Michelle Visage is fighting to make sure the world doesn’t get complacent.
With the election of Trump, the RuPaul’s Drag Race star is doing her part to ensure people know their rights and their history.
But it isn’t just taking on the patriarchy, Michelle is also spilling T on Gaga, Drag Race season 9 and Alaska’s All Stars 2 meltdown.
GSN: It might be the most obvious question, but I have to ask: how was Lady Gaga?
Michelle: Oh my god. Well, without giving too much away because I can’t. Meeting her, I might be 48 years old but one thing that remains young in me is fan-girling over people I love and respect. Gaga is one of them.
I love her for her artistry and music but mostly for her balls and voice especially being 30 years old and being unafraid. That’s really important. There’s keyboard warrirors, and then there are people who are really brave. Gaga is one of them. Meeting her for me, I just wanted to take that moment and to say thank you.
It was a rewarding moment for me to thank her for the work she’s doing. I loved it. And then there was the fan girl part of me that went ‘OH MY GOD GAGA!’
You can see from the teaser the queens just went mental.
— xoxo, Joanne (@ladygaga) February 7, 2017
Mental is not the word for it. Every season when we release our guest judges, you always hear ‘you should get’, ‘you should get’. But a lot of people don’t understand how TV works, so I’m just going to say this: Every year we put out a master list of requests every season.
It’s not us asking the celebrities. It’s celebrities, about 99% of the time, saying they’re not available. We asked Gaga every single season we have done the show but she tours all the fucking time. Like she never stops touring. This was the first time she was in town and she wasn’t touring.
We ask Madonna every season. We ask Dolly Parton, Cher, Liza. Sometimes they get booked and have to cancel because of whatever situation. Just to reassure the kids out there, every single person you can think of we have asked every single season. If they haven’t done it, it’s because of timing and timing only.
As a big UK fan, were you excited to see Charlie Hides cast? Did you know each other before?
I only met Charlie once when he impersonated me on Big Brother’s Bit On The Side. I didn’t know anything much of Charlie except he did a good Joan Rivers, and he did a pretty mean Michelle Visage. When I saw him, it was nice to know who a queen was. But most of the time, I prefer it to not know a queen going in. I prefer it when local queens, maybe big stars regionally, because it’s more refreshing.
It means a) I don’t have a preconceived notion, b) sometimes the attitudes can be a little bit less. Well, sometimes not and c) I get to see something totally different and oh my god, how have I never heard of this queen? I really enjoy not knowing of them. Every season there’s two or three that I’ve heard of before or worked with before. Charlie I met once before. I was happy to see her and not only because I’ve met her before, but she’s a woman of a certain age and is also the oldest queen we’ve ever had on the show. I think it’s great we get queens who are seasoned.
It is. She’s a legend in many ways. It’s great to see people of that caliber on the show. Speaking of caliber, were you happy with the results of All Stars 2?
Oh my god. The thing with All Stars 2, I don’t know how you top that. There’s plenty more we can do with the show. There’s plenty more All Stars we can cast. We can theme it. But the way they constructed it, the way it was shot, the challenges, everything they did was so brilliant I just knew from the start it was going to be a tough season.
Every single one of them is better than the next. I knew they’d have to pull out every single trick out of their bag to shine. And they shined. While I’m so happy Alaska won, would I have been mad if Detox won? No! Would I have been made if Katya won? No!
Were you disappointed by Alaska’s tantrum? I know you’re close to her.
Listen, everyone’s human. Everyone makes mistakes. Did I like seeing it? No. Was it necessary? No. But under the pressure, not everyone can keep themselves together. I have two teenage girls, I see it everyday. There’s a time and a place for everything. It might not have been the time and the place for that, but that’s what she was feeling at that time. I’m sure she was thinking the same thing when she watched it back.
Let’s move off Drag Race for a moment and talk about this campaign you’re doing in the UK about conquering challenges. I’m interested to know something you’ve personally overcome.
I’ve overcome anxiety. I’ve overcome eating disorders. These are things that are common. Something I’m proud of is fighting against misogyny and workplace inequality. I was in the music business as a performer and then a breakfast show presenter for 17 years. When I started, I had bosses telling me I was never going to make what my male counterparts were making. They said it to my face and I didn’t understand why. I was doing more work and more hours. I was getting paid almost half less what they were getting paid.
I fought for it, and I ended up making more. It took me 10 years and I did it. The more we sit back and accept gender equality, the more it’s never going to get better. There’s no reason we should accept being paid less because we have a vagina.
What would you say to women asking for a raise?
I would say to go ask for that raise but come prepared. Male bosses, not always, look at us as inferior. Go in with confidence. Wait until the moment you’ve got the balls and come with data. This is the growth that I’ve put in, this is the input, this is why I want my raise.
RuPaul has said before how drag went underground under the Bush administration. Do you fear this will happen under Trump?
Drag will never go underground. It just wasn’t mainstream, it was always out and in the open. The reason why I can sit in the judging chair is because I have known queens since I was 17. What it was is marginalized in the LGBTI community.
Ru’s point is to fight louder, fight stronger. Everything runs in cycles. Drag is really hot right now. It might not be for long. But whatever happens to drag, it won’t be because of this administration. It’s Stonewall x 20. They’re not going to shut us down.
What is your message to people who are now living under an administration who oppose LGBTI rights?
There are many parts in main America where homosexuality is not accepted. If you’re talking about the Bible Belt, parts in Northern Ireland, parts of England, you can’t just go out and be “YAY GAY”. We’re fighting for that. Read about the Stonewall Riots, read about Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson. It doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to look up Harvey Milk.
History is so important because if you don’t know where you’ve been you don’t know where you’re going. You don’t need to learn everything, it’s not a dissertation. Know your history, know your rights, know your status. Be yourself. Don’t be complacent. Complacency will be our downfall.
One last question, how would you sum up season 9?
While we have a few young’uns, they’re not entitled. They don’t think they know it all. Everybody came to win. It’s proper competition. It’s not like you can see who’s going to win straight away. There’s so many twist and turns, you just have to watch and see what happens.
This interview was condensed and edited for length and clarity.
RuPaul’s Drag Race season 9 airs in March on Logo.