Bob the Drag Queen Goes From Drag Race to the Big Screen
Bob the Drag Queen, center, and the cast of Cherry Pop, which is showing at Outfest on Monday
Assaad Yacoub/Wolfe Video
It's only been a matter of weeks since RuPaul's Drag Race reigning season-eight winner Bob the Drag Queen relinquished the title of America's Next Drag Superstar to season-nine winner Sasha Velour. Although Bob's ascendancy may have come to an end, his career as one of the funniest drag queens around is soaring.
On July 10, Bob will have two back-to-back premieres at Outfest, the Los Angeles LGBT film festival. The first, Cherry Pop, about a dive drag bar where "dreams go to die," stars Bob alongside many other former Ru girls, including Latrice Royale, Detox and Tempest DuJour. The second, called Suspiciously Large Woman: Bob the Drag Queen Comedy Special, showcases Bob doing stand-up in his hometown of Atlanta, discussing everything from Beyoncé to white people. We recently sat down with Bob to discuss the two films, as well as his thoughts on his fellow queens, Drag Race season nine and Donald Trump.
LA Weekly: What's the last year of your life been like since you were crowned the winner of RuPaul's Drag Race season nine?
Bob the Drag Queen: That's a question that I never really know how to answer, because I can't give you a soundbite to describe the last year of my life. Even if I wasn't on Drag Race, I couldn’t give you a soundbite to describe a whole year. But the shortest answer I could give you is that it's been very fun. I got to travel the world. Also [I got to] collaborate with other artists, working with queens who I've really admired for a long time, and getting to travel alongside them was really cool.
What attracted you to the role of Kitten Withawhip in Cherry Pop?
I wish I could say that I had a bunch of scripts on my desk and I read them all and picked the one that I felt spoke to me the most. That would be a Hollywood answer; that would not be a real answer. Assaad [Yacoub, the film's director] is my friend. I've known him for probably six years now and I was part of his student film, which was [also] called Cherry Pop, and then he asked me if I would do the feature film. Kitten Withawhip was my first drag name for like three years. [I changed my drag name to Bob later because] I think it's a funnier name. So I just did [the film] because my friend asked me to do it and I thought the script was funny.
Can you talk a little about the process making the film?
It's my first large role in a feature. I stayed in Hollywood. Not West Hollywood — in nasty, skanky Hollywood. I like it there, but I also live in New York City where the whole city is like Hollywood. Hollywood is kind of like Times Square if they had never cleaned it up. I moved out here for like three weeks and we pretty much filmed almost every single day, so there wasn't a whole lot of downtime. It wasn't me just going to the Abbey or Micky's or whatever people do in L.A. It was mostly me just going to set every day, then falling asleep and waking up to be there very early in the morning to film again.
Did you do any improv in Cherry Pop?
Yeah, a lot of my lines are improv'd. That's how I become funny, so [Assaad] was kind of like, "Just do your own thing," so I just kind of got silly.
Are you looking forward to your Outfest premieres?
I am, it feels like it's a night about me. I got two movies going up on the same night back to back, so I hope the audience doesn't mind a whole lot of me because they're gettin' it! I've never been to Outfest before; I went to Outfest Fusion, which is the Outfest for people of color. So I guess Outfest is just with more white people, it's like the rest of the world!
What can you tell us about your second film in the festival, Suspiciously Large Woman: Bob the Drag Queen Comedy Special?
It's very funny. I filmed it in Atlanta, which is my hometown, because I wanted my family to be able to see it live. I'm really excited about it. You've heard [your jokes] so many times, you think, "Is this funny anymore?" Then I rewatch it again and [think], godammit, this is funny.
So shifting gears to RuPaul's Drag Race, what are your thoughts on season nine?
It was great, they turned it up right at the end! I'm so glad the reunion was as dramatic as it was, I was living for it. It was like a Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion. And congratulations to Sasha Velour … I think she deserved [to win]. The rules are the rules and she won fair and square. … Peppermint was my favorite drag queen all season, [though]. She is one of the funniest people I've ever met in my life. Watching her do a show is like a master class in how to keep a show moving, how to entertain a crowd. She's brilliant. [And the new lip-sync face-off in the finale] makes it spicy and makes you work harder for it. You don’t get to sashay into the finale being like, "I got this," which is what I did [laughs].
Bob the Drag Queen as Kitten Withawhip in Cherry Pop
Assaad Yacoub/Wolfe Video
You referenced "fan favorite" Valentina on the season finale when RuPaul asked you to hand over the crown and you said, "I'd like to keep it on, please." What are your thoughts on her?
