Author: Deborah Nelson
When I spoke with Sharon Needles I mentioned my thoughts on a certain RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, but she said I was incorrect because I was basing my opinion on what I had seen on TV. I told her that my opinion was based on personal experience and then told her the story. She openly listened to me and let me have my beliefs. I felt respected. I knew I was having a conversation with an intelligent and rational person. So, heads up to all the Sharon haters: bail now or read on with an open mind.
I didn’t mention to Sharon at the time, but I went into the interview having no opinion of her. Sharon seems to be that one national drag performer that everyone has a story about (I would say Maddelynn Hatter is that way in New York). Once people find out that I work for Dragaholic they want to tell me their Sharon story. I don’t walk around passing out my business card and say “What do you think of Sharon Needles?” People just want to talk about her. Some tell tales that are good, some tell tales that are awful.
I have come to learn, having met and spoken with many of the RuGirls, not to form an opinion on who they really are based on the “character” that they portrayed and were edited to be on reality television. Likewise, I have always refused to form my opinion of Sharon (or any other queen for that matter) based on someone else’s night with her. I finally got the chance to “meet” her on the phone the other night when she messaged me at 3am and said “Now or never” to an interview. Now that’s Sharon!
First of all, before Sharon would even talk about herself, she wanted to compliment her friend Phi Phi. (Yes, Phi Phi O’hara. They are actually friends in real life.) Sharon and I both think Phi Phi’s drag has grown so much since Drag Race. I called it sickening, but Sharon, being much more eloquent than I, said that Phi Phi’s “Ying and Yang just spirals. Fabulous in my opinion.” So remember: What happened on TV stayed on TV. Let the grudges and the hate go.
Sharon is very smart, witty and chatty. She doesn’t look at the world the way most people do. I think she is very analytical, but she also analyzes the world upside down, in reverse, through cracked mirrors, and possibly takes in all of these views at once.
We chatted about her obsession with celebrities, had a Drag Race kiki and, of course, discussed her newly released single and video ‘I Wish I Were Amanda Lepore’ (which you can watch at the end of this article).
Deborah: Tell me, why are you so obsessed with celebrities?
Sharon: Celebrities are the perfect example of demigods in an anti-religious world. I don’t believe in God, I believe in fans because they’re the only people who ever did anything for me. So to be someone who has fans makes you a demigod. It’s very religious. And gorgeous. The concept of the way that you can really think about a celebrity.
[quote]I take celebrity death harder than deaths of people I know. Because the people I know was me loving them. When it’s a celebrity death it was them loving me.”[/quote]
D: I heard you took the death of Joan Rivers kind of hard.
S: Joan Rivers is the only person I was supposed to work with on my album that I didn’t get to. She was supposed to be on ‘Dressed to Kill’ and, at the last minute, pulled out. That one, next to Tammy Faye, was probably the worst celebrity death I ever went through. But I kept it cute. I was happy to meet her. Just one time, but still.
When I first got off of Drag Race I was meeting all of my idols. I was meeting all my celebrities so fast and there were two I didn’t want to meet: Joan Rivers and Pee Wee Herman (Paul Reubens). When I met Joan Rivers I just felt like I did the dirtiest act ever. Like ‘I wasn’t supposed to meet you. You were just supposed to exist.’
D: Why do you feel so fond of celebrities? What’s the attraction?
S: They remind you of your childhood when you would watch that glowing instrument, that fluorescent cube that rots in every family’s living room. You believe that the people inside of that – even though they may be smaller because they’re in a box with a screen – you believe that they are bigger than life and you never lose your obsession with them.
D: And what about other celebrities?
S: After winning RuPaul’s Drag Race I realized that I had one year, one calendar year, 365 days, that I would use seven days a week and 24 hours a day with that fucking crown and I got to work and meet every idol I’ve ever had. My idols are not Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga or Cher. My idols are people that are so tangible. My idols are people who come from another era. I feel more starstruck being in a room with Glamorous Monique than I do with Neil Patrick Harris.
D: But you are a celebrity yourself…
S: The best way to never have a negative feeling or experience with a fan is to think of how many things I am a fan of. When I run into Elvira I still freak out. I just ran into Joan Jett in the airport the other day and I freaked out and I forced her to take a picture with me!
D: Tell me about your obsession with Amanda Lepore.
