There is no queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race who knows how to churn out consistent content quite like Bianca Del Rio. The season six winner has spent the four years since her win working hard; she’s released a feature-length film, Hurricane Bianca, two comedy specials, three comedy tours and even her own line of makeup removers.
But the queen of mean isn’t close to being finished. Her latest enterprise is the upcoming sequel to her first film, Hurricane Bianca: From Russia With Hate. The film follows Del Rio as Richard, a school teacher and part-time drag queen who is tricked by his nemesis Debbie (played by Saturday Night Live alum Rachel Dratch) to make his way to Russia to accept a fake teaching award. After a series of increasingly ridiculous events, Del Rio and Dratch team up to help save their friends.
The comedy queen is also preparing to release her first ever book, Blame It On Bianca Del Rio: The Expert on Nothing with an Opinion on Everything. The “self-help” book features Del Rio answering questions submitted by fans, and usually making fun of them in the process.
Del Rio talked to Billboard about working with her all-star cast on the Hurricane Bianca sequel, the similarities between her and Dr. Phil, her recent appearance on Drag Race and more.
Congrats on the new movie! Based on what I’ve seen, this is picking up where the last one was left off. What has it been like to get to come back to this story?
Oh, well, it had been quite some time. I think it had been almost two years since we filmed the other one. I had been traveling kind of extensively with my solo shows, so it was nice to get a chunk of time where I could be in one city. So we spent the month in New York, and it was a treat because everybody agreed to come back again! Of course, Rachel Dratch being a huge factor in this, it was quite the treat to get her the first time and an absolute miracle to get her the second time. So to get back, it was like we literally had a drink and we were back on track again. It was a lot of fun. The setup was a little bit easier this time, because we were filming in New York in October, which made for a much more pleasant experience than Texas in July, with the heat and a bunch of drag queens. So it was far more comfortable for me, and we were in New York at the center of everything. We ended up getting a lot of great cameos from people that were in the area.
I want to talk about Rachel Dratch — what is it like getting to work with her? Any fun memories from set?
In general, it’s a true pleasure. She’s actually a pro, and she’s one of the coolest, nicest, most down-to-earth people you will ever meet — and I don’t say that about many people. Not to mention, she’s also a giving performer; you’re in scenes with her where of course we have scripted dialogue, but in many moments, we would go off on tangents and crack ourselves up. The blooper reel, I do believe, is longer than the actual film itself, because we spent most of our time cackling. In this film, we have a lot more scenes together, which was the magic of Matt Kugelman and Derek Hartley, who stepped back and decided to create more of a ganging-up-together-to-attack-the-world situational comedy. That was really a treat.
We would be faced with difficult situations at three in the morning in Brooklyn, freezing outside in October — you know, global warming — trying to film some scenes, and we just could not stop laughing. During the entire process we had a conversation about having a top-shelf margarita with fresh juices that we never properly got to do. We were constantly saying, “We’re gonna go have one,” but of course as soon as we were finished filming, we were like, “Fuck this, get us out of here.” So I owe her one at the premiere when I see her in New York.
The first movie talked about workplace discrimination against queer people in the US, while this movie seems to be more about queer oppression in Russia. What interested you and your team about that topic?
Well, once again, this is Derek Hartley and Matt Kugelman who went down this path and decided to do it. But also, I always thought that it’s important to do something that is basically a serious topic, but not done in a serious, preachy way. I mean, we are dealing with comedy, and it’s a bit insane that I end up in Russia, and it’s a bit insane that I find Katya as my lover. But what’s fascinating is that most people aren’t aware — when we did the first film, no one was aware that in 29 states, it’s legal to be fired for being gay. So it’s kind of bringing those topics for people to understand, and how lucky some of us do have it, even though America is pretty shitty.
We are pretty lucky as gay people to have what we have. Of course, we should continue to fight to have more, without a doubt, especially with the current administration, because sometimes it’s like taking 10 steps back. But it’s also about being aware that it’s happening all over the world, and it’s quite a different dynamic. Usually, for these people, it’s live or die. And of course, this all fits with Russia being the hot topic. At the time, I think we kind of knew, but it’s gotten much more intense. So I don’t think we’re gonna make it the new gay destination, but I do think we’re trying to paint a clear picture of what’s going on elsewhere in the world.
Sure. Now, you also mentioned that you get to work with a bunch of the Drag Race girls, including Katya, Shangela, Darienne Lake, etc. What is it like to work with so many fellow queens?
