I have a feeling we’re not in Cumberland anymore”
Playing 20 Questions with a new icon whose roots run deep in Allegany County
I left Miss Toto a voicemail on her cellphone regarding our interview and it was fun to hear her say “You’ve reached William Evans.” William Evans? What? Yup… that’s Miss Toto’s birth name, given by their parents who still reside in Cumberland. Their nickname is Rock Evans but her drag persona – which just in the last year has catapulted her to fame in Miami, Chicago and social media is Miss Toto – the name derived from origins that may be surprising. In 2014, Evans moved to Miami and started bodybuilding. They wanted to challenge themselves after completing challenges like the Spartan Race and the Mud Run. Their first competition was September 2016. In 2015, Miss Toto was created and a move to Chicago during the height of the pandemic changed everything. Since then, Miss Toto or Rock Evans has appeared in such national magazines as Men’s Health and has been mentioned in Huffington Post stories.
In June, Miss Toto – who is in fact a product of Allegany County, Maryland – will be the headliner for the fifth annual Cumberland Pride Festival.
And when she called me back, we talked for more than an hour and it was one of the most fun and most enlightening interviews of my entire career.
Allegany Magazine: What would you like to talk about first? Bodybuilding or drag?
Miss Toto: The bodybuilding stuff is a little dated. I haven’t competed since before the pandemic. I still keep in shape and still have the bodybuilding physique but talking about competitive bodybuilding is beating a dead horse a little. So let’s talk about drag. That will be more fun.
AM: Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
MT: I was born in Los Angeles and moved to Cumberland when I was two. My parents do still live there. I actually started out going to Humpty Dumpty. Remember that? I loved Mrs. Llewellyn. And one of my friends from Humpty Dumpty is still one of my best friends to this day. I graduated from Fort Hill High School. I won’t say what year because I started lying about my age two years ago.
AM: Were you active in sports or extracurriculars when you went to school here?
MT: I played baseball, tennis, soccer. In high school, I also cheered and I was in show choir, of course. My family did the best they could raising me in Cumberland but you know, being a black kid and being a queer kid in a small rural town isnt the easiest thing in the world.
AM: You still have a Maryland based cell phone number…so…how connected are you still to your roots and how often do you get back home?
MT: You know what’s funny. There was a point in time when I used to call Cumberland home. Now I refer to it as my parents’ home. It’s not to take away with being raised there. But where I came into my own was in Miami and so I feel like Miami is my chosen hometown. But I do get back to Cumberland when I can. I was just there in May for a drag show and a drag queen competition. At My Place of all places.
AM: Tell me where the Bodybuilding Barbie nickname came from?
MT: I still lift and I am still active in bodybuilding. I just don’t compete. I got that name from doing both drag and competitive bodybuilding in Miami and I loved it immediately and I still love it.
AM: What inspired you to move to Miami to pursue a career?
MT: I left Cumberland after high school and I went to the University of Maryland for four years and got two undergraduate degrees – one in Biology and one in Spanish. And then I moved to Miami to get my Masters in Marine Affairs and Policy.
AM: And two years ago you relocated to Chicago? Was that because of the pandemic?
MT: Partly. Everything in Miami shut down. The drag community in Chicago – particularly the black drag community – was something I wanted to be a part of and surround myself with. And to be honest, Chicago is also close enough that I can be back in Cumberland inside the same day and just drive there.
AM: Do you remember the first time you performed in drag?
MT: The first time I did drag as an adult was in college. I was in a gay fraternity and friends of mine and I did it. I only did it for fun once a semester. I was finishing my degree and I met a group of drag queens who were doing it and here we are.
AM: When did you know this could be a career?
MT: I have always been a performer. My main focus for a long time was on fitness. And any money I made from drag I put back into drag. It really wasn’t a form of income but then I was offered a job producing events and I realized I could produce the events and appear at the events in drag. I’ve been doing it now as a career for about a year. I left a $39,000 a year job to do drag full time. That job was hindering me from opportunities to perform.
