Season four of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” arguably the most creative reality show out there (and no doubt the most fabulous) concluded last night with RuPaul crowning Sharon Needles as America’s Next Drag Superstar during the reunion special, taped in front of a live audience last Thursday in Los Angeles.
Now as fans of the show are no doubt well aware, each of the three final queens (Sharon Needles, Chad Michaels and season baddie Phi Phi O’Hara) taped a different ending for the episode, with each of them walking the last runway as the season’s winner, to avoid potential spoilers via the blogosphere. Last night’s win was therefore a surprise for Sharon and the contestants who all (except for pint-sized queen Kenya Michaels) attended a live airing of the reunion at New York’s new XL club.
Before the show got underway on Logo, I sat down with the Sharon, Chad, Phi Phi and fan favorite Latrice Royale (who went on to win the fan voted Miss Congeniality award) at XL, to talk about their time spent on the show.
You’re one of the few queens I keep track of via YouTube. My favorite’s of you hitting up Olive Garden with your pals on your birthday, in full drag no less.
We pick a different one every year. That one was outside of Pittsburgh. We do it every year because it’s the most embarrassing place on the planet. Who doesn’t love an Olive Garden?
Their bread sticks are the best.
I know! And when they say, “When you’re here, you’re family,” we always look at the name tag of the waitress and say, “Hey Lolly, if you’re family can you pick up the bill tonight? Cause if you’re family, you’re paying.” [Laughs]
Throughout the season you kept expressing surprise at how far you had come in the competition. Are you owning the spotlight more now?
Well, yeah. It’s so humbling to become famous that you don’t want it go to head. But there are other times where you know that you deserve this attention, and you just have to soak it up. I go real back and forth with my opinion on fame. When I wasn’t famous I loved to view fame, and now I’m famous I can’t remember why I wanted it. Now it’s so odd to me. It wasn’t what I thought it was. It’s a lot of hard work!
It also gives you this platform. What do you want to do with it?
I’m just happy to work. I don’t want to get Gaga-fied. I don’t want to have to make a product that’s so deliberate about the message, because there never was a deliberate message with me. I just wanted to be a punk rock brat who made a mess and made people laugh, reminding us of how ridiculous and fun nightlife is. I never wanted to be a role model, and now I’m kind of in the position where young kids look up to me. They see something in me that I do not see in myself. It’s a hard work, it’s a responsibility, but it’s a pleasure to do it.
But I never want to tell kids what to do. I don’t want to tell them, “It gets better.” I don’t want to do that. Art should speak for itself.
Let’s take that Gaga thing a bit further. A lot of the judges compared you to her, or lined up your drag alongside her brand…
I love commercial art. I’m a huge fan of Lady Gaga. I didn’t want that responsibility. It’s really hard to have kids come up to me crying, because it makes me cry. I don’t feel like I’m strong enough to guide them through what they need. But you know, they find so much solace in me. I went in this show to be a nightmare, and I just ended up being everyone’ s teddy bear.
You never got to choose a song to perform to. If you had to lip-synch for your life, what song would you choose and why?
I would have used “A Good Imagination” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, that Dina and Latrice did. I love that song! I do it on the road on the time. I like to remind people that even a soulless monster can do a soul number.
If you could star in the biopic of someone’s life who would you choose?
Um, I guess I would want to play Elvira. She has such a great story and I kind of look like her. Maybe Janice Dickinson too. Tammy Faye Baker? I can’t pick!
I have to share something about that. It’s one of my biggest regrets from the show. For the gay pride challenge, I was not creatively on when I was there. We had no less than ten to twenty minutes to start the concept and get the ball rolling. I should have taken that boat, painted it to look like the Titanic and been friggin Celine Dion and thrown the heart at RuPaul’s feet. That challenge would have been mine.
Sum up to me your time spent on the show.
This is my experience on RuPaul’s drag race: three square meals a day, a challenge and put to bed by 9:30pm. Honey it doesn’t get any better than that.
So much was made of the fact that you’re an old hat compared to the other girls. Why did you want to take part?
It was a test for me. It was a personal test a) to see if they would accept me and b) could I handle it? What are you made of? You’re talking all this for 41 years. Can you go into the gauntlet?
I did great and I’m loving it. I’m so happy I did it. Obviously the opportunities and the doors that it opened for me are unlimited. I’m very grateful and feel very blessed.
What have you learned about yourself?
That I can handle it. That I can handle pretty much anything. I’ve been in a fabulous relationship for nine years, and that’s never an easy thing. It’s hard work. So personally I’m very fulfilled. Then on the career side, I did the gauntlet. Whatever happens tonight, it doesn’t matter. I’ve already won in my own way.
Who would win in a cat fight? Bette Davis or Joan Crawford?
Bette Davis. She was just a little more cunning that Joan Crawford. She had a little bit more piss and vinegar. I just think she’d be more quick to pop her in the face.
Phi Phi O’Hara
Do you feel like you were fairly portrayed?
We all know Logo likes to cut and paste some shit. I gave them the material; they can do what they want with it. But they didn’t show enough of me being kind, helpful and sweet. I’ve met so many people and the one thing they say is that I’m nothing like I’m on TV. There’s more to be than being a bitch.
Did you go into the season wanting to stir shit up?
No, I went into the season wanting to win. And so when people would challenge me, I don’t like it. I’ve always been raised to not let people step on my toes. If that means that I have to be a bitch to get to the top, then so be it.
The show wrapped last summer, giving you a lot of time to reflect. Is there anything you would have done differently in retrospect?
Not at all. I don’t live and regret. What’s done is done. I think the way that I was so competitive and my attitude got me to where I was. I’ve always been known to be a fighter, and I will continue to be that way.
Who have you remained close with since wrapping the show?
Actually I’m friends with everybody! Which is funny, because like I said, during the competition we were there to compete, and now we can the best of buds. I love everybody. Well all keep in touch via our cell phones.
Has RuPaul been accessible since the cameras stopped rolling?
Luckily I’ve done a lot of gigs with her, so I’ve seen her a lot. But it’s not like she comes out to my shows or anything.
She’s like the Wizard of Oz of drag.
[Laughs] I have to click my heels to get her there. When she is there, she’s always nice and still very helpful. She genuinely cares about all the girls.
Is you could star in a biopic of anyone’s life, who would you choose and why?
I want to do mine. My childhood is a good juicy one. It would be a box office hit. People always tell me I look like Robert Downey Jr.
If he was in the film, who would he play?
So you’d be essentially loving yourself.
Yeah [laughs]. I’d get to show my serious acting abilities.
So you see yourself as an actor like Willam?
No I don’t play ticked off tranny number four to the right. But it’s hot here, so my beard’s showing like Willam’s.
It seems like you took it the hardest when you were voted out.
The tears were not about disappointment. It was an overwhelming mix of emotions. The fact that I had made it as far as I did, and that I knew my life was going to be forever changed, is where a lot of that come from. I wanted to convey that to RuPaul and let him know that I really appreciated and loved everything that he’s done for the world of drag.
Anything that you’d change looking back on the show?
If I would have known that I could have used more of my own drag in my challenges and not sew from scratch, I would have used my own. But my own integrity wouldn’t let me do that. I wanted to really embrace the challenges full on and really go for it.
You caught some flack making a statement about just that, with regards to taking sides with Phi Phi over Sharon Needles, due to Phi Phi’s seamstress skills. Do you still stand behind that?
Yeah, I still do, only because I know how talented Phi Phi is as a seamstress. She sewed her ass off. Really I know what Sharon did. Sharon got her good laundry out of a bag and won the challenge. It’s about integrity, not so much as the story you can tell the judges to make them believe whatever you want to sell.
You hear all these horror stories about how reality show contestants are forced to drink and not sleep in order to make for better TV. What did RuPaul do to you?
[Laughs] All of the above! And they took my phone away! We didn’t sleep very much. On average we slept like four, five hours. It’s really stressful.
Of all the queens, your drag is the most emotional. You really go for the core of what the song’s about. What’s your approach?
Well my approach to any kind of song or doing my drag is you have to listen to the words, and you have to know the story of it so you can convey it. I’m not singing it live, but I want to give it emotion as if it’s coming from my heart.
If you could star in a biopic of anyone’s life, who would you choose and why?
I would love to do the story of Aretha Franklin. That’s my girl. She’s the ultimate diva.