Kelly Mantle: Laughing Her Way to the Bacon (Exclusive Interview)

Kellly Mantle RuPauls Drag Race Season 6 phone booth whole thing-credit.GarretMatthew
Image credit: Garrett Matthew

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I still haven’t learned to sew, but can work a mean glue gun now.”

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The truth of it is, Kelly Mantle does like bacon! At an NYC diner recently she ordered a club sandwich.  She paused for a minute and I thought she might be about to say, ‘Hold the bacon.’ Nope! What she said was, ‘Make it real cute for me.’ Because who doesn’t love a cute sandwich at 3 a.m.?

Kelly and I sat down for a sandwich after her hosting gig at New York’s Ritz Bar and Lounge — also known as “Haus of Bianca del Rio.” If you haven’t spent a lot of time with Kelly — because she got sent home about ten minutes into this year’s run of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race‘ — you might not realize that she is freakin’ hilarious, so her answers here may or may not be serious! As an original member of Transkuntinental — a five member band also featuring Willam Belli, Detox, Vicky Vox, and Rhea Litre — she is used to hanging out with drag comedy royalty. Instead she’s got my photographer — Garrett Matthew — who is quietly munching his way through a plate of fries, and me. And I’m too confused by what I’ve ordered to do more than pick at it. So I just listen and lmfao!

Kelly had been in drag since seven that evening and couldn’t wait to get back to her hotel to untuck. “After a while that corset just starts digging into your spine and your organs and you’re like ‘I’ve just got to get out of this.’ Divine — the queen of all queens — said it best; she said, ‘The best part of doing drag is getting out of it.'”

In my mind I can only liken this to the relief of removing a pair of ice skates after a skating session. I mention that some queens, such as Bianca, seem to favor outfits that look more comfortable, ones where they can safely “hang loose.” Kelly says she’s in the market for some outfits like that herself. “I’ve been starting to look online for some muumuus. I think I’m getting to a comfortable enough age that I could sport a muumuu. When I go host events like the one at The Ritz I’ll just walk around in a muumuu and be barefoot and no one will know!”

KellyMantle RuPauls Drag Race Season 6 Eliminated BW hand on shoulder

I suggest that some of Bianca’s dresses — in a different fabric — might have worked for Kelly’s ‘Downton Abbey’ creation that was her downfall in the Drag Race sewing challenge. Kelly says that one of the hardest things about that challenge — aside from her lack of sewing skills — was the fact that, “I’d never even seen the damned show. When they gave me the box I was walking around going ‘What is “Down Town Abbey”? I kept thinking is this like The Abbey in L.A.? The gay bar? And everyone’s looking at me like ‘Are you for real?’ And then RuPaul comes up in the workroom and he’s like ‘Oh Kelly!’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t watch this shit! I watch ‘Real Housewives!'”

According to Kelly, ‘Honey Boo Boo’ would have been a better box for her. “I’m a country girl. I could have worked with that. ‘Duck Dynasty’ I would have liked maybe not as much but better than ‘Downton Abbey.’ And also Kardashian because I dress like a real girl most of the time. I just do a Kim Kardashian slutty look.”

Kelly does not think all Drag Race boxes were crated equally:

“In my opinion it was so unfair because Gia got Kardashians and Laganja got ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and they had swimsuits in their boxes so they didn’t have to construct anything for their body. They already had that to wear and then all they had to do was just hot glue rhinestones on it. I had to construct something to actually wear on my body. I wasn’t given a body suit. If you watch the episode you’ll see Laganja and Gia are both wearing black bathing suits, basically and that came in the box! I don’t think it’s fair that you have a sewing challenge and you give someone a bathing suit and then you give someone like me just squares of fabric.”

Kelly says that she actually did try to learn to sew twice in her life and she failed both times:

[quote]”The funny truth is that I was a theater major in college and one of the requirements was that you had to take costume construction. I enrolled in it my freshman year of college. I was a straight A student my whole life and I literally made an “F” in costume construction. Because I failed it I had to retake it. I waited until my senior year. I went and took it again with the same woman and I still didn’t do any better. And out of pity she went ‘I’m just gonna give you a “C” so you can get on through this because you have to graduate.’

“I tried to learn, is my point. I broke the machines. She was like, ‘Can you at least iron?’ and I burned a hole in the dress. So she handed me a broom and she said, ‘Can you please just sweep?'[/quote]

Kelly said that, with this in mind, she knew the sewing challenge was going to be the biggest obstacle for her. “I told myself hopefully I can just skirt through it some way. Had I been given a bathing suit I could have rocked it on the runway — I have no problems doing that. I could have, maybe not won, but been safe. But, lo and behold, I get these pieces of lace that are the hardest thing to sew. I was like, ‘I’m completely doomed.'”

Dusti Cunningham Genderbent 007 Kelly Mantle
Image Credit: Dusti Cunningham

Kelly says her strengths would have been demonstrated in the competitions in the later episodes. “I can do well in the acting, the stand-up comedy, the singing and ‘Snatch Game.'”

Kelly thinks she might have won the talk show competitions. “I know so much about Chaz Bono. I know about Georgia and her country music albums. I’ve been a huge Cher fan my whole life.”

Kelly says if she had been able to stick around longer she would have been able to relax. “I was so out of my element when I got there. I was like ‘What’s going on? This is so weird! What have I gotten myself into?’ I was looking around going ‘This is very not me.'”

Discussing Drag Race is just one of the many things Kelly will do in her one person show “DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I THINK I AM?”

According to the promoter’s website, the show is, “An “inebriated” evening of hilarious and sardonic stories and songs.  Always blending fantasy and reality, Kelly will divulge stories about “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” her sordid affairs in pop culture (like when Shia LaBeouf asked her to sign his penis), and her intoxicated delusions of grandeur.  Other highlights include hilarious glimpses into her childhood and her relationship with Uncle Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees as well as her “gender management issues” and how she feels about the “T” in LGBT.”

Kelly says the show is, “…full of stories and standup, songs — some originals and some twisted versions of cover songs.” She continues, “There will be some guitar playing, there will be some piano playing, there will be some dancing, there will be some multi-media video clips. There will be some kumbaya with the audience, a little kiki, a little improv. This is going to be a buffet of art. People can come back for seconds and they can bring a dirty plate.”

Kelly Mantle appears in “DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I THINK I AM?” at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York this Friday and Saturday, July 25 & 26. Purchase tickets here.

Plus, visit her online store to pick up all your Kelly swag!


Watch: Kelly Mantle’s “Eliminated”