Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race will agree: Bianca Del Rio is an evil queen with a heart of gold.
The Louisiana-born, half-Cuban, half-Honduran entertainer has been performing stand up, improv, and theatre in New Orleans and New York City, and holding down hosting gigs with her trademark razor-sharp wit.
Now, on the reality competition television series, which details RuPaul’s search for “America’s next drag superstar,” Bianca has sailed to the top with her refined tailoring skills, her mental “Rolodex of Hate,” and a dead-on Judge Judy impersonation.
Along with a film in the works (“Hurricane Bianca”), Bianca Del Rio will be in our city on May 16 at Velvet (208 Water Street), where she will be tearing the house down with her own blend of comedy and audience participation (and assassination). To help get the word out, she called me for an interview. We talked about motivation, the pleasures of staying home, and everything she has in common with Mother Theresa.
How is life after Drag Race?
Oh, it’s good! It’s crazy, you know? It’s pretty amazing. Just the platform that it is. Six months ago, none of these people knew who the hell I was! So, it’s kind of amazing to see how far it reaches out there. Through Twitter and Facebook, I’m out there, hearing responses and getting to travel and to meet people. It’s all pretty amazing.
Yeah, 40.6 thousand followers on Twitter. That’s more than any other contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6.
What’s weird is, I didn’t even have Twitter before the show started.
What’s it like having an online presence like that?
It means I’m totally gonna run for president in 2016 now. It’s pretty inevitable.
I mean, you can do anything. It’s fascinating to me, because when I started doing drag, none of this existed. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram. It’s interesting for me, but it’s slightly overwhelming when you start because you just don’t realize how many people are on the other end of it. And when you see 40 000 people, like … are you fucking kidding me?
But, the show does that. It’s like I said, six months ago, they didn’t know me, yet I’ve been doing drag for eighteen years. To me, I’m doing exactly what I’ve been doing all those years. Nothing’s different. Yet, to them, it’s a “revelation.” You know? “You’ve come out of nowhere!” So, I’m grateful, but still a little shocked by all of it.
Right, and now, not only are you known, but you’re also kind of loved. I mean, it’s “Bianca Del Rio: Role Model”
It’s crazy! It’s crazy! I mean, I’m up there with Mother Theresa (I’m kidding).
But, I mean, it’s shocking. But you’re judged by what you put out there. For many years, what I did on stage, and what people recorded and put on YouTube … it’s my work, my show. Cameras don’t follow me in my real life. So, for this, it’s not that I’m being different, it’s just that you’re seeing me function on a day-to-day basis. You can’t go around making jokes to people, 24/7, and be in drag the whole time. I do find it fascinating, their take on it, because people automatically assume, with a reality show, “Oh, it’s not real. Oh, it’s scripted.”We are what we are. It’s very intense, and you have a very small window of time to make things happen.
You kind of forget that the cameras are there. So, it’s not like being exposed, or like being in control of what you’re showing. Look, you gotta get the job done.
As people watch, they can relate because they’re like, “I get it now!”, which is great, but it’s not different from what I’ve been doing all these years. You’re just seeing it through another pair of eyes.
You’ve got steady hosting gigs, but what can people expect when they go to a Bianca Del Rio show?
I do a lot of comedy —well, “comedy.” It’s comedy if they laugh — and a lot of audience participation. I find a lot of the biggest jokes are in the audience.
When you include people, it takes it to another level. So, you won’t be witnessing me lip synch a 20-minute Beyonce medley. Not gonna happen.
For me, I have some material that I do, and then I do some games with the audience. It’s more of a … “in-your-face, theatrical experience.” So, I won’t be singing. People that do it, that do it better, let them do it.
Luckily, being from New York, there were a couple of queens from previous seasons that are friends of mine. And it was great to get their insight on it, but the thing with the show, if you can’t sing, dance, act, sew, or do comedy… on any level … you’re screwed, ‘cause that’s the requirement. And that’s the advantage of Season 6, because you can look back and see the pattern. Now, granted, once a season is done, everyone thinks they’re experts. But you don’t really know what’s gonna happen. But you do know that that’s the standard set of skills you need.
Over the years, I’ve done all that. I’ve done theatre, sang, danced, whatever. I don’t do it so much anymore … but I’m capable of it. A lot of the queens that think because, “Oh, I’m fierce,” but you can’t just rely on one thing. You need to have an array of skills to get through. To last. You might be able to get on the show, and you might only last two episodes because you really need to have some skills.
The great thing about is that those skills will help you in your career, because you’re not going to be able to do the same thing for twenty years. I haven’t. You kind of evolve. To sew would be great. To have a sense of humour would help. To sing and dance never hurt anybody. And I’m not saying, by any means, be Baryshnikov when it comes to dancing, but knowing yourself and knowing what you can do, it all helps. It’s all production value.
Where does that come from? The motivation to work hard at everything you do?
