If you’re watching this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, you’ve no doubt marveled, no, gagged at the fast-talking, sass-tastic talents of Bianca Del Rio (aka Roy Haylock.) The NYC-via-New Orleans performer is a standup genius, she can imitate Judge Judy to a tee, and read a queen up one side the street and down the other. (She’s proven that latter skill time and time again in the Untucked Lounge, where, I learned in a chat this week, she grips a pillow to keep herself from strangling a bitch.)
If you’re lucky, she’ll read your ass to filth when she and seven of her co-stars come to Philly this week to perform at Voyeur in the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 Cast Party. In anticipation, she called me up for an interview. I got some pointers on those aforementioned reading skills, who she was glad to see go (surprisingly the answer isn’t “all of them”), and how she’s handling her instant rise to fame.
G Philly: [Phone rings] Hello?
Bianca Del Rio: Hi, is this Josh? I’m so sorry I’m three minutes late. I was gabbing on another call.
GP: It’s okay. I talked to Courtney Act this week and she was three hours late.
BDR: That bitch!
GP: [Laughs] Well let's get to it. The first question I usually like to ask drag queens is how you got your name.
BDR: I don’t have a creative story. When I started doing drag in the bars, my friend was like, “You need a name." She said, “You remind me of this friend I used to have named Bianca.” And I said okay. Then Del Rio came out of nowhere. I think it was just a good way to explain my eyebrows, because I am Spanish. That’s it. Drunk in a bar. Nothing enchanting. Nothing exciting. No drag mother. No significant part of history. It was just a choice made many years ago.
GP: Well it works!
BDR: Thanks. Several friends of mine have those funny names, like Mimi Imfurst, or She Needa Drink, and all that shit. People are like, “Why isn’t your name funny?” And I’m like, “I don’t need my name to be funny, because I’m funny, you douchebag. So that’s that.
GP: How did you come to be a drag queen?
BDR: I was doing costuming and wigs for a show called Pageant, and there was a small [woman's] part at the end of the show that the director asked me to do, so I did it and my drag career kind of started. ... By no means did I think it was my identity, or a secret desire to be a woman — have you seen me? It’s more of the comedian, joking aspect of it as opposed to being literal and fishy.
GP: You’ve become such a big star since you started Drag Race. What does that feel like?
BDR: It’s kind of crazy. I’m so fascinated by it. ... I’m amazed that billions of people see the show. I’m grateful for the opportunity, I’m appreciative of the interest, and I’m grateful to get to work and travel and experience a lot of these people. It’s amazing.
GP: Another question I like to ask reality stars is how they feel about the way they've been portrayed on their shows. So ... ?
BDR: Look, there’s two things going on: It’s a competition, and it’s a reality show. That’s what I signed up for. I made peace with what I said and what I did on a flight back home with a bottle of wine. I said, “You know what, two tears in a bucket, mother fuck it. I did what I did.” Of course they can’t show you everything that happened in the 16-hour days that we had, but who am I to say it’s good or bad. I signed up for it, it is what it is, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
GP: It’s pretty obvious the editors like you. I think you’re being portrayed pretty well. Do you think there’s anyone in the cast who’s personality’s been misconstrued a bit?
BDR: The moment we have in the room with the girls is really the only interaction we have with one another. I didn’t know what other people were saying in confessionals, or whatever. It’s interesting for me to watch, because it’s the first time I’m seeing it with the rest of the world. Now a lot of us are friends, but there you really aren't. A lot of it is based on first impressions: looks, what you're producing, how you handle a situation.
GP: Courtney was telling me that she comes across nastier than she really is, because of the whole Joslyn thing.
BDR: I know Courtney as a person, and I knew her [a little] before the show. I adore her. I understand her personality. I think one of the reasons we got along throughout the show, was because of mutual respect. I know she’s talented, and I know she’s beautiful. Those are things I don’t possess. Her skills are different than mine. I think there was an understanding of that from the get-go. So I understand some of the things she’s said and done. As far her situation with Joslyn, I wasn’t always there. I had my own shit to deal with. It’s interesting to watch, but I don’t know how Joslyn felt, because I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to her about it.
