Well known for her long standing role as the no-nonsense-giving-you-tough-love judge on the extremely popular Emmy Award nominated RuPaul’s Drag Race, Michelle Visage is also a long-time and ardent LGBTQ ally who has her hands in many endeavors.
Visage came of age in New York City’s club and ballroom culture and had a successful early career as a pop artist with the musical group Seduction. She became a co-host for the talk show The RuPaul Show on VH1, has been a radio co-host on major stations in Los Angeles, New York, and Florida, and has hosted red carpet and special events including the recent first ever televised NYC Pride march/parade this past June. If you missed this broadcast, you missed out because Visage added a ton of value to the show and we even learned a few things as she shared information and insights. We were so impressed we posted to Anderson Cooper on Twitter that she be his next New Year’s Eve cohost on CNN. Perhaps we should start a campaign and route for Michelle to host with Anderson #TeamMichelleforNYEwithAnderson
If that weren’t enough, you might also have caught her being a housemate on the fifteenth series of the British reality show Celebrity Big Brother from where she left the house in fifth place. And in 2015 she published her first book, The Diva Rules.
Visage has many lived experiences from which to draw her judge’s critiques. Although some would say she’s a tough cookie, others are inspired by her and her vocal support of the LGBTQ community, as evidenced by a recent Huffington Post article in which a teen says Michelle Visage saved his life.
Because of all that she does, and especially what we saw on the NYC Pride broadcast we were driven to learn more about this multi talented judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, author, actress, singer, radio host/podcast slayer, mom, and wife. We were very fortunate to catch up during her chaotic schedule for an interview in which we learn more about what makes her the one and only Michelle Visage.
You are a long time, strong, vocal, and important LGBTQ ally. You brought so much value to the first ever live broadcast of the NYC Pride march/parade this year. Some of the Kinkster MAG team members even learned a thing or two from listening in. Aside from living it alongside your friends, how else have you learned so much about LGBTQ history?
THAT broadcast was a dream come true! How far we’ve come that our little march has moved to national television! This is SO major and SO necessary. It opens up the dialogue for families watching and helps kids not only come out to their family and friends, but also help educate and answer questions for people who truly do not know or understand, but want to. That is how I learned, I learned about the history because I wanted to, I cared about the community that I walked hand in hand with, I wanted to understand their struggle and help fight for what’s right.
How do we continue to educate people, especially “the children,” about LGBTQ culture and history?
We CAN’T stop talking about the past. It’s a BIG deal. Kids need to know why they are able to be so openly gay or fluid or trans. Trans people didn’t even have the term “trans” in 1987 when I was being schooled on living as trans women by some of the most people I’d ever met, both inside and out, at the Christopher Street Piers in NYC. The more we keep reminding and informing the younger generation, the more they are likely to not forget. WE CANNOT FORGET WHY WE EVEN HAVE PRIDE MARCHES AND PARADES. There would be no pride without the brave queens, gays and trans people that fought back on June 28th, 1969.
Why is it so important to push the queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race as hard as they can be pushed?
Because they get ONE shot. I wanna push them to open their eyes to be the best queen that they could be. They are all, every last one of them, fabulous already, I feel there are just some tweaks to take it to the ultimate next level. It’s meant to be felt in their core, it’s meant to rattle them. If they feel it, they’ll SEE it. When they implement the critiques, magic unfolds and I could cry….
You share words of encouragement and provide critical commentary as a judge, but what has been some of the best advice or critique YOU ever received?
My music producer David Cole (of C&C Music Factory fame) and I would have words. I actually feared him quite a bit. One time he went off on me telling me how I was NOT Madonna, etc. and that literally crushed my being. Madonna has ALWAYS been my everything and who I used as my muse. She was who I wanted to be, whose career I wanted to walk in the footsteps of, etc.
Before David passed away he called me, he told me he was always so hard on me because he felt I was BETTER than Madonna. He told me I could have that kind of a career if I just pushed myself and believed it. Though my career went in a different direction, I’ll never forget him telling me that not only COULD I, but I would.
I never doubted that I could, but him telling me that I had to be ME and not HER was a pivotal moment in my life.
Sasha Velour, Season 9 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, said it’s time for drag to undergo a change. How have you seen drag evolve over the years and what are your thoughts on the need for change?
The thing is, growing up in NYC I have seen and witnessed every single type of drag there is, so I don’t believe drag needs to “undergo a change”. It’s been there all along. It’s just more mainstream now in the sense that the kids who watch the show, the kids on YouTube, Instagram, etc., have a platform to show off their wares. We see that there is LITERALLY no limit. Beauty is truly everywhere and I’m so proud to be part of this epic drag movement. It’s about damn time!
DragCon is now bi-coastal. What’s in store for DragCon NYC and how might it differ from LA?
I’m not really sure as this will be our first one, but for starters, a lot of these queens don’t get to come to NYC often cuz the clubs don’t book us, so the city will be over overrun with Ru Girls and I’m living for it!
DragCon is an experience you’ll NEVER forget.
You’ve self described yourself as RuPaul’s “ride or die bitch.” How has your friendship managed to withstand the test of time?
Honesty, love, communication, loyalty. When you connect on a different level, nothing can tear you apart. Ru is TRULY one of my favorite people roaming this crazy planet.
How do you determine who is a true friend and those that are just hangers on?
Age. With age comes wisdom. At some point the veil gets lifted and you see the truth. It’s what you decide to DO with the truth that seals your fate. Most everyone sees the truth or at the very least, has an inkling, they’re just scared to have the confrontation.
On the release of your book, “The Diva Rules,” in 2015 you suggested in an interview with James St. James that you were still hustling and following your dreams but you hadn’t quite reached what you’re looking for. Do you still feel like you’re hustling? What are you looking for?
Yes. I’ll hustle to the day I die! I know what I’m looking for and I KNOW I’m not there yet. YOU’LL know it when I’m there…..
What would be the theme song for your life?
“I am what I am.”
What’s the one question you wish someone would have asked you but never did?
I’ve been asked and talked about everything. I have NO regrets. Trust me, if they never asked, I’d offer.
We like to close with our signature question. What would you consider to be the most edgy, unconventional, or tight-lipped thing you’ve ever done and how did it impact your life?
I guess for me it would be the fact that I was this 18 year old, cis gender girl who spent every night hanging with the gays, lesbians, queers and misfits of NYC down at the Piers nightly and by day I was a college student getting a degree in musical theater. Everyone else in my school would go back to their dorm room and rehearse or hang out with each other, I’d jump on the 1,2 or 3 train and head right down to Christopher Street to live my ultimate life. It might not sound edgy now, but for a hetero normative girl in 1987, it was outlandish. I AM the lucky one. I AM the proud A in LGBTQIA+ and I will ALWAYS be grateful.