I don’t really know her, to be honest, but she seems really cool. I met her a little bit at the finale, she seems really nice to me, but then again those girls know her better than I do so maybe she's not that nice. I will say I've been asked about Valentina in literally every interview I've done [recently]. They don't even ask about the winner, they always ask what I think about Valentina.
So what do you think of Sasha Velour?
She's so smart. I crowned Sasha Velour two years ago for a local drag pageant and then I crowned her again this year for the Olympics of drag.
RuPaul is the winner of RuPaul's Drag Race every single year. One question I hate when being interviewed is, "How long does it take to get in drag?" Who gives a fuck how long it takes to get in drag? No one cares and there's no one answer. But then I looked at RuPaul doing interviews over the span of 30 years and she's been asked the question for 30 years. But RuPaul doesn't roll her eyes, she just answers it every single time. That's a real mark of professionalism.
Before [I was on] Drag Race, my friend was like, "You don't have to be on [the show] to make it big as a drag queen." I said, "Why don’t you name me one queen who's made it big without RuPaul's Drag Race," and I thought he was going to say like Jackie Beat or Sherry Vine, but he was like, "RuPaul!" He made it pretty big without Drag Race at a time when it was much harder to make it as a drag queen.
Speaking of harder times, you have quite a past as a gay rights activist. Can you talk a little about that?
I was [involved with a project called] Drag Queen Weddings for Equality, where me and my drag queen friends would get married to each other in Times Square. One of us was in a wedding dress, one of us was in a tuxedo and one of us was the priest. Someone always comes over to see what's going on and once they get there, we start handing out our "wedding invitations" that have all these things that people don’t know about outside the core community, like the rights we're denied, how many states we can be fired from our jobs [for being LGBT], or at the time how many states had marriage equality. Once we cornered them, we would spew them with information.
Then I joined this group called Queer Rising, and they said, "Do you want to get arrested for your cause?" and I was like, "Yeah, sure!" So we blocked traffic in Bryant Park to call attention to marriage inequality. I wasn't in jail for weeks, I was in jail for like 30 minutes. I'm not a hero. At the time I didn't know I was going to be out in 30 minutes. I was just like whatever happens, happens!
So what do you think we still need to fight for?
I've been thinking a lot about climate control. That's probably the scariest issue out there. If we don’t take care of the Earth, we won't have anything left to fight for in about 100 years. There are statistics that say the world will have to go vegan by like 2075 if we don’t get our shit together, because we're using up all the Earth's resources. That's a big, big deal. And the fact that we have an administration that's acting like our climate is fine is bananas.
Speaking of our current administration, you said during the "Trump's America" panel at this year's Drag Con: "You don’t treat a cough, you find out why you're coughing. Coughing is a symptom there’s something wrong with your body and Trump is not the problem, Trump is a symptom of what is actually going on." Can you elaborate on that?
If you are sick, if you're only treating the symptom, you'll have a cough forever. … I'm not a doctor but I can tell that America's sick. America has a lot of problems, she's riddled with disease. That doesn't mean that she can't make a full recovery. I think that Trump is a symptom of fear, like true Islamophobia. It's funny, because Christians are the perpetrators of the most terror attacks on the world by a clean mile. Every time there's a school shooting, every time there's an abortion clinic that's bombed, the entire Crusades [were terror attacks]. [They] just made terrorist attacks for when you are brown and blow something up and yell [Jihadist chants].
What's next for your career?
I'm doing a film next week, actually, which I'm really excited about. I don’t know if I'm at liberty to talk about it. I'm also going to be releasing a lot more web content and focusing on sketch comedy and a little bit of music here and there, too.
Last question, this would probably never happen, but if they ever did a battle of the winners season of RuPaul's Drag Race ...
... I would win. I think the hardest person to beat would be Alaska, she's a brilliant queen. The truth is, if [these winners didn't want to come back because all except one would become losers], what are [they actually] losing? I've learned in life, if you cannot step aside from your ego, your ego will fuck up everything. It will ruin so many opportunities. People think that being a performer is all about ego, but really it's not. It's about letting go of your ego, that's what being a performer is truly about.
Cherry Pop and Suspiciously Large Woman, Harmony Gold, 7655 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; Mon., July 10, 7 p.m. (Cherry Pop) and 9:30 p.m. (Suspiciously Large Woman). outfest.org.
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