Danny Ximo: Sag Harbor’s Fabulous Female Impersonator RaffaShow

Danny Ximo and his alter-ego RaffaShow
Danny Ximo and his alter-ego RaffaShow
Courtesy Danny Ximo

The art spectrum is vast — some artists paint, others sing and a small but growing number of them perform in drag. Daniel Orellano, more commonly known as Danny Ximo or RaffaShow, has been honing his art of female impersonation in Sag Harbor for over a decade, and has become an iconic diva to fans of Our Fabulous Variety Show (OFVS).

From his childhood in Argentina, Ximo felt an “artistic fate within my soul,” he says. As a boy, he would put on imaginary TV shows for his dog, performing as the charming host Ximo, a character he invented. “I knew I was different in the sense that I did things that other boys didn’t do,” he says, admitting to playing dress up in his mother’s clothes.

When a teenage Ximo was getting into theater in 1996, his teacher asked if each student wanted to use their birth name or a stage name, and “that’s when Danny Ximo was born,” he explains. His first memory of performing onstage was in Peter Pan as Captain Hook’s right-hand man, Mr. Smee.

From there, he got the opportunity to be a part of a unique project to support an Argentinian zoo. Students would create a TV show that taught families about animals, and that concept would be developed into the play Waku Waku: The Musical Comedy at the Metropolitan Theatre on Buenos Aires’ Corrientes Avenue. For his songwriting efforts and work on the production, an 18-year-old Ximo was paid $4,000.

“Sometimes when I look back on that moment, I’m impressed how creative I was to work on this big production,” he says, adding that one of the songs used, “How Come?” he wrote when he was 9.

On an educational trip to New York to see The Wizard of Oz in Spanish, Ximo had the words of his mother echoing in his mind:

“Things here (in Argentina) aren’t good. If you think about being an actor or performer, you might as well think about doing something while you’re there, because there’s no future for you here.”

Ximo knew his mother was right. The economy and political situation weren’t ideal in his home country at the time, and an acting career there seemed implausible. In December 2o20, he moved to the U.S.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Although it hurt, I decided to stay here and legalize myself in the States,” he says.

Setting up his new life in Sag Harbor, he acted on the side at first, while working hard and saving up money. His dedication to his role as the Waterfront Beauty Salon and Barbershop receptionist would pay off in promotions to manicurist, waxer, hair stylist and finally owner over 20 years.

Danny Ximo as RaffaShow, Photo: Michael O'Connor
Danny Ximo as RaffaShow, Photo: Michael O’Connor

He’s best known as the starring diva, RaffaShow, in numerous OFVS shows, and in the recent Winter Varietal After Hours Diva Cabaret on December 10, he introduced his partner Robbie Volkel’s diva, Miss Nina, to the world, alongside the third member of the Siren Sisters, Rusty Nails aka John Messina.

“Everything now seems to be very nice toward me — owning the (salon), having a nice partner and good friends, doing whatever I want, and although my artistic phase was on standby for a while, now I can do my performances every now and then,” Ximo says, noting that some of his performances have moved individuals in really profound ways. You never know how you can touch somebody’s soul or how helpful you can be just performing in a way that makes people feel invited and welcomed.”

"New York, New York" featuring Danny Ximo as RaffaShow
“New York, New York” featuring Danny Ximo as RaffaShow

A Conversation with Danny Ximo aka RaffaShow

When did you begin to dip your toes into drag?

My friend Arlene Furer used to own The Cigar Bar for several years before I met her. I would dress up as a woman for Halloween, and she knew that I was a performer and used to be an actor. We had been friends for a long time.

One day, she decided to introduce some entertainment besides the bar itself — where people went to smoke cigars and drink — (because) she wanted to have some kind of attraction,” Ximo explains. “And she proposed, ‘How about you, a performer who I’ve seen in drag, do a drag show?’

At first, I was like, ‘Are you out of your mind? Let me ask my friends and partner what they think. I mean, I will do it, but I need some extra support.’ I went back to my partner and friends, and they were like, ‘Oh, why not? Are you getting paid? Of course you should do it.’”

In 2008, we started to do the RaffaShow. The name “RaffaShow” comes from an Italian singer I like, her name is Raffaella Carrà. “Danny Ximo” is for onstage, but this one is a different persona so I had to come up with a new name.

