These days Manila Luzon, otherwise known as Karl Westerberg, is seemingly everywhere. Not only is she starring in RuPaul’s All Stars Season 4, in recent years she’s released multiple hit singles and videos, including The Chop, Bring It, One Night in Bangkok, and Eternal Queen.
In Red Ribbon Runway, she sashayed in a fabulous designer gown that was auctioned to fund HIV research, one of her most passionate causes. It was her eloquence in advocacy for people living with HIV and AIDS that won her the designation World AIDS Day Ambassador this December, in which she teamed up with OraQuick’s “Together We Test” campaign to get 5,000 people tested by New Year’s.
Queerty chatted with the queen who looks equally good in and out of drag on the eve of Season 4 about why she relies on in-home HIV testing, Mozart, her role models, and how she stays fit and healthy when she’s constantly on the go.
Manila, thanks so much for chatting with us – we love you here at Queerty! Good luck with Season 4!
1. How does it feel to be back on the show?
RuPaul’s Drag Race is my favorite TV show since season 1! I feel like I got a recurring role on the show! I’m the whacky neighbor like Steve Urkel who keeps busting thru the door, uninvited!
2. What has it done for your career?
RuPaul’s Drag Race gave me a career in drag. I used to do it for fun, every coin I made went right back into my costumes. Now my drag can afford me food! Lots of food!
3. What’s the secret to your success and what wisdom would you share with a young queen on the rise?
If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret! But advice to younger queens is to stop trying to look prettier than me!
4. What are you reading & listening to these days?
I’m always reading!!! Just not any books. I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music. Mozart is my favorite.
5. You are drag royalty, to be sure. But you are also a working queen. How do you stay in shape? What’s your gym and food routine like?
I don’t ever go to the gym. I’m a drag queen – I stay in shape with hip pads and corsets!
6. What is your love life like these days? I mean, you are sexy in and out of drag. You must get double the offers.
My husband and I eloped last Christmas Eve in Las Vegas. We got married by an Elvis impersonator! And my husband has been enjoying me out of drag all year!
7. You’ve joined OraQuick’s Together We Test campaign, which aims to get 5,000 people tested by New Year’s. What inspired you to take part?
I’m always on the go and I don’t always have time to make doctor appointments to check my status. OraQuick can be found in my local drugstore, so it makes it much easier for me to test myself. It’s important we all work together to keep ourselves and each other healthy. The more people who know their status, the sooner we can stop the spread of HIV.
8. It’s challenging out there these days. There’s PrEP. There’s undetectable. There’s still fear and stigma about HIV more generally. How do you navigate this new, complicated world?
In our community, we are out and proud. We know and accept ourselves. So knowing your status should be another part of knowing oneself.
9. What’s your favorite thing about being queer?
I love the community and family. There’s a connection and understanding that we have with each other that lifts us up and makes us stronger.
10. And about being a drag queen?
I love the free drinks.
11. Who are your own role models?
Madonna, Barbra Streisand, and the legendary RuPaul!
12. You have done some amazing songs and videos. What’s your next project?
Thank you! I’m working on an album and music videos and I’m really enjoying the whole creative process, especially because I don’t have to hear Michelle Visage critiquing it!