Comedy, acting, and music—is there anything Margaret Cho hasn't done? Already, it's been a busy year for her. Last month, she joined E!’s Fashion Police as its newest host. She then went on to premiere the powerful music video for "(I Want To) Kill My Rapist," the first single off her upcoming album, American Myth. Along with an appearance on the ABC sitcom, Dr. Ken, she's working on a new series with Amazon, Highland. She’s also the host of the New Now Next Awards, which airs tonight on Logo, and has been entrusted with the grand reveal of the new cast for the upcoming Season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
With characteristic candor and humor, Cho discussed with us about everything, from drag to the Oscars controversy, Lady Gaga, twinks, and Caitlyn Jenner.
Out: You’re hosting the New Now Next Awards, which promise to be far more diverse than that other big awards ceremony taking place this month, the Academy Awards. What are your thoughts on that controversy?
Margaret Cho: Well, I am much more excited about the New Now Next Awards, because we're going to see the only contest that really matters: the new cast of Season 8 of RuPaul's Drag Race. To me, that’s more important than any award or film, or whatever.
But the Academy Awards, and film in generally, has never really been inclusive or welcoming to people of color. This is the second year in a row that this has happened. You would think that film would push a little more for diversity as television has, especially streaming services like Amazon and Netflix, that are really challenging the landscape of entertainment. I love film, but time and time again they exclude people of color—and it's not just black people, it's everybody of color, and it's really frustrating.
Take the whitewashing of the film Stonewall, which was incredibly disappointing to people who were very invested in gay history and the truth of it. Unfortunately, white twinks don't always save the whole world. It would be nice if they did [laughing]! But different types of people save the world, and we have to respect the history of the trans women of color who were actually there—you have a lot of trans invisibility as well, more so when it comes to race. It's white privilege at its most privileged point. You know, it's white people congratulating white people about...being white.
I do hope that Chris Rock still hosts the Oscars, because he will really tear it up. I hear a lot of people want to boycott, but I would want to watch just to see Chris Rock, because he never pulls punches, and it’s so valuable to have his voice in that. It's going to be interesting, and hopefully it'll shift. I think, if we point it out enough, racism and whitewashing, then there is a way to make a difference.
Over the past few years, representation and visibility have been improving for groups of people across the board. Are you hopeful about the way things are going for Asian and Asian-American actors and parts?
Yeah! Absolutely. I love Fresh Off the Boat, and a show that I'm on, Dr. Ken, and Master of None. We're seeing a lot of different kinds of people creating shows that are about themselves, and that's great. There’s definitely a lot more diversity, because there are so many more outlets. We need that, and people are watching these choices, they’re making that choice.
You talk very openly about your history of sexual abuse. This year, Lady Gaga has been nominated for an Academy Award for her song ‘Till it Happens to You.’ What are your thoughts on that?
I love the song. I love Gaga. I'm a total baby monster—maybe, I guess I'm a little old, but I can still be a little monster. And I love Diane Warren, she's a friend, and a tremendous songwriter. I love the song, and I think it's important to write about these kinds of things. My favorite music is stuff that comes out of suffering and pain, I think it's ignites something, especially within the gay community. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen huge hits about suffering, like "Chandelier" by Sia or "Hello" by Adele—Adele is kind of the mother of suffering, the voice of suffering, and it’s beautiful.
I have a song that I wrote, called "(I Want To) Kill My Rapist," which is the same source material, but a different kind of attitude. I'm about harnessing the rage, not in order to actually take out revenge, but in order to murder the memory inside yourself, to deal with the sexual abuse, to keep it from murdering you. The aftermath can lead to a lot of self destruction unless you get it out.
You talked about your new song on The View, and you also talked about our Out100 cover with Obama. This year’s portfolio was one of our most diverse, have you had a chance to look through it?
Yes! It was really great. And it's always really diverse I think. From my perspective, you really do incorporate the entire community, all the variants. It's exciting.
The New Now Next Awards are being held at Aspen Gay Ski Week. Can you give us a taste of what to expect?
Well, Bianca del Rio is my really good friend, and she's there. We’re going to do some very classic, campy drag sketch comedy, which is always fun.
And Candis Cayne will be there as well?
Yes, we’ve become close friends over the years. She's incredible. She's an incredible actress, she's an amazing performer, she's absolutely gorgeous, and a really fun. She's fancy, she's like, “Oh do you want to get on a private plane with me for lunch at French Laundry in Napa?” And I'm like, “What the fuck are you talking about!?” She's lives a life that I just dream about. So she's my shero.
But I just saw her giving a talk with Caitlyn Jenner and Jenny Boylan, and I love when I see really brilliant trans women talking about the truth of their lives. And they’re also teaching Caitlyn about it, and she’s learning, it’s really cool to see. Usually, television has kept trans people at an arm’s length. It's always been a part of my life, I've been holding the hands of trans people transitioning for 30 years. And now we’re seeing trans activists and trans people doing all types of work and art and entertainment. It’s becoming very well known, not only for their performances, but for their accidental activism—it's not quite accidental, but if you're trans and an artist in the world that we're in now, in entertainment, you are by default an activist, because you have to speak on these issues. It's really important, and I think this will definitely save lives. I think it’ll bring more awareness around the problem of young trans people committing suicide, which is still a huge issue.
An incredible aspect of I Am Cait is that Caitlyn is constantly challenged to learn more, to understand more, and as she expands her understanding, so does the audience.
I think Caitlyn is a really good sport, because she's taking a lifetime of very conservative, very white privileged, cis male values, and turning them all around, and realizing that she's got to change. I think she's still a Republican, which is all very weird [laughs]. She can't stay so sequestered without understanding fully what all the implications are, of what she's done, and so, I think it's a really good teaching school for everyone, and it's good television too.
The biggest excitement about this awards show is the reveal of the next season of Drag Race. You were a judge on Season 3. What was that like, and can we expect you back?
Well I would love to come back anytime. I'm an old friend of Ru's, and I love the show. When I judged, it was a very intense one, it was when Carmen Carrera and Raja and to lipsync for their lives! Usually, they’re very combative, but this was a unique one where they actually worked together, and it created something totally different, but it was very hard to decide. I think I said to Carmen, “You know, there’s such a thing as too beautiful.” And I think I voted against her because of that!
Last year, for the first time, RuPaul’s Drag Race was nominated for an Emmy. What do you make of its becoming more and more mainstream?
I love that! I think it's right, because they're showing another aspect of femininity, and how to define gender in your own way. And they’re able to overcome all these ideas of homophobia in television, to strip that all away, without ever having to explain why they’re there. When you see the people go to Drag Con and go to Courtney Act or Bianca del Rio shows, the majority are straight, older women, and they go crazy! I think they're accessing a kind of playful feminine power which they've never seen before, and that's very inspiring. I'm just waiting to see—I feel like there's going to be a drag Miss Universe thing, where someone is lipsyncing the Miss Colombia losing the crown to the Philippines. I feel that's going to be the next step in drag. Hopefully.
The New Now Next Awards begin at 10PM EST on Logo. Watch a clip below—it really sets the scene: