RuPaul’s Drag Race fans have coalesced behind Bianca Del Rio, so local members of #TeamBianca were ecstatic when she recently announced a handful of Toronto appearances in conjunction with WorldPride. The 519’s Green Space and OUTtv will present Bianca in her Toronto debut, alongside Adore Delano, Courtney Act and Darienne Lake, on June 26 and 28.
With the RPDR finale days away, the question must be asked: was snatching a crown always an ambition? Bianca’s answer might surprise you. “Everyone does drag for different reasons. Some do it for exposure; some use it as a pathway to transitioning,” she says. “I didn’t plan on being a drag queen. I didn’t plan on being a 38-year-old man in a dress. What I’m proudest about is that on the show we were all very skilled in different ways, and the world got to see that.” Without a trace of her trademark shade, she adds, “What was great about this season was having some older queens, because they know what they’re doing. I’ve always wanted to look like a cartoon . . . and not necessarily a pretty cartoon.”
When it comes to naming her fellow castmates, she does not shy away, and knowing her, would we expect anything else? “Courtney and I clicked with mutual respect. Adore and Trinity? I loved them. Bitch, Trinity can lip-sync a mothafucka down! That’s something I can nevah, evah do. Have I lip-synched? Yes. Can she kick my ass at it? Yes! Now, do I hate Laganja? I don’t, because she’s a brilliant performer. My point was if you cry once, I understand. If you cry 10 times, you need therapy. She needs therapy. Or maybe a joint.”
Never one to mince words, Del Rio recently weathered a potential scandal because of a viral video clip wherein a fan in San Francisco took to the stage to call her racist. To put it nicely, it didn’t end well for him. “If you’re in a bar on a Monday night at 2am watching a drag show and you’re offended, then you’re a fuckin’ fool. You need to rethink your life. Rule of thumb: you’re never going to win if someone else has a microphone.”
She’s very clear about being an insult comic with an abrasive sense of humour. “I’m not a spokesperson for everyone. By no means am I curing cancer or paving the way for the world. It’s what comedy is: I say what everyone else is thinking, but they don’t have the chance. I’m the Norma Rae of the drag world . . . I’ve accepted responsibility when someone thinks what I’ve said is too much, but I stand by what I say and I do.”
What really stung was the accusation of racism against Latinos. “It’s hysterical, because my mother is from Cuba, my dad is from Honduras and I grew up in New Orleans, where blacks, whites and Hispanics all blended. You really didn’t know someone’s ethnicity until you asked.”
She brings that multiracial worldview to her performances, with hilarious, edgy results, more akin to a Don Rickles routine than anything else. “I bring up an Asian girl, a black girl and a white girl onstage with me. It’s equal-opportunity ‘hating,’ and we make jokes, no different from what I’ve done my entire life. However, now because of technology and RPDR, it’s heightened, with more attention. But I’m not complaining, because now I’ve got a lot more Twitter followers.”
A peek behind the lashes reveals a softer side that’s only hinted at on television. With the requisite dishiness out of the way, she eventually opens up about both inspirations and being an inspiration. “I worship Chita Rivera and have gotten to go backstage to chat, starting when I was 17. She doesn’t need to talk to some fag in a wig in her dressing room going, ‘Ohmygawd I love you,’ but she told me, ‘Every night you have to prove that you deserve to be there. You can have a bad night, but you have to deliver to realize that it’s a bad night. Every new experience, you’ve gotta go, I’m lucky to get to do this. I’m lucky to be in this city. I’m lucky to get to perform.’” So now that Bianca herself has gone from starstruck teen to a full-grown diva, how does she pass inspiration on to others? Through both word and deed.
When I mention Theo Rose, an 18-year-old Toronto queen who made her drag debut at Buddies in Bad Times’ QueerCab youth cabaret last year, she sent a personal greeting along with some homework: “Find out who Charles Pierce is, who Jackie Beat, Lady Bunny, Coco Peru, Varla Jean Merman are . . . all of these people that have been working for many, many years without Drag Race. Investigate, but stay true to yourself: there’s no other right or wrong way. You’re gonna find a little piece of it at 18. You’re gonna find another piece of it at 21, then 25. Everything good and bad that happens to you is going to help. God, I sound like Yoda now.”
It’s great to see that underneath the lashes and faux bitchiness is a mother hen who is serious about tending to her chicks. “Younger kids reach out to me and say, ‘I can’t get into the club; can I meet you outside?’ So I meet them outside and take a picture, then realize it’s their mother or father bringing them. To be 13 and know who you are and what you are? That’s fabulous. Those are the people who are going to be running the world when I’m dead and gone, so kudos to them.”
To everyone on #TeamBianca, young or old, out there: whether it’s the maternal matron or the foul-mouthed, vulgar, raunchy, lovable bitch who shows up at the end of June, WorldPride is going to be one sickening party!