by Josh Rotter
I think you may be the most enduringly popular contestant in “Drag Race” history.
How ironic is that? The most unpopular kid becoming the most popular girl on “Drag Race”? I don’t think I’m the most popular girl, but I definitely try to stay in the T limelight. I keep working and creating content. Reality TV gives you one year of applause and attention, and then it’s taken out of your hands like a punished little girl getting all her dollies taken away. I always wanted to be famous and successful, so I worked my a– off trying to create content to keep me going.
How did you end up on the show in the first place?
I made one s—, grainy audition tape and got on. I think what RuPaul saw was a case of herstory. We never referenced Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. We were bringing up Leigh Bowery and Jayne County and Amanda Lepore and Lady Bunny. I think she was happy to see a young queen know what the f— she was talking about.
What did you bring to the show?
I think what I brought to the show is something that a lot of contestants don’t feel comfortable giving, and that’s honesty. I honestly told my story and displayed the type of drag that I do. I also think that I excelled because even though I was an oddball, I was a drag queen that was even strange for a drag queen. I always took the challenges so f— seriously. So even though I wanted to walk into the presidential debate in black lipstick and a KMFDM T-shirt, I didn’t. I kept sucking RuPaul’s d— so he’d like me and let me in.
During your season, Lady Gaga famously tweeted how fabulous you look. Have you met her yet?
I have never met her. I’ve had the opportunity to do things with her, but it was always with other queens. I always felt that it was diluted and wasn’t really showcasing myself with the great entertainer. What’s cool, though, is that I think I’m the only person from “Drag Race” that hasn’t met her. I love celebrities and am starstruck, so I am mostly motivated by celebrity, but there are some that I never want to meet. I had the opportunity to meet Joan Rivers, and I almost didn’t want to go, because she was just that kind of star to me. The illusion of fame goes away really quickly when you meet them. I wanted that elusive fairytale of what a star is. Fame is a grown-up Santa Claus. It isn’t real. The only people who benefit are a bunch of suit-and-ties who are rewarded off your hard efforts. That’s why it’s hard for me to meet fans, because I always feel like I’m going to disappoint. They think I’m going to be a vulnerable mess talking about suicide attempts, and I’m not.
You and Season 5 contestant Alaska dated for four years before breaking up. You’ve never really said why you two split.
No comment. Why do you think we broke up? Not because we loved each other too much. But when you take the “boy” out of boyfriend, you’re still left with a very powerful word. Of course we’re good friends. How can we not remain friends? We’re part of a very elite, lucky, and dysfunctional family, which is known as the sisters of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” But it’s great, ’cause we don’t have to worry about being on the road all the time and not seeing each other. Now I can just worry about who’s prettier. And he wins.
Are you dating anyone currently?
Yeah, I met a new guy. He’s totally non-industry. He’s not looking for anyone to look at him. He’d rather be judged based on his artwork than himself. He doesn’t worship the spotlight the way I do. But we have the best story. We met in Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween day. He made this wax figure of me. So I like to think of it as he spent four months turning me into a wax sculpture that then came to life and sucks his d—. It’s like “House of Wax” meets “Mannequin.”
What was the most challenging part of competing on the show?
The most challenging part is the interview. When you see us talking backstage, those were two- to three-hour interviews, and they dig deep. They wanna talk about s— you don’t wanna talk about. The whole thing about me being bullied in high school…I thought I’d put it past me. But I really just buried it with layers of glitter. What the interviewers do is they pull away the corset, the wig, the makeup, and your skin and your flesh, and get right into your heart and your soul and make you talk about things that you’re really not that interested in talking about. But it ended up being something that a lot of fans related to and contributed to my success, not to mention paying my debt to society for being an a— for the last 32 years.
Speaking of the fans, are you able to go out in drag without being mobbed?
I don’t socialize in drag anymore. If I’m in drag, I’m usually onstage or in the dressing room or in a car service. When your hobby becomes a full-time job that pays you and the people around you, it’s not fun anymore. I’m not entertained by nightlife anymore. People are too taken by fame, and a line of decency gets broken. I can’t just go out and get high fives. It becomes an automatic thing where a bunch of kids line up, saying “Oh my God, oh my God,” and the most disrespectful thing you can say to me is the word “God.”
How did you first get into drag?
I started doing it so I could hang out with drag queens, but I just happened to get really f— good at it.
What was the hardest part of growing up gay in Iowa?
