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Sharon Needles Talks Racism: Exclusive Interview

Sharon speaks. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Sharon Needles took some time out of her very busy schedule – she is heading to Dallas to perform this evening – to discuss with NewNowNext the recent conversation she had with some Atlanta residents who felt her performances had racist leanings. The Drag Race  winner’s side of the story is that her critics are not receptive to hearing her point of view.

Sharon says this all began over photos a group in Pittsburgh uncovered of Sharon dressed as Hitler and using swastikas with Mickey Mouse ears in her act. These activists created a sensationalist website attacking her and those she performed with. Following this, some local Atlanta residents took issue with Sharon’s use of the word n****r (“I thought I was using the N word in the ways of John Lennon, Patti Smith, and Marilyn Manson, but apparently this PC World is going backwards. But success comes with compromise, so I choose to no longer use it,” she explains.), and decided to hold a protest this week when she performed in the city.  Not that it really bothered Sharon much. “Do a protest. You know me, I love attention.”

Upon hearing about the protest however, Sharon says she realized she did not want to hurt anyone or be a negative influence and decided to set an hour aside to speak with a few of those individuals that had taken issue with her. “I can’t allow this to be one-sided,” she explains. “And I’m not afraid of shit. So instead of allowing kids to misinterpret my work, I figured I would put in the time and energy to speak with them.”

The hour-long discussion she thought would become a productive collaboration ultimately ended up being anything but, Sharon says. “I was barked at and told what I can and cannot do as a human being and an entertainer. My act is meant to take dark issues and bring them into the spotlight. What’s more, I want to give everyone who comes to see me a great experience where we can poke fun at things and laugh at social anxieties.”

“I mean, have you seen the first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race? My shows aren’t for everyone and if that’s not evident I don’t know what is.”

Eventually the group walked out when Sharon says she refused to be bullied and cave in to their demands, something that she said upset her because she thought they could discuss racism more in depth, and Sharon wanted to make a charitable donation of some kind. Instead, she gave $1,000 and money from her performance that evening in Atlanta to a homeless group.

For the rest of the day following this talk and during her performance, Sharon says she was filled with anxiety. “The thought that I had hurt someone else was killing me, but luckily I had so many amazing fans there that night so that helped.”

Ultimately, it seems Sharon is sticking with her act and is quick to point out: “There is far more hidden racism in the LGBT community.”

“At the end of the day, I have to remember the wise words a very famous African American philosopher once said; ’What other people think of me ain’t none of my goddamn business.’ That philosopher happens to be RuPaul.”

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