BIANCA DEL RIO

In­trepid Myra DuBois digs for all the dirt on Bianca Del Rio but comes up with films, wine, liv­ing the high life and re­fus­ing to be a vic­tim

Attitude - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy Conor Clinch

Shin­ing a spot­light on the planet’s fiercest ( and rud­est) drag queen

There are cer­tain days in his­tory that re­main with us, for ever burnt into our mind’s retina. Most read­ers of this pub­li­ca­tion will re­mem­ber ex­actly what they were do­ing when the Twin Tow­ers were hit. Some might re­call where they were when Pres­i­dent John F Kennedy was as­sas­si­nated. And I’m al­most cer­tain that the sub­ject of this fea­ture knows what she was do­ing when the Ti­tanic sank – but we’ll get to her in a mo­ment.

Me? I re­mem­ber ex­actly what I was do­ing on the tragic day that O2 went down.

It was a chilly morn­ing in early De­cem­ber and I’d been bun­dled into a cab by At­ti­tude mag­a­zine and hurled in the di­rec­tion of a ho­tel in cen­tral Lon­don which, up un­til that day, I’d only ever vis­ited for sex.

We were late, as any car jour­ney­ing through cen­tral Lon­don in­evitably is, and my phone was flat out of data! Well, as you can imag­ine, I was mor­ti­fied. Late for an in­ter­view with Ms Bianca Del Rio, the win­ner of the sixth sea­son of RuPaul’s Drag Race (“An amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence!” she tells me later over a fizzy water), who is about to em­bark on a world­wide tour — a tour that only bloody in­cludes a night head­lin­ing at bloody Wem­b­ley bloody Arena!

Aside from bang­ing a leop­ard- print kit­ten heel ( a shoe I was pi­o­neer­ing long be­fore Theresa May) on the back of the driver’s seat and yelling “Mush” there was lit­tle I could do to speed us up, and with no way of con­tact­ing the pow­ers that be, in­form­ing them of my im­pend­ing de­lay.

Any other jour­nal­ist would have pan­icked but I knew I had an ad­van­tage. You see, not only is Ba­nana Del Taco a world­fa­mous co­me­dian, she also hap­pens to be a dearly loved, close and per­sonal… what’s the word? I know: ac­quain­tance.

I first met Bianca Del Rio in 2014, shortly be­fore she won the show that would trans­form her life. We were per­form­ing at Cam­den’s Black Cap ( RIP) and shared a dress­ing room ( with a door that opened into the gent’s uri­nals), where the plumb­ing was held to­gether with old tights. Oh, the glam­our!

Since then, Bianca has asked me to sup­port her ( some­times phys­i­cally: boy, she can drink) on each UK visit and it’s been a plea­sure to watch her au­di­ence’s grow, swell even, to ca­pac­i­ties reach­ing into the thou­sands. We’ve shared a tour bus, fallen out of bars and spent many an hour ex­chang­ing what I be­lieve the chil­dren call, scald­ing hot tea. It’s be­cause of this that At­ti­tude, in their wis­dom, sent me to chat to the self- de­scribed “Clown in a Gown” for a cover story. What fol­lows is quite sim­ply two girl­friends nat­ter­ing over drinks.

I think we’ll keep this ca­sual and we’ll just chat and laugh and scratch, then hope­fully it’ll be en­ter­tain­ing for other peo­ple. And I fi­nally found an en­ter­tain­ing in­ter­viewer! They al­ways ask the same ques­tions; “What’s Myra DuBois like? What does Myra smell like? Why was Myra born?” That’s a ques­tion I’ve been speak­ing to a ther­a­pist about my­self. So, you’re here to pro­mote your It’s Jester Joke tour? Cor­rect! It’s a new show that I’ll be start­ing in Fe­bru­ary in Aus­tralia. Then I work my way across the globe to Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore, also Brazil and Amer­ica and the UK so it’s, y’know, back on the road.

Also your book, Blame It On Bianca Del Rio, is out now… Yes, it’s avail­able now, it’s been out for a hot minute and it’s me giv­ing ad­vice to peo­ple be­cause as you know, many peo­ple want ques­tions an­swered. So I thought this would be a great way to give the worst ad­vice pos­si­ble be­cause if you’re seek­ing help from a 43- year- old drag queen, you deserve the ad­vice you get.

What you do is very popular. I’m grate­ful that it is, but I also think that the plat­form from the tele­vi­sion show has kind of helped.

Of course, we’re talk­ing about RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Yes, be­fore Drag Race if you wanted to see a drag queen you’d have to go to a gay club or at least the theatre. Drag Race shows a hu­man side of you. Peo­ple are of­ten in­ter­ested in you as a per­son. I wasn’t as nasty on the show as I am in my reg­u­lar shows; it didn’t nec­es­sar­ily fit.

What’s your re­la­tion­ship with the show now? Aside from it be­ing an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity, I re­ally don’t have a re­la­tion­ship with it. I don’t watch the show reg­u­larly be­cause of sched­ules and also, y’know, it’s kind of like you ex­pe­ri­ence it, it’s fun, then you have to move on. I don’t mean that in a neg­a­tive way, I don’t have any an­i­mos­ity to­ward it but all that has kind of been doc­u­mented. But with­out that ex­pe­ri­ence, I wouldn’t be sit­ting here with you. You now have a cou­ple of film cred­its un­der your belt too, don’t you? Yeah! I’m lucky. Prior to Drag Race, a friend of mine by the name of Matt Kugel­man had this idea for a film which dealt with a big si­t­u­a­tion in Amer­ica where, in 29 states, it’s le­gal to be fired for be­ing gay. So it was based on a school­teacher who was fired, and Matt wanted to cre­ate this film and through the magic of tele­vi­sion we were able to get the fund­ing. It’s not based on me in par­tic­u­lar or any­body we know but it was about some­one get­ting fired. From the first film, we were able to do the sec­ond film and now we’re work­ing on the third.

Oh, a third? Yes, a tril­ogy. I go to Africa! It’s been an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity not just for me, but also for Matt. How did you find act­ing com­pared with do­ing theatre shows? I mean you’ve seen the movie, I’m not that good. It’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent. The weird thing is, not every­thing’s a joke. Some­times it’s just the set up for what’s hap­pen­ing in the film. I pre­fer to be live with an au­di­ence be­cause you know when it’s not go­ing any­where. You don’t have to wait nine months un­til it’s edited, watch it and think: ” What the fuck was I think­ing?” or “Why is the cam­era so close?” You cur­rently live in LA but when we met you were in New York. What prompted the move? A lot of it was to do with travel. Get­ting in and out of New York is a night­mare. The schlep around is re­ally chal­leng­ing.

Do you visit New York a lot?

Yeah, now it’s ac­tu­ally fun be­cause I go >

“I WASN’ T AS NASTY ON DRA G R ACE AS I A M I N MY R E GULAR

S H OWS”

and act like a rich white lady. You can go in and see your friends and go to the theatre and go shop­ping, I mean that’s what white peo­ple do. So, I’m liv­ing my fantasy when I get to do that. It’s not as of­ten as I would like to, but it’s a lot to get from point A to point B.

Do you feel any con­nec­tion to the queens work­ing the bars there now?

It’s so weird be­cause with the pop­u­lar­ity of Drag Race, ev­ery­body’s a drag queen now. In New York, any sec­ond- rate cho­rus boy who was in Kinky Boots or La Cage is now do­ing drag on the side, so it’s just this whole new crop of peo­ple and I’ve been out of New York for al­most four years. So, in four years you go back and you think: “Who is this? And why are they 10 years old?”

You’re ap­pear­ing in one of the big­gest venues you’ve ever played [ Wem­b­ley Arena].

It’s crazy. It’s daunt­ing but it’s also chal­leng­ing and you kind of go: “Well this is a great op­por­tu­nity.”

