“Sorry, I'm just getting my nails done,” Michelle Visage apologizes. “We're just cleaning up our house before we move, and — hang on, let me get ready. All this and wet nails! But I make it work.”
Brazen and straight-talking, Visage is best known as the den-mother judge of RuPaul's Drag Race and legendary best squirrel-friend of RuPaul herself. This winter, Visage takes the helm of Battle of the Seasons, a RuPaul extravaganza road show that will feature fan-favourite competitors, including Willam, Manila Luzon and Mimi Imfurst duking it out on the main stage.
“You see what you see on TV, but you really don't see the true talent,” Visage says of what makes the tour special. “[Drag Race] shows just a portion of who they are, but you don't really get to know them and what they're made of. The beauty of Battle of the Seasons is that it's live, and you really get to see the talent they have. I don't get sick of watching them. Even the numbers where I'm thinking, 'Really, girl?' I can't get enough of.”
Visage acts as the MC and solo judge of the event but also takes the stage to perform on her own. Having been part of the girl-group Seduction in the early 1990s (known for their R&B hit “It Takes Two”), Visage is undoubtedly a talented woman and finally has the chance to showcase her pipes along with other incredibly talented performers.
If anyone knows the queens of RuPaul's Drag Race, it would be Visage, best known for not mincing her words. But being on the road with the girls has given her new perspective on some of the past competitors. “I got a lot closer with Alaska during the last tour; I didn't really know what Alaska did, and you didn't see much of it on the show. Mimi Imfurst is another one — people are amazed at the talent going on there. This is why I'm so grateful for Logo and OUTtv, the channels that have the balls to air these things, and Ru to have the balls to do this; it validates this weird art form. The world gets to see it really is a true art form. There are a few [queens] like this, but Alaska really blew me away.”
Beyond the road show, Season 6 of RuPaul's Drag Race has just wrapped filming and is ready for its premiere early February on Logo and OUTtv. Visage is tight-lipped on any new details (“I'm bound and gagged!”) but is excited to see it along with viewers. “I watch it all — I only see what happens in the judging. I don't want rainbows and unicorns all the time in the work room; they're queens, honey. You think it's going to be magical, somewhere over the rainbow?”
“The show has grown so much from Season 1. No one knows how it's going to happen when it takes off, but man, Season 6, it looks like a show off of ABC. [Season 6] is an amazingly strong season. All of these queens are amazing; usually you can see one or two sacrificial lambs, but they're just not there this time. There are some queens a little more well known, but they're all strong. If I were a queen and saw these girls, I would just say, 'Send me home.'”
Before coming on as a full-time judge on RuPaul's Drag Race, Visage and RuPaul had been friends for years. Meeting each other in the club scene in New York, they began hosting radio together before making the move to VH1 for the RuPaul Show. So after working together for 17 years and being friends for even longer, if anyone would have dirt on RuPaul herself it would be her best friend.
“I don't have dirt,” Visage says. “Ru is really what you see! He's a really personable person. Ru's dirt happened in his 20s and 30s; it doesn't exist anymore, but that's what I love. I got to see him evolve, and he's the most evolved human that I know in my life. I look up to that, and I aspire to be that one day and walk on water. But until then, I'm going to keep doing acrylic nails and big hair and big boobs. When I'm down, I know just who to call, and he's always there. I'm pretty blessed to have that in my life.”
Battle of the Seasons makes its way to Toronto Saturday, Jan 11, and Visage couldn't be more eager. “The last time I was here was in 1990,” she recalls. “And what's that mall, the Eaton Centre? I love it. Toronto is such a gorgeous, fashionable, fancy city. I can't wait to come back. We have a day off after the show, so we'll be taking it off here. I want to spend the day in Toronto.”