“Drag Race” casting all-stars — and you can vote

Some former Drag Racers, on a visit to Dallas in 2010.

Despite the recent announcement that Logo no longer considers itself a “gay network,” its tentpole series, RuPaul’s Drag Race, continues to perform … so well, in fact, that the fifth season will be a six-episode “all-star” arc, with returning queens competing to be “America’s next drag superstar.” The line-up will be announced on the network’s NewNowNext site, but until then, you can vote by “like”ing the series’ Facebook page and casting your ballot.

Among those in contention are Pandora Boxx, Jessica Wild and Tatianna, pictured above, as well as Dallas-tied Mystique and Sahara Davenport. You can vote every 24 hours, so go often.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

A fuel-injected ‘Drag Race’

START YOUR ENGINES | Ru says being an ‘introverted extrovert’ is part of the secret weapon to a fabulous career.

RuPaul says sleep deprivation may be key to bitchy success as a Racer

RELATED STORY: Dallas’ Shangela is 1st returning contestant

LAWRENCE FERBER  | Contributing Writer
lawrencewferber@hotmail.com

On Monday, the third season of Logo’s hit RuPaul’s Drag Race exits the gate at full speed with a 90-minute premiere, and it’s running on some seriously premium fuel this year: Fiercer contestants, more elaborate challenges, higher profile guest judges (including Lily Tomlin, Margaret Cho and Chloe Sevigny) and the return of a Texas fave from last season.

Yet again ruling the proceedings, both in and out of drag, is superstar drag persona RuPaul. Ru, who has a new album due later this spring, sat down to dish about contestants old and new, the effects of sleep deprivation on drag queens (hint: emotional breakdowns) and what else is in the works for him.

Dallas Voice: What do you make of season three’s group of contestants and how do they differ from their predecessors? RuPaul: The honest to God truth, they’re so much more skilled, and also on an even-keeled level. These kids came with their A-game like I’ve never seen before. I don’t know if it’s our casting or what’s happening with the girls out there since the show debuted, but these kids are skilled. And the bonds they forged early on with each other is probably the most amazing element.

Yet again the first challenge is a photo shoot with Mike Ruiz. Do you forgive Mike Ruiz for his ridiculous hair on The A-List New York? It looked like a bowl of lubed squid ink pasta.  Ha! I’ve heard people talk about it. But I don’t know because I’ve never seen it. That’s funny!

Tell us some dishy behind-the-scenes factoid about season 3. Well, we’re working on so little sleep, the schedule is so fast because we’re basically shooting every day. It’s tough, grueling. So these kids come on the show and think, “I’m fierce and bad,” but can you do it day-in, day-out, for 15-hours per day? It may look like everyone’s relaxed, but nobody’s getting any sleep at all.

One typically isn’t very detail-oriented when sleep deprived. No, they’re not, and they’re drawing on a lifetime of experience because this show’s challenges are based on things I had to do on a daily basis in my own career. Anyone in the business has to be multi-tasking and wear a lot of hats. You can’t just be good at one thing. We do something, Queens in Space, where the kids shoot competing trailers for a sci-fi movie and it is hilarious. Most people think, “I can do this,” but you have to come with some acting skills, the ability to take direction. Our challenges put them through it, they really do.

Did the selection process change this season, or was there a shift in emphasis as far as the kinds of queens you looked for? Aside from the surprise 13th contestant, no one from Texas this year — last year there were three! It doesn’t change. The truth is we’re looking for showgirls. We want girls who work at doing drag for money, for a career. The things we ask them to do, a novice wouldn’t be able to. We’re looking for them to be marketing execs, managers, designers, strategists, performers, models, you name it. And the novice wouldn’t be able to do that. They’d buckle. And throw in the sleep deprivation and schedule, and you have to be in it to win it. This can’t be something you do on the side.

One contestant buckles under the pressure and breaks down in the first episode. Did that happen a lot, and how do you typically respond to it? They definitely break down because of sleep deprivation. Emotions are very fragile because they’re in a new environment, we’re putting them through the paces, and I have to give them pep talks from time to time: This is your opportunity, the world is watching. You can’t say, oh, I feel like I didn’t get my chance. Well kiddo, you are on now. You are on. There are no second chances — you have to bring it. Maybe you’ll get another chance somewhere else, but it’s time now.

