Scott Heierman was always funny, but he was not always the Scott Heierman you see before you now in cropped top, miniskirt, Betsey Johnson bag and glittery heels that elevate him half-a-floor above his fellow Lexingtonians.
He and his pink eyebrows may don more conventional attire and deliver pizzas for his current employer, Mad Mushroom on South Broadway — the Pepto Bismol-and-neon eyebrows, he said, "have probably sobered up half the UK campus" — but right now he is simply fabulous.
Heierman wowed the judges — especially radio shock jock Howard Stern — on the audition rounds of NBC's summer show America's Got Talent broadcast on June 9 and will go on to compete on the show.
Heierman's audition included jokes about being adopted, liked less by his parents than his sister, being overweight and the lack of skills he picked up in the Boy Scouts (where he suggested he was taught survival skills in "Bucktooth, Kentucky" while fueled by "testosterone and trail mix.")
He was initially a bit nervous during the audition, but fell into his groove once he got the first laugh.
America's Got Talent's Facebook page rhapsodized over Heierman like this: "Two words we'd use to describe Scott Heierman: 1) Yas. 2) Queen."
Kentuckians have had good luck with America's Got Talent.
In 2008, country singer Kevin Skinner of Graves County, once a chicken plucker, won the competition. In 2012, Richmond-based sand artist Joe Castillo, who creates scenes on a light board, was a finalist.
Who inspires Heierman comedically?
Joan Rivers, the late comedian whose trademark line was "Can we talk?" is one. Heierman has a bit of the late Rivers' timing and piercing, yet not vindictive, delivery in his performance. He's also fond of Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous, Carol Burnett (particularly her variety show classic turn as a Scarlett O'Hara-like belle wearing an entire wall of green velvet curtains) and the late Beatrice Arthur and her colleagues on The Golden Girls ("I felt like those women were my friends"). He also grew up liking Red Skelton and Hogan's Heroes.
Heierman, 25, was raised in Lexington near Man o' War Boulevard and Harrodsburg Road, where he lived with his parents and sister. In sixth grade, at Beaumont Middle School, he was named "most likely to wind up in show business."
He graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, where he met drama teacher Patricia "Trish" Clark. Clark is now the director of the Woodford Theatre. She was the first person he came out to as a gay man.
"All I said was, 'I want to be normal,'" Heierman remembered. "She said, 'Scott, you are normal.'"
So, his performances on America's Got Talent are for Trish Clark, Heierman said.
"I wanted to be the one to make it, for her."
Clark described Heierman as "an amazing young man."
"I am impressed with every single thing he does, with his courage and his determination," Clark said. "His head works in creative ways like I've never seen in anyone I've ever met in figuring out how he's going to find his place. ... If he never did another thing I would be so impressed with all of that. ... I am very, very proud of him."
Heierman once weighed 300 pounds, as he told the America's Got Talent audience in his audition, saying he missed the days when his all-purpose outfit was sweatpants and a T-shirt. Once he could not fit on The Beast rollercoaster at Kings Island, which he said was particularly humiliating.
Heierman said he is also shy. The costume, body language and delivery — a cross between Dorothy Zbornak and Kathy Griffin — help carry him past his shyness.
Heierman has always been fascinated by dressing in drag, he said, but he did not realize that it was possible to do it as more than a hobby.
"I saw RuPaul's Drag Race and said, 'You can do that for a living?" he said. "... Dressing up as a woman I feel totally confident, totally beautiful — but I don't want to be a woman."
He is touched by the response he has received from appearing on America's Got Talent, particularly the children who imitate him. Heierman pulled out his cellphone and shared a photo of a girl in Odessa, Texas, who dressed up like him.
Since graduating from high school, Heierman has held various jobs, among them cruise ship bingo master (which allowed him to work on his stand-up routine) and California nanny. His four child charges used to beg him to dress in drag when he took them out.
"I'm like, 'It's going to be hot, there's going to be people — give me 30 minutes,'" Heierman said. "For kids, it's the ultimate pretend time."
America's Got Talent will continue through the summer — with some additional judges' cuts winnowing down the remaining acts before the finals are held at Radio City Music Hall on August 11—September 16 — but Heierman already has plans for his future.
When he finishes delivering pizzas, he wants to do a stand up show called Legally Bearded and then try for a career in sitcoms.
"Sitcoms have always been my big dream," Heierman said.