By Lawrence Baker
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” has already crowned America’s second Drag Superstar, but Bebe Zahara Benet will always be our first. The winner of Season 1 has enjoyed a hugely successful reign, with her dance single “I’m the Shit” already a smash.
“It’s only the beginning,” promises Bebe, currently starring in her own off-Broadway one-woman show, “Queendom.” With high glamour, striking costumes, soulful harmonies and meaningful tales, “Queendom” is lifting audiences’ spirits and invigorating senses. Detroit fans can experience a taste of the new show when Bebe performs July 20 at The Woodward.
How does it feel now that your year-reign has come to an end?
I feel inspired because now I actually get to define who I am as an artist. I’m really focusing on myself and working hard on goals I have set to move my career forward.
Have you offered any advice to Season 2 winner Tyra?
I have not had the opportunity to meet Tyra yet but when I do, I will advise her to enjoy the moment. She must remember to appreciate her blessings. She also needs to understand that she is an ambassador to the art form and must uphold it with pride and humility.
What was the best thing about being “America’s Top Drag Queen”?
The best thing was and still is when people recognize me and take the time to share with me how my work inspires them; not as drag artists but simply as human beings.
What was the worst?
The worst has been media trying to invade my private life. Also, people being negative for no reason. There really is still a lot of prejudice out there.
Has the title led to great opportunities?
The title gave me a platform to reach millions of people. It also allowed me the opportunity to decide where I want to go with my career.
Has the show impacted drag culture?
Oh, for sure! Not only are a lot of new fierce drag artists coming out, but they now see that with hard work, this can be a career for them. They can make a living from performing in heels! We are also changing a lot of the stereotypes of drag. I call it a revolution.
This summer, you began your off-Broadway show, “Queendom.”
“Queendom” is an experience. It is a modern-American musical that describes the day in the life of an African queen. The music is all original material that I wrote. There will be great visuals, storytelling and the fusion of African and American culture. I am so excited!
What inspired you to create your own show?
I wanted to share my culture. I also wanted to use my voice to tell stories. Most importantly, however, I wanted to let people know that it is the embracing of cultural differences that make our country a wonderful place to live.
What’s next for you, Bebe?
I’m about to release my second dance single, “Cameroon.” The kids are going to love it! I’m also enjoying touring the U.S. this summer. I’m excited to visit cities like Sacramento, New Mexico, and of course, Detroit.
What message do you have for all of your fans, Bebe?
Live, love, laugh and celebrate you.
Bebe Zahara Benet
6426 Woodward Ave., Detroit