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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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PerformanceOnstageTrans star Dylan Mulvaney alights on 'Holiday Gaiety' with...

Trans star Dylan Mulvaney alights on ‘Holiday Gaiety’ with SF Symphony

The performer, activist, and prolific TikToker is eager to hit the stage for the annual explosion of LGBTQ festivity.

With Nutcracker at SF Ballet, A Christmas Carol at A.C.T., and ice skating at Union Square, there are plenty of family-friendly activities in San Francisco to ring in the holiday season. 

FYI, Holiday Gaiety at Davies Symphony Hall (Fri/15) is not one of them.

The annual variety show, co-emceed by SF Symphony conductor Edwin Outwater and local drag icon Peaches Christ promises more mature content than a Baloney all-male revue, and enough swear words to make RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Bianca Del Rio blush.

Del Rio and Baloney dancers Rory Davies and Michael Phillis will appear as part of the event’s lustrous lineup that also includes mezzo-soprano/aerialist Nikola Printz, vocalist Renée Lubin, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Sister Roma, and vocalist Dylan Mulvaney.

There’s been plenty of talk about Mulvaney, the theatrical performer turned TikTok influencer turned activist, in recent years. After documenting her transition on the social media app, the entertainer earned a major following, several endorsement deals, the ear of President Biden, and most recently, a spot on Forbes’ “30 Under 30 Social Media” list. But as her platform increased off the app, she was targeted by transphobic politicians and entertainers, and brands that she partnered with were regularly threatened with boycotts.

Now that she’s settling into her womanhood, she’s continuing to promote trans rights but is also eager to return the focus to her singing and acting career.

I spoke to Mulvaney about her appearance at Holiday Gaiety, a few of her favorite things to explore in San Francisco, how she plans to spend the holidays and her birthday (shameless plug: it’s the same as mine), and what she’d tell a trans person struggling to find any gaiety in these turbulent times.

48 HILLS How did you get involved with Holiday Gaiety, and why were you excited to join the line-up?

DYLAN MULVANEY I toured with Broadway’s The Book of Mormon and was supposed to do it in San Francisco just before the pandemic hit. 

But the San Francisco Symphony approached me shortly after my 365 Days of Girlhood celebration in New York City, where I raised money for the Trevor Project while also bringing my musical theater roots back into the world. 

And we put together a few numbers that feel fun and queer. But also, this is my first time singing with such a large symphony behind me. So I think it’s going to be an epic evening.

Peaches Christ and Edwin Outwater host ‘Holiday Gaiety’

48 HILLS Are you performing Christmas-themed songs?

DYLAN MULVANEY One of them is, and then one of them, selfishly, is a Sondheim medley because Sondheim is one of the most incredible composers ever. And if I had only one chance to sing with that big of a symphony behind me, I’d want it to be Sondheim.

48 HILLS What’s your history with San Francisco?

DYLAN MULVANEY I’ve been many times. My best friend lives there, and I’m excited to have them at the show that night. 

The arts and culture up there are unparalleled to anything else in California, because it is a mini-New York. There’s so much queerness, and it feels like a safe place to perform. So the entire evening will feel queer but having it in San Francisco makes it feel even more special.

48 HILLS Which places do you love visiting in San Francisco?

DYLAN MULVANEY My favorite place is the Fairmont, and I’m staying there this week because it feels like The Plaza in New York, and my best friend and I can order room service and go to the tiki bar downstairs.

I also love seeing what’s in town as far as the Broadway scene. I don’t know if I’m able to catch any shows this week. Of course, I have to go to Fisherman’s Wharf. I’m such a carb addict, and the bread bowls at Boudin Bakery are my favorite thing in the world.

48 HILLS How do you spend the holidays?

DYLAN MULVANEY I drive up north and go to a hot spring with my best friends, and we sing and we lay in tubs. It’s one of the only weeks that the industry shuts down. So, for me, it’s like a complete turning off the phone, no technology time—just friendship and fun. We do puzzles, and we have a pink tree. I think it’s my favorite week of the year.

