Winner Takes All

3.23.2009

By Noah Michelson

Do you feel like a role model?
I'm hoping I can be a role model. I'm not feeling -- but I'm hoping. So far I've been getting a lot of encouragement because after the show started airing I got so many emails from so many people -- not only from people living here in the United States, but also people from Africa, so many women have said how my persona -- the Bebe persona -- has inspired them. They look at themselves in a different way and they look at the mirror and say, 'If a male can really transform himself into this beautiful woman and portray that, then I can actually say I am beautiful.' And to me, that is very important. As an artist, that is what you want -- that reward. It's not only the money, it's the reward that what you're doing can inspire other people.

It's interesting to hear you say that because drag is sometimes described as misogynistic -- a parody of women that does them a disservice. But you believe you're highlighting the beauty in women.
My mom was a very influential person in my life and she had been very empowering and just seeing what she did raising us and what she did for our family, it's a celebration of women. I will let you know -- each drag artist, you need to find out her story. You need to find out what she does and why. I'm telling you my story -- I'm trying to empower women and I am trying to represent women and show so many different ways of beauty but another character has a different reason for doing drag, so you have to ask her.

It's very individual.
Very. That's why I don't like it when people refer to us as drag queens. I refer to us as drag artists because we all have a different way of expressing ourselves. And it's not necessarily looking like a woman. I decided to impersonate a woman or hold the illusion of a woman. Others do not.

It seems like part of what you're doing is really about exposure -- around the world but also in America -- especially small town America. Before RuPaul came on the scene a lot of people had never even seen a drag queen.
Drag has been stereotyped for a long time and people have -- even in the gay community -- it's been such a stereotype: 'This man is trying to be a woman' or 'Why is this man dressing like a woman? If I wanted to be with a woman I wouldn't be gay' or 'Oh, they're full of drama!' Each person is an individual and the situations you find in the drag community are the same as you find in any community. The only reason you know about the situations in the drag community is because you are searching for those situations. It's as easy as that. The bottom line is that these are just artists -- you come to the shows, you watch the shows, you cheer, you tip the entertainers -- you do all of this and you enjoy yourself, so what makes you feel like these are not entertainers? Why do you feel they just want to be in dresses? It's so amazing that after everything is done you see the same entertainers out of character and you still cannot separate them.

RuPaul's Drag Race has shown how much hard work you all have to do. Not only the hair, the makeup, but the performing itself.
And you cannot take it for granted. I don't care who is the worst drag artist out there -- it's an emotional roller coaster. You have to prepare yourself psychologically, physically -- everything -- to be out in the spotlight, to be criticized. And there are a lot of people who don't have the guts to do it. So, I think this show is a blessing because if you do not understand what we do and you watch the show and you still do not understand, then you have a problem. [Laughs] Because I don't think there's any better way to express what drag is all about.

Finally, let's say you're going on tour -- I don't know if you are or not --
I'm going on tour.

You are?
I can legally tell you I won the show.

Amazing! Congratulations. Let's say you can bring anyone you want on tour with you -- divas, other drag artists, anyone -- who would you bring?
I would bring everyone.

Really?
It's just too hard to pick. I get inspiration from everybody, I have so many role models and I feel like it'd be unfair to say 'A is coming, but B isn't.' So I'm taking everybody or it's just going to be me up there on stage under that spotlight.

Read our interview with RuPaul here.

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