Author: Deborah Nelson
Everyone knows what Michelle Visage looks like when she’s angry. Her pupils narrow to these little pinpoint white hot laser beams strong enough to bore through concrete. It’s a look that is usually brought on by Santino, or by a queen stating that she is going to “Stay true to her drag.” It’s a look I wanted most desperately to avoid during the course of this interview.
So while most journalists would probably be concerned with bringing their readers the BEST quotes from Michelle, the juiciest dish or just try kiss-ass their way into a job with World of Wonder, I am living with one goal in mind: ‘Don’t piss off Michelle.’
But before the interview can begin, she needs to clear me up on a few things. I have let it slip that I used to listen to Howard Stern on SiriusXM but cut him loose about a year ago. “Really? Why? Because I’ll debate with you about this. And I will tell you my thoughts about it,” she says. Oh crap. I have only brought up Sirius radio because Michelle was a DJ on a now-defunct music station there for three years (as part of a 17 year career in morning radio). Michelle is not mad, (I do a quick pupil check) but she quite passionately needs me to know that I am wrong about Howard Stern.
Let me tell you, Judge Judy has nothing on this woman. I try to explain why I stopped listening to Howard but, when I speak, my reasons don’t even make sense to me. Suddenly I am Magnolia Crawford on the runway trying to defend her ridiculous nose contouring and blaming it all on her box. Within three minutes I not only agree to add Howard Stern back to my Sirius lineup but also to purchase former Stern show cast member Artie Lange’s new book. The funny thing though is that I really do end up feeling like I was completely wrong in my thinking and just needed a little educating.
By the way, in this meeting with me, Michelle is completely unmade up. Her features are flawless. Michelle Visage without a brush stroke of makeup looks way better than me when I’m fully beat, contoured, polished and threaded. She has also lost a lot of weight – she won’t say how much – and looks terrific.
I can tell Michelle really, really, really likes drag.
[quote]I properly love it. I do. To me it’s like going to see a Broadway show. I’m just a show queen. So for me, seeing talent fills my heart with song. That sounds so gay! But it really does. It fills my heart with joy.
“These kids work so hard and forever the world has looked at it as a joke. They were always the outcasts of the community. Ru has done such a fucking mitzvah. By getting the show as far as he has. Not just Ru but World of Wonder as well. They have earned their wings by doing what they’re doing for these kids. Nobody would know who they are. And the world would be missing these great, talented kids. So I’m proud to be a part of it.
“It’s a family. There’s shade but there’s lots of love.”[/quote]
And now…it’s time to Spill the Tee
Okay, show’s over. Let’s ask Michelle “Whatcha Packin’” in terms of dish…
Of course I have ask her about the topic that’s on everyone’s minds – when are they filming Season 7 of Drag Race and who is in the cast? Like she’s really going to answer those questions!
Michelle does say that filming will be ‘later this summer’ before Labor Day.
She also drops a bomb –
“It’s been cast but the girls don’t know yet. That’s the last I was told. The last I heard, which was like last week, the girls didn’t know.”
Deborah: Ru said in Justin Root’s web interview that it would be shot within five weeks (Ru’s actual quote from the Justin Root interview: “We’ve cast the show and we start filming in… about five weeks we start filming, four or five weeks.”)
Michelle Visage: (she had not seen the interview) No. We shoot it in five weeks.
D: As in it takes five weeks to film? That’s not quite what he said.
M: Are you sure?
D: No! ( I was pretty sure but…see earlier in article…) I think he said it’s been cast and that filming is going to begin within five weeks.
M: Of when?
D: Of whenever that interview was shot.
M: Where are we now date-wise? (looks at calendar on her phone) We’re not even in July yet! (The interview took place on June 28.)
Judging by Michelle’s reaction and date counting, I’m guessing that filming will take place in August.
D: Let’s talk about Season 7 casting. Is the cast going to be filled with all of the girls everyone is expecting to get cast?
M: I think there’s a combination. I think there’s not just ‘who’s probably gonna get cast’ because I think Ru looks outside of the box, and he does the casting with Logo. He sees every tape. He knows who’s ready. He knows who’s not. And Ru started out doing genderfuck weird stuff. Ru’s always done crazy drag. It’s only when he became the glamazon that his career really blew up. But he has an affinity and a love for that kind of crazy drag. Crazy but polished. It has to have a message.
D: At Dragaholic we did a staff picks article of who we would like to see on Season 7. I like the crazy out of the box stuff too, so I picked a queen from New Hampshire called Laila McQueen, as kind of a wildcard pick. Have you heard of her?
M: I love Laila. She knows I love her. I think her type of drag has to be separated enough from Sharon’s. But I love Laila. Her time will come because she’s that good. I met her at a contest in New Hampshire and I was blown away. And she’s just been growing and growing. I’d like to see her do more than just spooky though.
D: Who are some other up and coming queens that you are into?
