Whether she’s hosting "The Pit Stop" or touring the world with her brand new global comedy tour "Dead Inside", Bianca Del Rio remains hilariously incomparable.
As she prepares to hit the road to start entertaining the masses, Del Rio sat down with me for an extensive chat. While she did deliver a heavy dose of raucous laughter during our conversation, Del Rio also gave some solid advice on how to pivot from Drag Race to touring life, and told me the one location on the globe that she has yet to travel to, but is more than ready to head to!
Michael Cook: You are heading back out on the road with your new tour "Dead Inside". What has brought you roaring back to the stage?
Bianca Del Rio: I had been doing tour after tour, so a year off has given me all of the ammunition to come back and be a raging cunt yet again! As I often tell people, I don’t know if we’re going to solve any of the world’s problems, but we are definitely going to laugh at the bullshit that is going on, you have to!
MC: This is your sixth tour, after both Unsanitized and It’s Jester Joke being monumental successes. The last tour was the first tour since COVID and you managed to take what had been going on in the world and turn it on its ear, making people truly laugh again. Was the reaction everything you wanted or did some people insist on still being insufferably offended about some of the content?
BDR: I think there are always going to be pain in the ass people, but I think that the minute that there are none, then you’ve lost it. The people that were there and the ones that confront me had nothing but good things to say. Years ago, someone had to be an asshole to your face, now they can just do it online. Rarely is someone rude to my face and I look at it this way: if you come and buy a ticket and you’re not in favor of it or it’s not your cup of tea, I can respect that. You’ve seen it from beginning to end and that is your opinion and we’re all entitled to that. It’s the people that just see a clip or a photo or just assume by the title “this and this” and it’s like, you have no idea! In the end, I am always grateful for the people that come and watch it and usually the people that get it are the smart ones. So I am grateful for that.
MC: With every tour, you break new ground across the globe. From Carnegie Hall to Wembley Stadium, you have headlined monumental spaces. Is there anywhere in the entire globe that you have not headlined that you still would love to?
BDR: Antarctica; it’s the only continent that I haven’t done yet. The last tour was 129 shows, 27 countries, and 99 cities. Antarctica is the only continent I haven’t done yet, so I am going to go entertain the motherfucking penguins, sign me up let’s do it! As you mentioned all of these amazing venues which is astounding to even think about it, is that truly in those moments you cannot get wrapped up in where you are. You literally have to treat it like you are in a bar with ten people like it was when i began. That is the only way to plow your way through it without getting caught up in the grandness of it.
Granted, I don’t have a set, dancers, things flying in and flying out, it literally me, a table and a drink - and a spotlight - if I’m lucky! Usually that’s it, so by keeping it on that level for me, I just have to go into the zone of “this is what you’re doing.” Leading up to it, it’s crazy to think about. Walking away from it you’re like “Oh My God, this just happened.” I think the only time I realized that I was at Carnegie Hall was when I nonchalantly moved a table on stage during a tech rehearsal and you would have sworn that I caught the place on fire. They are very specific with the union rules, and you can’t touch anything. That is when I realized that I was at Carnegie Hall when ten men ran on stage going “Noooo”! That was probably the most surreal experience that I have had. I remember that more than I do the audience.
MC: When you’re sitting in a dressing room or on a plane, does it ever cross your mind that the life you’re living now is not a life that the person performing at famed New York City haunts like Vlada or Therapy might not have dared to dream about?
BDR: Well let’s be real, at my age I didn’t think that I’d still be alive (laughs) or be in a wig! You say dressing room, I’m ecstatic when I have a dressing room! To go there and to be in that space … Also, I am forever humbled by the people around me. Like my good friend Sherry Vine, who I love dearly and who has known me for forever and my assistant Jamie who has been around for 25 years who has never liked me, never thought i was pretty, never thought I was funny, and makes me carry my own luggage. So I am forced to be a normal human being. That is one of the best things to have around you; they’re not yes people in any way, which is I think what keeps you humble and keeps you sane. All of that passes through my brain.
Let’s say I’m tired or annoyed or it’s the fifth show in a row and you’re praying that your voice doesn’t go. You’re feeling all of these emotions and you’re trying to be grateful and humble and you’re putting it all in your head and then you go on stage and there is an audience of 2,500 people there to see you. You get humbled and you get happy really fucking quick, it’ll just goes away. When you see the people, and I think that is is the one thing that have missed this year, it’s getting to interact and shoot the shit with people. It’s quite wild to even think, it’s hard to asses, or when I have friends of mine that have been friends of mine for over 10 years and they’ll say “Can you believe this”? I’ll just say, “Yeah, I can’t!”
