For anyone who has ever seen an episode of RuPaul’s Drag RaceMichelle Visage is a superstar. The singer, actress, producer and television personality has been a judge on the hit drag competition series since season three, and since starting as a producer in season 11, she has racked up three consecutive Emmy wins for outstanding reality competition series.
This year she has been nominated in that category for the fourth time. And, for the first time, her series of after-show interviews, Whatcha Packin’ With Michelle Visage, has been nominated for outstanding short-form non-fiction or reality series. She heard the news while getting ready at home with her husband, and was absolutely ecstatic. “I started honking my car in my garage. My husband said, ‘What’s the matter with you? Why are you beeping at 8 a.m. in this neighborhood?’ I felt like a kid,” Visage says THR. “But I also never wished that my mother was with me anymore. Because yes, I have my husband. He’s my best friend. He is everything to me. But to be able to call my mom and tell her would have been the most incredible thing.”
Visage pitched the idea of an interview series with Drag race‘s eliminated queens during the show’s sixth season. What started as a low-budget web series filmed in hotel rooms has grown into a fully-produced studio series that tackles some pretty heavy subjects at times. “These kids have been through a lot and it’s mentally and physically exhausting to get out of a competition show, after I’ve done it a few times myself,” Visage says. She approaches every conversation differently. “I immediately feel their energy, of how this interview can go, where I shouldn’t go, where I’m not welcome, where I’m completely welcome.” Some episodes focus mainly on moments from the past season. Others tackle more serious topics (season 14 contestant Kerri Colby unwrapped her childhood navigating homelessness, transphobia, and hunger).
The desire to create an interview show was born out of Visage’s own natural curiosity to talk to the girls. “I like to interview people, [and] I feel like I’m doing it a little differently,” she notes. “There was a part of me that always felt, as a judge, that I shouldn’t talk to any of them. I can’t meet them – because contractually I can’t. I can’t tell them how wonderful they are as people until the show is aired and over.”
Visage’s reign is just beginning, and she’s branching out in many different directions to show the world her genius — for example, in 2019 she made her West End debut in the musical Everyone is talking about Jamie! But she hesitates to call it a renaissance. “I’ve tried to be a superstar all my life, and a lot of it has to do with not giving up,” Visage says. “I’m not even a quarter of the way to where I feel I should be. I think what often happens is that most people who want to do exactly what I do give up. Ever since I was a kid, and Madonna came into our sphere, all I ever wanted to be was the next Madonna. It took me until my forties to realize, ‘I don’t want to be next. I want to be the first me. Am I too old?’ My best friends said, ‘Why are you limiting yourself? Why do you think you can’t do this because you’re 50?’ I think what you’re seeing is years and years of therapy, years and years of self-doubt – but don’t give up.”
About fighting the impostor syndrome, Visage says, “I’ve come to the point where I’m going to do what I’ve been asked to do here. This is what I was put on this earth for – talk, sing, laugh, entertain. I can’t imagine doing anything else. So if it’s a deserved reward at this point in my career, I’m going to grab it by the horns, and I’m going to ride it until that bitch dies.”
This story first appeared in the July 27 issue of News Kidda magazine. Click here to subscribe.