How much do you miss saying Pan-dor-a Boxx? I miss [all the former contestants], actually, because even before they’re on the show, we’re living with audition tapes. We’re moving around who will work with whom. It’s a lot like casting a play: We have to have the sassy one, the ingénue, the sweet one, and sometimes the person in the role of the sweet one gets swapped out for someone else who works better in the ensemble, so we are actually living and loving and feeling these girls way before they even get to Hollywood, and then when they’re dismissed it’s heartbreaking to me. But I also know that they will come back. In some other form or show that we do, on the club circuit. I will see them again.

How has this show changed your life since its premiere? Well, I pretty much have to stay in L.A. For almost 30 years I’ve had a nightclub act I performed around the world constantly. Now the last gig I did was October 2009. With both shows it’s really kept me here in L.A. working, though I love L.A. I’m also an introvert masquerading as an extrovert, so I’ve had to spend a lot more time with people than I normally do!

What other projects are in the works? I’m writing a sequel to [my 2007 film] Starrbooty. The challenge is I want to do it G-rated but nastier, more subversive. In the immortal words of Elvira, there’s nothing wrong with G-rated movies as long as there’s lots of gratuitous sex and violence.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

Dallas Southern Pride organizers predict crowd of 10,000-plus

‘Drag Race’ star JuJu Bee, dance parties, pool parties to highlight city’s annual black Pride weekend

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Angela Amos
Angela Amos

More than 10,000 people are expected to attend Dallas Southern Pride, the premier annual black Pride event in North Texas, on Sept. 23-26.

Promoter Kirk Myers said that the event is moving from a regional event to a nationally recognized circuit party.

JuJu Bee from “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” will be one of the performers featured over the weekend. She will be at the Brick on Friday night, Sept. 24.

Myers traveled to Cleveland to see JuJu Bee perform.

“She’s very personable,” he said. “She gets out and meets everyone and is overwhelmed by the response.”

He said she didn’t realize she had such a large African-American fan base.

“A lot of people thought she should have won,” he said.

Myers said GloTV will be in town filming the Masquerade Ball on Saturday, Sept. 25, as part of a new reality series about the emerging ballroom scene in the black LGBT community.

Dallas Southern Pride has always been scheduled to coincide with the Grambling/Prairie View Classic football game generally held the first weekend in October at the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park. This year, the game was moved back a week, so Pride moved, too.

Myers said he hopes the move encourages more people of all backgrounds from Dallas to participate in some of the events. With Dallas Southern Pride coming the week after the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Myers said he believes people will still be in the mood for more Pride celebrations.

“That party is really an opportunity for the mainstream LGBT community to party with us,” he said.

Myers said several things indicate this year’s event will be larger than ever. He said the Convention and Visitors Bureau has been very supportive. More sponsors have signed on this year as well.

To close the weekend, the Signature Black Party will be held at the host hotel on Sunday night. SizzleMiami, the largest black circuit party that attracts more than 100,000 each Memorial Day, is sponsoring the event.

Myers said that the various promoters represent the diversity of the community. To attract women, they added Her 4 Her last year.

T.D. Davis, a Her 4 Her organizer, said that the theme for Dallas Southern Pride is “Taste of Dallas — Best of Both Worlds.” She said the women’s events “bring different flavors to Dallas.”

The women’s parties begin with Bourbon Street at Victory Tavern near the American Airlines Center on Thursday, Sept. 23, presented by Sophisticated Fridays.

DeMarco Major from Logo’s “Shirts & Skins” will host “New York — A Taste of the Big Apple” at the Radisson Love Field, the host hotel, on Friday evening.

The Saturday afternoon pool party has a South Beach theme and “A Night in Paris,” the Saturday night party at Wendy Krispin’s in the Design District, has a French flair.

Sunday’s brunch with Church of the Solid Rock features New Orleans soul food.

“We’re continuing to build the Her 4 Her brand,” said organizer Angela Amos.

Amos said all of the most recognized women’s organizations in the Metroplex participated in organizing the weekend’s events.

“I’d like to keep building the alliances and reaching out on an individual level,” she said.

On Saturday, several workshops presented by Glamour Girls and Alpha Lambda Zeta, a nationally recognized gay fraternity, will be held at the hotel.

“Then Sunday is a concoction of everyone,” Davis said.

After Sunday brunch and worship, both the men and the women head to Bachman Lake Park for a picnic. Myers said the food is being provided by Buffalo Wild Wings.
That event is free.

The organizers all said additional highlights and entertainment are still being booked for next week’s events.

A full schedule of events is available at DallasSouthernPride.com and Her4Her.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens