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
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”