His Alter Ego Patty Cakes Connects People Through Love, Honesty, And A Touch Of Sass
Words by Staci Backauskas • Photos by Zach Ivey
Known to many as Patty Cakes, the gregarious drag queen who creates safe spaces for people to connect with themselves and one another, Patrick Pierre moves through the world with kindness and an aversion to facade. “You’ve got to sit in the truth, right?” he asks rhetorically. “You can’t project something onto someone just so your fake idea can be your fake truth.”
Pierre’s commitment to that path stems from a childhood where he learned how to navigate between joy and trauma at an early age. At 3, his mother left him and his younger brother in Haiti to follow his father to the U.S. For two years, they lived with his grandmother in a house overflowing with young cousins whose parents had made the same choice.
It was in that organized chaos that Patty Cakes first appeared. “She was this energy with a larger-than-life personality that had the power and inner strength, the confidence to look after my younger brother,” he says.
When they boarded a plane for New York two years later, the excitement of seeing the city lights from the air was tempered with the stress of the reunion. “When we arrived, my brother didn’t recognize my mother,” he shares. “And I was only a year-and-a-half when my father left. It felt like abandonment.”
Both his neighborhood and the Catholic school he attended were fully integrated, which showed Pierre how acceptance benefits everyone. “We had the Irish across the street, the Filipinos next door, the Jamaicans on the corner. When I look back, growing up in that community is one of the treasures of my childhood.”
Those formative years provided insights into the similarities shared by humans and the superficiality of most differences. “That’s the American fabric,” he says. “It’s not this whitewashed ‘Let’s make America great again.’ We’re the country of promises. People are at the border because they want to be a part of this American experiment. But we keep them at bay coming from a place of lack. But that was never America’s story.”
Pierre feels a responsibility to share that story with the world, and Patty Cakes is his public way of doing that. “I don’t have a guard up,” he says. “I’m here meeting you with my arms open.”
Patty Cakes first performed at the Boatslip Resort & Beach Club in Provincetown in 1994. “It was the crown jewel of bars in P’town,” Pierre says. While working as a cocktail waiter, he noticed the bar was empty after Tea Dance, so he approached the owner with the idea of doing live “Dating Game” and “Newlywed Game” shows.
Those were successful, which buoyed his confidence and unknowingly laid the foundation for the type of drag queen Patty Cakes is — a host, emcee, and storyteller. “I cannot lip sync!” Pierre laughs. “What I do is take Patrick’s personality and identity and put them through this prism to shine them into the world.”
This is the energy he brought to DAP Health’s Pride Pavilion in November 2022, when he hosted the Speed Friending event. “It was the first time we had tried this idea of breaking isolation by introducing LGBTQ+ folks to each other in a way that was accessible to everyone,” says DAP Health Director of Brand Marketing Steven Henke. “Patty Cakes made everyone feel they were part of Palm Springs Pride.”
Pierre began volunteering with DAP Health in 2013, a year after he relocated to Palm Springs from Atlanta. “I lost three houses in the crash, was thousands of dollars in debt, and had a crappy credit score,” he laughs. “So, I came West.”
Another organization he donates his time to is Brothers of the Desert, a nonprofit that provides a network of support for Black gay men in the area. “There is the compounded stigma of being Black and gay,” he says. “Here there’s an instant connection. A lot of things don’t need to be said because they’re understood. We want to take the love and support we have within us and bring it into Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.”
Pierre appreciates the relationship the Brothers have with DAP Health, and highlights the importance of reaching more of the Black community with resources, education, and opportunities for camaraderie. “It’s been a wonderful symbiotic relationship,” he says. “DAP Health has helped us get the word out on who the Brothers are, and really supports us.”
For the foreseeable future, Pierre is focused on building a bigger platform for Patty Cakes. “For the past 10 years, I’ve been rebuilding and licking my wounds so I’m looking forward to really stepping into who I know myself to be and letting the world know Patrick and Patty Cakes,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of bumps and scrapes, and now I’m ready to, you know, conquer the world.”