Michelle Visage on Drag Race, her love of dance and getting spotted at the gynaecologists’ office
From hitting the music charts with girl band Seduction to winning a whole new legion of fans thanks to starring in Strictly Come Dancing in 2019, Michelle Visage has had a glittering entertainment career.
But there is one job which she is particularly famous for – being a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The third series of the UK version of the reality competition lands on BBC iPlayer this month, and once again, New Jersey-born Visage, 52, will be sitting on the panel alongside drag queen RuPaul, who she met on the New York drag queen scene in the 80s. Graham Norton and Alan Carr will alternate each week as guest judges, while other famous faces who have been confirmed to appear on the show are comedians Matt Lucas and Kathy Burke, Strictly Come Dancing professional Oti Mabuse, pop star Nadine Coyle and presenter Judi Love.
A total of 12 queens will be sashaying down the runway and taking on dancing, singing, and comedy challenges in order to win the top prize. Amongst those hoping to impress with their charm, uniqueness, and drag prowess this series is the show’s first-ever cisgender female drag queen, Portsmouth-born Victoria Scone.
The other competitors are Veronica Green (who returns to the show after testing positive for Covid-19 in series two), Vanity Milan, Scarlett Harlett, River Medway, Krystal Versace, Kitty Scott-Claus, Ella Vaday, Elektra Fence, Charity Kase, Choriza May and Anubis.
Here, we find out more from mum-of-two Visage, who’s married to author and screenwriter David Case.
How would you sum up the new series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK?
“It’s completely different, because it’s completely different queens, with completely different stories, completely different trajectories. You don’t know where somebody is going to go, and that’s the beauty of RuPaul’s Drag Race, you go on a ride with these people. It’s like life; we judge people by what we see, and then we get fully surprised.”
How poignant is the decision to include Victoria Scone in the line-up?
“I’ve always maintained that all drag is valid, and it really is. It needs to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race-level to get into the competition. So, we will always welcome everybody to audition – that audition tape better be very, very good!
“Having Victoria on this series is game-changing. I consider myself a cis woman drag queen, AFAB [assigned female at birth] queen, whatever you want to call it – I just call myself a drag queen. And I’ve been trying to compete behind that judging table for 14 years now. It’s just part of the beautiful growth of drag, and what we represent, and we are all-inclusive, so it is important that she’s there. And she’s wonderful.”
You must get some amazing reactions from fans. What’s the strangest place you’ve been recognised?
“An odd place was at the gynaecologists’ office; sitting there waiting to go in and you see somebody looking, and it’s like, ‘Do I have something on my face?’ It was one of those moments where I was like, ‘Well, I’m gonna remember this one!’
“There are the people who you wouldn’t exactly think would be watching the show, and they come up and they say how much they love it. It’s just wonderful. It’s a show for everybody, and that’s what I love about it.”
The queens get a lot of support on social media too. How does it feel to see drag becoming more accepted?
“I’ve been a fan of drag since I was a kid, and people thought I was crazy for loving drag. But drag, to me, has always been as viable an art form as painting, as dance. So, it’s very rewarding for me to sit back and go, ‘See, I told you! I knew it’. Drag is amazing and expressive and artistic, and it fills my soul and my heart with joy.
“No matter what it is, there’s going to be haters, whether it’s politics, whether it’s the arts, whether it’s your face, there’s always going to be somebody who has something negative to say. You just can’t spend too much time soaking in that.”
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt throughout your career?
“I’ve learned to be flexible. A lot of people try to fit into a certain mould to make people happy instead of making themselves happy, and I have been a victim of that as well. If you can stay steadfast to who you are, and true to what you believe, what you feel you represent, you’ll be unstoppable. I’m the best Michelle Visage that there can be, and I need to just focus on that.”
Have you kept up ballroom dancing since competing on Strictly?
“I left Strictly and had to have knee surgery. I hurt my knee on the launch show. I did that entire competition with a torn meniscus. Obviously, the team knew, but I was given the OK to dance through it. I didn’t want the judges to know because I didn’t want to have a target on my back, I wanted to give it all I could.
“Two weeks after knee surgery, I said to my doctor, ‘When can I dance?’ He’s like, ‘You’re good! You can go dance’. So I take a dance class at least once a week. I’m still not great, but I love it so much. I found my love of Latin and ballroom through doing Strictly and it’s something I always wanted to learn, and I had the best experience of my life.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK series 3 will return to BBC Three and iPlayer on Thursday September 23, with new episodes dropping weekly.