This week's episode of RuPaul's Drag Race was noteworthy for its lip-synch. One of the contestants, Trinity Taylor, worked every inch of the runway to the Britney Spears song. The other, Charlie Hides, stood in place and clapped as fellow contestants screamed at her to up her game.
The Advocate spoke with Hides after her elimination about the moment,as well as the world of morning talk shows, ageism in the gay community, and the AIDS epidemic.
The Advocate: What happened there on the main stage? Why didn’t you lip-synch for your life?
Charlie Hides: Oh, that was the perfect disaster, wasn't it? Sadly, I had a cracked rib from the cheerleading challenge, so I couldn't move. I didn't know the words to the song as I'd only heard it a couple of times, so the only thing I could do was serve authentic Britney Spears 2007, dressed like a slut, dead behind the eyes, and lip-synch badly.
Cynthia was yelling her support for you. Did you hear her?
The music was too loud, so I couldn't hear anything, I knew it was going to be bad so I thought, since my time on Drag Race is shorter than Tom Cruise, just make this really bad and it'll be the first question The Advocate asks.
You had some difficulties during the morning show challenge. What was going through your head?
To tell you the truth, I don't have much memory of that day, as I hadn't slept in over 48 hours. I don't speak Spanish, and English is Cynthia's second language, so we lost a lot of rehearsal time trying to understand each other. But I adore her, and I realized that we were coming at comedy from two different directions. I was saying funny things and she was saying things funny. With a bit more rehearsal we could have nailed it, but that's the "race" part of Drag Race. The stopwatch is ticking faster than Aja's mouth after he's switched out his Ritalin for Skittles.
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently to avoid elimination? Pack sleeping pills. Jet lag and living on two-three hours of sleep every night for weeks is a recipe for disaster.
What morning shows and anchors do you love to watch?
I love Whoopi on The View.
You became very emotional discussing the AIDS crisis this episode. How do you cope with “survivor’s guilt”?
It's tough, but I look at every day as a bonus. Even when faced with being labeled the "worst lip-syncher in Drag Race history," I remind myself that every day I get is a luxury. I put things in perspective. I've been with the most amazing husband for 20 years, I own my own home, have a job I love, and most importantly I have my health. I'm a winner at life.
Why is it important that viewers on VH1 hear about the victims?
I want young kids to know about the huge challenges their predecessors faced and the debt of gratitude they owe to the generation that fought, organized, marched, rallied, petitioned and "acted up" for them to have the rights and advances they have today. I owed it to the huge list of friends that can't be here today to enjoy those rights.
Orlando was discussed this season. Did Orlando make you more fearful or change your experience when you perform at gay bars?
It's made me a lot bit more cautious. I look for emergency exits; I scan the room for signs of trouble; I check to see if the dressing room has a window that opens or door that can lock. Sadly, we are targets for some and we have to be vigilant.
You impersonate many celebrities, including Lady Gaga. What was it like to meet her this season? Surreal. I knew she had seen my videos, so when she walked in I was afraid she'd be a judge and would send me home before I even had a chance to unpack. But she couldn't have been nicer. She told me. "I love your videos — you're hysterical." Best day ever!
What inspired you to create your YouTube channel?
I'd been using short videos in my live show to allow me to do quick costume changes, and my friend Edgar suggested I put them online. Quickly, I started getting views from all over the world, so I started creating original content just for YouTube. When the videos started going viral, I began to get asked to perform all over the world, so I'm really glad I listened to Edgar.
How does drag differ in London, where you perform, versus the U.S.?
In the U.K., we have to do 45- to 60-minute solo shows, whereas in the U.S., most queens are on a lineup with several girls and take turns doing two to three numbers. In the U.K., you have to sing live, be part stand-up comic, bouncer, ringmaster, and keep the audience fully engaged for the full hour. And for all that, the Brits don't tip!
Do you ever experience ageism in the gay or drag communities?
Ironically, it was rarely an issue before Drag Race, as my age wasn't known. Once my age was revealed, the floodgates opened on the age jokes, but I've turned it to my advantage by owning it. I'm not afraid to do warts-and-all comedy. Some of the contestants didn't get my self-deprecating humor. Pepper said it was an acquired taste. Sort of like her crunchy wig lines!
The show attracted a record-breaking audience for its season premiere. Why do you think it's become so popular?
It's got so many different things going for it: glamour, fashion, drama, comedy, pathos ... and it's the perfect escapist cocktail for the times we are living in, as it's a giant "fuck you" to the conservative assholes in Washington.
Why did you want to be on Drag Race?
Certainly not to lip-synch! It was an opportunity to bring my act to the big stage. I wanted people to know that I am much more than celebrity impersonations. With impersonations, the most you can hope for is to be a second-rate someone else. I have the potential to be the best me, and that's what I wanted to show people.
What was the highlight of your time on the show?
Ru calling me "Dame Charlie Hides," meeting Lady Gaga, and getting to work with people who are as passionate about this art form as I am.
What would you show the world, if you had more time?
Snatch Game! Snatch Game! Snatch Game! The world has been robbed of the chance to see me on Snatch Game.
Who are you rooting for among the remaining contestants?
Sasha, Alexis, and Trinity. They are all bringing something different to the table and they are some fierce competitors.
At the moment, I'm back in London performing. But next week I'm heading back across to the States for two weeks of shows, in Wyoming, California, and NYC and Drag Con. I also have music coming out. In fact, my new single "The Dame" is now available on iTunes!
Thanks, Charlie! See a clip from her YouTube channel below. Fans of RuPaul's Drag Race should also know the show is nominated in the Best Host and Best Reality Competition categories for the MTV Movie & TV Awards. Head over to MTV.com to vote.