48 HILLS You and I share the same birthday. I’m going to ask you the super annoying question that I get asked all the time: What’s it like having your birthday wedged in between Christmas and New Year’s?

DYLAN MULVANEY Growing up, it was frustrating because most people were out of town. But I like it because people have just done Christmas. New Year’s Eve is when people hit it hard, but people are still willing to do something on the 29th. 

There were a lot of Christmas/birthday combined gifts growing up. But honestly, it’s also fun because we start the year as a new age. And so it always feels like it’s super in sync with starting fresh because I’m turning a new age and becoming a new me.

48 HILLS How do you typically like to spend your birthday?

DYLAN MULVANEY Oh my God, I’m such a birthday person. Last year, I got a petting zoo to come to my house and had all my friends. It was so funny because the woman was surprised that it was all adults. But we loved it. 

This year, I’m thinking of a party bus to go dancing with some of my friends, and then my best friend and I are getting a couples massage at a spa that we’ve always wanted to go to. As I’ve gotten older, it’s changed, but I’ve worked so much now that that period is so nice to get to connect with the people I love.

48 HILLS What is your dream gift for your birthday?

DYLAN MULVANEY Oh my gosh, an end to transphobia in the world. But if it had to be something tangible, I would choose diamonds. I don’t own any diamonds yet so that would be epic.

The San Francisco Gay Mens Chorus joins in ‘Holiday Gaiety’

48 HILLS What are the steps others can take to help end transphobia?

DYLAN MULVANEY  I think just including trans people in your life. So many people still claim that they don’t know a trans person. And the reality is they probably do, and maybe they just don’t know it, or they aren’t willing to open themselves up to a new kind of person. 

I come from a conservative Catholic family, and I’ve gotten to chat with them, connect with them, and show just how much I am a normal gal. And I think the more that people are willing to reach out to someone that they don’t know, the better.

48 HILLS What do you have going on outside of Holiday Gaiety?

DYLAN MULVANEY I’m finishing up writing a book. I’m pitching some TV projects. I’m back to auditioning. I’m hoping to put together a live show next year. I’m honestly trying to keep the fires burning. 

Many people know me from TikTok, but now I want them to see that I can expand into the mainstream—especially on stage because my roots come from theater. And I also would love to be able to bring my TikTok audience to the love of Broadway. So hopefully, more on-stage stuff next year.

48 HILLS How long do you see TikTok being a priority in your career?

DYLAN MULVANEY A lot of my content centered around my physical and emotional transition. Now, as I’m settling more into my womanhood, I don’t feel as called to make content specifically about being trans. So showing people other sides to me and showing my other skills is showing the parts of me that have little or nothing to do with my transness.

But TikTok is where I started. I will always forever owe my career to them. I would love to continue growing my audience and then use it to show them what I’m doing on stage or set. Then, little check-ins now and again, especially thanking them for all the other opportunities they’ve provided. My audience helped me get here.

48 HILLS What message would you deliver to a trans person struggling over the holidays?

DYLAN MULVANEY I would just tell them to keep going and that when I don’t feel the love, I actively try to find it anywhere I can. Sometimes that’s a struggle. But finding love rather than feeling isolated has been my saving grace—and the love is always there. If it’s not with your blood relatives, it’s finding a chosen family or building relationships online. And there are so many voices out there that are looking for connection. Especially right now in the trans community, we need to be as united as possible. So I love having other trans people in my life, and I think queer and trans people should have other queer people in their lives. That’s been my saving grace and that’s my advice to them.

HOLIDAY GAIETY Fri/15. Davies Symphony Hall, SF. $99-$300. Tickets and more info here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Joshua Rotter
Joshua Rotter
Joshua Rotter is a contributing writer for 48 Hills. He’s also written for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, SF Examiner, SF Chronicle, and CNET.

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