Adore Delano, a finalist on the last season of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ brings her quirky unconventionality to Dallas’ Red Party
SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
Most fledgling drag queens learn the finer aspects of female impersonation — including advice on makeup, hairstyles, costumes and how to accessorize — from veteran mentors, known affectionately as drag mothers. But gender-bending songstress Adore Delano — alter ego of former American Idol contestant Danny Noriega and nom-de-camp of the RuPaul’s Drag Race finalist — did not have the benefit of such one-on-one coaching.
“I’m a drag orphan!” Noriega boasts. “I had more of a genderfuck, Pete Burns kind of style. My version of beauty was just not what everyone else thought beauty was.
No one taught me. All the drag queens hated me. I used to beat them all, though, so it was OK.”
With such intrinsic passion for spirited competition, it is no surprise that Noriega auditioned for — and made the top 3 of — Season 6 of Drag Race. The performer considers the once-in-a-lifetime experience a turning point in his career.
“It’s changed my life,” Noriega says. “I get to see the world. I’m in London right now. I am going to be in Spain and Sweden, and then I’m doing an Australian tour all over again.”
And, of course, Dallas. Adore Delano is the headliner at the sixth annual Red Party, a fundraiser for Legacy Counseling and Founders Cottage. Other than promising a “shit show mess,” the mercurial artist never knows in advance what he will wear, let alone perform.
“I am very unpredictable,” he teases. “I get these weird phases. Last night I was such a mess in London. Tonight I will be polished. I am very bipolar. It just depends on my mood.”
Noriega remains in touch with his Drag Race castmates, especially those in the top 4. The friends make efforts to communicate frequently, even when they are on different continents.
“We are all so fucking close,” Noriega says. “We talk every single day. The bitches don’t shut up sometimes. I wake up to like a hundred new texts.”
Noriega does not, however, speak much with the show host and namesake, even though he holds great esteem for the veteran drag queen.
“RuPaul is, like, on a different realm,” Noriega says. “It’s not like I have his number and we chill. He worked his ass off and we worked our asses off for him. He gave us amazing opportunities and I love him for it. He is a really sweet and amazingly smart man.”
Noriega grew up in the predominantly Mexican-American community of Azusa, Calif. It was from his neighborhood that he picked up the name Adore. A graffiti artist friend of his brother had used the name as her tag. While the wisecracking Latino says that his early years were not without struggle, he always knew that his family stood firmly behind him.
“My family is a little too supportive,” Noriega gushes. “My brother has a big picture of Adore in his living room. My other brother watches over me. They all came to the [Drag Race] reunion.”
In addition, Noriega considers his mother — with whom he is exceptionally close — his greatest ally. He describes her as both a fearless supporter and a grounding influence.
“My mom says, ‘The way you act reflects the way I raised you,’” Noriega says. “When I was in high school, she would help me shop for makeup and stuff. My mom works a lot. She spends time at home with my nieces and nephews and being a grandma. I could be going through anything and I could just talk to her. She is my best friend.”
Indeed, it was his mother who suggested that Noriega, who since his early teens had dressed as a girl, butch it up for his run on American Idol. Despite the wardrobe makeover, though, the artist was perhaps still a little too flamboyant for mainstream tastes.
“I always wanted to audition for [American Idol],” Noriega says. “I knew I wouldn’t win because I’m a gay-ass motherfucker, and it airs on Fox. I always wanted to get on the show for exposure so I could make an album and tour. My intentions were to go on there as like gender bending Danny, but that wasn’t the case.”
Even though Noriega was eliminated prior to the final rounds of American Idol, his dreams of an album debut recently came true. Till Death Do Us Party, was released over the summer under the name Adore Delano. To guarantee authenticity, Noriega insisted on participating in songwriting.
“I wanted the words to come from me,” Noriega says. “So when [producers] said we are going to get you a writer, I said no. I wanted it to be personal. I am not a big fan of having songs that were written for me. I want them to be a touch of me, at least.”
Like the fabulous diva under whose name it is issued, the energetic 11-track party album — with songs titles like “DTF” and “I Look Fucking Cool” — is both a little raunchy and a lot of fun. It is also groundbreaking.
“I have an album that debuted at No. 59 on the Billboard charts,” Noriega says. “No drag queen has ever done that before, so I think that’s pretty awesome.”
Noriega enjoys the process of writing and recording songs. In fact, he plans to issue a follow up album next summer. However, his first love remains the stage.
“I like live performance,” Noriega says. “It’s more intimate. There is more to do. There is more fun to have. That’s why we all do what we do — to see the faces that buy the albums and that write you on Twitter. I love the crowd.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 12, 2014.