Gird your loins, gird your pearls, gird your everything. The largest force since COVID is coming to a city near you and she is Unsanitized! Most celebs can be introduced by “best known from” with one pinnacle show to recognize them by. Bianca Del Rio may have won RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6, but the credits don’t end there. She’s a comedian, a podcaster, an author, a custom designer, a businessperson, and above all, a hell of a good time. This September she hits the road for a national tour with her new one-person show, Unsanitized! – beware the tagline “She’s vaxxed, she’s waxed, and she has more attitude than ever.” This tour will mark her 5th show around the globe, her first show The Rolodex of Hate came hot off the heels of the end of her Season on Drag Race.
I knew I had to hit the ground running and I made it a point to go out and do as much as I possibly could. I took every gig there was. And from there is when I started touring because that is ideally what I wanted to do because after so many years of being in bars – nothing wrong with being in bars – but I had done it for many, many years, and some nights are good, some nights are bad, some nights there are two people, some nights there’s a hundred. So that was basically the rat race that I was playing, along with a day job, that I thought, okay if I can just tour, I’m going to tour my ass off and focus on that. And that was kind of the beginning of me doing it. So, I have been very fortunate on that level, but it has also been a conscious choice to say, this is the lane I’m staying in – I don’t do music videos. I’m not going to lip-sync some stupid song, let the other queens do it. If music videos made money, I would have done 12 of them. You know what I mean? But it doesn’t.
Contrary to popular opinion (or Bianca’s own tweets), she loves the audience. Under the costumes, under the makeup, under the witty insults, she is an entertainer first.
I love what I’m doing. Shockingly, like people … I mean, I generally do. That’s important in comedy. I do a meet and greet before my show with 150 to 200 people, but we do it early in the evening because they’re still scared of me, I still look somewhat decent, and they’re not drunk yet. So, I get to meet those people. I know their quirks, I know their problems, I know what they’re about. I see them and it helps me with the show. I enjoy meeting people. I love hearing their stories, including the ones they have about me (which makes me cackle), their ideas, and views. And they always say, “You’re taller than I thought you were. Uh, you’re skinnier than I thought you were. Uh, you’re not pretty in person.” I love it. You know? And that’s just my family.
Dubbed the “Joan Rivers of the Drag World” by the New York Times, she is known for her acidic tongue and wildly politically incorrect humor. But her comedy has timing, has an intelligence to it, and is honed from years in the business.
I think it’s truth. Truth is all you have, you know, I mean, and self-awareness, I think is very important. Now everybody’s saying you can’t say this, or I’m offended. You know what happens to people that get offended? You’re going to die. Like the rest of us, it doesn’t matter. So, I come from a place of, if it is not your cup of tea, move on – don’t drink it, don’t come near it, don’t watch it. But don’t ask me to change or ask me to alter it to justify some fuckery that suits you. I don’t get that. It’s especially relevant in the gay community because the gays love to put you on a pedestal and then tear you down. I mean, that’s just how it is. So truthfully, I’m no advocate, I am no ringleader, I am not trying to run for office, I’m not your mother, I’m not your grandmother. So, I don’t have to answer to any of you. Do not put me on a pedestal, I’m here in my little corner doing my thing. And if it works for you, great. And if it doesn’t, bye, keep moving.
Bianca, known without her makeup as Roy, formed her personality from the get-go. Born into a Cuban and Honduran home with four siblings, the home was always full of vibrant chaos.
It was full of cooking, lots of bad attitude, broken English, rules that didn’t make any sense whatsoever. I just assumed that that’s how everyone grew up. I didn’t know any different until I saw maybe The Brady Bunch and thought, “Wow, look at these white people!” But it was a completely different world, it was so accepting. I know people often complained about their childhood or say they were misunderstood, or their family didn’t understand their gayness and they cry about it. Well, that’s not me. Everything that they did is a product of why I am who I am today. So, I have no regrets, no remorse. I have no sad story. I made it out alive. I’m happy.
There was no denying that Roy was different. In high school, he started acting and designing costumes for plays.
I was called a faggot before I ever knew I was “gay.” It was just one of those things where I knew I was different. I didn’t know what that meant. But I knew that I was an embarrassment by just being eccentric or being flamboyant or being artistic – which was just IN me. I just loved all these things. I loved Dynasty and I loved everything that was catty and glamorous. I think my parents just didn’t know what to do with it, and maybe they were concerned about what society was going to think of me and worse, and what society was going to think of them as parents. No one wants to raise a different child.
I think through that, I was able just to find my voice. I knew that some people in school didn’t understand me, but the advantage was I found the theater. Finding theater was a whole new grouping of people who for once said, “Oh, you’re talented. You’re not crazy. You’re not insane. This is your path. This is what you need to do.” And has been my passion – theater, costume, acting and performing. Once you can release that, then you can go, “Okay, I’m safe. This is the stage. This is where I want to be.” And that was kind of the narrative for me growing up, just get through high school, get through this move to New York, find your way. I did not think I was going to be a drag queen, but it was definitely part of the journey. And I had great people who encouraged me along the way.
Roy’s first costuming achievement came at the early age of 15. He was hooked and was destined to become a viral sensation. He was helping a local dinner theater with costumes and was asked to design the state costume (Mardi Gras for New Orleans) for Mrs. Louisiana for a pageant.
