5 Things We Learned from Michelle Visage's 'Vulture' Interview

Michelle Visage
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Michelle Visage arrives at HBO's Post Emmy Awards reception held at The Plaza at the Pacific Design Center on Sept. 18, 2016 in Los Angeles. 

The 'Drag Race' judge got candid about PC culture, allyship and RuPaul

Michelle Visage has been an ally to the queer community since day one. The former-Seduction member and judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race is an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community in word and action.

In a recent interview with Vulture, Visage got candid about her journey to stardom and the state of the world today. She discussed political correctness, her upbringing in the New York ball scene, Drag Race and more.

Here are Billboard Pride’s five key takeaways from her interview:

1. On the age of political correctness

Visage spoke bluntly about where she thinks LGBTQ culture is headed in the modern era. “It’s more politically correct than we’ve ever been, which is killing the community in a sense. Helping in some aspects, killing it in some others.” She elaborated later on, saying that labels that are now deemed offensive were used as terms of affection back in the ‘80s when she was rising in the club scene. “Nobody had a problem with being labeled in the ’80s. We were proud to wear a gay label,” she said. “These new words weren’t slurs, they were affection. It’s kind of mind-boggling.”

2. On trans women performing in drag

Since RuPaul’s interview with The Guardian, there has been a serious online debate about “bio queens” doing drag. Visage threw her hat into the ring and defended transgender drag queens against online hatred. “It’s weird that we’ve come to this place where a lot of trans women, Peppermint included, Carmen Carerra, a bunch of them get a lot of s--t for being a drag performer as trans women,” she said. “It’s time we stop persecuting. Why can’t this person do whatever they want to do?”

3. On the definition of allyship

Visage has faced criticism before for using the word “we” when referring to the LGBTQ community. But Visage said that her role as an ally to the community is to “speak up for people that don’t have a voice or are afraid to or cannot,” because she has always been supported by the LGBTQ community. “I truly believe my calling is to be here for a community that’s always been there for me,” she said. “Because when nobody else was there for me, when I had no friends that would get my back, the queer community has never once said to me, until recently, ‘You’re not gay. You’re not one of us. You’re not welcome.’”

4. On finding a home in the ‘80s ball scene

When she was growing up, Visage said that she was often bullied in school and had a hard time trying to fit in. “Being an adopted kid, I never felt like I fit in anywhere, let alone in a peer circle,” she said. But when she found New York City’s burgeoning ballroom culture in the 1980s, she said she finally felt like she was home. “I walked into this group of like 20 or 30 people, the weirdest, craziest, queerest misfit group I’ve ever seen, the hair stood up on my arms like I knew I was home. I had found my tribe, which had never existed before.”

5. On Drag Race's impact in the world of drag

Many arguments have been made on whether or not RuPaul's Drag Race is good or bad for the drag community at large. Visage said that while she feels it has been largely beneficial to the drag community, she understands the other side. "Let’s say you’re in Key West and some tourists go in because they see there’s a drag show, and none of the people look like the contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race," she offered. "They’ll just say it’s shitty, sloppy drag, when that’s not true."

But she added that in a broader sense, the show is allowing a broader form of representation than many other programs. "I think what Drag Race is doing for drag culture is a positive thing. Mainstreaming is happening, but we’ll never be mainstream. We are a queer-centered show. At its core, we’ll always super serve the queer community."

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