THIS INTERVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY INCLUSIVE NETWORKS IN JANUARY 2016
WE HAD THE PLEASURE OF CHATTING TO RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE ICON, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR AND LGBT+ ALLY MICHELLE VISAGE ABOUT ALL THINGS RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE, ROLE MODELS, KATIE HOPKINS AND OUR CONTINUED FIGHT FOR EQUALITY
WHY DO YOU THINK RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE IS STILL SO POPULAR?
You know how sometimes a show takes a minute to take off, you hear about it then realise there’s buzz about it but you’re already three seasons in. I think Ru Paul’s Drag Race was that way. I really think that Season3 is where it really started. Even though that’s when I became a judge on the show too, I swear to god it’s got nothing to do with that. I feel that’s when it really started to get legs and from there it’s only got bigger and bigger. So a lot of people then went back and revisited the earlier seasons and Season4 was even bigger. People are starting to open up to the idea of drag being a viable art form and not just looking at it as being a bunch of freaks and gay-boys who don’t fit in. There’s so much more to it than that and people are just starting to realise that. So the more mainstream it goes, the bigger it’s going to get and that’s what’s happening.
DOES THE SHOW RECEIVE ANY NEGATIVITY?
Of course. I mean homosexuality still gets negative press from all areas. We are still not completely accepted in mainstream. Even when we have full equality there’s still going to be negativity as you have people out there who don’t want to hear it any other way than the way they think. You can’t always have the tide being in your favour and that’s fine. It’s not ever going to be everything that we want it to be but the closer we get, the more we fight and the more positive the outcome is going to be.
“Even when we have full equality there’s still going to be negativity as you have people out there who don’t want to hear it any other way than the way they think.”
DUE TO TECHNOLOGY, THE SHOW IS POPULAR IN COUNTRIES WHERE BEING GAY IS ILLEGAL OR WHERE EQUAL RIGHTS ARE WAY OFF WHERE WE’RE AT IN THE UK
It’s still taboo in a lot of places. Not just here in the United States but countries and places where you can’t even be out as homosexual in the open and you can get sent to prison or even killed for being who you are. It’s really sad that we live in a world like that. That’s why we need to keep fighting. Just because we have equality where we live, in England or whatever State you live in, that’s not the end of the fight. That’s what a lot of kids these days don’t realise. We need keep pushing ahead and pushing and pushing. We are all humans and it’s a human right to have equality. It’s not gay rights. It’s human rights. Until we have that everywhere, the fight is not done.
INDIANA’S “RELIGIOUS FREEDOM” LAW HAS RESULTED IN SOME BUSINESSES REFUSING TO CATER LGBT EVENTS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE HOMOPHOBIC PIZZA RESTAURANT THAT’S RAISED ALMOST $1MILLION FOLLOWING THEM LOSING SOME REVENUE?
Things likes this are always going to happen. I’m going to reiterate. As long as these people are out there believing what they think is right, there’s always going to be people who support their side of it. And that’s fine, let them do their thing but keep it away from us.
If you want to have your homophobic, hateful pizza restaurant then you go and eat that pizza that’s made with hate. We’re going to go to the places where our pizzas are made with love and we’ll fill our bodies with love, acceptance and equality. That’s the food that I want to put in my body. Food that’s made with love and good intention.
WATCH: Comedian Jonny McGovern hosts “Hey Qween!” – the gayest talk show of all time! Michelle Visage is the special quest in this episode
DID YOU HAVE ANY ROLE MODELS WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
Madonna. She’s always been my role model, since 1984 when her first record came out. But before that Belinda Carlisle and the Go-Go’s were the first people who changed my life and opened my eyes to being free with who I am and being self expressive. Cyndi Lauper was another person who did this to me. I was a huge punk rock fan and I loved the Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks and Suzi Su was a big one for me. I kind of grew up as a punk rock teenager and then switched over to new-wave and then it all switched over to Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. I used to have the biggest crush on Limahl from Kajagoogoo. I loved Adam Ant too. These were the men that I wanted to marry.
HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK IT IS FOR YOUNGER PEOPLE TO SEE POSITIVE ROLE MODELS, FROM ALL BACKGROUNDS AND OF ALL DIFFERENCES, IN THE MEDIA?
In my article this month for Gay Times I talk about body image as I’ve struggled with body image since I was thirteen years old. I’m an eating disorder survivor. I think it’s so important as a mother of two girls that we put the right message out there. That’s why I get so annoyed when Katie Hopkins opens her gob and speaks stupid shit about Kelly Clarkson laying off a cheese burger. It’s not that easy. It’s about self love and about being on our own journey. If Kelly is overweight after having a kid or even overweight after not having a kid, let her do what she wants with her life. It’s her path. More women are like Kelly Clarkson. I was a very large woman when I gave birth to my daughters and I had a bit too much fun with food when I was pregnant. Was it the healthiest thing to do? No. But it was my journey and you come around when you feel it’s necessary. To be honest, it’s not our place to say it.
I’m not defending people who choose to be morbidly obese and not move in their homes as I want everyone to be healthy but I also want everyone to be happy. To have people from the outside world constantly attacking you because of your size does not make you feel any better about yourself. It doesn’t help people suffering from depression and those that are fighting other things in life. It actually makes things worse. I’ve survived that.
“If you want to have your homophobic, hateful pizza restaurant then you go and eat that pizza that’s made with hate. We’re going to go to the places where our pizzas are made with love and we’ll fill our bodies with love, acceptance and equality.”
AND KATIE HOPKINS…
It’s not ok for people to attack other people on social media. I told Katie Hopkins that she can make a difference as she has this big mouth. She can make a difference to do something good. I think she fears that if she says something positive, people won’t care about what she has to say. This is how she makes her living. The things she has said since she left the Big Brother house have been so repulsive and offensive that I can’t even believe she can rest her head at night. I told her that in the house. We got on so great in the house and she made me laugh.
I work with Drag Queens who are some of the most offensive people on the face of the earth (as part of their act) and that’s why I think I can take her lightly as I know she doesn’t mean it whole heartedly. When I see things like her attack on Ed Milliband’s wife and talking about putting her head in the oven and turning the gas on and being adopted by a Jewish family, though I can see what she’s trying to do with the comedy, it’s offensive. There has to be a line where she thinks, ‘I can’t say this’, but she doesn’t know where that line is. She’s an idiot.
WHEN ARE YOU AT YOUR HAPPIEST?
Probably when I’m with my husband and my kids. I know it sounds like a simple answer but even though I may be fighting with my husband or yelling at my kids, my husband texted me this morning to say my daughter had flooded the house with the bath tub. As awful as they are at times I wouldn’t change them for the world.
And secondly, it would just be being surrounded by a bunch of gays, transgender, bisexual or confused people. That’s when I’m at my most comfortable. That’s my blood. That’s my family.
WILL A UK VERSION OF DRAG RACE HAPPEN?
We’re working on it. Jonathan Ross has been my guardian angel. He’s been unbelievable with it. It’s just a matter of finding a commissioner who wants to take a risk. I believe in my heart of hearts that it’s going to happen. I don’t know when or where, but it’ll happen. But at this point I have no definitive answers.
They’d rather show shows like Embarrassing Bodies where we can look up someones ass at 9pm at night, then seeing Drag Queens on the screen. It’s not just about Drag Queens either. The thing with the show is it’s about life changing moments. It’s about these kids working through all of their issues live on TV and coming together with their family and friends and crossing over that hub that’s taken them down. It’s really life altering for these kids. That’s what I’d love for the TV commissioners to know about. It’s so much more that catty Drag Queens yelling at each other and dressing up and make up. My god, I don’t want them to belittle our TV show as it’s so brilliant.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MICHELLE:
Visit her website at www.michellevisage.com
PHOTO CREDIT: MATHU ANDERSEN