It’s quite fascinating, because most people think that we hang out with each other on a normal basis, but all of us are kind of either traveling or doing our own thing. So, our lives don’t get to connect as much. Obviously, Shangela is someone I’ve known prior to me being on Drag Race, and we worked together for the first film. So we’ve caught up every now and then, and I was of course excited to see her returning for the role, especially after All Stars 3 and everything. I had not seen Darienne in quite some time, and we of course were close from being on our season together, but we don’t get to catch up. I mean, Darienne is a hairdresser and has a real job in Rochester, and she came down to film for the few days we were there, and I appreciate that. So this was a great opportunity to hang out and see each other and find out what’s going on in the world that wasn’t a text or Facebook post. It’s always a pleasure, and it’s a good group of people. And they got paid! And craft services! How could you beat that? [Laughs]
The other thing I wanted to talk to you about is your book that’s coming out, Blame It On Bianca Del Rio. I got to read a little bit of it, and it’s really funny. Why did you want to write a book of advice?
Well, it’s mostly hateful. [Laughs] I was approached to write a book a few years ago, right after Drag Race, and then it got really tricky, because they wanted a specific narrative. I’m not a person who lives for sympathy. Sympathy is not a part of my drag aesthetic. And I didn’t want to be egotistical and write a story about myself, because no one gives a fuck. So I just thought it would be important to do something that was funny. Shockingly, this is what happens — thanks to social media, I have been bombarded by questions in general. People want to know, what eyeliner are you wearing? What color lipstick do you wear? Why were you born? And I thought all of these questions should be addressed in some form, and I don’t have the ability to answer everyone on social media. So I thought a book would be fun and amusing.
It is truly the worst advice you could ever get — sometimes it’s a little too honest, and I think that people need to realize that it’s humor, and you ought to take a fucking joke. It’s not for the lighthearted, I will admit, but I’m the biggest joke there is! Why the hell would you be asking a drag queen for advice? And many people questioned me and said, “What makes you think that you’re an authority to write this?” And I’m like, “If that fucking bloated walrus Dr. Phil can give advice, then why the fuck can’t I? He’s not a doctor, I’m not a woman, so what does it matter?” Are we checking credentials? Apparently not! So it was fun, and it’s definitely the perfect book for you to have in your bathroom.
I loved that author’s note at the beginning about Dr. Phil being a “fat, loud blowhard.” I was cackling as I read that.
But it’s true! It’s fascinating, we’ve just learned to accept it, and I mean, look at the world we live in now — we’ve learned to expect this thing that’s tweeting every day as our president, it’s sad! It’s kind of all become the norm. So, when people come for me and say, “You shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t say that,” I just say, “Oh fuck off. Lighten up, Take a fucking joke for Christ’s sake.”
Is there any particular question from the book that stands out to you as a favorite?
Well, we had so many, that was the crazy part. A lot of them were similar, obviously dealing with drag and Drag Race. It was funny, everything was a question about RuPaul, which I thought, let me just answer in the most ridiculous way possible because people expect some pageant answer of everything being great. I knew Ru would get a kick out of how I answered those questions. But overall, it was fascinating how in-depth people would get, wanting me to seriously answer things that made me think, “Have you lost your fucking mind?” I mean, I don’t ask for advice through social media, so I don’t know if some people were fucking with me or if some of them were truly legitimate. It was interesting to see them assume that I would be the person to give them proper advice which, to me, is hysterical.
You got to go back to the Werk Room on the Snatch Game episode of this season of Drag Race. What was it like getting to be on the other side of the competition?
It was great to get to go back. I had not been back on that level, in the Werk Room in particular. But it was also like going back to high school, like, “Oh my god, it smells the same, it looks somewhat the same,” and it definitely does fuck with your head. I remember being in the dressing room near Audra McDonald and everyone else, and I thought, “Oh, now I’m on the other side of the wall…” Because I don’t know if you’re familiar, but on the Drag Race set, there’s one side where the girls hang out, and then the other side is where the clientele and the staff and everyone else is. So it was quite interesting, because I made it to the other side now! And of course it’s always a hoot to see Ru, and laughing in between takes with her.
Have you been able to watch this season with your schedule? Do you have any favorites?
I haven’t kept up with every episode. Let’s face it, we don’t even have to watch every episode now — all we need to know is “Miss Vanjie.” Someone asked me recently “What happens when you say ‘Miss Vanjie’ three times?” And I said, “You get eliminated!” I have to say, though, I did get to catch the last few episodes. I know a lot of the girls, so even though my heart is there and I’m thinking, “Ok, they’re a friend of mine and they’re there,” it’s always interesting to see how that turns out for the show. I was there for Snatch Game, and I had no idea that Aquaria was going to take that challenge! My perception of it at the time was completely different — also, it was a year ago and I drink a lot [laughs]. You never really know!