Bianca del Rio and I first met at last year’s Charlotte Pride on a boiling Saturday afternoon. Our air-conditioned trailer behind the Wells Fargo stage was our respite from the heat. I was a first-time co-emcee trying to not sweat through my red polyester jumpsuit. She donned a navy onesie while in full face and a wig high enough to hit the ceiling.
While we sat on the couch, she offered to split her pack of Starbursts.
“Would you like STRAW-berry?” she said, her raspy, booming voice putting the straw in strawberry. She ate one lemon and orange square in a single mouthful. She then told me about her upcoming appearance on “In Bed with Joan” hosted by Joan Rivers. It was a rare moment of quiet — all 45 minutes of it — for a drag queen who spends most of her time on the road since her win on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season six last May.
Bianca has been lauded as “The Joan Rivers of the Drag World,” an honor for a lifelong devotee of the late comedian’s acrid sense of humor, relentless work ethos and inability to be put in a box. But with a sold out tour for over a year, almost 20 years in the drag business and an upcoming roast to celebrate her 40th birthday, Bianca del Rio truly is the Bianca del Rio of the drag world.
That tour, “Rolodex of Hate,” stops in Charlotte on July 3 at Spirit Square’s McGlohon Theater. I got to reconnect with Bianca while she had a rare free 10 minutes before a show.
Joanne Spataro: I loved your fabulous Tin Man outfit on the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 7 finale.
Bianca Del Rio: Oh thank you. Just a little glitter. Just a little something.
You were probably coughing up glitter for days.
I’ll tell you, the maid at the hotel was not happy with me the next day. There was glitter left in the tub. It was a nightmare.
Whose idea was it to cover you in silver glitter?
I’ve done glitter on my face years ago and I wanted to do it again, but I didn’t have the full effect of what I wanted and then I started thinking about it. I was questioning what am I going to do, is it going to be too much, blah blah blah. My friends didn’t think it was a good idea and I still did it anyway. It was just a blur. Because I don’t have much time anymore, it’s just becomes let’s roll with it and if they don’t like it, fuck it!
What do you value most in life?
Work. I like work because that’s the only thing I have control of. I can’t be in control of anything else. I can’t control if I’m in a relationship, I can’t control when someone dies, but I can control my work ethic and keep plowing and going through it. It’s been a great year for me and you want to keep it rolling. There’s still work to be done. Gotta keep moving.
What can people expect from “Rolodex of Hate” in Charlotte?
A portion of the show is scripted, but at the beginning of the show I do a good 10 minutes of whatever’s going on in my world and then after that I do my question and answer. Expect the unexpected, but expect a lot of hate because that’s what it is.
How do you feel about being the one getting roasted for your 40th Birthday Roast on June 18?
I’m actually excited and looking forward to it. It was supposed to be a fundraiser for the movie I’m doing and a friend of mine was unaware that it was going to be a roast. I think that’s what made it a lot more fun, because the people they have chosen are all good friends of mine. I’m curious about what they have to say. They’ve all said something hateful anytime we go to lunch, so it couldn’t be any different for me. That’s usually my type of person, anybody who can sit back and dish bullshit.
Didn’t (legendary drag queen and friend) Lady Buddy tell you good luck, but you’re not going to win “Drag Race?”
Oh totally, oh yeah. She wishes that my plane is going to crash anytime I fly, and recently she told me she said she doesn’t want my plane to crash — she much prefers that I took Amtrak, so you know, that’s the kind of people I deal with.
At least she’s staying topical on plane versus train accidents.
Just like her ointment. Topical.
If anyone in the world could roast you, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Oh my God, there are so many of them. There are a couple of people that I love. There’s a drag queen named Charles Pierce, who’s no longer with us, but I would have loved because he’s quite a genius. Of course, Joan Rivers is another favorite of mine and one that everybody thinks is dead but is still working is Don Rickles.
When did you realize you could make a career using comedy to insult people?
I was always in theater and it led to me onstage and then drag. The talking in a bar was when I started to do it, and, of course, when you are in New Orleans, drinking is 24/7 and in that city, bars are 24 hours, 7 days a week. You deal with a certain type of clientele, so my tolerance was built up doing that for five days a week for 10 years. That’s where I learned “the craft” of going after the people because you really can’t argue with someone behind a microphone.
Since you are working so much, what would be your ideal day off?
When I’m home in New York, it’s catching up on life, everything from laundry to tending to my dog. There’s never an off day. But I am taking a week in July for my 40th birthday. I’m going to Puerto Vallarta, which I’m excited for, first time I’ve ever done this and a bunch of my friends are heading down there to have a good time. It’s going to be kind of weird, but I’m looking forward to it. : :