Last Words With Chad Michaels, RuPaul's All Star
By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com November 27 2012 8:00 PM ET
Last night, Chad Michaels was crowned the champion of RuPaul's All Stars and inducted into RuPaul's Hall of Fame. It was a fierce final episode, and the top four contestants performed admirably as they wrangled with the press, a PR campaign at Hamburger Mary's, and a stand-up comedy routine. However, Chad — by virtue of her flawless presentation and poise under duress — had the last laugh. Still reeling from her victory, the All Star spoke to The Advocate about her victory, politics, and behind-the-scene secrets from the season.
Congratulations, Chad! Tell us — how does it feel to have a hamburger named after you?
[Laughs] Meaty and juicy, that’s how it feels.
So you’d recommend it?
Absolutely. Anything with my name on it is going to be a good deal. I promise you.
How does it feel to be the champion of RuPaul’s All Stars?
It’s quite surreal. I feel like I’m sitting outside myself right now. But it’s very gratifying. I feel like I won it fair and square. And it feels good to know that Shannel and I really went in there and grabbed it by the balls and shook really, really, hard. I’m happy. I’m happy that Raven and Juju were both [there] for the final challenge. It was great to complete that journey together, and I’m thankful for that.
What a journey! How long have you been in that studio?
All year. But what a year! It was more than I ever could have expected — going from season 4, into Drag U, into All Stars… Wow, I sure wouldn’t change a thing.
How long have you sat on the secret of your win?
We didn’t know until the episode aired! They took steps to prevent [the name of] the winner from leaking, so we were all kept in the dark until the final episode aired. I just found out last night. And it’s been hard to sit on all of the events that have gone down. You want to share, and it’s so exciting. But you have to have some self-discipline and self-control. And sit on it, Potsi.
Did you celebrate last night?
Last night, we were at Micky’s for the finale party in West Hollywood. I was crowned there. We had a little show afterwards. So I didn’t have too much time. I had to get back to work after I was crowned… I’m kind of running on fumes right now.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to continue what I’ve been doing — the tour, which I love. As long as there is a demand for me to visit other cities — and hopefully, other countries — that’s what I want to do. I love to get out and meet people that have supported me and want to see me. That’s my number one priority, and always has been. I’ve learned in this business that it’s so hard to make a plan. You never know what’s going to come up. Maybe there will be a movie audition, or a guest spot in another reality show, or maybe a celebrity impersonation revue at a casino. Anything could happen. My options are open. I want to do a single, but I’m being very cautious about that. I want to do it right. I want to do something that represents me, but is also fun and worthwhile... I started some merchandising, which I’ve stood against for a really long time. But I’ve had a lot of fans that are requesting things like t-shirts, so... check out my website, chadmichaels.com
. But I’m just taking it day-by-day right now, and really enjoying it. I’m having a great time right now.
What are you going to do with the $100,000?
Well, after taxes… [laughs] I’m not sure. I’m definitely going to be setting up a trust fund for my little nephew, because I really want him to have a little bit of an advantage when it comes time for him to make his way in the world. At this point in my life, I think it’s really important to start planning for the future, so I’m going to put most of the money up… possibly some investing. I want to take care of the people closest to me. I’m definitely not going to spend it on booze and women [laughs].
What was going through your mind during your lip-sync with Raven?
You saw me look over at her. You saw that look on my face. It was hard. It was intimidating. Raven is very beautiful, and talented, and statuesque. She doesn’t need to do much when she lip-syncs; she’s very riveting. I’m more of an active lip-syncer. So it was a matter of ‘God, I don’t know what is going to happen right now.’ Also, something that didn’t air on the show, and I actually kept secret… I broke my toe that morning. So my toe was broken and shoved into a 6” heel boot for about 14 hours. The day was definitely a test of my endurance, both physically and emotionally. I almost cracked under the pressure. Shannel was pivotal in keeping me level. As you saw on Untucked, it probably wasn’t going to be her, and it probably wasn’t going to be Jujubee. So she really took a role in taking care of me, which was really sweet. I needed her to do that… She was definitely there for me… and that gave me that extra little push to get through it.
What was it like having her as a partner throughout the season?
I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Just to be clear — when we were drawing popsicle sticks for partners, you could see the name. It wasn’t random…and the objective was to match with your partner. I chose her right off the bat… As much as we love each other, there will always be a creative competitiveness between us… I think that little bit of static gave us the edge that we needed. Like I said, grab it and shake it. Raven and Jujubee just love each other too much… That’s great, but in the context of a competition, there has to be an edge.
Raven was a little bitter when he lost during season 2. Did you get a sense of that last night?
I saw her last night. Raven is young, but he’s done a lot of growing up since his season. He’s a person with a lot of integrity. He’ll tell you how it is and he’ll read you. But he’s your friend until the end. That’s why this season was so hard. We’re all friends, and we all work hard, and we all wanted it. He conducted himself with a lot of grace and dignity last night.
Why do you think RuPaul chose you as the winner?
Hmm…because he didn’t think I had another season in me? [laughs] I just have to believe that Ru sees something in me worthwhile. He chose to put his money on me, and I’ll take it. I’ll take the endorsement. I am so proud to be the first inductee into the RuPaul Hall of Fame. It’s a dream come true. It’s something where I look back to when I was 20 years old, watching RuPaul videos, never having an inkling of how fate would twist and turn to where it is today. Like I said, it’s surreal. I’m so, so happy.
