Q&A: RuPaul's Drag Race Stars Michelle Visage and Alaska
The touring version of RuPaul's Drag Race hits the Crystal Wednesday night. We asked for style tips from two of its biggest stars.
Watching the show on the small screen is enough to tickle the fancy, but—be still our beating hearts—this Wednesday brings the chance to see the whole eleganza extravaganza in person. The show has created a truncated touring version, featuring long time judge (and RuPaul’s BFF) Michelle Visage hosting an evening of mischief with a multi-talented cast of characters including Sharon Needles, Alaska Thunderf**k, Pandora Boxx, Ivy Winters, Manila Luzon, Carmen Carrera, Willam, and Detox.
The show description says, “Fans can expect to see the unexpected, with over-the-top theatrical drag performances, special effects, and collaborations, including live singing and the ultimate lip syncing for your life.” Count us in.
We caught up with a traveling Michelle Visage and Alaska Thunderf**k to chat all things fashion before Wednesday’s show.
Eden Dawn: You’ve said your role models are Divine and Marilyn Monroe. Would you say you have separate role models for your fashion sense, particularly as someone from the planet Glamtron?
Alaska: When it comes to fashion I'm like a toddler-- I love big lines and shapes. I like to make a silhouette out of whatever I can find, like trash or plastic or things from the dollar store. I'm also heavily inspired by Britney Spears' fashion sense circa 2009.
E.D: Is the fashion on the drag stage influenced by mainstream fashion, or do the two run in opposite circles?
A: I think quite the opposite: Mainstream fashion is influenced by the drag community. We are the trendsetters and the style makers and we heavily influence young designers.
E.D: What makes you give the Alaska approval to a stage outfit? Is there anything you’d never be caught dead in for performing?
A: I'll wear just about anything, but onstage I feel most comfortable in a full-length evening gown or in my underwear.
E.D: Performers like you and Sharon Needles have been noted for taking drag away from some of its traditional more pageant-y themes into far different places. Is that a purposeful goal or a just you nonchalantly changing the world?
A: I won't speak for Sharon, but for me it's a result of where I came from as a performer. I never had any money to be putting looks together, and I had very little time to come up with concepts. I love pageants, pageant queens, and all that goes into that world. So for me it was never a rebellion against the pageant community, it's just that I couldn't afford to look like those polished beauties. So I went to the Dollar Store and wrapped it up in duct tape.
E.D: What’s your favorite outfit to wear on stage right now? And will we get to see it in Portland Wednesday night?
A: I keep wearing this sparkly white gown that Ivy Winters made for me for my Christmas Show. I can't take it off and I'd sleep in it if I could. So... my sources say yes, you probably will see it.
E.D: If forced to pick one judge (including guest judges) from all the seasons of Drag Race to be your personal stylist, who would you let you dress you?
A: Michelle Visage! And I'm gonna tell you why-- she has a distinct personal style from which she never strays, but always keeps it fresh and new. She's classy but she's not afraid to shop at Claire's either. We can all take a few notes from Michelle Visage when it comes to fashion.
E.D: What would be your style tip for any aspiring drag queen in Portland?
A: Shave your arms and put on some f***ing nails.
Eden Dawn: Between Drag Race and all the years you’ve been with RuPaul for morning shows, talk shows, and other shenanigans do you feel like Ru has become your litmus test as far as drag fashion?
Michelle Visage: No. I have ALWAYS not given two sh**s what ANYONE thinks about my sense of tacky fashion (obviously). The fact that I have an innate fashion sense helps with my Jersey style and that is precisely what Ru loves about my style. No need for testing, he will always buy what I am selling.
E.D: When you’re judging an overall runway look what do you think are the ingredients that make a look a stage sensation?
M.V: For me it’s about confidence mostly, but it’s also how your look tells a complete story. A beginning, middle and end. It has to make sense, just not all thrown together. Look in the mirror to see if your looks tells a complete story.
E.D: Seeing these beauties on stage over and over during a season you get to know their fashion sense. Does it get hard to come to each session with an open mind or do you think it’s better to have expectations for them each week?
M.V: After I get to know them for better or for worse, I absolutely have expectations, but I also always have an open mind. If you set the bar high right from the start? You had better live up to it or exceed it every single time after that!
E.D: Do you work with a stylist to put together your own looks for the show or are we seeing pure Visage aesthetic?
M.V: You are seeing pure Visage. Stylists don’t often agree with what I like or do, though Marco Marco (L.A.) and Dallas Coulter (San Fran) are two amazing clothing designers that listen to me. If I call them and tell them what they want, they not only make it, but they love it and that’s what I need to look the way I like. It takes a lot of work to look this cheap.