March 30 2018

Hot Tea with Kameron Michaels

New York-The Standard Interview
Episode 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race was a heavy lift this week at narcbar when season 10’s premiere muscle queen Kameron Michaels joined us as co-host and performer at our weekly viewing and queer party Miss Girl. (Read last week’s interview with Eureka O’Hara here.) The “Body Builder Barbie” hails from Nashville, Tennessee, with a southern charm and a filthy mouth that, paired with her skin-tight dress and nude pumps, would earn her a spot on any Real Housewives reunion sofa. But seated amongst our own illustrious lineup of queens, Ms. Michaels dished this season’s drama and tea before giving epic shows with multiple costume changes and major hairography (human hair wig, henny!)
 
Before Kameron took the stage, she chatted with us about the heartbreak that unleashed her inner queen, the iconic runway scene on episode one, and how to take the perfect thirst trap.
 
Now drop down and give us 20!
Read all of our "Hot Tea" interviews here.


The Standard
The Standard
THE STANDARD: RuPaul’s Drag Race has been on air on for a decade, but inarguably the show, and drag and general, has more press and exposure now than ever before. How does it feel to be a part of this moment?
KAMERON MICHAELS: It feels really amazing. I did not have people to look up to like me when I was little. And now I have kids direct messaging me asking for advice on how to come out and help with other situations, and the fact I can be a role model to a younger generation is amazing to me.
 
You’ve been doing drag yourself for over a decade. Why did you wait until season 10 to audition?
Drag is a big part of my life, but I put it on to the backburner several times for different reasons. Last year I decided I want to be on RPDR season 10, so I said it out loud, put it out into the universe, and I worked to make it happen.
 
What were the setbacks that made you put drag on hold?
I would do drag for about two or three years and then get into a relationship, and the passion and love I have for drag somehow would get replaced by the passion and love I had for that person. I couldn’t do both at the same time—one would replace the other. Last year I got broken up with, and it hurt pretty bad, so I was like, “I need to try the drag thing one more time,” and get on Drag Race, and here I am.
 
It’s all about balance! Speaking of, it’s no secret you’re quite the gym rat. How do you find a balance between fitness and Kameron? That nightlife schedule is grueling.
Well, I think that is going to be a test for me this year. I was a hairdresser prior to the show and I did drag on and off. I actually only did a couple shows last year, so I was a part-time drag queen until now. So, to be honest, I don’t know yet [how I’m going to balance it]. But it is important for me to stay in shape while on the road, even if it’s just doing pushups in my hotel room or whatever. I’ll figure it out.
 
You’re very deliberate with the whole muscle queen thing. Which came first, the gym or drag, and how do they support or challenge each other?
I started doing drag when I was 18, fitness didn’t start until I was in my mid-twenties. Going to the gym and working out makes me feel confident in myself, not just looking good, but feeling good and feeling strong. That physical strength has helped me find more strength and confidence in my drag.
The Standard

How do other queens react to that body-ody?
I’m from Nashville and there’s a lot of old school queen. And at first those girls in my town were like, “Girl your arms are too big you look like a man. Vida works out from To Wong Foo!” For the longest time I wore long sleeves and never showed my arms, so to walk into the workroom in a dress that showed my shoulders and biceps and triceps felt great because so many queens tried to hold me back from that.

Milk is another Drag Race queen who embraces her muscles, but she’s gotten a lot of negative commentary for using the show’s platform to capitalize off her looks as a boy. What are your thoughts on this?
I think Milk’s aesthetic and mine are so incredibly different that I can’t compare us. He’s got the whole club kid aesthetic which shows off his body differently and I don’t do anything like that. I know people are going to talk about me as a boy, but I really want them to pay attention to my drag.
 
Well, with that Instagram of yours, we’re definitely paying attention to both. What’s your secret to capturing the perfect thirst trap?
So, I bought a ring light on Amazon for $99 because I was like, “How are these people getting such great photos?” I just pop my phone in the ring, I know my angles, a little bit of filter here and there, and I just started posting.
 
How about a little bit of filler here and there?
[Kameron winks.]

The Standard

You’ve been pretty quiet on the first two episodes. Do you think RPDR is showcasing your personality accurately?
I am not gonna be a queen that blames editing. I was quiet. I was petrified. It’s the scariest thing you’ll ever do in your life, and I was in my head and forgetting I was supposed to be personable and fun in front of the cameras because I was so focused on competition. But of course I’m like, “Damn, no air time.”
 
Who did you connect with to help you out of your shell? Anyone you didn’t get along with?
Well, I didn’t talk enough to get into drama. [Laughs.] So, I didn’t really have any enemies, but The Vixen at times rubbed me the wrong way. Eureka was my best friend on the show because I knew that bitch had been here before. She knew what was up, so I latched onto her.
 
That catwalk moment with Drag Race alumni on the first episode did not allow for any reservations, honey. What was filming that like?
When we walked in we were only told there was going to be a crowd of people to the left of us and Ru would be on our right. We weren’t told who it was going to be, we were just told we could interact with them if we wanted to. When I entered, I turned around and saw Detox, Trixie, and Adore, so I automatically knew the whole room was alumni, and I was like, “Oh, shit! They’re really gonna get us this first week.” So I swallowed whatever lump was in my throat and followed the challenge from there. The only [RPDR former queen] I am close with is Bianca del Rio  and I didn’t see her in the crowd, so I didn’t kiki with anyone, but  I saw Cracker interacting with Bob and some of the other girls playing around, and I was so intimidated I didn’t interact with anyone and did my own thing.
 
Your hairography was epic, though!
Right?! I am the shy, introverted person, but I come alive when I’m on stage. People are like, “Did she take a shot of Red Bull? Who gave her cocaine?” There’s that gif of Adore making a crazy face when I do the splits and I think that captures how it went. At first the girls weren’t so sure [about me] and then they were like, “OK, she moves!”
 
Is there a Drag Race alum that has been particularly inspiring for you?
Chi Chi DeVayne. Anybody who is very honest and open about where they came from, especially when it’s a low point in their life, and then just watching them blossom on the show is really inspiring because you know that bitch is working her ass off. Bianca is such a great role model. She is so professional, especially when she’s not being an asshole. And, aesthetically, Raja. She’s so statuesque and beautiful, I’m gonna forgive her for giving me a boot for my entrance outfit. I still love her!
 
Which eliminated queen from any season would you bring back?
Can I say my own season?
 
Sure!
Vanjie. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. Vanjie, Vanjie…Vanjie. She should still be here. I wish she had a Shangela moment and she popped out of a box. I guess we’ll just have to watch the show and wait and see, but I think people are really going to miss her.
 
Anything extra juicy you can leave us with?
Besides my bulge? Yeah, I saw that camera moment on the first episode. OK, no, but really, behind the scenes of [episode two] me and Blair St. Clair cry like infants in front of Alyssa Edwards, and Blair bleeds all over the stage. I’ll leave you with that.
Writer
Cameron Keady
Photographer
Morgan T. Stuart