Last Monday, Manila Luzon and Latrice Royale were eliminated from RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race. But the beat goes on. Team Latrila reunited to record a sickening new single, "The Chop," which demonstrates their resilience in the face of life's haters and challenges. (As Latrice sagely advises:"Make them eat it and gag!") The Advocate spoke with Manila about her "Chop" from the show as well as her thoughts and memories of Sahara.
The Advocate: Barack Obama was reelected this week. Did you celebrate?
Manila Luzon: I went out with Willam from season 4. In celebration of the election of an African-American president, I got blackout drunk.
How did it feel to get a second round at Drag Race?
It was exciting because it was kind of like a gauge. It made me feel good that I did something right the first time, season 3, and people were interested in seeing more of me. Also, it was kind of daunting because I had to go above and beyond what I did last time.
How did you prepare?
I prepared very differently. I had to get all new clothes made. I’m known for some of my outfits, so I wanted to bring something new to the show. The first time I was on the show, I could just go in the closet and pick out some cute outfits. … But because I now am on TV, people have seen all my outfits. They’ve seen it on the show or me wearing it on the road or in videos. I didn’t want to repeat anything, so I had to get an entirely new wardrobe, which was extremely daunting because I’m not used to having to get so many clothes made at once.
Did you have help from friends or designers?
That’s the one thing that was so great about it. A lot of my New York designer friends — and I’ve made designer friends after I was on the show — they were more than willing to give me stuff, or give me a good deal to make me clothes. … The last outfit I wore was from my friend Cheng. He has really awesome clothes that are featured in magazines all the time. So I was really happy that I got to wear his outfit.
You looked amazing on your last runway. The judges — and the viewers — were all raving. What inspired the look?
Cheng wanted to have some kind of "shoe hat" and I was like, oh, that’s cute! But I really wanted it to be dark. I really wanted it to look like death, because I had the black hood. That’s why I did the eyes really dark. I inspired by that old black-and-white film The Seventh Seal. I liked it because it felt Old World and still fashion. This time around with my clothes, I wanted to up my game. They’re still kind of costumey, but you have got to make it fashionable too.
For All Stars, the big twist was the revelation that contestants would have to work in teams. Do you think it helped to have a team, or did you find yourself having creative differences with Latrice?
When they said we were going to be working in teams, I was like, fuck, this totally sucks. I had all these clothes made, and all of it was made to stand out from everyone else on the runway, no matter what. So when I was bringing these outfits, they were going to be the most extreme, the most crazy … well, after Shannel, because that bitch wears everything, and Yara, because she’s covered in everything else too. So when they told us you have to match to your partner now, I was like, fuck, this isn’t going to work. However, like any competition, you adapt to the rules, and you adapt quickly. We all saw what happens when you don’t work with your partner after Mimi and Pandora went home. We all saw what happens when you let one person take over control, like in the case of Tammie and Nina. Nina just kind of let Tammie run wild, and it didn’t work out for either of them in the end. I don’t really know. On the plus side, you had someone to bounce ideas off for the very first time. In the regular season you’re in a team by yourself, so there’s the internal dialogue of planning your next move by yourself. You can’t really have it be out in the open. Latrice and I were able to strategize, help each other, make stuff for each other. It was nice having someone to pick you up and make sure your hair isn’t crazy in the back.
How did you decide who would lip-synch for that week?
Latrice had just performed the week before, so we wanted to mix it up. The problem is, when you do the "lip-synch for your life," you try and break out all the stops for that performance. And if they’ve seen all your tricks from the week before, it won’t work as well the next time around because they’ve already seen it. So I decided I was going to sing this one.
This week contestants were asked to channel their masculinity. What inspired your look? What were the difficulties in channeling a “butch” man?
I don’t have a problem … I think I’m just as sexy as a boy as I am as a girl. Well, maybe not as sexy … there’s a little bit more to work with when you’re all dressed up and you’re this out-of-this-world creature. It makes it a little bit different. At first when we were doing it, I was like, what’s the fucking point of this? But as I looked back at it, you know, we do get dressed up and we do this a lot now. We do this all the time. Some of us don’t even have eyebrows. Some of us haven’t had armpit hair since we were 13 years old. Sometimes it’s nice to remind yourself that you’re a dude. You’ve got to look just as good as a boy as you do as a girl. I think I’m a sexy boy. I think that when I first started doing drag, when I first started experimenting in makeup and stuff like that as a young boy, I looked different because I grew up in the Midwest. Everyone was white and I was a little bit Asian, and I didn’t really think I was attractive. I put on makeup and looked in the mirror, and I saw a beautiful creature looking back. When I took the makeup off, it kind of stuck. Like, oh, actually, I’m attractive. Through drag, I was first able to feel sexy. And I think it’s important to know that we are boys. We have to feel sexy out of drag because that’s a lot of stuff to wear to bed, honey: the makeup, the corset, the pantyhose, and the high-heel shoes. Well, the high-heel shoes can stay on, but the rest has got to come off.
During the streetwalkers’ challenge, in which contestants were asked to pull pranks on pedestrians in Hollywood, you said, “Drag and daytime don’t go together.” What are the difficulties of “day drag”?
Lighting is mostly the issue. The sun does not camouflage the way that studio lighting” indoor lighting, soft lighting, or just black of night, “drunken out of your mind’ club lighting. We are dudes and we wear a lot of makeup. In certain situations it could look like we’re not wearing makeup, and we’re just flawless. But in daylight it looks terrible. And then it’s also hot, and we’re out in the sun. And we’re basically wearing a fur hat. So it’s hot and uncomfortable, and we’re running around in the street and don’t know what we’re going to be doing. So yeah, daytime and drag do not mix. It’s not cute. If you see a drag queen in the daytime, don’t judge her. She probably looks gorgeous at night, especially when you have a couple of cocktails in you.