‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ winner Bianca Del Rio offers advice to the new class of queens
Bianca Del Rio was on her “little Dolly Parton tour bus” heading from Detroit to Chicago for the next stop on her comedy tour, Blame It on Bianca, when we got to chat. “The Clown,” as her assistant refers to her, just wrapped the first part of her international comedy circuit in seven cities in Australia, two in Asia and two in South America. She has returned to North America for 35 more tour stops before heading to Europe this summer for an additional 15 bookings.
But that’s not all that the winner of season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race is up to. She’s getting ready for the May release of her book, Blame It on Bianca Del Rio: The Expert on Nothing With an Opinion on Everything, as well as the upcoming Hurricane Bianca: From Russia With Hate — a sequel to the 2016 film she starred in. She’s also just released her eponymous make-up remover (endorsed by Norma Desmond herself, Glenn Close).
Busy as ever, Bianca shows no signs of fatigue. In fact, during our phone interview, I can hear audible tinges of delight that anyone would be interested in a 42-year-old man in a wig spattering a breed of comedy that feels somewhat bygone in its brashness. But as her continued and unwavering success indicates, her surprise remains our delight.
Mic: I recently rewatched your episode of In Bed With Joan [Rivers] and you both talk about the ways in which people these days seem to be offended by everything. That was 2014. Has that changed?
Bianca Del Rio: I think social media has made it insane as far as people voicing their opinions of what they’re offended by which I think is laughable. And Joan had given me some really great advice back then and was just like “Fuck it. Don’t read the comments just do you. Own it.” For me in particular, I’m the biggest joke that there is. I’m a man in a wig. So consider the source. In the world we live in, you can’t be upset with me when we have that piece of shit running the White House. So let’s just be real here. The moral compass is all over the place. You don’t like me? Totally fine with me.
And that also comes with age. I’m 42. It’s like, “I could really give a fuck what a 13-year-old in Phoenix thinks of me; she can kiss my ass.” But that’s what you get on social media. And sometimes, I think with my personality in particular, people provoke or write nasty things just to get some form of attention, so I really don’t take it that seriously as far as what people have to say or worry that the climate is too much. Funny is funny. Either you get it or you don’t. And usually the smart people do.
How do you think gay people’s understanding of drag has changed or, dare I say, evolved, over the last 10 years?
BDR: I’ve been doing this 22 years and for many years, gay men were the most horrible people toward drag queens. If you were a drag queen, it was considered non-masculine and they were all about masc. And now there’s this television show that celebrates us and they can’t wait to lick our ass to take a photo. I do find that quite hypocritical but also very interesting.
As far as the scene itself, I think it’s very different now. You look at the regular world, people like the Kardashians. They’re completely useless but they look beautiful in photos and they’re famous. But in my day, you had to have something to offer, which is one of the reasons why I’m partial to the old gals: the Coco Perus and the Jackie Beats and the Lady Bunnys — and Peaches Christ and Sherry Vine, Varla Jean Merman, who are all people that were doing this way before Drag Race and are still doing it. And even before them was Charles Pierce and Jim Bailey. These were talented men, and I just think sometimes that’s missing from what we have.
You look at some of these queens who are on the show now or in past seasons and their Instagrams just consist of “dress by this,” “hair by this” “makeup by this,” and it’s like “OK, what the fuck did you do?” You didn’t show up to the photoshoot because that’s not you in that photo, bitch. That’s Photoshopped. Listen, I love a filter but some of these bitches look like they were animated by Disney.
The fandom surrounding Drag Race seems increasingly toxic in the rampant spreading hate speech, racist remarks, even death threats. I see it already with some people going in on the season 10 girls. What’s your take on this?
BDR: I think that we live in an ignorant society. The fans immediately start comparing, “Oh she looks like a this one,” or, “Oh she look like a that one.” I remember vividly on my season there’s a promotional photo of me that came out and I was accused of being a Phi Phi O’Hara look-alike. I thought it was hysterical. I mean, I’m at least 15 years older than this bitch. And someone’s comment even said, “You’re an idiot. Bianca’s been doing drag longer than Phi Phi’s had those snaggled teeth.” And I thought, “Well thank you for standing up for me,” but I think, once again, people talk without consequence and they just say whatever they think they need to say.
Even the contestants that go on the show that get eliminated, their story is always some long, drawn out story. The bottom line is you failed at the challenge and you put yourself in this situation where you’re allowing a group of people to judge you. They’re not going to like everything you do, so just own it. Don’t turn it into “Oh I had an accident” or “Oh that day they cut this part out.” You signed up for it and that’s part of the deal.
Death threats, I think, are ridiculous. That’s insane that people would go to that level over a fucking drag show. That I think is uncalled for. Comparison, however, I think just comes with the territory. There’s so much good and bad with it. It’s great that the show is in people’s living rooms. It’s great that a lot of girls can launch careers out of this. It’s bad that everybody thinks they can be a drag queen. It’s bad that everybody thinks they’re an expert. I just try not to listen to it because personally I just don’t care. You’re never going to meet any of those people that are writing about you, so why get worked up about it?
There’s been a lot of rumors about an All Stars season consisting of all the past winners. If that came to be a reality, would you consider participating?
BDR: Absolutely not. And once again it’s the children creating these wish lists. Obviously Ru picked who she liked from that season for a reason. And to put us all together would be a complete nightmare. Not to mention I was treated very well and I came off like a saint — where do you go from there? Hell! It’s not necessarily who’s the most talented or who’s the prettiest — it’s a show. And I came out unscathed, I had a great time, it was a lot of fun, but to go back and compete is not something I’m interested in doing and god bless them, they can all do it. They can get that clown to fill in for me once again.
I say put us in a house and let’s do Big Brother — now that would be comedy. I mean I do like all of them, it would be fun to hang out with them, but I don’t think a competition would be right. And I don’t think it would be fair to the fans because then it’s no longer about talent and more about a bitch sesh.
What advice do you have for the new queens, particularly the young ones, who have been thrust into the spotlight?
BDR: It’s not as easy as it appears. And do your research. Be a good person. Be kind. I can be a raging cunt on stage but be a professional. And that’s the only way you’re going to survive in this. There’s a handful of us that are still working on the level that we’re working and it’s fascinating to see the ones that crash and burn. But it really is a golden ticket to get to travel the world and do what you do. It also takes a very kind person to be nice to the staff, to be nice to the girls that you are meeting in their hometown. They’re excited to see you. They spent all this time and energy and money to publicize you being there, they want you to be good, they want you to be successful. You can’t come in there being a cunt. You can’t come in there not wanting to finish a meet-and-greet. You can’t get drunk the whole show. You’re a very lucky person to get this.
And that’s one of the reasons that I appreciate it probably more than most, because I worked in clubs where there were four people there in the audience and I know the difference. And yeah, it takes a lot out of you and you sacrifice sleep and you sacrifice a personal life. But what did you do this for? It’s always going to be hard work if you want something. And I think a lot of people think it has to be given to them. But you have no entitlement. You’re not better than any other queen at that bar. Just because you were on the show does not make you special. Remember someone has to go home. You could be just filler, bitch. But enjoy the ride. And be kind and be humble. The only thing you should take seriously is your work ethic.
I’m so excited for your book, Blame It On Bianca. As someone who’s constantly attempting to write a book I know it to be a difficult process. Did you have that experience?
BDR: The difficult part of the process comes with the legality of it. There was a publishing company that was interested in doing a book with me early on and I looked around to see what other kind of books were out there. Ru has written several books that are very informative and slices of life and lovely quips for people and Michelle [Visage] did [The Diva Rules] and that’s lovely and Willam wrote trash about his self which is fine. But I didn’t want to write about myself because no one cares. We don’t need to hear another sad gay story cause frankly I’m sick of ‘em. I’ve had a pretty good life; what’s to bitch about?
But I did realize through social media, which I did not have prior to Drag Race, that people have a lot of question: everything from, “What eyeliner do you wear?” to, “How long have you done drag?’ and I thought I could address all of these questions — and also be helpful to people. Because globally that shithead Dr. Phil who has no fucking talent, degrees or ability whatsoever is giving advice and if that swollen walrus can do it, so can I.
You have the tour. You have the book. You have the upcoming Hurricane Bianca sequel. You have, of course, the Drag Race crown. What’s something else you’d like to knock off your bucket list?
BDR: Well, with my dear friend of mine we just created what’s called the Bianca Remover. It’s always something people were asking — ”How do you get rid of your makeup?” — and so a friend of mine (who had created other products like Magic Pads) and I were on vacation together and we were chatting about products and I said, “Listen, no one’s ever going to buy beauty from me.” No one says, “Hmmm, I’d love to look like a clown.” But they do ask how do I keep my skin clear and what do I use to take off my makeup.
So we created this product that’s all-natural, all-vegan, it’s cruelty free, that removes all of your makeup — everything from drag makeup to waterproof mascara. And it’s really the only thing I’d put my name on because I truly believe in the product.
You make a lot of people laugh. Who’s making you laugh these days?
BDR: Well, I find humor in every situation, even at a funeral. But in the world of comedians, I have to say Wanda Sykes is someone that I’ve known for 10 years, she has a house in Fire Island, and I’ve worked in Fire Island for many years, and we would always hang out and schmooze and drink. It doesn’t even matter what she says; it’s the sound of her voice that makes me laugh. I do enjoy her thoroughly. I wish I saw more of her stand-ups. I wish there was more of her content because I think I’ve seen everything she’s done.
But also my friends make me laugh. An hour on the phone with Lady Bunny and you’re dead. Sarah Huckabee’s eye makes me laugh, looking at her there’s got to be some drag queen doing that bitch’s makeup every morning trying to make her look pretty and it ain’t helping. I laugh to keep from crying so I find humor in everything. Whenever I get tired or have too much on my plate I try to think, “What could be worse than this? I mean, besides being Phi Phi O’Hara what could be worse?”
[Evil laugh] I’m just being a cunt.