That was the first thing I did and the local newspaper (back in the day when newspapers were a big deal) ran a story on me. And the headline read “ASK HIM ABOUT HEMS” and it was about my life and how I got to make this costume for her. And the next day when I went to school, everyone I saw said, “What about hems?”
Roy was nominated for 13 Big Easy Entertainment Awards for costume design, winning six. Bianca’s drag debut would happen by chance while doing wigs and costumes for a play called Pageant. The show needed a bit player and since Roy was already there, they asked him to fill the cameo.
I did the part, and, in the beginning, it was two minutes long and then the next week it was five minutes long and then the next week it was 10 minutes long. So, it became my bit because I was just covering with the audience and filling the time needed, and I really enjoyed it. That look wasn’t really a Bianca look, so to speak, but that was the start of my love affair of me wearing a costume because all these years I never wore one. I made stuff for other people. This was the first time that I actually experienced the excitement of being in full drag, doing it.
Local drag queen Lisa Beaumann saw him in Pageant and would start casting him in shows at Oz nightclub. He would go on to win the New Orleans Gay Entertainer of the Year for three years.
All of those $50 gigs, changing in the bathroom, having no light in the dressing room, the hotel rooms where you had no money to even put down for incidentals, is something I’ve never forgotten. And all of that makes me appreciate all of the fabulous things I have now.
I think that’s what’s missing from a lot of drag queens nowadays. I think if they’ve never worked in a bar, never had an act, never dealt with an audience (and I’m not saying everyone should), but we live in the Instagram world now where they can look gorgeous in a photo, but there’s no substance. I’m not saying that they’re doing it wrong, I just mean you do have a better sense of self and professionalism if you’ve been around the block, especially some shitty blocks. I think that that’s one of the reasons I’ve been successful with work is because I’m a go-getter. I go and do it on my own. I’m not going to worry about all this fanfare and all this production and all this madness. I know I have to get out and hustle because it isn’t going to last forever.
While Bianca is part of the Drag Race world, she has made her brand and her business her own. She is a standout, not just from the show, but from drag history.
I think the hustle is important. I enjoy working and I hustle now more than ever. I never thought this Drag Race opportunity, whether I won or not, this amazing platform that puts you in people’s living rooms, would allow me to sit back and smoke a cigarette and see what the show is going to do for ME. That was never the case because I didn’t know the outcome. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I did not know what the end result in editing was going to be for their narrative, which I signed up for.
People expect Bianca to be purely Bianca. There is no time off for Roy, he’s set the bar high. Fans feel like they know Bianca.
I see people in the street and it’s like, “Do you mind if I get a picture?” Of course, it’s not a problem – it comes with the territory. I mean, I’ve had many years where no one wanted a photo, so it doesn’t bother me in the least. And I think that also who I am on stage and who I am in real life are very similar. Obviously, it’s heightened when you’re on stage, but you’re not really getting a different person. It does get tricky when people look at me and say, “Read me, read me, read me!” And I’m like, “Well, that’s not how this works!” I could be a little bitchy but give me a minute. So, I do find that fascinating, but I think how lucky that anybody even gives a shit to say hello or take a picture. That’s where I come from.
When Bianca comes to your town this year, don’t expect a party. She’s a worker.
It’s a very tricky game when you’re on the road because when I’m in whatever country, I’ll be traveling on a tour bus. I like to do at least five to six shows in a row, in a different city every night, so I don’t like to have too much time in between. I don’t like a day off or any of that. We only do it for union reasons that I have to take off. I like to hit it hard.
You get into town around maybe noon each day. About 3:00pm I’m allowed into the theater. I unpack, get ready for a meet and greet at 5:30pm. Once they open the house, I go in and do my show around 8:00pm. I’m finished, out of drag, and in the shower by 10:30pm – 11:00pm. Then I put on my pajamas, get back on the bus, pass out (maybe take a Xanax that I bought in Puerto Vallarta), and then wake up in the next city and do it all over again. So, it’s really not that exciting on the road, but that’s how I like it best. I like to keep it moving. If I do six nights in a row, then I ask myself, okay – what worked well out of four of those nights? What didn’t work? What do I need to eliminate? What do I need to work on?
This Pride season, Bianca wants you to get off your ass.
I would say get out, get out – we’ve sat home long enough, get out, go live. And if anything, 2020 has taught us that you just cannot worry about the bullshit. It was so amazing to be in New York for Pride, and it was also beyond amazing that I didn’t have to be in a wig. I was so happy not to have to work, but I got to experience it. And there’s just an energy that’s out there now. I think people realize, “Hey, we get one life!” We lost a whole year, an insane year – not to mention an insane four years before that. Get out, go out, live, enjoy your life. Don’t be affected by the ideas and the games, or the rules that people make up. It’s insanity. You just got to live and find what’s best for you. We’ve sat at home long enough. We’ve been depressed. We’d been mad. Now, get out and just live and have a drink. Please have a drink. I’m always suspicious of people that don’t.
You can follow everything Bianca and get your tickets for Unsanitized! at www.TheBiancaDelRio.com
And check out our podcast chat as we get into Bianca’s dating life, little known hobbies, playing Angel in RENT, and her time working at Bloomingdale’s (it did not go well) at www.Metrosource.com.
(Featured Photo by Matt Crockett)
Last modified: August 9, 2021