When I learned that Nashom Wooden, more notoriously known as Mona Foot, had died of Covid-19 my brain exploded into an instant Covid-19 warp speed intersection with the height of the AIDS crisis.
Mona Foot helped get me through the fear and paralysis of living through a plague and helped the psyche of a generation of East Village queers do the same.
Whether at East Village’s Boy Bar, Pyramid Club, Crowbar or The Cock, or in Chelsea’s Barracuda, Mona Foot was a wonderful force of nature who lived at wits edge.
My favorite interaction with Mona was at Wigstock in the early 1990s in Tomkins Square Park.
I was dressed as Janice Joplin and had water balloon tits, no makeup and a terrible wig. Mona decided to take charge and redecorate me.
“Girl, your wig is on backwards!,” Mona declared, flipping it around. “And where’s your goddamn ham sandwich, bitch!”
It had been all I could do to get dolled up and drag myself out of my Avenue B apartment for Wigstock. I was caring for a friend at the time and was near collapse with depression.
Mona Foot, drawing on my face and applying lipstick everywhere said, “Snap out of it.” And took off to hang out backstage and wait along with many of what became today’s Hollywood drag-set for a star turn.
I did snap out of it. At least for a moment. And I have never forgotten being brought back to joy.
In later years, one of her Wigstock performances transfixed New York.
Wooden told Michael Musto, reporting for Paper Magazine in 2017, “I really became intoxicated once I did Wonder Woman at Union Square Park. I could see the power of it. No one saw that coming. To be not only a superhero, to be Black and a man. I didn’t realize at the time I was feminine. The message was so powerful, performing ‘I’m Every Woman’ as Wonder Woman.”
Linda Simpon, a prominent drag figure and then hostess on the East Village scene, told the Los Angeles Blade “I thought it was funny that Nashom was constantly stopping and restarting Mona Foot’s career. He’d make a big deal about how he was retiring Mona, and then a while later she would make a big comeback that everyone would flock to. I think Nashom was serious in his intent of quitting, but Mona couldn’t be held down.”
“Nashom was not an obvious person to do drag,” Simpson noted. “He was a big, muscular guy. But with corseting and other methods, he was able to transform into a womanly persona. Like a glamorous female bodybuilder.”
Then as now we were social distancing, but condoms were the only distance we needed.
Then like now an invisible killer was lurking.
Then like now there was no treatment.
Then as now there was no vaccine to prevent the uninfected from contracting the disease.
Then as now we feared being engulfed.
Then as now we knew our government had failed us.
Then as now we feared the unknown.
Then as now a virus robbed us of our most talented treasures.
Then as now there seemed to be no end to what we faced.
But Mona Foot was a member of a drag tribe that pulled us through it with the comedic rage of irreverence, the self-effacing comedy of a grim time, the boundary pushing, risk taking spectacular of it all.
Drag allowed us to push through our own aspect of an epidemic and beat it with parallel tracks of joy and activist rage.
And, as Mona Foot, Wooden embodied that — as likely to be electrifying a stage as lying in the street protesting with ACT-UP, working every noted club and every noted queens last nerve while imparting joy.
I can hear Mona’s influence and the influence of the era in this dance hit song Mona Foot wrote for the movie Flawless.
Shazam. Thank you for snapping me out of it.