Orlando White Party | April 11 – 13
If you have nothing nice to say, sit next to Bianca Del Rio.
Born Roy Haylock, Bianca Del Rio has gained national notoriety – positive and negative – thanks to her biting yet bona fide personality on the sixth season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. However, the actor, comedian, costume designer, and drag queen has been offering up – as she describes – “Joan Crawford meets Bozo the Clown” realness for almost 20 years.
The multifaceted entertainer’s career spans theater, cabaret, and improv comedy. His resume includes several theatrical productions, including Pageant, Psycho Beach Party, Gypsy, the original musical Hollywood Heaven, and Bianca’s Remote Out of Control, which he also wrote.
No stranger to drag super-stardom, Del Rio has also worked alongside drag icons Sherry Vine, Coco Peru and Lady Bunny for years. The foul-mouthed foil recently released her first video with Vine, titled “Hot Mess.”
In addition to being a nightclub host, comedian and infamous drag performances, Del Rio is also heavily involved with a number of HIV/AIDS initiatives. Last year, she teamed up Project Runway alum Jack Mackenroth and World Health Clinicians’ multimedia campaign titled “HIV Equal.” The goal is to reduce the stigma around HIV/AIDS and encourage testing. The campaign will encourage participants to take an “HIV Equal” photo while also getting tested.
Amidst a whirlwind tour, which includes a stint at Parliament House Orlando, April 12 for Orlando’s White Party, I chatted with the 38 year old, New Orleans native and got her take on politics, dating as a drag queen and – of course – Drag Race.
Erik: What will you be serving up at Orlando’s White Party – hopefully, some of your wicked stand up?
Bianca Del Rio: [Laughs] Yes, I am. I have a pot brewing of hate.
I’m sure you’ve seen your hater take-down performance at The Café in San Francisco blasted all over the internet. I just have to say, you’re my hero. [Laughs] I have an affinity for the legendary comedy queens and those who tell it like it is like yourself, Lady Bunny, Coco Peru and Sherry Vine.
[Laughs] It was an interesting night, I must say. When people say, “legendary,” I say “that’s very nice but I look at them as legendary.” I’ve been around but they’ve done a lot more. I’m grateful to be in their company.
Speaking of, I’m so mad I don’t live in California; I would’ve died to see The Drag Queens of Comedy show you did. So many genius personalities! How was that?
It was a lot of fun. It was great! I work with Lady Bunny here in New York; and Coco, I adore. I’ve worked with her a few times on some cruises. It’s great when you’re around those types of people because they’re great at what they do and it makes for a great show because everyone’s so different. Just the down time is a lot of fun; like the bus ride there. Bunny, of course, is insane.
Do you think there’ll be a tour?
I would love to! The drag queen Sasha Soprano is who got everybody involved. She does want to travel with it. So, I’m hoping it happens soon.
Are you as brash as Bianca off-stage?
No. I always say that if I didn’t wear a wig, I’m called a “hateful queen” but then when I wear a wig, I’m called “hysterical.” I have the same thought process [as Bianca] but I don’t wake up and curse people out. I evolve into that. In no way do I take myself seriously or feel that I’m entitled in any way or that I’m curing cancer. I’m just a drag queen; it’s not that serious in the big picture.
So, is this your first experience with Drag Race or had you auditioned before?
It was my first time auditioning. I had a couple of friends who were on the show. They gave me advice going in. It’s my first experience with the show and it’s completely overwhelming. It’s kind of insane.
I was fortunate enough to host a lot of the premiere parties and finale parties in New York. So, I got to know a lot of these queens and I saw the exposure that they got. Then, I had a conversation with Lady Bunny about it because I was in this weird age bracket at the time. I was 37; I wasn’t necessarily old and I wasn’t really young. So I thought, why not take a chance and see what happens? Originally, I wanted to quit drag at 40, which would be in a year. After 20 years, you’ve done it and move on but this opportunity came up and now, obviously, I can’t quit at 40 but it was a great experience.
You’ve pretty much established a successful drag career, but what is your ultimate goal?
I didn’t plan to be in a wig for this many years. That’s been the amazing thing about it; I never really sat down and thought “this is the best, this is the pinnacle.” I just kind of go with the flow and it’s evolved into this. It’s something I really love to do but I want to get through this ride first. I have no set plans at the moment – I’m just going to take it as it comes. The great thing about this platform is that people get to know you. I have two types of friends now; those that I’ve known forever and those that think I’m a revelation.
What do you think it takes to have staying power on Drag Race?
