RuPaul’s Drag Race is undoubtedly one of the biggest TV shows in the world right now. Knocking boundaries for those on the fringes of society, it has brought the art of drag to the forefront of mainstream consciousness, along with a much needed spoonful or two of hate. Riley met with 2014 Drag Race winner, Bianca del Rio, about the changing face of the modern world, her upcoming 2016 film and this year’s Rolodex of Hate solo tour.
Shantay, you stay Bianca Del Rio! Yes, that’s right. I got the opportunity to sit down and chat with the queen. No, not the corgi obsessed old lady residing in Buckingham Palace but the Drag Queen Mother of Shade. Everybody knows the biggest thing to come from RuPaul’s Drag Race was of course Michelle Visage’s cleavage but, more importantly, it gave the world the hurricane of sass that is Bianca Del Rio.
But before the showbiz success, young Bianca was just like you or me: chasing after a dream with her weave blowing in the wind and there even came a time when she was ready to throw in the tiara and call it a day on her drag dreams for ever.
“I’m doing drag nineteen years and it will be twenty in January, and Drag Race really happened at a good time for me because I was tired and ready to give up drag and then this amazing opportunity happened.”
Before her move to TV screens, Bianca had nearly taken her fake eyelashes off for good when suddenly came the big break she was waiting for in the form of a “shemail” from RuPaul, inviting Bianca to take part in one of the hottest shows on television, RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“I was living in New Orleans and I was working in the theatre doing costumes, wigs and makeup, which lead to me doing a part in a play where I was in drag and from that it just snowballed. I was working five days a week in the bars at the age of twenty, I moved to New York when I was thirty, and now here in Los Angeles when I was forty. Everything happens every ten years for me.”
Del Rio took home the Drag Race crown in in 2014, a year which saw fourteen hopefuls competing for the title of America’s next drag superstar. It eventually climaxed at suspenseful finale with three finalists; Adore Delano, Courtney Act and Bianca Del Rio. Apart from the title, RuPaul’s Drag Race offered the victor a prize package including a lifetime supply of Colorevolution Cosmetics and $100,000. Bianca is the only queen in the history of the show to make it through an entire season without ending up in the bottom two or receiving a low score in any of the main challenges and the second to win the overall season without being in the bottom two.
She admits that it wasn’t all about winning for her, she was in great company with Adore and Courtney and is blown away by the fact that even people across the water in Ireland and Europe know her now. She gushed: “I’ve been able to travel the word [on Rolodex of Hate tour] because of this television show and it’s honestly kind of surreal.”RuPaul’s Drag Race is, of course, ultimately for entertainment purposes, and as with all performance based arts, one question we all find ourselves asking when watching it all staged on a reality based show is just how authentic a person truly, is compared to the way they are portrayed on screen.
“In the beginning not many people liked me because they thought I was just bitch but as the show went on and as I gained people’s trust, things started to change.”
It’s true, as was seen when things got very serious very quickly on the show. Between meltdowns and a fellow contestant sharing their story of HIV, Bianca eventually showed a much softer side of her that previously only her friends had witnessed.
“It’s funny, I spent years working in the bars and people only ever knew me as a nasty bitch and the show let people see another side of me ,which most of my friends know is the real me.”
In terms of the performance at the heart of our discussion, I was curious to find out where Bianca drew the line, if any, between being in drag and out of drag and whether or not they were two different people. Rest assured though, as the Drag Race champion admits: “It’s kind of like the same thing, I’m pretty much the same person, but with a wig of course you get away with murder.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race has definitely played its part in creating a more inclusive world, especially for the LGBT communities but arguably it extends out to all groups of people.
“Of course it has done well for these communities but I think it has changed the world. It opens the minds of straight people and even the majority of people who follow me on social media are straight!”
Drag really is an act of liberation and an art form and Bianca has met many straight men who love to perform in drag and then go home to their wives. There is no one “type” of person who does drag, she claims.
Since being crowned the season six Queen Mother, the fiery diva decided to take control of her now successful drag career and to date has even done shows with the late Joan Rivers. Working with sharptongued comedian sensation Rivers would be a dream come true for any young star and many would kill to get such an opportunity. Bianca featured on Joan’s online series In Bed With Joan in August of 2014 about which she told Motley: “[In Bed with Joan] was an unreal and insane opportunity for me and I am eternally grateful for it. Joan was one of the funniest, smartest and most generous people I have ever met.”
As if that wasn’t enough, we can confirm that Bianca has finally finished filming her debut film Hurricane Bianca, which she was inspired to make because “in the U.S it’s legal in several states to be fired for being gay, so the movie is about this school teacher who gets outed by someone and he decides to seek revenge on the town by returning as Bianca Del Rio. It’s a comedy but it deals with some serious subjects.” While nothing is set in stone in regards to the release date it is hoped that the movie will be released by next summer.
On the other side of the screen, Del Rio’s fans can catch their favourite Queen currently touring the world with her new comedy show Rolodex of Hate, which is getting rave reviews and guaranteed to hurt your feelings. Sold out showings of the tour hit Dublin last month to roaring success. For those of you who missed being personally victimised by it, she says of the performance: “I’ve been travelling with this comedy act which is basically a collection of my hateful thoughts. It’s a good time and expect the unexpected.”
As we began to say our goodbyes, Bianca paused to congratulate Ireland as a nation for fighting for marriage equality and insisted on leaving this message for her Irish fans: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so supportive and coming out to see me [on tour]. I grew up in Louisiana and we love to drink too and now I’m ready to carry on a drink and a laugh in Ireland.”
Bianca Del Rio will star in upcoming 2016 feature film Hurricane Bianca, which is currently in post-production. The film is a comedy that strikes a serious chord, as it tells the story of a teacher, fired for being gay, who returns disguised as a “mean lady” to get revenge on the nasty town. It is still possible to be fired for being LGBT* in 27 American states.