GP: What’s been your favorite personal moment so far?
BDR: I’m glad they were able to show my relationship with Trinity. I’m grateful something like that could be put in a positive light, because it really did happen that way. It really was a genuine friendship that was created through the show. I’m very grateful for that.
GP: Is there a moment on the show that you wish hadn’t been shown?
BDR: I think Courtney said it best. A couple situations with Laganja could have been handled better. … I don’t dislike Laganja in any way. I think she’s very talented and a fierce performer, but if she cried one more time I would have kicked her. You're seeing 20 minutes of it, but for us, it was hours.
GP: You seem to keep your composure pretty well. Was there a time when the pressure became too overwhelming?
BDR: We shall see! [Laughs] It’s a test of yourself, and that’s the only thing you’re in control of. ... I thought I had all the answers, but when I got there it was a very humbling experience mentally. I came out of it looking at things differently, which is good. Working with others is always taxing. But for me, age helped me, and also having that pillow on my lap on every episode of Untucked. Yes, that was my common ground. It kept me from strangling people. [Laughs]
GP: You’ve shown that you have the upper hand when it comes to reading people. Have you ever met your match?
BDR: Nobody stands out, but I’ve had moments. That’s the fun of it. I love to spar. It’s not so much about having one good read, or having 10 good reads, it’s knowing when to use them, when to apply it. People can say something clever, or something bitchy, but it needs to be smart and used at the right time. That’s the key to reading, as we call it.
GP: You’re just so quick about it. That’s what’s so amazing.
BDR: It’s that Rolodex of hate. [Laughs] It’s just there lodged in my brain.
GP: You’ve caught some flack lately for making jokes about minorities (see: above clip.) Why don’t you riff on white people?
BDR: I do! It’s there. Dig deep on YouTube, it’s there. I don’t like anybody. I’m an equal opportunity hater. I’m a man in a wig. What validity to I have? You can ask anybody. I’m an equal opportunity hater.
GP: Who were you the happiest to see sashay away so far?
BDR: The one that kind of stood with me the longest, and the one I questioned a lot was Magnolia. It was the first episode, and I had gotten this amount of negativity. I couldn’t believe there was that much there in the first episode. I feel like she threw it away. She was the most annoying. I just kind of thought, “Give someone else the chance if you’re going to blow it."
GP: She just seemed so ungrateful.
BDR: That’s what I thought. She also claims she hasn’t seen the episode, which is crazy. It is one episode. She can’t fit it in? [Laughs] It’s not like she’s working.
GP: Random question: Did you ever hook up with any of the other contestants?
BDR: Oh God no! I mean, really? No. Not my thing. Not that I’m against anyone that does drag. It’s just … none of them pique my interest at all. [Laughs]
GP: There were some cute boys this time around.
BDR: There were. I can respect their beauty, but that doesn’t mean I want to sleep with them. I don’t trust those bitches.
GP: [Laughs] Any upcoming projects?
BDR: I’m working on a one-woman/one-man/drag queen show that I’m writing while I’m traveling. That’s happening in the fall. Now I’m just looking forward to traveling to all these different cities. I’m going to be in Philly again, which is great.
GP: What did you think of Philly the last time you were here?
BDR: I thought it was great. The audience was a hoot. And I finally got to work with Mimi [Imfurst]. I’ve known Mimi for many years, so it was fun to get to work with her. This next time a bunch of us will be there, which is exciting, as well. We all haven’t had a chance to catch up in one big group. I’m looking forward to it.
Bianca Del Rio is performing at Voyeur on Friday, April 25th, in the RuPaul Drag Race Season 6 Cast Party. For tickets, go here.
GIRL TALK WITH OTHER DRAG RACE QUEENS: