Drag performer Delighted Tobehere proved she was ready for prime time in 2015 when she wowed the judges on “America’s Got Talent.”
“I will talk about this story until I’m blue in the face because it was inspirational to me,” explained Clay Smith, Delighted’s 39-year-old male alter ego. “I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina at the time and already touring internationally. I happened to be in L.A. doing a drag brunch with maybe six people in the audience and five girls in the show. The others were trying to get out of their final numbers, but I thought if it took me two hours to look like this, I’m going to do all my numbers and some of yours, too.”
Smith’s determination paid off when a casting producer for “America’s Got Talent” stepped up after the show and asked if he had ever considered being on TV.
“I said yep, as long as it’s not ‘Cops,’” Smith recalled.
In an email later that afternoon, the producer invited Delighted to join the cast for a taping of the show — the following week.
“I flew home, repacked, flew back to L.A. and my first experience was walking on stage at the Dolby Stage where they hand out the Oscars. The whole thing proved you never know who is watching … entertainers, accountants, parents, anything … and you don’t know the impact you’re making on other people,” Smith pointed out.
Delighted was the first contestant to be advanced to the next round with four unanimous votes and “for the next six hours, my feet never touched the ground. It was a life-changing moment, not because my phone began ringing off the hook afterward, but the validation of those ‘yes’ votes certainly elevated how people viewed me.”
She didn’t win the competition, but her career did take off and the South Carolina native soon moved to New York City where she wowed the city’s picky audiences with her drag, singing and comedy.
After nearly a year of isolation during the COVID-19 shutdown, Delighted is happy to be back on stage and will be coming to Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage, Aug. 11 – 15.
“I’m so grateful to be on the road, grateful to be in the air, grateful to have an audience again,” Delighted said while driving to a performance in Palm Springs. “It’s been a difficult time for the performing arts industry, folks whose purpose, whose calling in life is to entertain people has been denied us. It’s been hard and I have a lot of pent-up energy.”
She laughed that she spent much of the pandemic in therapy, but also managed to pen her new show, “Hello, Daddy.”
“That was one of my passion projects during the pandemic — creating my 20th-anniversary show — and the results are pretty exciting,” she said.
The performer has written her own shows for the past eight years, running the gamut from country music spoof “She-Haw” to “Drag 101,” where she walked out on stage as “Clay” and transformed into Delighted right in front of the audience.
“I’m just tired of her [Delighted] getting all the credit for all my hard work. What you see is that struggle … after 20 years, what do you do next? This is as close to a drag mid-life crisis as you can get!” she said.
Delighted Tobehere performs “Hello, Daddy!” Aug. 11 – 15 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Dr. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $35 at EmpireStage.com.