S: When I think about Amanda Lepore I think that she smells like the glossy paper of a September issue. I think she smells like a TV remote. Because no matter how many times I pick it up and press “Change Channel” she will be there. She was the ultimate celebrity without actually doing anything. I’ve never seen beauty like that with my own two eyes, ever. And I’ll never see it again.
In 2008 I worked my first Susanne Bartsch party in Manhattan and Amanda Lepore was there and I made a rule to myself that I would never be closer than 20 feet to her. I always had to keep that distance – I had to witness my idol from afar and was never to get too close.
D: I feel like, working for Dragaholic, that I almost never want to meet RuPaul.
S: You never should. You don’t want to meet her. Ru looks at celebrity the old fashioned way. A glossy 8×10 that comes in the mail, six weeks later after an assistant’s signed it.
And Ru isn’t just “Ru.” Ru is a concept. Ru is a whole team of special effects fucking artists to create something so perfect and beautiful that it’s not meant to be seen in person. Ru is that old school celebrity that I suggest if you want to see her then you mutherfuckin’ tune in.
D: I’ve met Michelle.
S: Michelle is designed to be met. Michelle Visage is the winner of every season of Drag Race. She is the true definition of Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent and has a work ethic that trumps us all. (Sharon does a Michelle impersonation similar to the one she did on ‘Snatch Game’) I just realized that my Michelle Visage impersonation and my Joan Rivers impersonation are the exact same characters just in a different wig!
D: Do you really wish you were Amanda Lepore?
S: Amanda Lepore is the first person I’ve ever seen in a magazine, or in real life, that was a mannequin for the ideology of western impossibility. And when the most beautiful, most impossible woman you have ever seen is actually a past-her-prime transsexual male-to-female, it just speaks volumes for the way that I look at beauty in this world. I had to write a song about it.
[quote]If I could ever find a lamp and rub it and a genie – fuckin’ Robin Williams painted blue – came out and said ‘You can have one wish,’ my wish would be ‘I Wish I Were Amanda Lepore.'”[/quote]
D: Do you think Amanda Lepore wishes she was Sharon Needles?
S: Absolutely not! Amanda Lepore is perfect, from her wig to her ideology. She is the most sound, spiritual, balanced person I have ever met. Amanda Lepore is a mannequin of impossible external beauty and internal calm.
D: Why does Sharon Needles always get into trouble?
S: Sharon Needles (the character) just tends to say what she knows she is not supposed to. She uses drag as a way to be a transgressive asshole.
D: I have traveled quite a bit and seen firsthand the schedule and pressure you girls are under. Do you think that’s a factor?
S: We beg for this job, but it’s really hard. The first year off (the show), look how terrible I was. I went from being America’s sweetheart to a fucking demon. And it’s all true. (Before Drag Race) I was a sweet humble sidekick to other drag queens. Then I got a taste of what I always wanted and it didn’t make me a bitch, it just made me a businesswoman.
D: What’s the concept of the video for ‘I Wish I Were Amanda Lepore’?
S: The concept of the video is I try to think of what Amanda Lepore and I have in common, and that is that every part of our success is smoke and mirrors. And every part about us is a broken mirror and a lack of smoke. When we’re not in drag we’re so real. And then when we’re in drag it’s all a big lie. The whole video is just thousands of dollars of smoke machines and tens of thousands of dollars of mirrors.
D: What inspired you to write the song?
S: ‘I Wish I Were Amanda Lepore’ was a song basically written when I was 18 years old. It was almost a suicide note. I found my first picture of Amanda Lepore online in fashion magazines. It was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen in my life. I thought nothing could trump the perfection of that photograph.
D: Pretend we only had 30 seconds to do this inteview. What would you have said?
S: Working with Amanda Lepore was a nightmare come true. She is the embodiment, the mannequin of perfection that can never be achieved. Stranger things have not happened. I Wish I Were Amanda Lepore.
D: What should I call this story?
S: When D List reality stars start making albums
Purchase “I Wish I Were Amanda Lepore” on iTunes
Connect with Sharon Needles on Social Media
Watch: Sharon Needles: I Wish I Were Amanda Lepore
Geek Mythology Productions
Director: Ben Simkins
Producer/Makeup: Katelyn Simkins
Assistant Director/Album Cover Photographer: Crystal Allen
Designer/Wardrobe Stylist/Creative Consultant: Geoffrey Mac