50 Questions With Bianca Del Rio

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Bianca Del Rio
Bianca Del RioPhotography by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The self-professed “clown in a gown” takes on AnOther’s 50 Questions, discussing Chita Rivera, Elaine Paige’s height, Bloomingdale’s and Mama by the Spice Girls

It’s been ten years since Bianca Del Rio won RuPaul’s Drag Race, but she remains booked and busy. In September, she’ll bring her Dead Inside Tour to the UK, where in 2018 she became the first drag queen to headline Wembley Arena. “If you enjoy irreverent humour, like sparkly costumes, and are NOT easily offended, this is the show for you,” she says proudly. And if you are easily offended, Bianca has the perfect retort: “Mind your own fucking business!”

Louisiana-born Bianca has also starred in the West End production of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and her own movies: 2016’s Hurricane Bianca and 2018’s Hurricane Bianca: From Russia with Hate. She’s such a pro that she schedules this interview for 6.30am PDT – yes, really – and says she’s relishing our 50 rapid-fire questions. “Oh, I love an off-the-cuff interview,” she purrs. “What I hate is questions like: ’What were you like as a child?’ I just say: “Google it – it’s out there somewhere.”

These days, Bianca calls herself an “elderly drag queen” because she’s a few years north of 29. But why should she lose any sleep about it? After all, she once told us: “Beauty fades. Dumb is forever.” And as we find out, Bianca’s moneymaker – her tongue – is as quick as ever.

1. Where are you right now? Palm Springs, California. I got home from touring two weeks ago.

2. When did you move to Palm Springs? Four years ago at the start of the pandemic. The day after I left London after finishing Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, they stopped all flights from the UK. So at least I got to spend it in my new home.

3. What are you doing after this interview? I came home to a leak in the house, so a crew of men is coming over, but don’t get any twisted ideas.

4. Why did you call your latest tour Dead Inside? I often go for vague titles because our world changes so fast. But I knew I wanted to talk about being an elderly drag queen, so I thought, “Let me start with that.” And if you’ve seen me in drag, you’ll know I’m dead on the outside too.

5. How long does it take you to write a full comedy show? It varies, but I think it’s important to have too much material, then weed out what doesn’t work. And my show is very territorial. There are things I discuss in America that I wouldn’t discuss in the UK and Europe.

6. Do you think you can make a joke about anything? I think you have to find the humour in everything. Whenever I’m questioning a joke, I run it by a close friend. And if they’re hesitant, I’m like: “Perfect. I’ll do it.”

7. What makes British audiences stand out? You guys drink.

8. Do you have a favourite place to hang out in London? I love Primark because I love cheap stuff. I need Primark to sponsor my tour, actually.

9. How do you deal with hecklers? I nip it in the bud. If you want attention, go on Instagram or TikTok like every other sensible person in the world. Don’t do it at my show, because you ruin it for everybody else.

10. What is the toughest crowd you’ve played to? One time I was heckled by a six-month-old baby – I didn’t even know there was a baby in the house until it started crying.

11. Who brings a baby to a Bianca Del Rio show? The mother said she couldn’t get a sitter. Look, I can’t fault the lady, she had to get out of the house.

12. What is on your rider? Jack Daniel’s and jelly beans. When you’re in drag, it’s impossible to eat a full sandwich before going on stage.

13. What do you do straight after getting off stage? I get out of drag – removing my shoes and wig gives me complete comfort. Then I have a drink.

14. What is your drink of choice these days? Jack Daniel’s and ginger beer. It used to be white wine, then red wine for a minute, and then rosé because I’m gay. There was a time when I was drinking white wine and Fireball [whisky] – don’t ask.

15. Is ginger beer good for your voice? Please, have you heard my voice? But I have had vocal cord surgery, so there was a time when my voice was much worse.

16. On show days, do you write on a whiteboard to save your voice like Mariah Carey? I could never be Mariah – I actually show up to my shows. And I’m actually live!

17. What did you learn when you moved to New York City? It spoils you for anywhere else. When I’m on tour in Texas, I’m like, “What do you mean there isn’t a store open at 2am?”

18. What was the best part of working at Bloomingdale’s for nine months? Being there long enough to go, “I don’t need to do this. Let me find another job.” What’s great about New York is you can always find another job.

19. What would your family have liked you to do for a living? I don’t know; I never asked them. I grew up at a time when if you were gay or different, you looked at your life and thought: “How do I get out of here?” By no means were my family horrible or problematic, but I knew I didn’t want to settle in Louisiana.

20. What drew you to drag? In hindsight, it was all kind of inevitable. I was in theatre, I was flamboyant. I was doing costumes and makeup. Not all at once – but slowly I picked up all of the makings of a drag queen. Then I got a bit part on stage as a drag queen, and it snowballed from there.

What does RuPaul smell like?I don’t know. I’ve never smelled her. She’s a hologram” – Bianca Del Rio

21. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given? Never let a bitch see you sweat.

22. What is the nicest compliment you’ve received lately? I’m allergic to compliments. Maybe the plumbers coming later will give me a compliment? Let’s hope!

23. What do fans give you at the meet-and-greet? In the beginning, they’d give me baloney, because I said “baloney!” when I did Judge Judy on Snatch Game. Now, I get a tonne of fan art: either of me or my two dogs that just passed away. When I’m given really fabulous artwork, I turn it into Bianca merch. But I always work it out with the artist so they get paid.

24. What does RuPaul smell like? I don’t know. I’ve never smelled her. She’s a hologram.

25. How would you describe the Bianca Del Rio look? Rock bottom. Over the years, I’ve slowly stopped blending, so it’s become a series of lines. In my youth I would snort lines. Now I draw them on my face.

26. How do you dress out of drag? All black – like a nun or priest. It’s the opposite of drag.

27. Can you walk through an airport without being asked for selfies? It’s not intense, but it is shocking to find out who recognises you. I’ll be going through passport control and an officer will pull me aside and say “hey girl!”

28. How do you feel about social media? It’s a marketing tool. My Instagram is my job; I don’t use it as a diary or therapy. But let’s be real, when you’re waiting at an airport, it’s pretty amazing to scroll and see what’s going on in the world. I get most of my news from social media, then do a deep dive into topics that need further discussion.

29. What is the purpose of drag? For some people, it’s a form of freedom or protest. That’s too much for me, but if that’s your journey, good for you. For me, it’s dress-up, my uniform to perform, my packaging to get away with murder. It’s strictly about engaging with an audience.

30. What is the enemy of drag? Razor burn. And any ignorant person.

31. How do we end heteronormativity? If I knew that, I’d be a hell of a lot richer. But I will say that I wish people had more compassion. We’re only here for a short time so let’s live in harmony and lighten the fuck up.

32. What gay thing can a straight person never understand? Douching.

33. Who do you call when you need a laugh? I don’t necessarily call my friends – I check in via text. But I will say that if Lady Bunny calls, I can’t answer in public because I end up running into something. It could be a three-hour conversation about politics, a ten-minute call about poop or three seconds of Bunny saying something absurd like “vinegar witch”.

34. What is the hallmark of a true friendship? Being able to pick up where you left off. I don’t speak to all my closest friends on a daily basis.

35. Who are your dream dinner party guests – dead or alive? Bea Arthur from The Golden Girls – I have to specify the show in case straight people are reading. Marlene Dietrich just because. Edith Piaf because we need entertaining. And RuPaul.

36. What was the last TV show or movie to make you cry? The original Steven Spielberg version of The Color Purple. Before that, one of my Hurricane Bianca movies. Because when I see me, I have to cry.

37. What song are you obsessed with at the moment? Any Kylie [Minogue] bop. I clean the house to Kylie.

38. What keeps you up at night? Adderall. No, I’m a huge list-maker. I have multiple notebooks on the go: one for jokes, one for groceries, one for house errands. Thinking about those lists keeps me awake; I call it putting out fires.

39. What do you spend your money on? Wigs and plumbing. I don’t spend lavishly and I don’t have vacations. I’m like Queen Elizabeth – I visit my own home when I’m on vacation.

40. Of everyone you’ve met, who had the most star quality? Chita Rivera. When I was 17, I saw her in a Broadway musical called Kiss of the Spider Woman. She was like lightning on stage even though she was pretty small – maybe 5’2”, which is taller than Elaine Paige, but Elaine doesn’t discuss her height. We’ll get onto that. Anyway, Chita and I had friends in common so I met her backstage and we stayed friends until she passed. She was electric onstage, but she was also kind and wonderful off it.

What do you spend your money on?Wigs and plumbing. I don’t spend lavishly and I don’t have vacations. I’m like Queen Elizabeth – I visit my own home when I’m on vacation” – Bianca Del Rio

41. Why doesn’t Elaine Paige talk about her height? When I worked at New York costume shop Barbara Matera, we did the costumes for The Drowsy Chaperone, which Elaine was in. Measurements were sent by fax – imagine! – and we had everything but her height. So we called and said: “We just need Elaine’s height for her costume.” And they replied: “Elaine doesn’t discuss her height.” So we asked if she would kindly pose for a photo next to a door so we could work it out from the doorknob. It was wild – we know you’re short, bitch!

42. When did you last change your mind? Five minutes ago. I should have said Mama by the Spice Girls.

43. Are you good at saying no? Very good. I find it eliminates people you don’t need.

44. Are you good at saying sorry? Totally. A lot of thoughts come out of my mouth so I often have to say, “Sorry, that sounded rough.” But I never apologise on stage.

45. Do you think of yourself as a confident person? I think it’s important to be confident in your work. Acknowledge when it’s good and acknowledge when it’s bad, but don’t dwell on it. If you keep yourself in check, confidence will come from finding your balance.

46. Do you believe in love at first sight? Maybe with fabric or shoes, but not with a person. You’ll always find something wrong with that son of a bitch.

47. Do you believe in life after love? Of course. People have broken my heart and I’ve broken some too. Can you believe Cher just turned 78?

48. How would you describe your Hurricane Bianca co-star Rachel Dratch? A lovely, lovely lady. And believe me, you’ve never laughed until you’ve shared a scene with Rachel Dratch. We loved doing the Hurricane Bianca movies and there’s a third one in the works.

49. If the plumbing goes wrong later, will you check into The Trixie Motel? That place is tacky as hell! The only cheap thing in life I enjoy is Primark. No, it’s a lovely space, but as I said to Trixie: “Six rooms is not a motel. Where I come from, that’s a house.” And knowing Trixie, I doubt she’d give me a discount.

50. Finally, did you enjoy this interview? I have. How often can you discuss Chita Rivera, Elaine Paige’s height, Bloomingdale’s and Mama by the Spice Girls in one interview?

Bianca Del Rio brings her Dead Inside tour to the UK in September 2024. Tickets are available here.