ARI SHAPIRO: HOST
Before Bob the Drag Queen was a star on HBO’s makeover show, “We are Here “…
(SOUNDBITE FROM TV SHOW “WE’RE HERE”)
BOB THE DRAGA QUEEN: My drag daughter.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON # 1: Is it a thing?
BOB THE DRAGQUEEN: Oh yeah. I’m now your mom.
SHAPIRO :…Before having nearly 3 million subscribers on TikTok, or a popular podcast…
(SOUNDBITE PODCAST: “SIBLING RIVALRY”)
BOB THE DRAGQUEEN: Bob, the Drag Queen.
MONET: I’m Monet, X-Change.
BOB and MONET: This is “Sibling Rivalry.”
Before Bob won the eighth season of “RuPaul Drag Race “…
(SOUNDBITE TV SHOW “RUPAUL DRAG RACE”)
Bob the Drag Queen is America’s Next Drag Superstar.
BOB THE DRAGONS QUEEN: They were just the ends.
What happened in the bag?
You couldn’t check the bag before. You would give them $10 and they’d bring out the bag.
SHAPIRO is like “Storage War” where you can bid on the container.
BOB THE DRAGQUEEN: Yeah.
SHAPIRO :…I don’t know what’s in there, but I’m sure it’s (inaudible).
BOB: You can get some great bags. I had a blue crushed velvet bag with paisley. It was really nice.
SHAPIRO : We met Bob the Drag queen at Spandex House in New York’s garment districts. Shelves covered the walls, from floor-to-ceiling, with rolls of fabric. They were in an array of colors, patterns and designs – sparkles, polka dot, animal prints, neon.
BOB THE DRA QUEEN: I have shopped here a number of times, if not dozens.
What year was it that you first stepped foot here?
BOB THE DRAGONSQUEEN: Yeah, probably 2009.
SHAPIRO : Take us back to Bob the Dragqueen.
BOB, THE DRAG-QUEEN : I wanted to make my own clothes but couldn’t afford them. Fabric was something I could afford. Do you know what I’m talking about? You know what I mean?
Shapiro: His friends taught him that as long as he knew how to sew fabric together into a tube he would be able to make anything.
BOB, THE DRAG-QUEEN: Make a tube and you can make an entire catsuit. You can make a dress. You can make cocktail dresses. You can make leotards. It’s only one seam at the back.
SHAPIRO : Professionals now make Bob’s clothes, and even when he is not in drag, he can be recognized. It’s not that he was subtle. He is tall. And he wears black platform boots with the denim jumpsuit he has on.
Bob, I love you.
BOB THE DRAGQUEEN: Oh thank you, Baby. Thank you.
SHAPIRO: Mimi West (ph) clocks him immediately. Mimi West is a costume design and she’s eager to collaborate.
WEST: Feathers, stones…
BOB THE DRAG-QUEEN: Ok. Opulence.
WEST: And the dance team’s opulence. I love anything that has feathers and stones.
SHAPIRO : Bob said, cool, I’ll follow you on Instagram. Then a horrifying discovery was made – Mimi West did not follow Bob the Drag Queen.
BOB THE DRAGONS QUEEN: it doesn’t say followback. It doesn’t say to follow back.
WEST: No, no, no, no. Don’t do it.
BOB, THE DRAG-QUEEN: Now let’s find out who you are. Whom do you follow? You follow Monet and Trixie but not me. This is…
But you know…
SHAPIRO (English): They start talking about looks and make amends. Bob has an idea.
BOB THE DRAGONSQUEEN: I’m looking for a maxi skirt that has a high waist and a button-up shirt to match.
WEST: with collar?
SHAPIRO : Bob’s drag career has grown along with the popularity of drag culture in the U.S. and with that, a conservative backlash has also increased exponentially. More states are passing laws banning gender nonconformity. Bob saw this backlash in person while filming his show “We’re Here.”
(SOUNDBITE FROM TV SHOW “WE’RE HERE”)
Hello, I am Bob. Hello. Please let me read your sign.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON 2: Yes.
BOB, THE DRAG-QUEEN (Reading): A man may not put on the cloak of a female. This is an offense to God.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON 2: Yes. You know that this is from the Bible.
BOB THE DRAGONS QUEEN : That’s a pretty good assumption.
