Chris Andrews manages to slow down Bianca Del Rio for long enough to talk drag legends and performing to four people just before her appearance at Norway’s Pride Festival.
The once derided underground subculture of the drag queen is currently riding the crest of a wave, thanks in no small part to the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race. One of its breakaway stars is the outrageous Bianca del Rio – offstage known as Roy Haylock – and as anyone who has seen Bianca’s act will know that she takes no prisoners.
The drag scene has changed a lot since Bianca started back in 1996 and as she tells Buzz, TV has played a big part in that change. “It’s definitely given me more exposure, but working in a club with four people in it at 1am definitely prepares you for change and obviously there was no RuPaul’s Drag Race back then so there wasn’t as many opportunities. Now there’s drag queens falling out of trees.”
It must be strange for Del Rio, who 22 years into her drag career is now seen as an icon, whereas for most of her life, drag was very much an underground phenomenon. “People now aspire to be a drag queen, where as in my day it was seen as bad news. It’s fascinating to see it grow. The good thing about the show is that, good or bad, it does show us as somewhat normal people. Before that, we were just these hated figures in a club.”
Whenever a particular scene or movement becomes mainstream there are usually some drawbacks; is there a downside to the modern-day popularity of drag? “You do tend to have people who watched three episodes of the show and think that they are a drag expert. Drag existed long before Drag Race, but it’s fascinating how people will now call a drag queen that’s been on the show ‘legendary’. Honey, that’s not how this works: there’s Sherry Vine, Lady Bunny – those are drag queen legends, not some bitch that was on the show for two weeks and did a split.”
In the past drag has had a somewhat fractious relationship with the gay community – what effect does Bianca think the popularity of drag is having on the LGBTQ community? “There was a time when it was a taboo thing in the gay community. Guys weren’t interested in guys who were drag queens, which was laughable, but now that they are on T.V, it’s all ‘heeeey’ [laughs].
“It’s opened a lot of doors for me personally but now I’ve had these moments where I say something, because I’m a comedian, or do something that people don’t agree with and people think I should be held to a higher standard – that I should be a role model. I laugh at that. I’m a 42-year-old man in a wig and if you don’t fucking like it, too bad. We live in a world where everyone has an opinion on it and I think go fuck yourself, 99% of this stuff they type, they would never say to your face. I don’t like Kanye West, but I don’t spend my day on his Twitter or Instagram page telling him about it.”
For anyone who’s ever wanted advice from Bianca, a book, Blame It On Bianca, will be just released by the time you read this. It’s a satirical take on a self-help book: “I never wanted to write a book about myself, I thought that would be too egotistical, so I thought, what would be a fun way to respond to a lot of the questions I get asked? But if you’re asking me for advice, I’m going to give you the worst advice possible, because it’s so damn funny. Ask a stupid fucking question, you are going to get a stupid fucking answer. If Dr Phil can write all this bullshit and call himself a doctor, then why can’t I?”
With her show of the same name due back in Wales, what can we expect from Miss Del Rio this time around? “With Drag Race and Donald Trump, I have lots to talk about. Three drinks is all you need and we’ll all be having fun.”
Bianca Del Rio, St. David’s Hall, Cardiff, Wed 1 + Thurs 2 Aug. Tickets: £37. Info: 029 2087 8444 / www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk