While the LGBTQ community and its allies celebrate Pride this June, conservative legislators across the country continue to push through bills that strip rights from queer people. For longtime “RuPaul’s Drag Race” judge and producer Michelle Visage, the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation are distractions while other rights that affect even wider populations — like abortion and education — are also being targeted.
TheWrap’s Elijah Gil caught up with Visage at The Village at the Los Angeles LGBT Center for a special live performance of “Wigloose: The Rusical” during L.A. Pride weekend. The performance, which featured Season 15 queens Sasha Colby, Luxx Noir London, Mistress Isabelle Brooks, Salina EsTitties, Marcia Marcia Marcia and Aura Mayari, was part of the official “RuPaul’s Drag Race” FYC Emmy Event. But it also served as a reminder of the contentious political and cultural climate in America today.
Speaking with TheWrap, Visage shared the significance of the past season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and its role in promoting acceptance and diversity.
What was different about this season as opposed to last season?
When I get asked this question, I have one answer. And the answer is the queens and the magic that they bring and seeing them grow. That’s what I look forward to every season with all the different queens.
In a time where drag bans have been prominent, why is it important that shows like this showcase not only the art of drag, but the humanity beneath the wig?
The reality is you wouldn’t tell a ballerina to stop dancing. You wouldn’t tell an artist to stop taking brush to canvas. Why would you tell a drag queen to stop performing? Because you have a hateful bill that you’re trying to get passed.
It’s a diversion tactic for us to look the other way while the bad things are happening: banning books, banning education, banning abortions — things that we need. So it’s just a diversion tactic for us to look the other way. Now more than ever, it’s important to show the art of drag. It is an art form. And by the way, not just a derivation that is LGBT. Everybody’s now included in drag. So the fact that they are trying to put their hate on us to take away a very, very queer art form is pretty bad.
What would you say to people like Mike Pence and Ron DeSantis who are running for office and have such an anti-drag, anti-queer rhetoric?
They’re scared. And I don’t want to fight hate with hate, because that gets nowhere. So me saying, “Oh, they’re just stupid and ugly,” that’s not going to get anywhere. The truth is, do your homework, do your research, come watch a drag show. Come see the joy that it brings people.
Anti-LGBT is fear. It’s fear-based. They need to learn how to operate out of love and not fear.
Do you think we’re coming to get your children? Nobody wants your children. What we want is happiness for your children. Your kids are going to make up their own damn minds. Trust me when I tell you this: There is no indoctrination. Talk to the Catholic Church, if you want to get really technical [about indoctrination].
They need to realize that it’s not what they’re trying to make people think it is. And you know why? Because they don’t know what it is. They’re being told incorrect things about the LGBTQ community. And again, it all stems from religion, and we need to backtrack on that. We need to take that back.
So you feel like this show was almost like an education?
The show is 100% an education. “RuPaul Drag Race” is an education that LGBTQIA+ people are people. We all deserve equality and equal rights. The fact that we have to still say “gay marriage” and not just “marriage” means that we still have to fight. Equality shouldn’t even be an issue.
How long do you see yourself remaining a judge?
I see myself there until the show is done. You will have to peel me off that seat, because I love what I do. I take it seriously, I want more than anything for these kids to be the best version of themselves in their art form.
So you feel a motherly instinct towards the queens?
Yeah. I’m an adopted kid. And I think the sense of needing to mother comes from being given up at such a young age. So, for me, I think everybody deserves to know that they are loved and that they matter.
You’re so great in the web aftershow “Whatcha Packin’” at getting the emotions out of people and having a genuine conversation. Would you ever want your own talk show?
That’s my ultimate dream. I truly love humans. I truly love people. I think that so many people have other stories to tell [beyond] what we just see on the surface. And I think if I ever did — or I’m gonna say when because you got to speak it into existence. When that talk show happens, I want to hear the real side of people. That’s why with “Whatcha Packin’,” I love it so much, because I get to meet them for the first time and I get to talk to them. And I think they feel safe. There’s a safety because I’ll never exploit that.
All episodes of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 15 are streaming on MTV.com.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.