Bianca Del Rio Is a Bitter, Retired Old Queen—on the West End, That Is

The "Clown in a Gown" talks about her London musical debut, "Hurricane Bianca 3," and "Drag Race U.K."

Bianca Del Rio was just named the most powerful drag queen in America by New York Magazine, but the RuPaul’s Drag Race winner is currently on the other side of the pond, clowning around London in the hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Bianca isn’t the first Drag Race family member to appear on the West End; Michelle Visage strutted her stuff in the musical last year.

On a recent visit to the U.K., NewNowNext sat down with Bianca backstage in her dressing room—before she transformed into her character, Loco Chanelle—where she talked about her West End debut, the plans for Hurricane Bianca 3, her love for Nina West, and why you shouldn’t take Drag Race so seriously.

How long has it been since your season of Drag Race?

It’s been five years since Drag Race aired, and six years since we filmed.

It feels a lot longer, right?

It does. A lot’s happened, and there have been so many other seasons. They just keep piling ’em on. They’re wrapping up Season 11 now, which is insane, if you think about it.

Were you over here when they were filming Drag Race U.K.?

No, I was not. I just visited when they were filming. I came in for rehearsals just after that. But Michelle [Visage] was here for a bit. She came to see the show. She had done the show before.
 

Did she have any advice for you?

Yeah. The main thing was, “Just get your rest.” Like, eight shows a week is pretty intense. I’m just grateful because I’m in one dressing room and one hotel for a while. Lately, I’ve been everywhere, so it’s wild and nice to leave your things and not have to pack them up each night and go to another city. So that’s been lovely.

I feel like you’re pretty busy touring the world. Why did you decide to do Jamie?

Well, I’d seen the show when Michelle was in it, and I loved the show. I just thought it was such a great message. It’s basically just a young boy who wants to be a drag queen, and it’s his story of, you know, acceptance and living out his little dream. Instead of it being like other drag shows, other drag musicals, you could take drag out of the element and it’s still a great story. So that’s what I loved about it. When they called me, it just seemed to work out time-wise. I had a break in my shows in Asia and before I start up [my tour] in Europe and South Africa. So I gave them my dates, and they said, “We’ll work with you and make it happen.” How lucky am I?!

Tell me about the character you play.

Well… [Laughs] it’s such a stretch. I play an older drag queen that’s in retirement, basically. He was from this small town, and he left to go to London. He had this big career, but he crashed and burned. And then he ended up going back to his hometown. Now, he runs a drag boutique-slash-thrift store-esque place. And that’s where he befriends this young boy who comes in and wants to be a drag queen. It sparks a fire back in him, so then he kind of becomes his alter ego once again, many years later, through this young boy. It’s kind of like—shockingly, as much as he’s helping the young boy, the young boy is actually helping him as well.

Have you gotten the chance to see other theater?

I haven’t seen shit! Well, actually, last night, I went to see Courtney Act doing her one-woman show that I did not get to see last year. She had a run this past week, so I got to see it. It was great. She’s wonderful in a cabaret act. She’s talented, so it’s fun, and shockingly, I was there. BenDeLaCreme was there. We were all in town. So we had a little mini-reunion.

You told me you were happy people have actually stopped asking you about Drag Race, but I’m about to. Since you’re on the road, do you ever get to watch it?

No, I don’t. I mean, I don’t even have a Netflix account. I’m the worst because if I binge-watch it, I get nothing accomplished. I think you can say this about most people, but there’s a lot of Drag Race contestants who were huge fans of the show before. Like, they just love the show and the premise and knew everything about it beforehand. I am not one of those people. I can maybe tell you about [Seasons] 4, 5, and 6. And I didn’t even see them when they were actually happening; I saw them afterward, when there were one of those marathons on television. So I don’t get to watch it. And also, I’ve been behind the curtain. And when you’re behind the curtain, it’s kind of weird to watch.

People forget that—well, you know, besides it being a competition, it’s a TV show. So you know, people are getting upset, people are sending death threats and everything—it’s a fucking TV show about men in wigs. Everybody’s gonna be fine! Everybody will get their piece of the pie. It’s not so serious. So I think now that I’ve been behind it, it’s hard to watch. I’m like, “Oh, did that really happen? Did she really say that?” Because that’s how television is. And you’re also seeing the portrayal of what is going to tell the story. Therefore, it’s hard—I mean, 90% of the people you see on the show are not like that in person. So it really changes when you’ve been there. You can’t explain that to people. People believe what they see on television. It’s insane to me. It is drag, but it’s a small fraction of what the real drag [world] is like. Everything just doesn’t revolve around the show. I think that’s what people are missing out on.

So, Hurricane Bianca: You were saying on Lorraine that there’s a third one on the way?

Oh, yeah! I believe it’s either written or being written at the moment, and we just have to find the time when I can squeeze it into my schedule. I don’t know when I can make it happen.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Can you tease what happens in the film?

Well… [Laughs] Let me think of what’s the right thing to say. I end up in Africa. That’s the best I can tell you. Some new cast members join, and also a lot of old cast members come back. So we continue on a journey and expand on it. So, yeah. I can’t give it away, but it’s ridiculous, which makes it fun. I mean, I end up in Africa, so imagine that!

Wow, budget!

I mean, we didn’t really go to Africa. Like, we didn’t really go to Russia. When we did the last film—oh, where were we? Some of it was filmed in Brooklyn, ’cause it was just red brick buildings that look Russian. But we were lucky enough to film in New York, which was great. Because you can get a lot more cameos. It’s easier for people to make it. The first film, we shot in Texas, and not many people are passing through Texas that are, you know, movie stars. So this was easier in New York.

So Hurricane Bianca 3 is in the works. Books, movies, TV, drag shows—what else can we expect?

That’s my favorite question! I don’t know what’s next. I mean, you take it literally every six months. You revolve into other—I mean, I have to buy a house. I was going to buy a house in this break, but I haven’t had the time. I agreed to do this. So hopefully, in January, I can be a normal person and tackle that. Looking at homes online is a nightmare. I think I’m gonna move to Palm Springs. It’s gay, it’s really cute. It has its own airport. I mean, Los Angeles is lovely, but it’s not Palm Springs.

Can we talk about you trolling the other queens on social media?

I didn’t grow up with Twitter; I didn’t grow up with Instagram; and this is not my world. I can say and do whatever the fuck I want, and you don’t have to like it. If the bitch I’m talking to doesn’t have a problem with it, who the fuck are you to tell me I can’t say anything? We troll each other [the queens and I]. I mean, Manila and I have known each other for 15 years, and some fucking child is not going to tell me, “Don’t say that about her!” I mean, fuck you! You have no idea what a shady bitch she is. So it’s that type of thing, when people tell you that you can’t do it. I mean, I just have to laugh. I don’t take it seriously. I go and make jokes about myself and everything I want to make a joke about, and if they don’t like it, you know, delete me. It’s fine. But it’s just important to say that because people lose their minds over all this shit [Drag Race drama]. Once again, they think there’s always some hidden drama or hidden story. Not really.

Are there any queens from recent seasons who you’ve been excited about?

I mean, I love Nina West. I’ve known Nina West for quite some time. When you travel—I met Nina five years ago, when I first went around to all the bars, and she was lovely. But we kind of knew each other through mutual friends for some time. And, you know, we live in this world where so many people are friends through Instagram and Facebook but have never officially met in person. So, yeah, I met her the first year that I was there. But I knew of her through the pageant system. Silky I know. She’s fabulous and fun. And, you know, she’s going through it right now. People believe everything they see [on the show], and they’re getting all crazy about it. Like I said, it is not that fucking serious. First of all, I learned early on that everything is not important. It shouldn’t be. All these girls are gonna be fine, and I just think it’s fascinating to see these girls stir up all the madness.

Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images

What do you think about Drag Race U.K.?

Yeah! I think it’s amazing. I mean, the franchise—come on. You can’t deny it. They’re winning trophies and awards, and it’s getting bigger and bigger. I’ve seen a lot of talented queens when I’ve visited here [London], so I think it’s fabulous that they get the same exposure that we get. And I think it’ll be a different show than we get [in the U.S.] I mean, it’s a different drag scene here. The drag scene here is actually more like the drag scene I grew up with: You were a queen that worked with an act and had an act. It wasn’t the same. Now, it’s a lot of these beautiful Instagram models that end up doing drag. A lot of queens end up in America by watching Drag Race. That’s how impactful the show is. A lot of kids’ first exposure to drag was through watching Drag Race. It’s amazing how the show has evolved. But it’s different here.

Any tips for aspiring stage actors?

Find what works for you. Go out and do it all! And that’s what was so funny about doing this show, when people were like, “Well, I didn’t know—you said you don’t sing!” And I’m like, “I mean, I’ve sung in my life, but I’m not putting out an album.” You know, a lot of these bitches from the show put out music, and I’m just like, “Oh, my god, you’re horrible.” Like, you wouldn’t buy my album, but I have experience in musical theater. So I tell everybody to go and experience all of it. You know? And don’t let anything hold you back. I mean, why not? You never know unless you try. I auditioned for Drag Race and my life changed. So you just never know.

Visit the Everybody’s Talking About Jamie website to book tickets.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
@chrisreindeer