As queens graduate from RuPaul’s Drag Race, it has become a tradition of sorts for the show’s alumni to release music projects. Some play up the campy, comedic roots of drag while others aim to be taken seriously as musicians, but they all have one thing in common: They want their music video fantasy moment.
That’s where Brad Hammer comes in. The 41-year-old director has worked on nearly 30 music videos for drag artists, starting with Manila Luzon’s 2015 release, “Ice Cream.” Earlier this month, Luzon dropped the candy-colored “Go Fish!,” adding to the pair’s growing collection of collabs.
He also directed All Stars 4 champ Monét X Change’s epic visual EP, Unapologetically. The newly crowned winner was happy with the outcome: “He did a really great job of helping put together many important pieces that made my music video come together,” she tells Billboard. “I’m unapologetically happy with how it all came out.”
As the director prepares his next projects (he teased videos for Drag Race legend Trixie Mattel and at least one queen from the series’ upcoming eleventh season), Hammer looked back at some of his biggest hits. See below for his favorite memories on the set with Luzon, X Change, Sharon Needles and more.
Monét X Change, “Gently”
Hammer: “In LA you never really worry about rain or being too cold, so I didn’t even think about that when we booked the locations. But the morning of the shoot I got a call from the studio and they told me that they didn’t have heat and the ceilings were leaking. So we get to this location and there’s buckets all over the studio where water is dripping in and it’s freezing cold. Everyone was wrapped in blankets as we’re filming. I was really worried because some queens are a little more divas than others, but Monét was totally chill. She did not complain once.”
Behind the scenes: The entire Unapologetically visual EP was filmed in two days.
Manila Luzon, “Go Fish!”
“I never press the queens for information about what’s going to happen on Drag Race, so I didn’t know the full scoop about what was going down. When we were putting together the shoot, I was suggesting other queens to play the Queen of Hearts because I was thinking of people who lived in LA; I really didn’t know Naomi. But Manila was very adamant about casting Naomi, so I knew there obviously had to be a reason. Just by chance, Naomi was from Redlands, and the mansion we shot in was in the Redlands. Naomi was visiting her family in at the time, so it was just kind of meant to be.
Same thing with The Heathers. Trying to get The Heathers together for anything is hard. They’re all so busy and they all have completely different lives now. So it was just really exciting to be able to bring all of those people together for one video shoot. It almost felt like a little family reunion because everyone was very loving and supporting of Manila.”
Behind the scenes: While filming a gazebo scene, the camera stopped working. Given that they weren’t in LA, they didn’t have any connections to get new equipment quickly, but lucked out after finding the same exact camera from a man only five minutes away through a rental website
Jiggly Caliente feat. Alaska and Ginger Minj, “All This Body”
“You can see a true queen’s character by the way other queens treat them and you can tell that all of the other queens really love Jiggly. The chemistry between her, Alaska, and Ginger was so much fun.
I think we also had her go a little bit outside of her box in that video. We did like a Marilyn Monroe look. We did a couple of looks that I think that she normally wouldn’t pull off or usually go and wear. But she did and she was totally down for whatever which I loved.”
Behind the scenes: Caliente suffers from a heart condition that prevents her from getting major surgeries, which has been esspeically irritating as a trans woman. That frustration inspired the doctor office scene in this video.
Blair St. Clair, “Now or Never”
“So Blair’s really big on classic movies, old Hollywood, and musical theatre. So you can feel that in almost all of her videos. There was an influence from Wizard of Oz because Blair and my director of photography Shawn Adeli both love that film. And also Pleasantville. It was like a bunch of influences really.”
Behind the scenes: Jinkx Monsoon’s cameo in the music video came together last minute. She even ad-libbed her lines and even came up with the name “Blair St. Air.” “When you read the comments, everybody is quoting Jinkx’s quotes there,” Hammer says. “She’s such a genius.”
Detox, “She’s Gotta Habit”
“I love ’90s supermodels and so does Detox. My friend Aurora Sexton, who is also in the video, stayed up the whole night before sewing those gold gowns. She literally did it all herself that one night. The next morning she was still at the sewing machine and I was like “Girl I can’t believe you’re still up sewing these.” And she’s like “This is the last one.” I look and they’re all done. And she was like “I think Donatella is going to see this video and comment on it,” and I was like “Oh yeah right girl you’re crazy.” Sure enough, when the video came out, all these people were messaging me because one of the gay boys who works for Donatella saw the video and showed it to her. She literally went to Detox’s Instagram and commented how much she loved it.”
Behind the scenes: Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs mailed them bags of samples to use for the video shoot. “That’s never really happened on any other video shoot that I’ve done for a drag queen, so that was really exciting,” Hammer says.
Sharon Needles, “666”
“This shoot was really funny because you would think that Sharon would love snakes. But they brought out the snake and she’s like, “No! Get it away from me!” But actually she had a little bit of Jack Daniel’s, got some courage, and she ended up being ok with it.”
Behind the scenes: The video was initially removed from YouTube for a bit after Christian blogs posted it and got it flagged. But it wasn’t Hammer’s first project to be removed from the site: “I used to do the crazy ads for Andrew Christian nine years ago. Some of those things would get pulled because they were softcore porn basically.”