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By Shelby Clark Petkus
Hot off Season 7 of the Logo TV’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” phenomenon, Darienne Lake of Season 6 spoke with Between the Lines about her upcoming gig at Motor City Pride June 6. The New York native shared her opinion on past queens from the show, her love for the Internet and what her hometown has in common with Detroit.
So you just got off RuPaul’s DragCon, the country’s first drag convention, hosted in Los Angeles – how was that?
It was fantastic. It was the most amazing thing. It was twice as busy as they expected it would be. It was just incredible, because it’s no longer just gay people coming out to see drag queens. It’s grandchildren and grandmothers. It’s insane. (In addition to doing photo signings) I was on the Comedy Queens panel with Trixie (Season 7) and Pandora (Season 2)… It’s funny – for a good three-and-a-half hours, I was standing in the “Free Area” and not in the Logo area for photos. So one of the people who worked on the show came over and he said, “Girl, this line is crazy!” And I said, “Well, people said that they hated me after sending BenDeLaCreme home (Season 6’s “Miss Congeniality” queen), so I told them to get in line. And they did!”
Speaking of comedy, you’re coming to Motor City Pride to cohost the drag show with Shangela (drag contestant on Seasons 2 and 3 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”). What should we expect from you two?
That’s going to be a lot of fun. She’s hilarious, as well. It’s going to be a great time – I love Shangela. Expect a lot of jokes, a lot of shade. (Laughs) It should be a great time. Expect everything – a few surprises. I’ll probably do a few death drops.
I have to ask you about the shade. You always are very professional in interviews but were known for your shade on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Do you feel you keep the two personas separate?
Even in my “normal” life there’s a lot of shade – it’s just how it’s portrayed. Usually it’s portrayed as harmless, as fun. The thing is, with shade, there always has to be an intelligence about you to throw it. Some people aren’t good at throwing shade. I don’t know – I’m not going to deny that I’m not shady in real life, but I’m shady in a way that it’s fun. But then, the way it was portrayed on the show was me “being mean,” but that’s the power of TV.
Do you have any thoughts on the edit of the current season?
I think it’s basically what it always is. There’s a cast and characters to portray a certain storyline, and they portray a story. It’s a reality competition, and it’s not a documentary. I’m sure if it were a documentary, it wouldn’t have all the editing noises and the special music and all that. They create an entertaining program, and we tune in every single week, and that’s what makes us create heroes and villains in our minds.
Who did you root for this season?
It’s really interesting to see how it goes, you know, based on your first impressions of people. My first impression of Violet was before the show. I met her in Denver, Colorado, and I had heard about her, about her stealing Sharon Needles’ crown (winner of Season 4). So when I met her, I said, “Should I watch my stuff around you? I’ve heard about you.” So I liked her from the beginning, and I saw some of the outfits she had. And for someone who was 16 years old when the show started, she had a lot of great outfits. So I was sort of a fan right from the beginning.
And also, with Ginger Minj, I kind of met her through Kasha Davis (Season 7), and she was really stressed out, especially from the first announcement of the cast, especially because so many people out there are so critical right from the get-go. So she needed somebody to talk to. And she knew I had gotten a lot of hatred from a lot of people, so I talked with her a lot on the phone.
When I was younger I was bullied by real bullies with fists, not people with an Internet connection. So for me, that’s like being bullied by air. So with her, I helped talk her through it. They’re the same every single year. People get on Twitter and say, “What’s it like to go home first?” People think they’re funny. They think they’re cute. But in the end, mind over matter: Don’t pay them any mind, because they don’t matter.
Speaking of Ginger, what’s it like seeing another “big queen” get to the top like you did?
It’s fantastic! Finally we have a big girl who made it to the Top 3, and she’s really proven herself not just as an entertainer, but also proven herself when she’s been in the bottom and had to lip synch. I always think that it’s great to see somebody lip synch, because it gives a feel for what kind of entertainer they are. It’s one thing to be pretty, but I don’t want to stare at the “Mona Lisa” for an hour. I want to be entertained.
So, I’m definitely a Ginger Minj fan, all the way. Not just because she’s a big girl, but because she’s an entertainer. I think she’d be a great representative for the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” brand because she is older, she has lived with everything in the past – the experience of hosting a show. Some of these girls, like with Pearl – gorgeous, fantastic – but her and Violet are children of the Internet. Not to say that’s not a challenge, but can they handle it all, at such a young age? With Bianca (Del Rio, winner of Season 6), she’s older as well, and she’s handled it so incredibly well. It’s hard to follow in her footsteps because she’s done such a gang-up job. If you think about the queens who are older, like Raja (Season 3) as well, she has that experience – she’s been through it all.
Would you say the younger queens who have won haven’t carried the crown or brand as well?
Well, if you think about Sharon Needles, who’s younger, she’s had a lot of ups and downs. She’s very polarizing – people either love her or hate her. Very young as well is Tyra (Season 2), and she’s also either loved or she’s hated. It’s hard to tell with Bebe (Season 1), who was the first, but then with Jinkx (Season 5), she’s done a really great job, but she’s also not that young…
I’ve even heard about a past winner – and I’m not going to name names – but she was crying to Michelle Visage (one of the judges on the show) that she was completely broke. And I was like, “But you won! You had $100,000, you have at least one album, you’ve been touring all over the place – how can you be broke?” That’s the thing – you get to a point where you’re desperate for money, so you end up doing desperate things for attention. It’s shade, but it’s also concern. Quite honestly, she is a friend, and I am concerned – I’m concerned about all of them.
You mentioned Pearl and Violet being children of the Internet, but I’ve noticed you’re actually pretty active online, including on reddit. Not many queens interact at that level online – why do you?
I feel you have to keep up with everything, otherwise you’ll be left behind. I’ve always been into technology and all that; I love the Internet. I don’t sleep much, so… I know that some people have stayed away from places like reddit, like, “I don’t want to hear mean things about myself.” For me, I don’t care. I’m a little bit of a masochist that way. I’m verified now with that subreddit (reddit.com/r/rupaulsdragrace), and I like to put in my opinion about the show as well, because I am, you know, a fan. They’ve come to respect me and understand me and see where I’m coming from.
They still will criticize me and stuff. There are certain things they know aren’t my strength – like my fashion. My fashion, I think, has always been shit. Let’s face it – if I come out in a garter and corset, people will be like, “Girl, you’re naked. Where the fuck is your dress?” I can’t pull that off. I don’t want to end up looking like Madonna – you know, desperate.
Will we see you on a second season of “RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race”?
I don’t know! Through the rumor mill, I heard it didn’t really do that well, so Logo doesn’t really want to take a chance on something that won’t do well. But I think with every year, the ratings are getting better and better. As long as they don’t do teams.
Taking it back to Motor City Pride – I know you visited Warren recently. Now that you’ll be in the downtown Detroit area, what are you expecting from the city itself?
I think it’s great. I know that Detroit has this whole reputation of being run down – I also come from Rochester (New York). I’m in the rust belt. I get it. And the thing is, about our towns, is that the people that are still there are fighters. We’ll take what little we have and make the best of it. That’s what I love about my city, that’s what I love about Detroit. We’re not going to give in; we’re going to rebuild it and make it better than it was. I’m in L.A. right now, and trust me, there are a lot of areas that look worse than Detroit here. (In Detroit) there’s a lot of soul. And that’s why I’m excited about Pride.
Detroit Drag Review with Shangela & Darienne Lake
5:30 p.m. June 6
Hart Plaza, Detroit