Last night, RuPaul chose America's Next Drag Superstar: Bob the Drag Queen. Afterward, the winner of RuPaul's Drag Race season 8 spoke with The Advocate about the win, the importance of parental love, and the political power of drag.
The Advocate: How are you?
Bob the Drag Queen: I’m in a very good mood. I had a good night last night.
I heard. Congratulations!
Thank you. Did you hear what happened? My Amazon package finally showed up. I got that shake weight.
[Laughs] If you could compare the sweet taste of victory to any food, what would it be and why?
Oh, this is probably my favorite question of the day... If this week would be any food, I would say it would be fried chicken with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy, because it looks good, it sounds good, and you know it’s gonna be good when you get it. And when it shows up, it doesn’t disappoint.
Because of the way the show is taped, it’s interesting, because you’re watching yourself being crowned the winner, while simultaneously learning that you're the winner and physically being somewhere else. What’s that experience like?
Going in, I always thought that I was going to win. But watching, it was nerve-wracking. And I was just sitting there looking at the screen like, "You know what’s gonna happen." And they announced it, and I started crying.
Describe what the moment was like when you won.
We were in New York City. We were in Stage 48. We were sitting upstairs—me, Kim, and Naomi are all holding hands. And RuPaul is saying those famous words—“As always, I’ve consulted with the judges and the fans, but the final decision is mine to make.” And then she says, "The winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, America’s Next Drag Superstar is," she takes a slight pause, and she goes, "Bob the Drag Queen." And I can hear the building shaking, because I’m in New York City, so they’re all roaring for me. I’m just glad I didn’t have to do this in Chicago [where Kim Chi lives]. They would have killed me. And I just started crying, and we all started hugging each other.
What was going through your head?
So many things… I was thinking to myself, I gotta call my mom, but my phone was dead. I started thinking about my performance that I was gonna do that night. So many things happened.
This was a really strong top 3. You were pitted against a supermodel in Naomi and a drag artist visionary who is Kim Chi. Why do you think RuPaul chose you?
I guess RuPaul saw something special in me that said “superstar” to her. And that’s the best answer I can come up with, because I don’t know RuPaul’s inner workings. But I think she saw something in me that she thought was worthy of holding and carrying this title and carrying on her legacy.
How will you make this title your own?
I have three goals: to give back to the community, [support the] children, and make people laugh. Those [were] my goals before I was on Drag Race. It’s what I’ve done my whole life. And I intend to carry that out. And now that I’m America’s Next Drag Superstar, I tend to carry that out to an even bigger level. I’m not gonna stop being political. I’m not gonna stop doing what has gotten me this far. I want to keep on doing what has served me right so far.
Back to the finale for a moment—I loved your lipsynch number. How did you go about selecting the song and staging the choreography?
Lucian Piane wrote the song. They called me for ideas of what I wanted to discuss and go over, and they were like, "Do you want to do 'Purse First'?" And I’m like, "No! I’m doing a 'Purse First' song!" But they talked about showing off, and I wanted to touch on the ratchet drag thing, which was viewed as some sort of word to bring me down this season. But I used it as a word to lift me up. It’s kinda like how people will look at certain black folks and just throw the word “ghetto” around. But instead of letting it be something that was used to destroy me, I used it to celebrate myself.
And the lazy death drop at the end. Was that your idea?
Yeah. It was gonna be a big death drop. But I was like, No, I’m gonna do this really silly… I can death drop, but it’s not the world’s best death drop. So I’ll just do it a bigger impact by making it a joke.
What was it like having your brother in attendance?
It was amazing. I don’t live in Atlanta any more, so I don’t really get to see my family very often. So it was really great to have my brother, who has become one of my biggest supporters, there.
Is that story about the birthday party and you crying when he got presents true?
Absolutely true. I would cry ferociously. Also, because my brother’s birthday is really close to Christmas, so my mom didn’t have enough money to do his birthday and Christmas. So she would celebrate his birthday on my birthday, and I would cry because of that too.
What was it like to get a fan message from Carol Channing?
It was really emotional. Carol Channing is a huge inspiration to me. And to have one of our idols say your name was really big for me. It was really, really big.
