Haus: Hello, this is Ben Turner from Haus of Phag.
Visage: Hello! This is Michelle Visage from Haus of Visage! I can't wait to come to Manchester to meet you guys. I'll be coming in a day early to go to Affleck's Palace.
Haus: Have you been to Manchester before?
Visage: Many moons ago in another lifetime. But I can't wait to go back.
Haus: So do you know very much about the drag scene in Manchester and the UK as a whole?
Visage: I know a little bit. Because of my obsession with British culture I know dribs and drabs about the drag culture there. And over the last two years I've learnt from a lot from my Twitter followers about Manchester and the gay scene there.
Haus: The gay scene in Manchester is very big but the drag scene has been taking off considerably here in the last few years. There's been a bit of a 'drag explosion' and it's definitely no exaggeration to say that RuPaul's Drag Race has been a direct influence in that.
Visage: That makes me so happy!
Visage: Only through Twitter really, as I'm very hands-on with my Twitter account. My followers know how much of an Anglophile I am and over the last few years it's been becoming all the more obvious how loving and embracing people are there. I've been saying to Ru recently that we need to try and get back on the air in the UK, but he says "It's not our fault! We've been trying." I just hope this situation with Jonathan Ross works out.
Haus: It became available on Netflix here about a year ago, which completely explains the surge popularity of it since. I watched the show when the first two seasons were aired on E4, but only since it's become available again have people suddenly started to watch it. I've been watching it back again recently actually and I've been wanting to know for ages; considering your prior history with Ru, why weren't you a judge in the first two seasons?
Visage: I'm the breadwinner for my family - my husband's a stay-at-home dad and a writer. I've been a morning radio host for the past seventeen years and when you sign on for it, you don't get vacation for more than a week. Initially, they shot season one really quickly - in about three weeks - and I asked for three weeks' vacation and the boss said "no". I didn't find out why until I had to turn down the offer. They called me first and said the job was mine, that they wanted me to be sitting next to Ru, but I had to turn them down. So I went back to my boss and asked him why I wasn't allowed to do it, even though I'd offered to wake up at midnight and record my radio show with my partner at midnight in order to do it. He said it was to do with the "image" of the show and suddenly I thought "Oh my God! You're a homophobe! That's what this is about." So I looked at him and said "I don't have to talk about it on the air" - I just wanted the time to be able to do this, because this was about Greatness and opening each other's minds and furthering equality, but he just didn't want to hear. So when season three eventually came around, they offered it to me again, which was really lucky because obviously they'd had to give that place away before. So this time I went to the president and owner of the company and said "This is what I want to do. I need five weeks off and you don't need to pay me. I'll try and record my show if you want me to..." and he just said "I have absolutely no problem with you doing it." And then the guy who'd said no before ended up getting fired not so long after that... It was nothing to do with what he'd said to me, but I'd like to think the universe paid me back.
Visage: She's buried somewhere in the desert with just her head sticking out of the sand. But really, I don't know... I've actually never met Merle, but she seems lovely. I have no idea what she's up to nowadays though,
Haus: OK. In relation to Drag Race then, and I know this could be a bit of a contentious question, but do you have a favourite contestant from all six seasons?
Visage: I don't just have one... I don't know how any fan of drag could look at all the amazing drag queens and pick just one. Could you do it?
Haus: Probably not. There would be several contenders, but I don't think I could choose just one.
Visage: There are so many who are equally amazing but in different respects. I couldn't just pick one.
Haus: Well on the flip-side, has there ever been a contestant that you've absolutely hated?
Visage: I've never hated any of them. There have been a lot of people who have challenged me and didn't want to see the light that I saw in them and were refusing to see it. Like Alex Matteo is the perfect example. I didn't not like her - I love her in fact - but she didn't want to hear what I was trying to say. We have a great relationship when I see her now and we laugh about it all, but at the time she was really resistant to what I had to say. But a good example on the other side is Jinxx Monsoon, who at the time would let what I said roll off her, but really listened to what I had to say and each time she better and stronger. You can either try and see what happens or you can ignore me, which is futile because I always win.
Haus: And when Jinxx actually did listen to you feedback, she went on to win it.
Visage: Didn't she just?!
Haus: So in relation to winners; are there any of the winners of previous seasons that you didn't agree with?
Haus: Do you think that there are any real benefits in winning the show, aside from the cash prize, over just appearing in the show, standing out and becoming as big a star as a result?
Visage: Obviously the prize money, the cosmetics and the other perks here and there, but the real benefit is the fee they can get for their bookings for the next year. It goes up substantially; these kids are used to making $150 a night in their local bar and then they could get thousands and thousands for just one appearance now. They get a lot of money from selling the merchandise and the booking fee is dramatically bigger - five, six, seven times what it was before and deservedly so! People want to come and see them, the clubs get packed, the events sell a lot of tickets and everybody's happy. It's what they do with it that lays out the future for them.
Haus: Some Drag Race's most famous alumni weren't actually winners, whereas some of its winner have now faded away a little bit. At least we certainly don't hear that much about them anymore on this side of the Atlantic. Do you think that some of them just overdo it a little and fizzle out, as opposed to others who play the long-game more?
Visage: Well that's not just winners. A lot of these kids came from nothing - and not "nothing" meaning that they were poor, just that beforehand they were just their local drag star in their small towns - but then they get on TV and people all over the world, not just in the US, know who they are. They start to believe the hype and when they believe the hype, that's when it gets dangerous. They start treating people like shit; they start treating bar owners like they're nothing; they get a little too drunk and a little too high and these people who've come to see them look at them, respect them and then see them acting like a crazy person and think "Oh, no..." It's very few and far between of course, but it happens across a lot of celebrities that come from reality TV. They're not stars, they've never been stars and they don't really have that much talent to speak of, but because they're the crazy people on TV they become what is the new definition of "celebrity". They can't handle the fame, it goes to their heads and they can't handle it. It's like lottery winners - that's what happens to them as well. But you're right; it's not just the winners who are the stars. You don't have to be the winner to make a lot of money off the back of the show. People like Pandora Boxx and Manila Luzon are still out there making loads of money and doing great because people still love them. They work hard!
Visage: Thank you Conchita Wurst!
Haus: We adore Conchita here.
Visage: I am a huge fan of bearded queen drag. I love it and I'm so excited that she won. I've not been able to properly watch it yet though, unfortunately. Last year I was all over Eurovision, but this year I couldn't because we were travelling with the Battle Of The Seasons Tour. Of course I caught the video of her as soon as it came online, but I just love how the world got to see her talent. What a great voice she has! And she's so gorgeous, with or without that beard. It's harder for children to understand though - like my children said "She's so pretty; why did she wear that beard?" Bearded queens is a harder concept to understand because it's putting reality into mocking reality. Drag mocks reality and is a big "F you" to society, and then you put a beard in on top of it and it's like "Oh! There is a person behind this." It's a grounding moment inside the more realistic arena of drag. I'm a big fan of it!
Haus: Now when you come to Manchester, you're going to be meeting a few of these, but do you think that girls can be drag queens too?
Visage: Well look at me!
Haus: Would you regard yourself as a drag queen?
Visage: Well yeah! Don't you?
Haus: It depends what you mean is the definition of "drag".
Visage: It's like Ru says: "You're born naked and the rest is drag." When a doctor puts his scrubs on and goes to work, he's dressing up in drag; when a barista outs on her green apron to go and work in Starbucks, she's dressing up in drag; everything's drag, costumes are drag, clothes are drag. There's high and low drag. However, I don't like the whole sect of girls who call themselves 'faux queens' - I don't like that. It takes me as long to get ready as it does for RuPaul, so what differentiates? Absolutely I'm a drag queen. And proudly so.
Haus: I'm glad to hear you say that because in Manchester we have a lot of female performers who participate as much as their male counterparts. I believe you might be meeting a few of them on the night that you're here.
Visage: I'm looking forward to it! The only qualm that I have with faux/female drag queens is that they do such high drag that they almost try to look manly or not feminine. There is nothing wrong with high drag, or gorgeous, femme drag. You don't have to look crazy to be a drag queen. Layer that powder on, piles on the lashes and the lipgloss, push up those boobs, but it doesn't have to be crazy-looking. Drag can just be heightened glamour also. I can't wait to meet some female drag queens when I'm in Manchester.
Haus: Well you'll be meeting some of Manchester's biggest names in drag on the night and Pop Curious? will be putting on quite the show. They're very excited about meeting you and performing for you too.
Visage: I really can't wait. I'm so excited! If I can help in any way or give any kind of critique, I am there!