2014 was a banner year for ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 6 winner Bianca del Rio … and don’t think she doesn’t appreciate it
There are as many styles of drag as there are cuisines or musical genres. There’s the glamour queen, the illusionist queen, the hippie queen, the shock queen — all of which have won at least one season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But it wasn’t until this past season’s winner, Bianca del Rio, that an out-an-out comedy queen nabbed the crown.
You might expect del Rio (real name: Roy Haylock) to take the victory with a zing of irony or a hiss of criticism, in keeping with her quick-witted, cynical persona. But you’d be wrong: This Bianca had a blast.
“Anyone who bitches about [the show] is someone who lost,” del Rio says on the phone from San Francisco, where she’s currently performing in front of a packed house of 1,400 screaming fans. “I am beyond grateful for anything that has come my way.”
None of which is to say that experience wasn’t intense. “You’re not given two days to make a gown or a week between each episode. We have no contact with one another at all — if it doesn’t happen on camera, it doesn’t happen. For me, I was aware of the fact that if you’re behaving crazy, they’re going to use it. If you’re cunty, they’re going to use it. If you break down and cry, they are going to use it. It’s an interesting set up, that show. It really was mind-fucking. You never know what to expect.”
Bianca herself didn’t long entertain dreams of winning Drag Race … or even appearing on it. She was content doing her bit for adoring crowds in her favorite clubs.
“For years I didn’t think the show was for me, though it was a huge compliment when people would say to me, ‘You should do [Drag Race],’” she says. “ In general, if everyone likes [something], I hate it. For me, it didn’t seem right for me, because I had seen the past seasons and it didn’t seem like my cuppa tea.”
Then she met some prior contestants … and changed her mind. “They were quite douchy, and I thought, ‘You know what? Fuck these bitches.’ So I auditioned — it was my first audition and it worked out. I didn’t [go in thinking] I have to win — I was grateful for the opportunity. To win was an extra bonus. I have been able to work and travel the country, which is insane.”
Traveling the country includes returning to Dallas on Jan. 10 for the Second Saturday Show at The Brick. “In my appearances, I do a lot with audience participation. I’m not doing any splits — or lip-synching. Anything you’re used to won’t be there.”
Bringing her act around the country has been the biggest perk of the victory.
“People say, ‘It must be exhausting flying all over the country.’ I say, ‘I’m not flying the plane, bitch — I’m sitting in first class!’ It’s been an unbelievable experience. I’ve had shitty gigs and great gigs. And this is a great one.”
And if you expect del Rio to dish dirt about her fellow contestants, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The queen of the zingers has nothing but positive things to say.
“Our season in particular was different than most — not just in the talent, but it was a diverse group, from all walks of life. More than just lip synching queens and dancing queens, we had many seasoned queens who’ve been in the business a while,” she says. And her fellow finalists were the crème de la crème.
“By the time we got to the top three, I thought I was in great company. I respected [the others] immensely. It could have gone any way and it would have been great.”
What about the snarky things said about her from the also-rans during the interviews?
“Please — I can dish it, I can take it,” she says. “Anything they said was truly what they felt at the moment. I let it ride. I do stand by everything I said, though.”
The same is true of the viewers, many of whom are among the most vocal critics (and supporters) of their favorite queens.
“It’s the power of television — it’s insane, and I mean that in a good way and a bad way. Had it come my way at [age] 20, I think I would have lost my mind,” she says. “The majority of people want you to do well, which is great and huge and kind. One of my favorite things is when people say, ‘I hate to bother you…’ Butcha are, Blanche! Ya are! And at the end of the day [what the critics] say doesn’t affect me — I don’t even know who the hell you are!”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 2, 2015.