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August 27, 2014

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Six Questions:

Mistress of Sensuality’ makes ‘Zumanity’ accessible

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Tiffany Brown

Mistress of Sensuality” Edie (Christopher Kenney) tries to keep a secret from audiences at Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” until the end of the show.

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Christopher Kenney’s job description is “Mistress of Sensuality” in Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” at New York-New York. The description really belongs to his drag creation and other self, Edie, an impossibly tall, black-haired throwback to 1960s chanteuses with long, slender (and large-kneed) legs. Kenney developed those legs as a professional ballet dancer in Oregon, before creating Edie in 2000 in New York City. Kenney — and Edie — joined “Zumanity” as its hostess in January 2008.

“Zumanity” is more pan-sexual than the usual Vegas topless revue or male strip show. How do you make the audience comfortable?

Edie adds a finesse to it. She makes it accessible, so it’s not scary. I’m kind of scooping everybody up and taking them with me, so everyone is “us” — not “us” and “them.”

Does being in drag make that easier?

Drag is a wonderful way to give you courage. If I walked into a room like, ‘Hi, everybody, I’m fabulous!’ you would think I was a freak. But if I put on a wig, it’s fun. For me, it’s a character, not a lifestyle.

How did you change your act for “Zumanity”?

Edie’s my ’60s go-go fun girl, but this is sexier. We tweaked. I’m wearing a corset for the first time, which changes everything, like nerve feeling.

The Vegas audience is more middle America than New York City or San Francisco — does the audience get drag?

They’re probably less exposed to it, on average. So during the show, Edie acts as sexy and soft as possible and we try to keep that suspense through to the conclusion, when I put my finger to my lip and go, ‘Shhh ...’ It’s a fun little game to play.

If you could change one thing about Las Vegas, what would it be?

I would love for the gay community to be more of a community like it is everywhere else, even in small cities. Where are the gay coffee shops? Even the gay nightclubs are owned by straights. It’s all about money.

How has Las Vegas surprised you?

I thought I would only tolerate Las Vegas. No. The sunshine is addictive and I love the grocery stores — all of these aisles of food! And now I live in a big house instead of a 350-square-foot apartment in New York City.

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