Michelle Visage long thought she might become the next Gwen Verdon or Bernadette Peters. ”As a kid growing up in New Jersey, I was a theater queen,” Visage says. ”That’s what I went to college for, that’s all I ever saw myself being. For me back then it was all about the divas.”
In some respects, it’s still all about the divas for Visage — the divas just happen to be men in drag. And Visage, now a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, sounds every bit as enamored with drag queens as with Broadway’s leading ladies.
”If somebody says I don’t get a drag queen, it befuddles me,” she says. ”How could you not get drag?” For Visage, it’s not just about the showy outward appearance. ”For me, it’s more about the internal, which is all about the bravery that these boys go through on a daily basis. From the first moment I saw a drag queen when I moved to New York City when I was 17, it was all about admiration. I have the utmost respect for these people and what they go through, every day, and their transformation.”
That admiration and respect fully blossomed when Visage befriended RuPaul in the late-’80s. Visage would go on to co-host the drag queen’s eponymous VH1 talk show as well as work on her morning New York radio show, both from the ’90s. Before joining Drag Race in 2011 and once again becoming RuPaul’s right-hand woman, Visage served as a morning radio host for stations in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, where she now makes her home with her husband, two pre-teen daughters, and two dogs.
Visage wouldn’t turn down ”a good song,” but she doesn’t intend to revive the recording career she had for a short spell soon after moving to New York. While Visage still hopes to appear on the musical stage someday, her focus is on parlaying her work on Drag Race into more work in TV, including – maybe, hopefully – her own show. But there’s nothing she can announce yet. ”I’ve got stuff brewing,” she says. ”Hopefully 2013 is a huge year for me.”
For now, she’s enjoying traveling the country supporting Drag Race. ”This show could go on for 20 seasons,” she says. “There are so many talented queens out there. I lose my breath.”
Visage will join Ba’Naka as a special guest host at Number Nine, Monday, Jan. 28, for Drag Race‘s season premiere viewing party. ”I know what happens in the judging stuff, but I don’t know how it’s edited,” she says. ”[So] I will be there to watch it just like everybody else, and then we’ll talk.”
Michelle Visage appears Monday, Jan. 28, after 8 p.m., at Number Nine, 1435 P St. NW. No cover. Call 202-986-0999 or visit numberninedc.com.