M: Every city has their queens. Each city has one or two queens that I think have what it takes. I love Ba’Naka in DC. She’s not ready but her personality is ready. I love Nina West in Columbus, Ohio. I love Aggie Dune in Rochester. She’s older. I like the age because we’ve never had anybody over 41. The idea of having an older queen would make me very happy. One who’s very relevant.
D: But you are really not involved in the casting?
M: When I’m sitting at the table and they come out – first time I’m seeing them.
D: Why do they leave you out of casting?
M: Because it’s not my show. The day we start shooting, the first day, I go into Ru’s dressing room. It’s a ritual. He gets ready about an hour before me. And he has the pictures of the contestants up all over. So he gets to know the names. And that’s when I walk in and he shows me everybody. And then we sit down, that’s the first time I see them. So I literally am out of it. I think they do that because I’m friends with so many, they don’t want me to know. Because I get around. I’m the one who meets these kids. I’m the one who says ‘You should audition.’
I’m the one who told Bianca to audition. I had seen her and I went to go visit [Lady] Bunny and I met her. And I approached her after the show and I said, ‘Why have you not auditioned?’ And she’s like (raspy voice) ‘Girl, they don’t have queens like me on that show.’
D: With that in mind, do you think some girls will ‘eliminate’ themselves from casting by not applying because they don’t think they are ‘right’ for Drag Race?
M: Don’t put yourself in a box. They never had a queen like Sharon Needles either. It’s all drag and it’s what you do best that we see. I’m not gonna try to make you be a Sharon or Sharon be a you. When I push people I’m pushing you to be the best that YOU can be.
D: What do you like in a queen? What makes you think she has ‘it’?
M: I like a story. I like a beginning a middle and an end to their looks. I like it to be complete, but I also like authenticity. So that when I look at somebody I go – I totally get what you’re doing. I get it all completely. You’ve got me.
I don’t like people pleasers. I want you to be you. So it’s important for them to be true to who they are. I don’t ever want them to mistake what I do for me trying to make them be something they are not. That’s not the game, that’s not what I do. What I’m trying to show them is that they can do something different than what they’re used to, so that when they leave this show they feel like they’ve grown.
D: Do you ever go to the workroom?
M: I go to the workroom only when I’m filling in for Ru. Other than that, no way, Jose. They (the producers) don’t want me to know them (the contestants). I’m not allowed to talk to them. I do not see them. They completely sequester me because they don’t want me to get to know them.
D: Who, out of the Season 6 cast, did you know already when they came walking down that runway?
M: I knew of Courtney Act. I had worked with her once on a ‘Funny or Die’ but I didn’t spend much time with her. I knew of Bianca because I met her once and I was the one who said audition. That didn’t mean that I got her on the show, that doesn’t mean that I pushed it through, it means that I told her she should consider auditioning. So I had seen Bianca perform and it was interesting to see how she would tone her act down, because she’s hateful and vicious (on stage). I knew of Adore but I didn’t know what she did.
Season 5 I knew Detox and Alaska. I knew Detox – we were kind of friends – but I didn’t even know she was on. But I like judging friends because I end up judging them harder.
D: So with that in mind, if and when there’s an All Stars 2, how are you going to be able to judge the contestants now that you’ve toured with them on the BOTS tour and know them on a more personal level?
M: Easily. I can judge anybody. Because that’s my job. I’m not there to be your friend. They know I still love them. I can’t wait for All Stars 2. I can’t wait to see who they will choose.
D: Do you think they will go back to the beginning or do you think they will start from Season 4 or 5?
M: No! I think they’ll start from the beginning.
D: Why can’t there be an All Stars where they take all the winners and have them compete for the ultimate crown?
M: Because we’ve only had six.
D: Six is perfect though. Then you wouldn’t have to have teams.
M: If they do six. What if we get a full season of All Stars? It has to be big enough to include winners or do just winners. But I feel like they shouldn’t. I feel like they should do the people who didn’t win.
D: Who would you like to see on All Stars 2?
M: I would love to see Alaska on there. I would love to see Roxxxy on there. I’d love to see Phi Phi on there. I’d love to see Alyssa Edwards on there. I’d like to see Willam on.
D: Who from Season 6 would you put on there?
M: I’d put Adore on there. I would like Laganja to come back to prove herself. Because I think she’s really talented.
D: Anyone from Season 1?
M: Probably Rebecca Glasscock. And Ongina.
D: Anybody else jump out?
M: When I interviewed Joslyn Fox on ‘Whatcha Packin’ I fell in love. She could be a contender because she’s so fucking lovable. And then there’s Ivy (Winters). She’s another sweetheart.
D: What about BenDeLaCreme? Do you think she can come back and be more real?
M: Oh definitely! And people love BenDeLaCreme.
D: Yes, there was a little bit of an outrage when she got eliminated.
M: And they blamed it on me like it’s my fucking show. The last time I checked this is RuPaul’s show. Not mine. I do not have the last say. But people think I’m sitting there whispering into RuPaul’s ear.
D: It’s ain’t Michelle Visage’s best friend race!
M: It ain’t!
D: So with all this All Stars talk, when are you going to shoot it already?