How did you first get started in drag?
I was always a pretty theatrical kid, a draggy kid… a little sissy. I dressed up in my grandma’s heels and clothes… It's always been in me. When I went to a club when I was 21, and saw my drag mother, Hunter, performing, it was love at first sight. I admired her so much, but also, that spark was there. I knew that I could do this, too…Hunter passed away several years ago, but he was really responsible for teaching me the tools of the trade and all the secrets of the craft… I was very lucky to have someone who was so amazing in drag to help me get started.
What inspired your style for this episode during the three challenges?
It was a matter of what I had left [laughs]… My style is clean and simple. I don’t like a lot of feathers and frills. I like a clean aesthetic, a Calvin Klein aesthetic.
How did you prepare for each challenge?
It was terrifying — especially the comedy challenge. I’ve been working on a microphone for a long, long time. The Hamburger Mary’s challenge was a natural for me. Both Raven and I, being from southern California, had been to Hamburger Mary’s, knew the clientele, had friends who worked there. We had a connection to it, so it was easy to come up with something. The comedy challenge was really hard. It’s one thing to go off the cuff, but it’s another thing to have to prepare something and then execute the timing, and fight back your nerves and the quiver in your voice and that beating heart. That was terrifying for me…And it felt good just to be able to get through it.
What do you think is the role of drag in the gay community today?
More and more, I think people are seeing us with a little more value, and not so much as a diversion or a freak show. I think Drag Race had shown our human side…and allowed us to have a voice and shows things like my relationship with my father, and Raven’s relationship with his mother. I’m hoping that we’re becoming more of a group within the gay community that the rest can look at and hopefully learn something from — but also accept, and possibly, admire... For a long time, I’ve always felt that some in the gay community have made me feel like I’m at the bottom at the gay ladder, the bottom of the barrel, because I dress as a woman for a living, and wow, that’s about as low as you can go as a gay. I have been made to feel that way by people in my life who are gay or lesbian. I’m hoping that those feelings change, and are changing. Hopefully, we’re playing a role that is positive, and no longer negative.
What needs to be fought for? What needs to be cared about today?
We need to care about our civil rights. This year, for me, has been overwhelming. I’ve visited a lot of different cities, especially in the South and through the Midwest. The fact that we have no rights in certain states and counties really hit home. I met the people who are getting evicted from the homes because their landlords don’t like the fact that they’re gay, or fired from their jobs because their boss is homophobic… These are the things that we need to work on, change, and be vocal about, and not back down on. It’s not right. I honestly didn’t know, and it really shook me to my core that these people live in such fear…Some of these people… [their mentality is] ‘I don’t care if I get married, I just don’t want to get fired because I’m gay.’… That’s something that has really resonated with me this year.
Are there any charities you’ve been involved with, or want to become involved with?
The Ali Forney Center… I had a wonderful opportunity to go to New York and do a fundraiser for Ali Forney… They were pretty much wiped out by Sandy, and there’s a lot of kids that rely on Ali Forney for lots of different things… health, support, shelter, food, clothing, all of it… I’ve worked with the CCA, which is the Children’s Craniofacial Association. It’s actually Cher’s organization… We have several organizations in San Diego: Mama’s Kitchen, which works with HIV patients who can’t get food for themselves... I’m available. If someone needs me, I’m there.
So, when are you running for the mayor of West Hollywood?
[laughs] Never! I will run for the mayor of San Diego before I run for the mayor of West Hollywood. My heart will always be in San Diego, that’s for sure.
Would you ever go into politics?
No. But I would be an advocate, a warrior. I think I work better on the front lines. Throw me in, and I’ll do your dirty work.
If you weren’t wearing wig, heels, and a crown right now, what would you be doing?
[laughs] It’s so hard. I’ve took this road a long time now. As RuPaul says, “You didn’t choose the game — the game chose you.” It’s hard to imagine. But in the future, I would like to do something different. This is a finite career. RuPaul is setting an example of longevity, and I hope I can ascend to those heights. But I would like to do something of the opposite of what I do. As much as an entertainer can give of themselves, it is still a very selfish career. It’s a career where you promote yourself constantly, and you talk about yourself constantly, and you look at yourself in the mirror constantly. You worry about what people think about you, and worry about popular opinion. I would like to do something that’s completely the opposite of that. I don’t know what that is. Is it counseling? Is it social work? I don’t know. Not that I want it, but I’ve always wondered about a different kind of life. Where would my life have gone if I hadn’t gone to that drag show and seen Hunter? Where would I be today?
What advice do you have for the girls of next season?
Use your voice and make your mark. You have an opportunity to do something more than be a competitor. You have an opportunity to be a role model. You have an opportunity to affect people’s lives. You can affect it positively, or you can affect it negatively. It all depends on how you play the game. So play the game well.
Do you have any parting words for our readers?
Everyone needs to understand the level of gratitude I have for their support and their criticisms. I think this season I was even more closely under the microscope, because it was a different game. I played the game differently than season 4. I was more assertive. I was more aggressive. I was more outspoken. Some people liked it, and some people didn’t, and I’ve taken some criticisms. But I’ve really found that those criticisms have made me take a closer look at myself… It’s important to do that. No matter what stage of your life, you need to assess yourself and check yourself. I think that everything about it has been positive. So thank you to everybody.