Willam Belli - The 'Drag Race' Queen You'll Love (and Love to Hate)
Reality show producers love having a bitch in the cast who audiences can hate, and within the first two minutes of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 we know that someone is going to be Willam Belli. It’s not because Willam sabotages her fellow contestants, steals their makeup or snatches wigs off heads. In fact, it's not even the truth. Willam is actually a lovely person, but that sensibility stems from this 29-year-old having done drag since she was 16, and having worked on numerous TV and film projects; in short, she may seem arrogant on the show, but that attitude comes with the credentials to back her up.
We chatted with Willam about her career, her insights on the show and her fellow contestants, and how she and other queens are changing the face of drag as we know it.
GAY.NET: You don't have a campy drag name or persona like some of the other queens. Why is that?
WILLAM: I like my name a lot and have a hard enough time getting people to say it right. Plus, the best ones in the drag world don't change their names, like RuPaul, Charles Busch, Leigh Bowery, Kevin Aviance and Joey Arias. And I'd much rather be them than some bar queen named McQueffa Fondouche.
I like doing things people haven't seen before, whether it be wearing a urinal on my back and singing “Don't Go Chasing Watersports” or mixing it up in straight crowds. I'm not big into I'm-a-diva-give-me-money-for-mouthing-words-to-others-songs. I'd rather hang out at the Roosevelt [Hotel in Los Angeles] and let Eurotrash grope me.
Who inspires you in popular culture?
If I have anyone I'm constantly impressed by and inspired by, I'd say RuPaul. She's done it all. Author, LIVE singer, actress, personality, pundit. I want to follow in her footsteps. I literally tried too. Production yelled at me when I tried to steal a sample from her new Iron Fist shoe line. They're amazing!
Some readers may not know this, but you book go-go dancers for many of LA's hottest clubs.
I'm still booking dancers with my company Boxmeat. If you'd like to apply please head straight to personnel (it's straight down my throat, left at my larynx). I do nights at Here Lounge, The Factory, Ultrasuede, MJ's, Faultline, Rage, Eleven, Hamburger Mary's, Roosterfish, Fubar, House of Blues—pretty much everywhere except Revolver and Mother Lode. I got into it because I wanted a reason to not file taxes and suck dick.
What made you decide that Drag Race was for you?
Chris Crocker [the guy who cried on YouTube for people to “Leave Britney Spears alone!”] beat me out on a part for a pilot because I didn't have enough "name recognition." The show flopped but when Drag Race casting called my manager, I said what the hell. It was my opportunity to become a household name without a sex tape or going to jail (again).
What are you hoping this experience gets you?
My goal is to never pay for another drink in a gay bar for the rest of my life. I'd also love to not correct people on my name. It's Willam, like "Will…Uhm…you close your legs, please?"
What can readers look forward to in this season of Drag Race?
I'm kinda the bitch of the show, but only because they wouldn't let me be the cunt of the show.
If I'm ever mean, I'm mean for funny's sake. Some of the other girls (especially the yellers) think as long as they're loud, they're right. They must not have gotten the memo that they're supposed to be entertaining. I mean, if you look at the calendar they put out with us girls featured for each month, some months have quotes that look like they came from Reader's Digest or a Limericks for Dummies manual. [Cher impersonator] Chad Michaels, Sharon Needles and I all knew what we were doing going in and didn't deviate from our paths. I did every single thing I wanted to and was in control the whole time. I wouldn't change one thing.
What surprised you most about the experience?
The level of ignorance that some queens have about their own shortcomings shocked me. If they want to hate on me because I've been a successful entertainer for 10 years, they can. But they better expect me to tell them that they could've been too had they gotten their shit together instead of rhinestoning Payless BoGo shoes and learning Britney mixes.
At this point a lot of people have seen Hedda Lettuce's "reading" of the new Drag Race contestants. What's your take on that?
I met her once and had no opinion on her. She's loving that people are talking about her, I bet especially since she's auditioned for the show and never made it. Hedda's best joke about me was that she "didn't have time for a queen named WILLIAM." So if this reading entailed her actually reading my name right and THEN formulating a joke, I'd say more power to her.
That was my diplomatic way of calling her a big green cunt.
Do you think the face of drag is changing in the United States?
The face of drag is getting so much broader. Jared Leto wears a skirt and they don't make fun of him for wearing a skirt. They make fun of him for the right reason- cause he's a douche bag. So I think America is going in the right direction with regards to drag and everything else LGBT related. Hate is dying out with this baby boomer generation. No one cares anymore about who fucks who. I certainly don't. As long as I've got Goo-Gone to get the adhesive off my balls, I'm real cool.
What's on Willam's agenda post-Drag Race?
For Spring, I have an album on the way with songs from my band TranzKuntinental and Tom Trujillo, who wrote many of RuPaul's signature hits. Also appearing in Neighborhood Watch opposite Ben Stiller [which opens] July 27th. I'll also be gigging around the country, putting things where they don't belong all summer.
The new season of RuPaul's Drag Race starts Monday, January 30th. Get more Willam at www.willambelli.com, or you can tweet him @willambelli or use his Drag Race hash-tag #DragRaceWillam —or all of the above!