.