It’s a lot of peo­ple.

It is! And it’s very daunt­ing. When you think about it you go, “Wow!” but then I had to con­sciously think about go­ing from four peo­ple on a Mon­day night in New York City at 1am, to 2,000. I would have never con­sciously made that choice. It just kind of evolved. So, I can’t over­think it. Peo­ple sense your con­fi­dence when you just treat it as it is. And it re­ally is no dif­fer­ent, maybe that’s the prob­lem, you get all wrapped up in your head. And if I had a Cirque du Soleil set and if I had fly­ing mon­keys, it wouldn’t be what I do.

Just a podium and a glass of wine…

Of course! Spe­cial ef­fects are high for me. My list of notes and a glass of wine. And the best part of that is that it’s a magic act: you see the wine dis­ap­pear.

Now, are you ready to get deep and per­sonal?

Oh please, yeah, I’m ready.

You are well- known for your cut­ting hu­mour. How of­ten does Bianca find her­self say­ing some­thing that she later re­grets?

I don’t. That’s the whole thing. I can say what­ever I want and it may not work for ev­ery­one and you have those nights where you think: “Oh, I could have said that bet­ter,” but in the end, I can talk about what­ever I want. You don’t have to like it. And you have to re­alise that I’m not do­ing every­thing for you to like. At one point, I was dis­cussing how I look like a racoon and I thought: the fuck­ing racoon peo­ple are gonna come af­ter me and say I’m be­ing racoon- pho­bic. “How dare you, th­ese noc­tur­nal crea­tures don’t deserve you to com­pare your­self to them!”

We are a cul­ture, not a cos­tume!

Ex­actly! They’re racoons! But I’m mak­ing the joke about my­self and I think that’s what is fas­ci­nat­ing when some­one tells me, “You can’t say that.” You can’t let that bother you be­cause if you do, you’re gonna be apol­o­gis­ing for every­thing.

An­other prob­ing ques­tion. Gays are used to us­ing hu­mour to hide gay trauma etc. How does that ap­ply to you, or is it that a bit too an­a­lyt­i­cal?

It’s fine for you to think that way but that’s not who I am. There’s a lot that’s hap­pened in my life but that doesn’t mean it has to be told. How many sad gay sto­ries do we need in the world? Why can’t some­one just be a clown?

What I’m get­ting at here is: did you con­struct some ar­mour through th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences? Did you learn to be funny to fend off bul­lies in the play­ground?

I guess. I al­ways say that when I was a child, I was called a fag­got be­fore I sucked any­body’s dick. So, you kind of work through it and you just go, “I think this is who I am.” I’m not both­ered by what’s hap­pened to me and I’m a 43- year- old man

“HOW MANY SAD GAY STO­RIES DO WE NEED? WHY CAN’ T SOME­ONE BE A CLOWN ?”

so I’m not go­ing to sit back and go: “When I was a child this is what made me [ this].” I don’t know what made me this, you just roll with the punches. The world doesn’t cater to me and hasn’t fully catered to me, and I think you just have to keep go­ing and if I become a vic­tim that’s dread­ful. There are enough vic­tims. Watch Drag Race if you want a vic­tim, they cry ev­ery episode.

Who are your com­edy in­flu­ences?

I love Joan Rivers and Don Rick­les. Both were bril­liant. And not every­thing is in the same fam­ily, I mean I love Wanda Sykes, and Chris Rock, who is very funny. In the drag world, there’s Lady Bunny who makes me howl be­cause I’m not even con­vinced she’s a hu­man be­ing. Jackie Beach, Sherry Vine, all funny. Charles Pierce, who I love. And there’s Jim Bai­ley who was an im­per­son­ator who did amaz­ing stuff. They were do­ing it way be­fore I was, and are still work­ing if they’re not dead.

“THE WORLD DOESN’ T CATER TOME BUT IF I BECOME A VIC­TIM, THAT’ S DREAD­FUL”

FE­BRU­ARY 2019

FE­BRU­ARY 2019

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