by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
You better work it! And, well, she does. Manila Luzon is one of several RuPaul's Drag Race contestants to break out with a career of her own as a female impersonator, performing and appearing in LGBT events across North America, releasing a single and music video (with Seattle's Jinkx Monsoon), recording a new track with club mix wizard Caswell and starring in Orbitz commercials.
If that isn't enough, she's currently booked on the 'Battle of the Seasons Tour,' a live spinoff from the TV series that features many of the show's familiar faces performing in front of audiences throughout the U.S. and Canada. The Seattle concert is scheduled for February 4 at the Moore Theatre. (For tickets, visit www.stgpresents.org or stop by either box office at the Paramount or Moore.) I was able to reach Luzon by phone before she headed out on the road, and here's what this incredible drag star had to say:
Albert Rodriguez: Have you ever been to Seattle before?
Manila Luzon: I went to Seattle a couple of times, actually. Once in October for a Halloween party. That's where I met Jinkx Monsoon for the first time, before I even knew she was on the show. She was dressed like a skunk. Of course, I loved her because I had skunk hair. She was a sweetheart when I met her. But yeah, I'm looking forward to coming to Seattle again.
Rodriguez: Was that last year that you met her?
Luzon: No, it was the year before that. I think she had already filmed the show, but it was before it aired.
Rodriguez: Can you give us a snippet of what the Moore Theatre show is about, what's on the program?
Luzon: There's gonna be a bunch of drag queens from RuPaul's Drag Race in a fairly large production of a drag show, hosted by Michelle Visage. We all perform and do this great show, and the fans have a lot of fun seeing it.
Rodriguez: Will it feature individual and ensemble performances?
Luzon: The lineup changes, and I don't know who's going to be performing for that one. I know Detox and Willam, when they're there, they perform together. I know Jinkx isn't going to be there - usually we perform 'Bring It.' We do solo numbers, we have little productions, it's going to be interesting. We're drag queens, so you don't know until you get there what's going to go down.
Rodriguez: Are there any catfights that happen off stage?
Luzon: Actually, surprisingly, we all get along very well. Of course, we're all reading each other's pants down like you're used to seeing on the show. But at this point, no one has any power. It's not a competition any more, we're all trying to make the show work. We each have our own numbers to do, we try to give each other enough time and space backstage to change and stuff like that, so it's not as catty as you'd think.
Rodriguez: One of the most memorable moments from RuPaul's Drag Race was when you competed against Delta Work in a lip-sync elimination to Donna Summer. Do you still have that dress?
Luzon: She is locked up in the storage! That dress, after my season, went all over the world, and the feathers are falling off, so she needs to be refurbished before I take her on the road again. I put her in retirement, but maybe one day I'll bring her back out. 'MacArthur Park' was one of my most famous numbers because that's the song I lip-sync'd to keep me on the show. But yeah, I still have the dress with the leggings and matching headpiece and the shoes, and she's locked up in storage in a garment bag in Jersey.
Rodriguez: Do you make your outfits, buy them or have them made for you?
Luzon: Most of my outfits, the memorable pieces like the Big Bird, I will draw them out. I like to draw, so I will sketch out the ideas, and then I will find someone to make my outfits for me. For a long time, I had Ivy Winters making all my costumes, but then she auditioned for RuPaul's Drag Race and got on the show, and now she ain't got no time for me! (laughs) But I do have someone make my clothes for me and I have a very specific design in mind. Sometimes I will make own costumes - I forgot that on the show I made all my own costumes - so, I know how to work a sewing machine.
Rodriguez: Do you go shopping at Nordstrom or Macy's for women's dresses or shoes?
Luzon: I'm a drag queen, so I don't have any reason to buy a $500.00 pair of shoes when I can buy a $25.00 pair of shoes and get some red nail polish with it. I think doing drag comes with a budget, so I can't see myself going into Nordstrom and buying a thousand dollar dress, and also I'm seemingly larger than you might imagine. I'm a 6-foot tall man, so I can't really squeeze into women's sizes that easily.
Rodriguez: You are half-Filipino. Do you eat Filipino food? How tied into the culture are you?
Luzon: I just cooked a gigantic pot of adobo yesterday because I was missing some Filipino food in my life, and I wanted to have leftovers for today. I don't speak Tagalog. My mother never taught me when I was growing up. She tried once, but I was too old to learn a new language. I was born and raised in Minnesota. But I'm very cultured. My mom would take me and my sister to the Cultural Society of Filipinos where we were from, so I learned a bunch of folk dances. A whole half of my family is Filipino, so I'm very Filipino, Filipino-American.
Rodriguez: Do you have any advice for anyone, maybe teenagers, out there, considering going into drag? How do they get started, by borrowing their sister's clothes?
Luzon: I always went into my mother's closet and through my sister's laundry when I was younger. A lot of people have a hard time, because they don't think their parents are going to be accepting of it, but every person's different. I always tell my fans who ask me when it's time to start doing drag, especially when their parents are not really accepting of it - I tell them that if their parents have a problem with it, to not do it while they're in their house. But the second that you turn 18, move out and go shopping for some high heels, honey! A lot of the younger people are growing up in a more open culture, and I meet so many parents who are fans and they show me pictures of their children who are starting to do drag and they are so young. It's nice to see how accepting parents are these days. I'm lucky that my parents are accepting of me, but it wasn't until the show aired that they actually kind of figured it out. So, if you're young and you want to put on dresses, do it! It's not going to hurt anyone.
Rodriguez: Do you have a lot of straight fans, are there straight drag fans out there?
Luzon: Oh yeah, the majority of our fans are straight. A lot of women watch the show. I think it's the biggest demographic of RuPaul's Drag Race. That's what cool about this 'Battle of the Seasons Tour,' that it doesn't take place in a Gay bar. A lot of people don't go to Gay bars, so they don't know where to see a drag show. In our audience, we have middle-aged women who watch the show coming with their husbands. We get more of a range of people, like who watch the show, coming to see us on tour.
Rodriguez: What other projects are you working on through the remainder of 2014?
Luzon: I started 2014 with this tour, so I'm putting a lot of effort into the tour. I'm still working on videos and music, I have a rap song with Caswell. And I'm trying to get myself a fashion doll, that's a goal of mine. For anyone that wants to play with a drag queen doll - we're working on it, and she'll be manufactured in China just for you!
Rodriguez: Are there any female performers you choose not to impersonate, or whose songs you won't perform, based on their image?
Luzon: I have a hard time finding music I like. When I first started out, I just liked to get dressed up and I couldn't find music that I really wanted to perform. If Madonna comes out with a new song, you know I'm going to try it. I'm going to put on a blonde wig and try it out. But to answer your question, I don't do Nicki Minaj, because she has too many damn lyrics! I love Nicki Minaj, but there's too many damn words in her songs. I know it can be done, but I don't have the power, I don't have the capacity to figure it out, so I don't touch Nicki Minaj.
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