Just how obsessed everyone was with me. It was a negative obsession. I was completely comfortable with my sexuality and myself. It was everyone else’s problem. I was the only one who didn’t think I was weird. My mom let me play in her clothes, wear makeup, and I had high heels from a thrift store. My mom tells me that the only reason she let me dress in her clothes is because she couldn’t afford any toys, and it seemed entertaining enough and kept her from having to buy me anything, ’cause everything I wanted was in her makeup box or wardrobe. But it wasn’t until school that I realized that I wasn’t like other kids.
Where does your fascination with horror drag come from?
“Sleepaway Camp II.” I was 6 years old, and I loved it. The reason I loved it was ’cause the jock and the cheerleader were being terrorized and slaughtered. So the tables were finally turned. A lot of parents don’t want their kids to watch horror movies. But hey, for me it was either “Friday the 13th” or Columbine. I think I made the right decision.
Describe your first drag performance.
I started performing in Des Moines, Iowa, at 15. I was already sneaking into 18-plus shows with my brother’s ID and just started performing. My first song was “Human Nature” by Madonna. I loved the video so much; it was so fetishy.
How did you end up in Pittsburgh?
I was kind of a transient punk there for a couple years living in punk communes and political activist queer houses. I was just bouncing from city to city and not finding my way, also being a total f— terrorist, getting myself in trouble. I was looking at a couple months of jail time in Boulder, Colorado, so I headed to Pittsburgh. It was supposed to be a couple weeks, and now it’s 10 years this month.
When I turned 20, my mind started changing. I became a little homophobic and started hating gay culture. I put drag with that. I hated Britney Spears. I hated [gay] attitudes. I hated the way they looked, the way they talked and acted, because the more rights that gays were getting, the more that the younger generation wasn’t realizing the struggles that the older generation faced. So they were just snobby and seemed privileged. So I was hanging out with straight punks and identified more with that dirty, angry attitude than this swishy, annoying attitude that I was seeing. I wanted to listen to Sex Pistols, not Celine Dion. In Pittsburgh I had to be dragged to a gay bar, because no one could get me into it. But I saw a performer doing Marilyn Manson wrapped in cellophane and thought, “How fun.” She convinced me to put my wig back on. I did a show — Julie Brown’s “‘Cause I’m a Blonde” dressed as Hitler — and the rest is herstory.
You named your album “PG-13.” I would have given it at least an R rating.
I’m already a man in a dress, which is too much for Hollywood to handle. Unless it’s a black male comedian playing a fat grandma, we can’t handle it. So I named it “PG -13” as my extended hand of compromise to the industry. Like, I’ve sucked your d—; why don’t you get on your knees and suck mine for a little bit? I’m also fascinated by PG-13-rated horror movies — that mixture between scary and funny. It’s scary fun, and that’s what the album is.
What are your top five mobile apps?
1. Vine is my No. 1. Everyone says it’s dead, but I think it’s amazing that it can tell a story in seconds. I only follow three other people, because I only want to see my own work. I’m really not interested in other people’s Vines.
2. I love my Twitter, because people tend to be less mean on Twitter. They seem to be more into communicating than hurting other people’s feelings.
3. I really like Scruff and Grindr. Not for the reason most people use them. I use them for advertising, for a way to reach fans in every city. You just put your show in your headline, and it’s a great way to reach fans and get them to buy your s— overpriced T-shirts. I’m glad I don’t have a boyfriend who worries about me being on these apps. I’ve never had anyone try to pick me up. They just say, “I’m your No. 1 fan,” and I just say, “Get in f— line.”
4. I don’t care how many times I play Angry Birds. When you have the world’s cares on your shoulders and you fling those little birds at those rotten pigs, then the whole world just melts away.
5. I play Draw Something with my mom, where I draw really dirty things, but then I remember that my niece is the one answering the question. But they shelter her too much anyway, so I think I’m just seasoning her for the rough world ahead.
Sharon Needles spoke out on September 15 about Facebook’s controversial names policy.
What’s your least favorite app?
I hate Facebook. I hope Facebook gets AIDS. I hope the Taliban runs its plane into Facebook’s headquarters next time they want to take another trip to the States. I hope it ends up in the gas chamber. It’s nothing but a bunch of teenage f— brats seeing who they can piss off the most, and I have to be the bigger one and not respond. And why? I’m a fame-seeking, egomaniac superstar. Why should I have to keep my mouth shut? I should be the only one speaking.