That’s how “RaffaShow” became the name of my daughter. That’s how it started, and it was a hit … a total success. I was on the front page of a local newspaper as Marilyn Monroe with the (headline) “Boys Will Be Girls.”

I was with Arlene at The Cigar Bar for two years, then through a friend I moved to SkyBar, which is what Page is now in Sag Harbor, and I did several years there.

Miss Nina, RaffaShow and Rusty Nails with the Winter Varietal After Hours performers
Miss Nina, RaffaShow and Rusty Nails with the Winter Varietal After Hours performersJM Erickson

When did your partnership with Our Fabulous Variety Show begin?

Then I met up with Anita Boyer and Kasia Klimiuk, the directors of Our Fabulous Variety Show, in 2011. At first, they proposed for me to be part of the group, because they wanted talent. They didn’t know about me doing drag. …

Then we did a Christmas show … with the number “Sisters” (the reprieve performed by the two male leads of the film White Christmas). … It’s not full drag, but they were nervous to ask me to do this. She was like, “Would you be able to do the number when the boys imitate or mock the sisters?” And I was like, “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do drag.” …

That’s how everything got started. It would be me, the host, and then we decided to include the kids in my numbers. I do things with respect and with love.

I always say this: Although I’m in drag, I don’t define myself as a drag queen, but as a female impersonator.

I think drag queens can be more sexy and sometimes a little more obscene. Not all but some of them. It’s no big deal, I don’t get offended. …

Kasia and Anita are great and say I can do whatever I want. I’m in charge and the producer of the drag section, they leave it in my hands and know that I’m not going to do a strip tease onstage. It’s a family-friendly show. … The kids are amazing.

I’ve known all of them from little kids, and some of them are teenagers already. The level of respect they have for me, for Raffa, for the RaffaShow in general, us queens, and they know Robbie is my partner. It’s really a family-friendly place, OFVS.

So drag has always been more of a performative art form for you, not a way to explore your gender?

I think I mentioned wearing my mother’s clothes when I was a kid, and my mother being cool with it, but it was never a matter of “I need to be a woman.” It’s fun. In the beginning when Arlene proposed this, I was a little shocked, like maybe I could get confused about it, but we’re talking about 2008.

If you think about it, it wasn’t that long ago but it was so much more different from now. Now there are drag queens all over the place, shows and TV shows, but then was a little different. But I never thought about becoming a real woman. …

Somebody gave me a compliment after one of my shows: “I love how you play your femininity when you’re onstage.” And that’s why I say I’m a female impersonator, because I’m trying to imitate everything — except my voice. Sometimes I try to fake it, but I don’t like it.

Everything else is acting, every single move. … I can be in drag in the dressing room and I’m still being me, but then I get onstage and it’s like a magic touch, and I become something different. My femininity comes through my pores, but I’m very conscious that it is a stage thing.

It’s not like I would like to be like that. It is a lot of work between the makeup, hiding your thing and high heels — it’s something that I definitely will not choose to do every single day. …

But I really, really enjoy it. It became my therapy. It is funny, the first time I did Tina Turner, I was going through a breakup with one of my partners … and I just used Tina to release whatever I had within myself, whether it was anger or sadness, I was just shaking it off, literally. It’s very therapeutic.

RaffaShow channeling Cruella de Vil
RaffaShow channeling Cruella de VilCourtesy Danny Ximo

How would you like to see the East End drag scene develop?

We definitely need more action here. I’m always looking for opportunities for myself and for others. … Bella Noche does the same things I do and as readings for kids, as well. She goes to the edge of sexiness, and I feel very identified with her and would like to do something with her eventually.

On the East End, nowadays it’s the three of us — Rusty Nails, myself and Miss Nina — and I know Bella came to do a reading in Bridgehampton this summer, but there’s not much offered. It would be great to expand it, and I would love to see drag queen shows pretty much every day or weekend, like a destination.

It’s huge all over the country, even in the middle of the country. …

Also, Our Fabulous Variety Show has workshops, and we’re going to have a drag queen makeup workshop with kids and whoever wants to come.

We’re going to introduce it little by little. We’re not necessarily going against the flow but with all things that have happened that are so anti-drag queen, anti-gay, we’re trying to … encourage people to support us.

RaffaShow’s next performance with OFVS takes place on Saturday, January 28 at 8 p.m. at LTV Studios in Wainscott. For more info about upcoming shows, visit
ourfabulousvarietyshow.org.

More from Our Sister Sites