M: Not this season, no. Everybody thinks it’s happening because Ru said on ‘Watch What Happens Live’ that we’re gonna do an All Stars 2. That simply means we are going to do an All Stars 2. That doesn’t mean this season. Not happening.
D: Maybe you’re holding off because you’re looking to move networks since there’s a little bit of tension between Ru and Logo?
M: There’s no tension. It is what it is. They’ve been good to us, we’re not looking to go anywhere. But you can’t do an All Stars every year. We took a break last year. We don’t know when the next one’s coming but it will come obviously, it has to. I have no information but it’s not on my schedule and I would be a part of it.
D: What’s your production routine on the show? Is it day after day after day?
M: I go every other day. They go every day. Ru goes every day, the queens go every day. That’s why they’re fucking frazzled at the end. And they’re ready to cry.
I get up about 4:00. I do half an hour cardio. Then I shower because I have to go in with wet hair for Hector to do my hair.
D: Do you ever do your own hair on the show?
M: Listen, I’m from New Jersey and I know how to do one hairstyle it’s big and it’s 1980’s. So it’ll never happen. If I do my own hair it’s in a bun. You know if my hair is in a bun I did it. I do a fierce fucking bun.
D: Are you going to switch to the lace fronts like you said on ‘What’s the Tee’?
M: I asked Courtneyfor one and she’s gonna send me one and we’re gonna try it. If I hate it – I’ll go back.
D: Getting back to the production routine…
M: I get there by seven. I start makeup seven to 7:30. And I usually have to be on set by 11:30
D: Do you do your own makeup on the show?
M: Oh god no! Only in real life. I’m too draggy to do it for TV. In real life and in pictures it looks so good. But on television that’s a different story.
D: Once you are on set how long are you there?
M: We shoot ‘til about 8 or 9 at night. So it’s a 12 to 14 hour day.
D: For just the elimination days? Why does it take so long?
M: You have to shoot each queen one by one. Then there’s an hour for deliberations, an hour for lunch.
D: What are the deliberations like? Do you have a little deliberation room?
M: No we do them right there.
D: When you’re deliberating do you prefer having guest judges or do you prefer when it’s just the three of you?
M: No! I like having guest judges. I like their input. Because they’re always superfans. So they love the show as much as I do. And as much as Ru does.
D: Would you watch the show if you weren’t involved with it?
M: I did. I did watch it seasons 1 and 2.
D: And were you calling Ru every day?
M: I was emailing and I was really upset that I wasn’t there!
D: How much fun was it when you had Leah Remini on?
M: (laughs) She’s one of my best friends and it shows.
D: It was so much fun to watch! I thought you needed your own show.
M: We’re working on something! I have no doubt that it will happen, it’s just when will it happen.
D: Any other tee?
M: I can tell you there are some big changes coming in season 7. That’s all I’m telling you.
Purchase all of your sickening Michelle swag at her online shop!
Michelle shares her thoughts on a few RuPaul’s Drag Race cast members
‘That’s my sweetheart. He was doing this affected thing and that’s why I called him out on it, because I knew that wasn’t who he was. I could see right through that bullshit. They think that they need to be something. They just need to be themselves. And what they don’t understand is that Ru loves vulnerability. Ru loves to see the real them. That’s what just makes him fall in love.
That’s why we fell in love with Adore. It certainly wasn’t for her looks. And I’m not being shady. But let’s call it what it is. We fell in love with HER. You saw me say on the show ‘I just love her and I can’t tell you why.’ She just has that ‘it’ factor. You fall in love with her vulnerability. And that’s so important. And these kids think it’s the opposite.
Even Bianca was vulnerable. And it was important. Because, I’m telling you, if she was a tough bitch the whole time we would have been turned off.
Love. We share the same aesthetic. My problem was I wasn’t getting who Ben was. In a sense it was kind of similar to Laganja. They both were doing a character. But Bendela has been doing it for years and she likes to keep this character. And I understand that. But that wasn’t the format to do that. Because I’m trying to get at you and I can’t. When I called him on it and I said I’m still not understanding who you are. I understand what you do but I’m not understanding who you are. Because drag is what they do. Drag is not who they are.
That’s my baby! Alaska’s very dark and Alaska’s very artsy. That’s my friend. He’s an amazing human.
Sharon is an interesting character who I actually have a very close relationship with. As a mother she concerns me. I don’t think she’s in control of herself. She is so sweet and sincere and loving. And artsy. And so intelligent. And because of the substance (alcohol), in my opinion, it clouds judgment. And she makes bad choices. When she crosses that line she becomes a really dark force. I can control it but I’m not there all the time. If I’m there she will not. I’ll call her on it and she’ll stop. I love her so very much and wish I could stop that side of her. But she has to want to stop that side of her.
She wants to be a star and she thinks that being punk rock is the way to do it. But we’re not looking for Sid Vicious. I’d rather be Johnny Rotten, who’s still going. She’s choosing the wrong path. And she’s so talented. That’s why these moments of darkness confuse me and upset me. I just want to run and hug her. Because I do love her.