MC: Palm Springs, California is home now I hear…
BDR: Yes it is. It was cheaper than plastic surgery that’s why I did it. Everybody here is old, so I just decided that instead of getting face work, I’ll move here and I’ll be chicken!
MC: What has it been like to live in a space where you’re forced to slow down and take it at a much slower pace?
BDR: It’s lovely. First of all, never thought that I would be a drag queen this long. I never thought that I would live in California, and I never thought that would live in Palm Springs. I think this is where it all just formed itself. I moved here within weeks of the pandemic and it was the best place to be. I had space, I had just bought a home so I got in right before the property values went up and it was just a chance for me to create a space for me and kind of veg out. Life on the road is so hectic and I don’t mean that in a bad way. When you know you’re going out there and you know you’re committed for months, you know the ups and downs, you know you’re not going to be sleeping well, you know that anything could happen. Whereas when I come home, I know what I have, I know where everything is, it’s calm, I don’t have gays up my ass. I know where they are if I need them, I’m not interested in being in the center of everything.
Once you get out of New York, you definitely made a choice. You go, “All right I know what I’m doing now,” and I much prefer Palm Springs to LA because of the quiet side. I never thought that I would experience that, but it’s great being out here. All of my friends get to come and visit, I have a great time. When I come home, it’s chill, it’s relaxing, I can lock Bianca in a closet and then when you’re on the road, you’re on the road. I often say that I’m like Queen Elizabeth, I vacation at my home. When I’m not working, I just come back to my house. People ask if I’m going to go here or there and the last thing that I want to do is to pack a fucking suitcase (laughs)!
MC: You are a person who has not forgotten where they come from and you make a concerted effort to bring the people you know along with you to get a chance to relish your success as well as have their own. Is that by design?
BDR: Oh God yes, and let’s be real I don’t like many people (laughs). When you come from Drag Race, there are so many drag queens that are there. This isn’t a dig … okay it is a dig I don’t care … not many of them have talent. I often feel that know so many talented people and here it is that I have this one golden ticket to have a platform. The platform was national television, bottom line. With that, I knew that I wanted to tour and I knew that I wanted to be on the road. I knew that I wanted to do stand up, and everything else as we say in Louisiana is “lagniappe.” That was definitely the goal and when the time came when I was told we needed an opening act, it actually started in the U.K. It was required to have an “interval” - intermission to us in America, but interval there. I can’t break up my show because I’m not doing shows and costume changes, so we decided if we had an opening act, we could have an interval in between and I would go on and do my full set. It’s impossible to lure people in, stop and then come back.
Immediately there were fabulous girls that I knew, Mary Mac, Myra DuBois that were in the U.K. that were friends of mine that I knew. Then we came back to America, I think it was the third of fourth tour, and I said, “Why can’t we do this in America as well?” Wendy Ho and Sherry Vine were friends of mine in New York City. They were two of the first people that I met there, they were very welcoming when I got to New York and were basically just lovely and no bullshit; and they’ve remained that way. That’s why I say if I’ve got a ride, let’s go. It’s been a blessing. Traveling with people and being friends with people and working with entertainers can be fucking challenging; you don’t really know someone until you travel with them. They’ve been great; they know the boundaries, they now not to look at me, not to speak to me, stay out of my dressing room it’s great (laughs)!
MC: You have very strong opinions about lots of things, and I am sure that people consistently approach you for advice on things. What is the one piece of advice that you consistently find yourself giving out?
BDR: Usually if you’re a drag race queen, it’s about business. How do I do this or that, what percentage is this? From Trixie Mattel to Jimbo, all of them have asked how much are you paying this person, or what is a cut that makes sense or what do you think about this? I often tell them, you have to find what is going to work for you. What is your product, what are you putting out there? The big question is always, how do I make this happen, how do I go on the road? How do I gather an audience? First you have to have an act, you have to have an act of some sort of product. Decide on that and then you can run with it The percentage and all that madness is somewhat new to me, it’s been about ten years, but it’s definitely open for discussion.
The other piece of advice that I give people is never let a bitch see you sweat; you just can’t. Your can’t let that ruffle your feathers, I’m intimidated by no one or at least they don’t think so. I don’t allow that to be seen because you have to look out for yourself. Like I said, it’s about having the right people around you, the people that keep you humble but will also fight for you. In the end, remember that it is a business. It’s a complete business and that is how you have to look at it. I often tell them that, not that they follow it because they still go do albums and music videos anyway (laughs)! The key to all of it is really going on the road.
Follow Bianca Del Rio on Instagram @thebiancadelrio.