Drag Race judge and long-time LGBTQ ally Michelle Visage sat down with MIC to discuss the state of drag in 2017 and in-fighting among the gay community:
Mic: There’s been a lot of back and forth about the mainstreaming of drag and whether or not this is good or bad. Where do you come down on this?
Michelle Visage: People are using the term “mainstreaming of drag” as a negative thing but I want them to realize that Drag Race will always be a queer show. That’s what it is. That’s what it started as. That’s what it always will be.
Mainstreaming is never going to fully happen, but it has happened a lot more then when the show first started. It used to be contained to gay bars and now when I go to Drag Con and other events there’s 13-year-old kids with their parents. I do see an evolution, and it’s a beautiful thing.
I was that kid at 13 years old who nobody understood, who got beat up and made fun of because I was obsessed with punk rock music and would wear a padlock around my neck but then would go home and sing musical theater music. If I had a show like RuPaul’s Drag Race maybe I wouldn’t have had those self-harm thoughts. Maybe I wouldn’t have had an eating disorder. Maybe I wouldn’t have spent so many nights alone, crying.
So now these kids that show up that are queer are weird are completely socially anxious and they come up to me and say “Drag Race is saving my life.” That makes me know that mainstreaming this show is an incredible thing. It’s saving lives now because those kids know there’s a place where they fit in whereas I did not. I clicked my heels three times and I ended up on Christopher Street. These kids can click their heels three times and end up on RuPaul’s Drag Race, that’s the difference.
It’s increasingly clear that there is splintering within the LGBTQ community — just look at this Pride flag controversy. What do you think is at the root of this recent spout of divisiveness?
MV: It’s something we face in the female gender as well; women can be misogynistic toward other women and not support other women. It’s so disheartening. Here we are as a community, how many years later, and we’re still fighting for equality. And now the world is going to look at us and think “They can’t even love themselves, why the fuck should we give them the respect that they think they deserve?”
It’s sad because this is the most loving, genuine, kind, amazing community, the community that I identify with and live my life walking hand in hand with. And there’s a reason I choose to be in this space. Because I feel better in this space. I feel loved and welcomed and accepted; never questioned. There’s children out there who are angry and get mad at me because I vote their favorite queen off and will tell me to die, but at the end of the day I still feel more loved here than I do out in that crazy world.
I want to touch on the angry fans you mention telling you to “go die.” Drag Race has an unusually invested and incredibly vocal fanbase on sites like Tumblr, rife with theories, conspiracies, spoilers (see: Maskgate) and plenty of drama. Are you ever shocked by the depth of the discourse?
MV: I think it’s because our show is a movement versus just a TV show. I understand their passion. It’s not going to change the way I judge. I take my job very seriously. I honor my job. At the end of the day, somebody has to go home and there’s only going to be one winner standing.
And by the way, I don’t say who goes home. It’s not my job. My job is to tell them what went wrong and what can be improved. They send the death threats my way because I’m the easiest — I’m always on social media.
I’m sure you’re aware of some recent and quickly escalated drama amongst a handful of season two queens including Tyra Sanchez, Raven and Morgan McMichaels. Entertaining? Sure. Petty? Extremely. But in situations like this, does anyone really win?
MV: Nobody benefits. There is no winner. I don’t get involved in any of it because it’s such a waist of time and energy. Being shady is fun, you’re amongst friends, throwing shade, but publicly doing stuff is unnecessary.
Read the whole interview here.