I’ve always loved work. I wouldn’t say I’m a workaholic, but I’ve always enjoyed ten things on the stove at once. It’s just my nature. And I’ve had a great run, getting to work and getting some great opportunities, but I think that come from hard work. In New York, it’s so expensive here, you can’t not work. But that’s only driven me even further, to keep moving. Also, I get bored easily.
I’ve never thought that the way I’m doing things is the right way. It’s just what’s worked for me. It’s just my aesthetic. I like figuring things out. And with this show, that’s what it is: film it, then get out. Each day, something new. In those situations, I excel, because I’m not afraid of it.
I’m not even sure where it comes from. I’m not a big dreamer. I never sat back and said, “I wanna be a drag queen.” It’s the way my life has worked out. Situations have come up and people will say to me, “Well, do you want to do this?,” and I’ll say, “Sure!” Worst comes to worst, I can say I’ll never do it again. I just roll with it, and see what’s in front me.
So, what do you do to relax?
I don’t. Heh.
I’m not a vacation person. Any place I’ve been able to travel, it’s been work-related. Even if I was sitting on a beach, I’d be there ten minutes then be like, “All right …what’s next?”
It’s the little things. I’m not grand on any level. I don’t need a six-day spa resort. A massage? I enjoy a massage.
I’m not high-maintenance. It’s the simple things: knowing I don’t have to be anywhere. Knowing I could go have a cocktail or I could go to bed. That freedom is enough for me, ‘cause normally, it’s ten thousand things to get done in a short period of time. Being carefree sometimes is really kinda nice.
Being home is great. Reading a book is nice. An actual book. Not a Kindle. A real book.
Are you reading anything lately?
I haven’t read shit in a while. I take it on the plane, and I don’t get a second to read it because I’m answering emails. But I’m usually a biography person, ‘cause I’m nosey.
You said you like to spend time at home to recharge. Do you see yourself as an introvert or an extrovert?
It’s not that I’m always choosing to sit home; it’s just that because I never get to do it, it’s kinda nice. Sometimes, you just wanna be in your own bed. And when you spend money on an apartment in New York, you wanna be in it.
For me, to go to a bar isn’t like “Oh, it’s relax time.” For me to go into a bar and for someone else to go into a bar is two different things. For me, it’s work. You’re in the monkey suit. You can’t be going around like, “I can’t be bothered”. You’re there and that’s what part of the deal is. So, when friends of mine come to see me [perform], it’s not like we’re hanging out. I have to do what I do, and then I’m out. When you’re on, you’re on. When you’re off, you’re off.
So, what’s a typical day like for you now?
I’m back in New York, which is great. For three or four days straight, which is amazing. It’s the usual, you know: Laundry! Taking the dogs to get cleaned! Unpacking to re-pack! And I have shows here in New York that I’ve kept, as well, so I do those when I’m here in town. So, I had a show last night and a comedy show tonight. Tomorrow night I’m off, which is great, ‘cause I’m trying to get things done and finish my dress for the finale, which I’ll be leaving to film this weekend. It’s intense on that level, when it’s all about time management. Luckily, I’ve had time to play with. Before the show, I had a full-time job and I had shows at night. But, when you’re in New York, there’s never enough time. So, I just make a list, and cross off what I can cross off, when I can. It’s challenging…but I can’t complain. I can not complain. I’m grateful. Trust me.
With RuPaul’s Drag Race, having spent time with the other contestants, who do you consider to be an All-Star?
Off the top of my head? Trinity [K. Bonet] is amazing. Brilliant skills. BenDeLaCreme: very talented, and a lovely person. [pause] Laganja [Estranja], you know, is an amazing performer. Those are the three came to mind immediately.
Everybody has something that they can offer. Going through the experience once helps you realize this is what I have to work on. I think, now, any of them could turn around and just be a fierce bitch for Round 2. And now, because they were eliminated, they’re a little bit more hungry for it.
After spending time with the other contestants, is there anybody you think didn’t get their due? Like, it was just the wrong platform for them?
When you’re there, it’s weird, because you don’t really interact with one another, other than in the work room. Meeting them now, there’s people that I think are brilliant. But I think it’s very sink-or-swim there.
At the time, I always though the person that was going had to go. Now, when I’m looking back and watching it —remember, I’m watching it for the first time with everybody else —so I didn’t really get to see people in their confessionals, or hear their points-of-views, or even know they were fighting with other people to the extent that they were.
MAKE-UP TIPS FOR EVERYONE WITH BIANCA DEL RIO
Wear it! If you have it, wear it. I’m not afraid of makeup. I’m not a natural beauty like Courtney [Act]. I am prince of the school of clown. For me, mascara and a good lash. It’s exaggeration of a look.
And red lipstick makes your teeth look whiter.
Take your time. Find what works for you, and layer it on. Don’t be afraid of it. I like a lot of it. And when people come up to me and say, “Well, you wear so much makeup.” Well, I’m a man. If I wore a dress and didn’t wear makeup, I’d look crazy.
It’s self-expression. Do what you feel. Do what you like. *saracastically* Now, go out there and shine.