Bianca Del Rio Untucked

By: Les Fabian Brathwaite
5.28.2014

While I was at the gym, Bianca Del Rio called. (She told me to include that in her interview.) I was sitting on a treadmill while La Bouche was blasting from the speakers, wearing a Céline Dion titty tank and on the other end of the phone was America’s Next Drag Superstar, Bianca Del Rio. I told her we we were in for the gayest interview of either of our lives. “You’ll never work again,” she deadpanned.

I caught up with the Lady Del Rio after a whirlwind-week following her win on RuPaul’s Drag Race. We had a kiki about RuPaul’s controversial remarks in the wake of “She-Mail”-gate, what (if anything) she learned from her fellow queens, and if she intends to ever clean up her act (don’t bet on it).

Gay.net: RuPaul recently went on record as loving the word “tranny” after the flack over the show’s “She-Mail” segment. What are your thoughts on the backlash and Ru’s comments?

Bianca Del Rio: I think Ru’s entitled to say whatever Ru wants to say. My personal feeling is that I never thought that any of it was offensive coming from the show. Obviously, if someone’s upset about the word, they’re entitled to feel that way, but I don’t think [Drag Race] itself was the problem. So I always questioned blaming the show. I thought that was insane. It’s a drag show on LOGO. We dress up. We lip-synch for our lives. It’s not that serious. But I also think Ru had the opportunity to say whatever and [he] held back for a minute and didn’t say much. So I fully stand by Ru, I also fully stand by [the decision] earlier in the season to remove “She-Mail.” It’s a well-run machine, they’re a business, they know what they’re doing. But by no means do I feel like the show was responsible.

As a comic, you use pejorative words all the time, but do you feel the need, especially now that you have the Drag Race crown, to “clean up your act”, so to speak?

I think Drag Race knew what it was getting into when they had me. I’ve never shied away from being ballsy and saying what I feel or what I think. It’s just a joke, I’m a comedian, it’s what I do. And sometimes it can be taken the wrong way. There are moments when people don’t like it. I take responsibility for the things I say as a joke, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and I’m okay with that.

What do you hope to accomplish as “America’s Next Drag Superstar”?

It’s an amazing platform to have. I think one of the great things about it is getting to travel and meet all of these people so I hope that continues. And it’s great to see these crowds of people that have faith in you and stuck by you and were rooting for you. It’s such a diverse, mixed audience and I can see that the show is bringing [together] everybody from all walks of life. Aside from the LGBT community, we have tons of straight people that have never been exposed to drag that are coming out to the show as well. It’s great to see that many people interested in what you are doing so for that I’m grateful. If that continues, I’d be happy with that.

Do you plan on releasing a song like seemingly every other Drag Race queen?

Oh my god, no! Aren’t there enough drag queens with horrible songs? No, no, no, I have no intention of doing an album or a song. Not gonna come from me! Besides the Drag Race girls, we have Britney Spears and Katy Perry. They’re just as bad! We don’t need anybody else.

Would you ever consider doing a TV sitcom?

I’d love to. The great thing about doing Drag Race is that you get these offers now. People are looking to me to see what’s next and I’m all about it. I’d do anything. I love all of that. The outpouring of support has been pretty amazing, I’m grateful, and I would do anything at this point. I’m working on a one-woman/one-man cabaret show debuting this fall and I’m also working on a film called Hurricane Bianca that we’re doing some funding for now, which you can learn all about at hurricanebianca.com. And if you want to find out if I’m going to be in your city ‘cause my schedule’s pretty tight these next few months, which is great, you can go to thebiancadelrio.com.

How did you develop your comedic sensibilities?

You know, I don’t know where they came from. Some people get it, some people don’t, and I understand that. So for me it’s always been a great ride. Over the past 18 years, I’ve been able to work consecutively, which I think is where you learn your skill and you learn what you’re doing and you learn what your craft is. I’m not sure where it came from, but over the years, working in bars and working in theater has definitely helped me sharpen my skills. It’s a lot of training, it’s a lot of getting out there and doing it. Some nights I have great shows, some nights I have bad shows. But it’s all been part of this whole journey I’ve been on and has helped me.

I saw your act at “Hot Mess” at 42West on Friday and it reminded me a lot of old-school comics like Don Rickles or Phyllis Diller. Were you inspired by any of those people?

Oh, totally. I love Don Rickles and I love Joan Rivers, they’re definitely people I admire. And that’s the thing — I don’t put myself in that category with them — but I think to make jokes you have to realize you are a joke. And when you’re in that moment, you know, Ru always says, “If you can’t love yourself, how you gonna love somebody else?” What I always say is, “If you can’t make fun of yourself, how are you gonna make fun of someone else?” You’re at a drag show, it’s not a serious political stance unless that’s what you’re choosing to do and you cater it that way. I’m doing a show called “Hot Mess”! You know what you’re getting into when you come here. “Hot Mess” is the final. And it’s fun, we have a good time. We make jokes about each other, we read each other, we have a good time with the audience. When you go into something I’m doing, just be prepared, because that’s what I do and with a title like “Hot Mess”, it’s pretty obvious.

What was the greatest thing you learned from the show?

Patience. And also just to take a minute to understand where people come from. When you’re on the show and there’s 14 of you in one room then all of a sudden you have conflict with people. As you get to know them, it’s pretty interesting. For me the greatest thing was getting to know Trinity and knowing what she was going through. That was really special to me. Now I have her as a friend. I have several of them as friends now because of the show. So it’s a great little journey that you go on because you get to experience it with a handful of people and it’s delivered nationwide.

Did you learn anything from the other queens?

Yeah, you learn a lot of secrets, you learn a lot of different ways of doing things, or ways of not doing things. Nothing that I can pinpoint at the moment, but it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed immensely getting to hang out with Courtney and Adore because I think they’re both brilliantly talented and we all brought that something different. And that was fun to see, too. Seeing what works for other people and what you can adapt to work for you.

What are some tips you have for getting a good read going?

It’s not so much about having a really good one-liner, it’s knowing when to apply it. And granted, sometimes they’re hits, sometimes they’re misses, but it’s also knowing that you’re a joke yourself. Throw it out there, take a chance and trust your instincts. There’s no real key to it, just knowing when to use it. It can be a pretty lame line, but if you can deliver it well, then it works.

What words do you live by?

“Never let a bitch see you sweat” and “Not today, Satan!” I ain’t gonna have nobody bring me down.

 

Photo: Magnus Hastings from the series, Why Drag?, currently on display at The OUT Hotel through August 26.

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