If you think for a minute that you’re going to go into it with the approach “This is me. I’m authentic, so I’m going to win,” that’s not the case. It really is a challenge. If you can’t sing, dance, act, sew or do comedy, you don’t belong there. I think that’s the big misconception. To the people that are like, “Why do I need to perform when I can lip-sync?” That’s great but that will only help you if you’re on the bottom. You really have to have a set of skills. By season 6, you should know what’s to come. You shouldn’t be surprised by what they’re asking you to do. You really need to have a set of skills – and you need to listen. The judges do give you critiques but they’re also guiding you through the process. They want to see if you have versatility. Being in the business, you have to. It’s not like you get hired for a gig and you can say, “Well, it’s not really my thing.” You have to know what your abilities are and I think that gets lost. A lot of people either want to be famous or they have friends that tell them they’re “fierce.” That’s lovely but you have to have the skills to back it up. “I see you can do the splits – can you do anything else? “ We live in a different world now where drag is more out there. People get attracted to the idea of it without realizing there’s a lot of work behind it. You have to be able to do more than lip-sync. There are people that do it amazingly, don’t get me wrong, but you have to have skills. It doesn’t hurt if you can sing, dance, act and sew. It will help you in your drag career. It’s not like [the judges] are putting you through this for no reason; it really can be beneficial.
So, doing a death drop isn’t going to cut it? [Laughs]
That’s fine, if you do it well, but I just think you need to have some substance behind it. I mean, when you’ve done it 10 times in a three minute medley, come on! What else is there? You can only do that for so long. Trust me, I’ve known people who’ve done it years ago and can’t walk now. It does take its toll.
I read in a previous interview that you were pretty indifferent towards a lot of your co-contestants. Do you think that had much to do with the generation gap?
For me, it’s not so much about age. What I found fascinating is that there are two things that are happening. You are in a room with these people that you’re in a competition with. I’m not a “sweetie, honey” love-y queen. I’ve never been that way. Being there, the only thing I was in control of, was myself and I wasn’t going to allow any bullshit to get in my way. That’s how I am anyway. I don’t put up with any bitch. So, when you’re there, it is odd to me, because you don’t get much time to socialize with everyone else, you’re working on the task at hand. For me, I was just keeping my distance in order to stay focused on what I was doing. With that, Ru isn’t going to ask me [on the stage], “Who’s your best friend?” She going to ask me “Why didn’t you fuckin’ finish the challenge?” So, that was my main concern. I’m not a queeny queen, so it’s not that I was “indifferent” toward them; I just didn’t take the time to get to know them – you really don’t have the time. Now it’s great to see them when we’re traveling and hang out and actually become friends.
With that, do you feel you’ve been portrayed accurately?
Anybody who complains about editing is a douche. I take full responsibility for what I said and did. If I didn’t say it, then they wouldn’t have the footage. I would not be one of those people that would bite the hand that’s feeding me – it’s foolish. I signed up for a TV show. I’m in control of what I did and I’m aware of what I did. Sure things can be portrayed as heightened and with music, it’s quite dramatic but it’s what I signed up for. So, it’d be foolish for me to complain about it.
It’s a competition – it’s a TV show. No matter what I do – you can scroll through the internet and see people going “Yay” and other people going “Nay.” It’s pointless for me to get wrapped up in it. Everybody’s got a fuckin’ opinion now. Everybody’s a critic. Everybody knows everything about drag. To each their own. There are people that love me and people that hate me. It comes with the territory. That’s the process. I’m grateful for the opportunity and you roll with the punches.
You once stated that you’ll never date another drag queen out of fear of them stealing your clothes, but is there someone special in your life?
No, no, no. [Laughs] I’m single. I’ve had two lovely relationships in the past but I’m single and I enjoy it. It’s the best thing for me at the moment. Although, when you are on a TV show, everybody and their mother come out of the woodwork. That’s been interesting.
I see that you’re active with a number LGBT and HIV Awareness organizations. Being a part of the New York and New Orleans gay scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s, have you noticed any differences in awareness from the then to today? Is there any advice you can offer to this generation?
I was around at a time when I knew people that died, which is completely different now. When I was younger, it was cause and effect. If you were infected, there were no options at the time. I lost several friends – people that I worked with. Because (thankfully) you can now live longer, take medications and everything, the younger people don’t realize the severity of it. I’ve met several young people that are infected and their lives haven’t changed because it is so acceptable. [They’re able] to live and function now. That’s the hard part – I don’t think people realize how serious it is sometimes. There are no consequences. They see healthy living people, so for me that’s different. I grew up with it when people I actually knew were lost. So, anything having to do with awareness or that nature, I like to volunteer. I say “Sign me up. Let’s do it.” That’s everything – knowing the facts, knowing what’s out there, knowing what’s possible.
Don’t miss RuPaul’s Drag Race, Mondays at 9pmET on LOGO
Photos courtesy of, ParliamentHouse.com, TheBiancaDelRio.com & LOGO TV