When a toddler asked Marti Gould Cummings to perform his favorite song, the drag queen couldn't say no. Soon, the whole New Jersey restaurant was belting out the viral kids’ song “Baby Shark” with Cummings, and after the video went viral, the rest of the world joined in, too.
"This has been really overwhelming in a good way," Cummings told InsideEdition.com. "This sweet kid and his family were there and it was just a very quick, kind of organic moment during the performance.”
Cummings — who uses the pronouns they/them — has been performing as a drag artist for years, using art as a vehicle for political activism. They perform in six shows per week, including at the restaurant in Jersey City where they sang “Baby Shark.”
“Drag is for everybody — it's an opportunity for an artist to create a persona with which they can entertain people,” Cummings explained. “I look at drag as an opportunity. I have a microphone in my hands six days a week, and a pretty solid social media following, so while I'm telling jokes and while I'm making people laugh and while I'm doing jumps, splits, and kicking and all kinds of stuff, in between all of that fun, I have to let people know this is what really matters.”
And what really matters to Cummings is supporting LGBTQ youth through several organizations they work with, including the Ali Forney Center and the Hetrick-Martin Institute. Cummings was named the Glam Entertainer of the Year in January and is also active in New York City politics. But the drag queen’s rendition of “Baby Shark” brought even more eyes to their work.
“I've been doing drag as a political activist and an LGBT activist for a long time,” Cummings said. “You have this small window of opportunity when something goes viral, so I hope people watching it go: ‘This is a cute video, who is the drag queen behind this, what do I stand for?’”
Cummings said they were inspired by a long line of politically active drag queens.
“Drag and politics have always gone hand in hand. LGBTQ people have been discriminated against for a long, long time,” Cummings said, citing drag queens like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera for their advocacy after the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, as well as the drag queens who demanded action during the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“A lot of our community was horrifically wiped out from this disease, and drag queens took to the streets and they held fundraisers and they raised money and they went and held the hands of people dying when other people were scared to do it,” Cummings said. “When the fight for marriage equality happened, we were out there screaming for marriage equality. Now that the transgender military ban is happening, we stand with our transgender brothers and sisters.”
Cummings said the “Baby Shark” video has received “a lot of positive feedback,” but some mean comments, too.
“It's the internet, so there's been a lot of mean, hateful comments as well, but I have to remember those comments have nothing to do with me —that's somebody's own hurt they're going through, and I'm trying to spread love to them,” Cummings said.
Ultimately, drag is about showing people a different side of life — and that includes kids, too.
“You expose them to something different, and they realize, ‘Oh, this is just a human being.’ A little kid at a drag brunch doesn't see someone dressed a certain way, they see somebody having a good time and making them laugh,” Cummings said. “I think exposing young people to people who aren't like them is how you break prejudice. A young person, a kid, doesn't have hate and bigotry in their system.
"We aren't born to hate.”
The one downside of the viral performance? Like parents around the world, Cummings just can’t seem to get “Baby Shark” out of their head.