by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
If you don't know her yet, it's probably time you did. BenDeLaCreme is the latest local talent to earn national buzz. The Seattle performer, who appears in drag and burlesque shows throughout the year, is competing on this season's 'RuPaul's Drag Race' - well under way at the moment. But fans in the Emerald City have already been following her work since she moved here from Chicago eight years ago. From Chop Suey to The Triple Door to Century Ballroom, crowds can't get enough of her witty and well-conceived performances. For the most up-to-date events, go to www.bendelacreme.com for details. By phone, I spoke with the tireless entertainer about her experience on the Logo TV series and her upcoming plans. Here's what BenDeLaCreme shared with Seattle Gay News.
Rodriguez: When you made the decision to audition for 'RuPaul's Drag Race,' what was it based on?
BenDeLaCreme: I actually had not wanted to be on it for a long time. People had been talking to me about it every year, and I was always kind of resistant to it, because it didn't necessarily seem to be the vehicle for what I was interested in. I think when Sharon Needles went on there, both her and the producers that made the decision to put her on the show, it sort of shifted things and made it clear that 'Drag Race' was expanding and was interested in different things than what they were doing in the past. Not that there wasn't originality to the girls who were on before, but Sharon was a little bit more personality and concept based. So, basically when Sharon was on, that season Jinkx (Monsoon) and I, and Robbie Turner, the three of us (I remember very distinctly) were working on a show that the three of us were going to do together and during one of those first rehearsals we sat around and said, 'What's going on with 'Drag Race' these days?' I just remember all of us trying to work it out, and I came to the conclusion that I did not want to audition for it, and Jinkx came to the conclusion that she did, and she got on; and watching her go through that experience really solidified the idea that 'Drag Race' could be an amazing experience, but could also be a stepping stone rather than a final destination. So that was the last thing that made me go, 'Okay, this is a great thing to do.'
Rodriguez: From the time you auditioned to the time you got the call confirming you'd be on the show, how long was that?
BenDeLaCreme: I don't even know, it was such a blur. Let's see; we started shooting in the beginning of June and we got the call the week ahead. We really only had like 5 days to pack all our stuff and go. Everything felt like a blur, because I got into this crazy zone where I was so focused on it. I went from not being really invested in it, to being really, really laser-focused, and I guess that's why I have no sense of what the timing was, because I was checking things off my list, making new costumes - and when I say 'making new costumes,' I mean having them made (laughs) - and focusing on what the challenges were going to be, getting organized and ready to go. There was like a month of not knowing what was going to happen and then suddenly it was happening.
Rodriguez: I know you can't disclose how the show progresses or how it ends, but for those here in Seattle, can you tell us where you'll be performing and appearing in the coming months? Your website mentions an upcoming cruise.
BenDeLaCreme: Yeah, I've got two cruises coming up at the end of summer that are going to be a lot of fun. I'll be doing a lot of touring this year. I've got a little show in New York coming up in May; and I don't have any big Seattle events that are new that are coming up this year, because obviously I'll be continuing to appear at the [Century] Ballroom on most Mondays (which are really fun) with Sarah Rudinoff. I will be here the 4th of July doing a show that I do with DeLaRue Presents, so we'll be doing 'Freedom Fantasia' at The Triple Door (I believe the dates are the 2nd and 3rd this year of July, I can't remember) which I'm really looking forward to, because last year Jinkx was filling in for my part because I was filming the show, and that's one of my favorite shows. Before that, I'm hoping to do my solo show (that I'll be bringing to New York) here first, and that would be maybe in mid-May - I haven't set the dates yet. So I'll be doing a new solo endeavor titled 'Terminally Delightful,' which is also the name of my last solo show, and this is sort of a new version. And then, of course, I'll be bringing back 'Homo for the Holidays' in December.
Rodriguez: Will there be any Pride appearances?
BenDeLaCreme: Um, yes. I will be doing Gender Blender with Kevin Kauer, and it's a fundraiser for Gay City. I don't have a lot of details for it yet, but I'll be hosting it, and I cannot attest to what other queens will be there yet. That's the only thing I've been penned down for, so we'll see if anything else happens.
Rodriguez: We saw two weeks ago the second batch of contestants walk through that door and are greeted by the first group of contestants. Was that the first time you got to see them, or were you introduced beforehand?
BenDeLaCreme: It was, yes. It was the very first time and I'd never met any of those girls before, so it was all new to me.
Rodriguez: I just wondered if it was staged or not.
BenDeLaCreme: No - and I think it's worth mentioning how real everything is. Things like that, they're getting real reactions. The biggest thing that took me aback was how dramatic it is when someone sashays away - because you've been spending all your time with these people, and it really is the last moment when you see them. When they walk off that runway, you never see them again until the premiere party in LA. They're whisked away, you never cross paths, and they get all of their stuff out of the workroom.
Rodriguez: When was the first time you got to see RuPaul in person?
BenDeLaCreme: That part is real, too. It's the first time he walks into that workroom and says, 'Hello, hello, hello'.
Rodriguez: Where does BenDeLaCreme go for a really good cocktail?
BenDeLaCreme: Part of the reason I did this [Monday night viewing parties] at Century Ballroom is because Tin Table is one of my favorite places in town. If you want to sit down and enjoy a beautifully made cocktail, Tin Table is one of my favorite places. But the bar I frequent the most, if I'm just looking for a whiskey on the rocks and a good time, is Pony.
Rodriguez: Cupcake Royale or Top Pot Doughnut?
BenDeLaCreme: Oh, Cupcake Royale, definitely. Ever since they introduced their ice creams with cupcakes, it was all over for me. It's all I ever want to eat.
Rodriguez: I just discovered, through interviewing Manila Luzon a month ago, that there was a significant straight girl fan base for drag. Did you know this already, or was it something you realized recently also?
BenDeLaCreme: I knew already that I had a strong straight fan base for a while, but what I found out about was the high school fan base and even younger. Here in Seattle, there are quite a few women who come out to all the drag shows and we know all of them by name and they're all very, very sweet and supportive and they come to everything. They're these amazing fans who we've gotten to know, because there's something about this world that really appeals to them and they can identify with it.
Rodriguez: Not to mention, you give them good makeup tips.
BenDeLaCreme: Yes, if they want to look like a clown from 4 feet away but beautiful from 50 feet away (laughs).
Rodriguez: For the next week or so, you're booked at the Century Ballroom, correct?
BenDeLaCreme: Yeah, I'm there as much as possible. Right now, there's only one Monday that I'm going to have to miss.
Rodriguez: When you're there at Century Ballroom, are you watching the episode for the first time, or have you already seen an advance screening of it?
BenDeLaCreme: No, it's all happening for the first time in front of my eyes. In that first 'Untucked,' I had forgotten all of it. So, I'm discovering a lot of things with the audience in real time.
Rodriguez: What's been the reaction from family and close friends?
BenDeLaCreme: Very supportive. My family has been great. My dad lives in Connecticut and he's been watching, and he was disappointed that I wasn't on last week more (laughs), and both my brother and my sister have been reaching out and have been super supportive, so it's been great.
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