Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore, Bianca’s going to Emerald City in Pensacola Florida. Check out the interview she gave the club.
Local fans of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the Logo network’s search for “America’s next drag superstar,” were familiar with this season’s winner well before reality TV came a-callin’. Bianca del Rio is no stranger to Pensacola.
“Pensacola is almost home,” del Rio — known as Roy Haylock when out of character — said during a phone interview. “I’ve spent many of a night in Pensacola. I’m from New Orleans, and Johnny Chisolm, who owns the bar there where I started, invited me here several times. I’ve been there for many Memorial Days and many events. It’s a great city to visit. I love it.”
Del Rio is returning to Pensacola Friday for an appearance and performance at Emerald City, also owned by Chisolm.
Q: Is there a story behind your name and stage persona?
A: There’s no interesting story. Many people have amazing stories, but for me, it was a simple thing. I don’t remember where “Del Rio” came from, and I had a friend who said I looked like a Bianca. It just kind of happened. I’ve been called worse, so Bianca’s a safe one.
Q: What got you interested in drag?
A: I started in theater. I always worked with costumes, wigs and makeup, so it was a natural evolution to, “Hey, we’ve got this role in a show. It’s a small drag role.” I started to guest at Oz in New Orleans, and it snowballed from there. I’ve never had a calculated plan. It’s just been a nice ride. I can’t complain.
Q: What made you decide to try out for “RuPaul’s Drag Race”?
A: I was in this weird spot. I was 37 at the time, — I turned 38 during the filming — and it was this weird moment for me. I wasn’t an internationally established performer, and I also wasn’t 20 and overly eager to be famous. I wasn’t sure I was right for the show, but some friends who had done it encouraged me. So why not take a chance? I auditioned, and it happened. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Q: Did you have any notion at any time that you might win?
A: Oh, God no. Even up until I won, I had no idea. It can go any way. You go on this journey that’s documented, without knowing what the judges said when you weren’t there. It’s ultimately Ru’s decision. (The finalists) left knowing we were in the top three, but nothing else. It was interesting to watch it play back and learn more about the other girls.
Q: What did you enjoy about working with RuPaul?
A: Ru is an amazing individual, and I think that’s the great thing about the show. For that alone, it’s great. And it’s produced by World of Wonder, which is an amazing group of people. They know exactly what they’re doing. Whether I won or not, I felt like I gained amazing respect. The show is bringing drag into people’s living rooms, which I never though would happen. Love it or hate it, it’s mainstream, and more people are watching than ever.
Q: Do you think that aspect of the show is important, bringing drag into people’s living rooms?
A: It’s not that I think it’s important, but years ago, you’d have to go to a bar or a theater to see a drag show. (“Drag Race”) shows that we’re not just catty, that we’re real people and this is what we do for a living. I think the majority of the time, society — and even the gay community — has looked at drag queens as “less than” or people that didn’t have their own identities, which is crazy. This (show) is humanizing. This shows you can be a man and do drag.
Q: Do you think your theater and costuming background gave you a leg up in the competition?
A: If you watch the show, you know that if you don’t have a set of skills, you can’t get through. No matter how pretty you are, you can’t get through. You don’t have to be brilliant at all of it, but you have to have some sense of self. Those are the challenges, and if you don’t meet them, you won’t last.
Q: Did winning change your life?
A: Tremendously. I’ve been doing drag for a very long time, but to achieve this exposure has been overwhelming, in a good way. I didn’t realize how many people watch the show or have an opinion about the show. But it’s all good. You get this enormous amount of people that love you … and a handful that hate you. It happens.
If this happened when I were 20, I think I would have lost my mind. I’m glad it happened now that I’m more grounded. If I were 20 and got this exposure, I probably would have thought I was Mariah Carey or something.
Q: Obviously, a live show is different than TV. What can your audience expect?
A: Don’t expect anything serious. Be ready to laugh and cut up. I’m there to be a clown and have a sense of humor. I live for it. There’s a lot of audience participation and a lot of fun. There’s nothing serious about me.
Want to go?
• WHAT: Bianca del Rio.
• WHEN: 9:30 p.m. meet-and-greet, 11 p.m. show Friday.
• WHERE: Emerald City, 406 E. Wright St.
• ADMISSION: Meet-and-greet tickets: $20 (includes show admission). Show tickets: $10.