Season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race is going down as the most controversial season ever. First there was Tranny-Gate (sorry, there’s just no other way to say it), then there was LaGanja: ’nuff said. And then there was the déjà vu elimination of one of my picks for top three, BenDeLaCreme. It was a lot to process this year, let me tell you. I caught up with Season 6’s Miss Congeniality in NYC in the midst of the opening weekend of her one-woman show, Terminally Delightful.
Daily Xtra: You were an absolute sensation on Season 6 and one of my favourites to make top three. I still can’t believe you didn’t win!
BenDeLaCreme: Well, thank you. It’s intense and exciting to hear how people have responded to me. It’s been a wild ride, let me tell you.
What was your inspiration for calling yourself BenDeLaCreme?
It started back in the olden days when I was living in Chicago. I was actually a very angst-y, punk rock, riot girly drag queen. I grew up sort of a punk kid in the punk scene, and I had lots of feelings about the world at large. And so I was Tina Angst, and she was always totally shock drag and angry and punk. And at some point, I realized that that was not the direction I needed to push myself in because I was already enough like that. I needed to come up with some kind of counter to that. So when I moved to Seattle, I started with the idea that I wanted to do something that was the best of Ben, the best of me, and if crème de la crème means the best of the best, then BenDeLaCreme is the best of me.
Your personality is very pin-up girl, very cutesy. Almost like anime come to life.
I always really love when drag feels not quite human or not real, more of a cartoon character. So I’ve always kind of aspired to everything being a little big bigger and not quite feeling like it’s of this universe.
You were read by Michelle Visage for being too costume-y, yet when you came down the runway in that flea costume she said, “Finally we see the real BenDeLaCreme!” It had to have been confusing to you.
Oh, it’s very confusing on the runway. You hear such conflicting feedback. I would get “I love this pin-up look,” “I love your silhouette,” “You really know your body,” and the next time it would be, “I feel like we’ve seen this; I’m sick of it,” and I’d be, Well, I’m bringing it back because you liked it.
Do you think it’s reached a point where if you’re a drag queen and you haven’t been on RuPaul’s Drag Race, you’re not a real drag queen?
If you’re doing drag and you’re working really hard at it full time . . . if you haven’t done the Drag Race thing, it could be very hard to get to that next level where you’re getting that exposure. And honestly, drag is a ton of work. It’s hard to get paid enough to make it feel like a legitimate performer.
Since Phi Phi O’Hara in Season 4, we’ve had a mean girl in the cast. Last year, it was Roxxxy Andrews. This year, there were two mean girls, Courtney Act and Darienne Lake, but in retrospect they were way nicer than the other mean queens have been.
That was actually hard to watch. Because Courtney is someone I consider a really good friend, and I think that in some ways she just didn’t translate well. And I think it’s too bad because in reality, she really is a loving, genuine, big-hearted person. To know her personally, I was actually shocked that that was the way she was portrayed on the show. And then Darienne and I didn’t get along great on the show, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world because there’s always going to be someone that you vaguely don’t get. And it was made into what it was made into, but at this point, Darienne and I have talked through it. I think she’s lovely and I totally respect her, but it’s hard to watch because they needed a villain, so they created one.
I was surprised to hear you say on the show that used to be a big girl yourself.
The interesting thing about that is that I’ve had a few people say to me, “It’s so inspiring to hear you talk about being fat and you overcame it and now you’re not fat.” That is not the moral of the story. The moral of the story is that I started finding a way to feel good about myself no matter what weight I am. I mean, my weight still fluctuates and I have to find a way to feel okay about that, and that’s what that story is about: making sure that you can find a way to love who you are no matter what package that comes in.
On Episode 7 when you were lip-synching for your life against Darienne Lake for the first time, and when Darienne appeared to win, I clutched pearls! There was such a gasp of shock in the bar. People couldn’t believe you were actually going home. It was the most dramatic moment of the season, and I think it made you a star of Season 6.
It was a really intense moment to have that. But you know, I really felt the whole time I just knew that anything could happen at any time, and I needed to just accept what I was given in the most graceful way I could because that’s all you can do when you’re in the hands of TV producers.
You just finished the New York premiere of your one-woman show, Terminally Delightful, and you’ll be performing on the Drag Queens at Sea Mayan Cruise and the European Cruise. What’s next for you?
Well you know, this solo show, Terminally Delightful, has been so well received that we’re already looking to be back in New York for August, and then we’re going to tour it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to bring it to Toronto later this year.
It’s obvious now that RuPaul’s Drag Race is a phenomenon. It reaches across social and sexual borders. I know big ol’ burly leather bears that love is as much as 14-year-old girls in the boondocks.
It’s really amazing. It’s been so cool to get to know all the different types of people who’ve become fans of the show. You know, from the perspective of being inside it, I never expected it to give me that sense of feeling so much more connected to so many people. Drag can be very alienating sometimes. You can feel like you’re on the fringe, so suddenly being thrown into the mix of this larger love that bridges all the gaps — it’s really amazing.
Well, I think you’re really amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, and please bring your show Terminally Delightful to Toronto!
Thank you so much. I hope to see you all soon!