Drag performer Marti Gould Cummings fancies himself a crowd pleaser, but he may have met his biggest fan yet: a 2-year-old boy who saw Cummings perform the hit children’s song “Baby Shark” at a drag brunch this weekend in New Jersey.
The performance was caught on camera and posted to Instagram and Twitter, where it has amassed more than 500,000 views in two days.
“So many people have responded to the video with so much love,” Cummings told NBC News. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez liked it on Instagram. Gus Kenworthy and Audra McDonald retweeted.”
“The internet can be such a toilet for negative, toxic behavior and misinformation, so it feels incredible to be part of this one moment that is using the internet to spread so much love and joy,” he added.
Cummings, who has been performing drag for nearly a decade in New York City, recently started hosting a drag brunch at Talde, a restaurant in nearby Jersey City, New Jersey. Cummings said there’s usually a few kids in the audience, but they’re typically on some sort of electronic device and not paying attention.
“But Saturday we decided to do a ‘drag roulette,’ where the audience picks a bunch of songs for us to perform at random,” Cummings explained. “I asked the little boy what he wanted to see performed, because he had been paying attention when I got to their table, and he asked for ‘Baby Shark.’ The DJ quickly found the song online, and we added it to the playlist for him.”
The boy clapped during the whole song and appeared to enjoy the impromptu performance. However, some people who saw the video argued that drag is not appropriate entertainment for children. Cummings quickly responded to a critic who asked on Twitter what kind of place would allow a child to attend this type of brunch. “A place that is welcoming to everyone. Where joy is spread and hate isn’t allowed through the doors,” he tweeted.
“Anyone who thinks drag isn’t for children is wrong,” Cummings told NBC News. “Drag is expression, and children are such judgment-free beings; they don’t really care what you’re wearing, just what you’re performing.”
“It’s the same when I do Drag Queen Story Hour,” he added, referring to a popular event held across the U.S. where drag queens read to children at public libraries and bookstores. “They don’t care that I am a gay man in a dress; they care about the story I am reading.”
“It would be nice if us adults could let the child inside of us out for a little bit, so maybe we could all be a little more accepting of others ourselves,” Cummings continued.
When he’s not performing, Cummings, a native of Kennedyville, Maryland, is politically active. Seated on the Mayor’s Nightlife Advisory Board in New York and the board of directors for the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBTQ youth, Cummings said he believes it’s a drag queen’s duty to give back to the community.
“Look, it’s the 50th anniversary of Stonewall this year, and that movement was a movement led by drag queens and gender-nonbinary people,” Cummings said, referring to the 1969 riot at New York City gay bar Stonewall Inn. “We must use our voices and carry on the message that began at Stonewall. We have come a long way, but we still have a very long way to go.”