Nancy Ross / Bob Drews
By Andy Armano
This series focuses on individuals who give to our community and make a positive impact on the lives of others. Often it is through our personal adversities that we discover who we are and transform the challenges into strengths.
Nancy Ross is one of Fort Lauderdale’s most beloved drag queens. Known for her breezy martini-laced congeniality, Nancy is currently enjoying a popular monthly run at The Pub. In this profile, Nancy shares how her shows bring people together.
Andy Armano: Tell me a little about where you came from, what your background is.
Bob Drews/Nancy Ross: For Bob? Or Nancy?
AA: Well, for both!
BD/NR: Bob was born in Nebraska, many years ago. I came from a very religious background and I was always very involved in music and theater in the church. I was lucky because I travelled the world with my church and I was exposed to so many cultures and people.
Nancy was born in the middle of Florida about 13 years ago. Paul, my husband, and I had a Christmas party in our back yard by our pool and my friend Lady Fancy and I did a little show. We had a great time and everybody thought it was amazing. The next year, we did another Christmas party. Of course, we did it bigger. You know, more lights and more costumes. But I look back now at pictures and I think how bad our makeup was then!
After that, Fancy and I would go out once in a while on Saturday night and dress up as Nancy and Fancy and just have fun. One night at Georgie’s Alibi, we met Sharde Ross, who had a show there. And she said, “Well, why don’t you come and be in my show sometime?” And it grew from there. I have always been a performer so it came naturally to me.
AA: So drag has really been just an extension of your life of performing?
BD/NR: Yes. And I have a special place in my heart for the gospel show because of my background. It started at Scandals as The Gospel Jubilee about ten years ago. It later moved to The Pub during the time Scandals Saloon was closed. It’s currently being changed a little and will be called The Joyful Noise.
I love how so many people come who have had backgrounds like mine and we share the spirit together. The regulars grew up in churches and they know the music. And you just see them, beer in hand, singing these gospel songs. Tears coming down a lot of their faces. Because, it was part of who they are, and always will be. But they didn’t feel welcome in their childhood churches. Now they are happy to be able to come to this show and be a part of it.
AA: I can just see that spirit in you of bringing people together. That joy, to me, is the real root of spirituality. It’s interesting to see how, through your life, that has been a theme from your childhood to your drag.
BD/NR: At the end of the day, it’s about the quality of life and our humanity. Yes, I believe in eternal life. And I’m sure people have different perceptions of what that means. Because, everyone has different religious upbringing, but I don’t focus on that. Because on the whole, it’s about just being good to each other and coming together.
AA: Where do you think that spirit of connecting emotionally with your audience came from? Was it something your parents taught you?
BD/NR: My mother was a huge influence, for sure. When I started singing, back in high school, and in church and sang, I often said to her, “If you’re not crying in the audience, then I haven’t done my job.”
AA: Do you feel like there’s a character to Nancy Ross? How would you describe her?
BD/NR: Well, everybody says when you get dressed up, it’s like a light switch goes on. You come into this character when you put on the makeup and the outfits and the hair and all those things.
Nancy is very outgoing. She is very friendly. She, in the gay bars, has no fear of talking to anybody. Where, Bob would never do that. And, because of her pole-dancing days, Nancy still does those crazy things like somersaults on the stage, or she’ll bring up chairs and straddle the chair.
AA: So we can’t end the interview without talking about Paul. How did you meet your husband Paul?
BD/NR: Well, I was dating someone who went out of town for the holidays and encouraged Paul and me to spend New Year’s together. We went for dinner prior to New Year’s, just to get a little bit acquainted. When he took me home, and I said, “You want to come in for a few minutes?” And, well, he’s never left. That’s been almost 23 years ago. He’s still probably my biggest supporter. He will sometimes say that if I had been doing drag when we met, he wouldn’t have been with me because he wanted a man, but, seriously, he wants me to be happy and he is my biggest fan.