First of all, if you haven’t heard of Bianca Del Rio, Google her – immediately. And it’s completely okay if you find yourself sucked into the YouTube vortex for hours because you can’t get enough. Guilty.
Bianca Del Rio, born Roy Haylock, was raised in New Orleans but is now a staple in the New York City drag scene, quickly gaining fans and followers around the world. She has referred to herself as an “Insult Queen – like Don Rickles. Only in a dress. And prettier and not as old.” Bianca is currently a contestant on the Sixth Season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race on LogoTV. Fans of the show have been getting small glimpses of Bianca’s “Rolodex of Hate” as she fires line after line at her fellow contestants, former competitors, Drag Race judges and even Ru herself. If you have ever seen her live onstage, you know that nobody in that audience is safe, and any cowardly soul that dares call out from their “safe place” behind the lights will be quickly read for filth right then and there. She is loud and brash and doesn’t apologize one bit for it.
However, what many might not realize (even though it is absolutely evident on the show) is that Bianca Del Rio isn’t always the Brazen Bitch she plays on stage. As the episodes of Drag Race peel back the layers of Bianca, we see more and more of her soft side. As much as she may deny it, Bianca is clearly full of heart. I have seen Bianca live a few times since I am right outside New York City, but last night I was fortunate enough to see an even more intimate side of the “Queen of Mean”. Feathers, a gay club in River Edge, New Jersey, held a “White Party” last night hosted by Bianca. We live just down the street from the club and Jamie and I spent many nights in our late early twenties [Hedwig reference 😉] boozing and dancing on the 2nd Floor stage like we didn’t have a future. When we saw that Bianca would be hosting there, we couldn’t pass it up – but when we purchased the VIP ticket that included a photo op Meet and Greet, we didn’t really know what to expect. Let me tell you, she worked her little padded ass off all night, ensuring that she spent real time with the fans that came out to see her. She went from photos, to meet and greet, to performance, to more meet and greet. She even took the time outside the club to sign more autographs and chat with fans. She took shots with us at the bar and listened to peoples’ personal stories. Throughout the night I heard her voice several times how grateful she was to have such opportunities.
“If you don’t wear a wig, they call you a nasty, hateful Queen. But if you wear a wig, they call it hysterical. So it’s kind of like the packaging to get away with murder.” *
It was most incredible to hear about the way she perceives her explosion of fame. Outside after the show, she was talking about what she does and the feedback she’s gotten in cities across the country. She had said, “People scream, ‘I LOVE YOU BIANCA!’ and I’m thinking, ‘A few months ago, you didn’t even know who I was.’ It’s not like I’m curing Cancer. I’m a man in a wig. But if it helps people I’m all for it!” It got me thinking about how she is indeed helping. She is a strong, confident gay man, comfortable in what she does, qualities that I’m certain were not gained overnight. Thousands of teens across the nation, and even across the world, can see her and draw inspiration from her.
When I started the Unity Link club at my school that creates a safe place for my students to gain support and talk, I never guessed that it would develop into a secondary club for teens “struggling” with sexual orientation and gender identity. Now, we have a club that meets every Monday for teens from around the district to gather and talk LGBTQ-related issues – we call it “Oz”. Until a few weeks ago, many of my students had never heard of Ru Paul’s Drag Race nor of Bianca Del Rio. But in one meeting I quoted the famous Jackie Curtis when she had said, “I am not a boy. I am not a girl. I am not gay. I am not straight. I am not a drag queen, not a transexual. I am me, Jackie.” The discussion led to drag queens and eventually I started talking about Drag Race. Well, the next week there was an explosion of energy over the show. Many of the kids had gone home and binge-watched the series, becoming fully educated on their favorites. I found it not at all shocking when a handful of the boys in the group gravitated toward Bianca. She is exactly the kind of example of success they need in a world that is still telling them “no”.
“Everybody is an original. It takes a minute to find ‘your thing’. It’s just finding what your passion is. And not thinking, ‘I need to do that because someone else is doing it.’ But also realize that people are going to compare, people are going to have an opinion. Everybody thinks that they know more than you. But it really is a little journey for yourself.”*
Thank you, Bianca, for being all we need – Bitch, Comedian, Friend, Inspiration, and Role Model. You may not be curing Cancer, but the world could certainly use the dose of laughter and originality you insist on administering, so keep bringing it relentlessly!*From an interview with fellow performer Marti Gould Cummings posted on April 23, 2014.