As a viewer, it was heartbreaking to see Kim Chi and learn that she still hasn’t talked with her mother about her drag. Potentially, she could have been America’s Next Drag Superstar, and she never would have known that her son is an artist that touches so many lives with her art.
Even though Kim didn’t win the title, she still is a huge superstar in terms of drag. I don’t know her relationship with her mom. But I just know that I feel like, how can your mom not be proud of you when you are as wonderful as you are and you have achieved as much as you have achieved? I don’t see how that’s possible.
I’m wondering if that put your own message of support from your mother into perspective.
I just love my mom, which is why I was so excited about her being onscreen. My mother is an amazing woman. My mom isn’t doing anything super crazy and amazing by supporting me. She’s doing what you’re supposed to do as a mom, which is love your child. Yes, she is great, outside of the fact that she loves and does everything for me. That’s what moms are supposed to do, which is why my mom, I just love her so much. She’s great.
What I love about you, is that you were a big fan of Drag Race before coming on the show.
I am! I am still a big fan of Drag Race!
As a fan, I can’t even imagine myself on that stage getting advice from Bebe Zahara Benet, and Sharon Needles, and a runway catwalk of all the past winners. Were you geeking out a bit?
I was! I used to make gowns for Bebe Zahara Benet when she lived here in New York City. Which is kinda funny. I was her gownmaker for a couple of months before she moved back to Minneapolis. And it was amazing. I felt like I belonged with them. It felt right.
What did you think of Violet Chachki's dress?
Oh, it was gorgeous! Did you see it? It was amazing. That is how you pass down a crown, girl.
You have a great catchphrase from this season, "Purse First," which is also now the title of your song and music video. Why do you think it's caught on like it has?
Because it’s silly, and it’s irreverent, and it just feels good and fun to say. It’s catchy, and it’s not taking itself too seriously. You know what I mean? Which I think people appreciate.
I want to thank you for your wit and humor this season. It really brought something special. Have you ever matched wits with Bianca Del Rio?
Bianca and I used to have a show in New York City that we did for a couple months. So I’ve gone wit-to-wit with Bianca several times.
I’m funnier! [laughs] We do such difference styles of comedy. She’s better at what she does, I’m better at what I do. She’s really good at insult comedy. I did her roast awhile back, and I did a pretty good job at roasting Bianca, even though making fun of others is… I can make fun of other people easily, but it’s not really my brand of comedy. So the short answer is, she’s really good at what she’s good at, I’m really good at at what I’m good at.
Would you go on tour together?
I would love to. Are you kidding me? Bianca is one of my all-time favorite people.
RuPaul began the finale with a reference to bathroom bills, which I found oddly touching, because it recognized that here was a safe space to challenge gender and be whoever you want to be. I’m wondering if you had a reaction to that moment.
People forget that RuPaul is also very political. She’s really smart. She’s not just gorgeous, and she’s not just the executive producer of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She’s also a very smart person. She knows how to navigate political humor with being sentimental and warm at the same time. That kind of humor and those kind of statements are right up my alley.
It was very subtle, but it sent a big message. How do you think the show helps move the needle for LGBT equality?
I can’t even imagine how many young people come out to their parents or who watch RuPaul’s Drag Race with their moms, like some young boy who watches RuPaul’s Drag Race with his mom or with his dad and it’s not weird, because it is represented so well and with so much dignity.
Why is that important in today’s political climate?
That was important in yesterday’s political climate. Loving your children? This is the bare minimum of what you’re supposed to do as a parent. This is what you do. These are your children. These are the fruits of your loins. Loving each other, loving one another. Love is the most important thing in the world. Everything in the world comes from love. Even the hate comes from love.
What’s next for you?
I’m doing my stand-up comedy documentary special called Queen for the People, which touches on my three-point mission statement. It’s part stand-up special, it’s part documentary. I’m filming it on June 18, and we’re crowdsourcing, so if you want to help make that movie come true, you can go to my Seed & Spark campaign and check out Queen for the People.
You should also take time to enjoy this moment!
I’m certainly enjoying myself. And I’m really honored to have had the opportunities that I’ve had.
Thanks, Bob! See the music video for "Purse First" below and scroll down for a video report on Bob's victory.