AM: Was the pandemic hard on your line of work?
MT: The pandemic was the main reason for the shift. I worked at a gym and the gyms were closed. I worked the clubs and the clubs were closed. I literally had no income and so I took this job. I went to Germany to do a tour with a drag group and I found I was stressing about the $39,000 a year job in Chicago. And I thought – why am I stressing when I could just be a star?
AM: Is the name Miss Toto taken from the Wizard of Oz?
MT: Well…. That’s the PC response. But if you remember, I have a degree in Spanish and in Spanish – particularly Dominican – Toto means something else. It’s a nickname for something else. It’s also the name of a rock band and the name of a luxury toilet. And of course it’s a Wizard of Oz reference. So Miss Toto can be all things to all people, depending on what meaning you choose.
AM: What are some of the funniest or best interactions you’ve had with fans at your shows?
MT: I do have fans and they are really loyal. Sometimes people know I am not going to get to their town and they will drive hours to come see me in a show. Drag fans are so cool and nice. It’s humbling and it’s very cool. I take pride in all of my merchandise and to see someone wear a T-shirt of mine is very cool because I have worked hard and so having a fan base that is supportive is incredible.
AM: Did you have a “coming out” experience?
MT: No. And to be honest, I didn’t think I needed to. I don’t think everyone needs to have one. It’s 2022. Be you. You don’t have to have a big coming out announcement. Straight people don’t have big coming out announcements. I didn’t feel the need to come out until I had a serious boyfriend and then I started bringing him around and just let people figure it out.
AM: What do you think is the greatest challenge for young LGBTQ people today?
MT: Just growing up and knowing they can be themselves. You look at laws like in Florida where they don’t even want you to say the word gay. That is so ridiculous. And actually dangerous. I think people fear what they don’t know. So I would tell young people just be you and once people get to know you, they won’t be so ignorant or scared. Being queer in a small town is difficult enough. We need to make it easier for kids to be who they are, not harder. Kids are pressured enough. We need to let kids be who they are and let them figure some things out for themselves. Remember it’s not the oppressed’s obligation to educate the oppressor. Life is a journey and we’re all on our own journey.
AM: What does “Pride” mean to you?
MT: Pride to me is being as authentic as you can be to who you are and to celebrate you who are. In this case, in the LGBTQ+ community, it’s about celebrating us. It’s about our own community and celebrating that we are special. Pride gives people the opportunity to celebrate their other-ness and their queer-ness among others. Pride should not just happen in the darkened clubs. Pride is not something in the shadows that should be celebrated in the dark.
AM: How do you think the Cumberland you grew up is different than the one today?
MT: Look, the Cumberland I grew up in just 10 and 12 years ago would not have even had a Pride festival. So I think there is movement to be inclusive and to be understanding and to be diverse and I think it’s amazing and even a little crazy that I am coming to town to be the headliner for Pride in Cumberland.
AM: What is one thing that would surprise people about you?
MT: I love sharks. I want to save all the sharks.
AM: What advice would the you of today have for the 10-year old you?
MT: I would sit that kid down and say “Girl, hang in there. Everything is going to work itself out.” Everything I have done in life has led me to where I am today. Every little thing adds on to the next. So I would say “You are doing what you need to do. Nothing is ever easy. Life is full of speed bumps and when you feel like you are going off track, realize you’re on the track you need to be on.”
AM: What is it that you would love to do next?
MT: Do you know that every time I speak a goal out loud it comes to fruition? So I am sometimes careful about what I put out there. Every year instead of resolutions, I make a list of things I want to do that year. I made a list this year that I wanted to be on TV in drag and I think I can say this – I just filmed an episode of the new Queer As Folk and that episode will air this summer. We just shot that in New Orleans and that was fun. I want to travel more. I want to go to Europe again.
AM: Anything else?
MT: I want to have a big magazine spread. Do you know anyone who can make that happen?