Getting to Know Sugar B. Real

Sugar B. Real
Sugar B. Real at the Cherry Grove Pride Parade, 2024.
Photo by Lorraine Michels.
Arts Project of Cherry Grove Homecoming Queen Sugar B. Real.Photo © Susan Kravitz

On July 4th, Sugar B. Real will lead the royal procession during the 49th Annual Invasion of Fire Island Pines. She does so as the 2024 Arts Project of Cherry Grove Homecoming Queen. Sugar’s picture has been published in our newspaper pages frequently since she won that crown, and why not? The camera seems to love her! She is a woman with an amazing story to tell. So, we sat down to listen.


Fire Island & Great South Bay News (FIN): Before we start talking about Sugar B. Real, can you please tell me about Rhonda Potter?

Sugar B. Real (SBR): Rhonda Potter was born in 1964 in the nation of Trinidad and Tobago. I come from a family of five. We are a close family, and we settled in the United States when I was 9 years old. I earned my degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and worked as a buyer and manager in many design houses – Anne Klein, Jones New York, and David’s Bridal. Then in 2010, my position was downsized and I became the manager of a construction company. The jobs, in some ways, are not much different. I don’t go by the name Rhonda Potter that much anymore.


FIN: When did you become Sugar B. Real?

SBR: Years ago, a good friend who was active with the Imperial Court of New York had tickets to an event called “Night of 1000 Gowns.” Well, my fashion sense kicked in. It was an amazing night and I learned this organization does a lot of fundraising and volunteer work for worthy causes. I have done volunteer work, especially in the LBGTQ+ community. I had a good friend diagnosed with AIDS in the early 1990s when they still really didn’t know what it was. I visited him in St. Vincent’s Hospital. After he passed, I started visiting other AIDS victims in the hospital. Then I started volunteering with God’s Love We Deliver. My volunteer work got me back to the Imperial Court of New York and I became active in it. I started to rise within the organization and eventually, I was told that I had to give myself a drag name. So, I thought about it – Sugar B. Real – people loved it!


FIN: What brought you to Fire Island?

SBR: Oh, the usual things I suppose… I came on vacation with friends in the 1990s. We stayed at the Cherry Grove Hotel where we spent time in the pool and the beach, then went to nightclubs. Then I started renting. It felt like home here. I fell in love with the place. Of course, my work with the Imperial Court also keeps me active here. I just came back from working the Drag Tag sale.


FIN: Before you were Homecoming Queen, you were an Empress in the Imperial Court?

SBR: Yes, I was Empress XXX in 2016/2017 and Empress XXXV in 2019/2020 during COVID. At first, I got pushback as a cis-gender female competing for that role, some men resented it at first.


FIN: It took you more than one attempt to become Homecoming Queen. Why did you want this?

SBR: Who doesn’t like to get dressed up, put on a crown, and walk out the door?


FIN: I understand you had a health scare last year.

SBR: Yes, I had a brain aneurysm. I’m lucky to be alive, and had things turned out differently I may not have. I had an appointment to be interviewed by Diane Romano to become a board member of the Arts Project of Cherry Grove. We had to reschedule. Then I had the aneurysm during the interview! She called 911, put me on an ambulance boat, and then I was transported to South Shore University Hospital where they have an excellent neurology department. I spent 17 days in I.C.U. I survived. I’m here.


FIN: Soon you are going to be leading the Invasion of Fire Island Pines. Tell me a little about what will be happening that day.

SBR: This year’s theme of the Invasion is “There’s no place like home.” When I was campaigning for Homecoming Queen, my theme was the Monarch butterfly, because with the Imperial court, I am a monarch, and the Monarch butterfly is so meaningful on Fire Island. Well, I did not want to dress like Dorothy for the parade, I wanted to be the Wizard! So, I will be wearing big green butterfly wings. I asked Joan Van Ness, the first female Arts Project Homecoming Queen 30 years ago, to be part of my royal court. I also asked her wife, Lorraine Michels.


FIN: Is there anything else you want to say that my questions have not touched on?

SBR: I want Fire Island to know they have a Homecoming Queen and spread the word about all the good that the Arts Project of Cherry Grove is doing. Recently, I went to the Top Toque cooking competition in Ocean Beach. I want to explore this island and I want to spread the joy.