SHAPIRO (English): On the show Bob and two drag queens travel to small towns where they put on shows for locals, who then get transformed into drag stars. Sometimes, the townspeople aren’t thrilled about it.
BOB THE DRAGONSQUEEN: This doesn’t surprise me, because I grew-up in a small city. It’s a common thing. People are affected by this.
He was surprised to find a vibrant queer community in a place he didn’t expect it.
BOB THE DRAGO QUEEN: Twin Falls, Idaho had a thriving drag scene.
What do you think of that?
BOB: It shows a desire for people to not be alone. It shows, that when you are in these places, and there is no one like you, it makes you feel alone, lonely. You feel as if you are the only person in the whole world.
Do you consider drag to be a naturally political act?
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: To a degree, yeah. I think that it is forced to be politically charged. Doing drag has become a political topic, whether a person feels politically or not. I suppose people believe drag queens have aims. Drag queens are only interested in brunch on Sundays. There’s no plot or plan to reach children. Most drag queens don’t even want to [expletive] It’s important to be around children. I perform drag shows at Barracuda and not at Gymboree. You know what I’m talking about?
Bob said that this was another place where he had history.
BOB THE DRAG-QUEEN: I’m sure you know that I was arrested there on 42nd Street.
The photo on the EP cover is yours.
BOB THE DRAGONS QUEEN (Bob): It’s literally one minute walk from where we are sitting.
(SOUNDBITE FROM SONG “BLACK”)
BOB THE DRAGA QUEEN (singing) Black & proud wherever we go. Scream it out loud. Let the haters know.
This EP is called “Gay Barz”, with a capital Z. Here is “Black,” one of their singles.
(SOUNDBITE SONG “BLACK”)
BOB THE DRAGA QUEEN (singing) Feels good to be Black.
SHAPIRO – The cover photo on this issue is a Polaroid mugshot. Bob the drag queen, as he claims, was in a group of people protesting marriage equality around a decade back, blocking traffic, and creating a scene.
BOB THE DRAGONS QUEEN: I’m under arrest.
I bring up the image, and then ask Bob for a description of the picture.
BOB THE DRAGO QUEEN: I have seen this picture of myself a thousand time. I don’t have to look. So, I am wearing a wig with a red afro. I’m wearing a vest, a tie, a leopard print fur shawl from H&M. You can’t tell from the picture that I am wearing…
SHAPIRO: You brand name-dropping H&M on NPR (laughter).
BOB THE DRAGO QUEEN (to Bob): It’s what I wore. You asked me to explain it because it seemed important to the plot. You can’t tell that I did not know how long I would be in prison. You can’t tell that my breasts were made of cashews.
You brought the snacks, right?
BOB, THE DRAG-QUEEN: “I have a bagel under my wig…”
SHAPIRO : (laughter) Oh, my god.
BOB THE DRAGONSQUEEN: I’ve got a CLIF bar under each hip pad.
SHAPIRO You are ready.
BOB THE DRAGQUEEN: YES.
SHAPIRO: That’s incredible.
BOB THE DRAG-QUEEN: It is not true that I stayed in jail for long enough to have used any of it.
Bob was initially scheduled to accompany Madonna on her world tour in the summer of this year, but health issues forced Madonna to postpone. Nashville was a stop on the tour. A Tennessee judge recently ruled Tennessee’s law that banned some drag shows was unconstitutional. Bob said he was fine with performing drag on the biggest stage in Tennessee, a place that has tried to ban it. He said that he would be prepared.
BOB THE DRAGONSQUEEN: I think there’s a bagel in my wig.
SHAPIRO : Will you be with Madonna on the stage in Nashville, with cashews as well?
BOB THE DRAG-QUEEN: Just to be sure. You never can tell. It’s not easy to be on stage. It’s OK not to be afraid. It’s okay to be seen. I feel there are many laws that encourage us to hide, go back in the closet or simply stop existing publicly. Some people find the presence of queer people on public transport offensive. That’s offensive to me.
SHAPIRO : Bob, the Drag Queen. It was a great pleasure to talk to you and see some of your favorite haunts. Thanks a lot.
BOB THE DRAGONSQUEEN: Thank you. I still haunt the places you mentioned. You can hear them whispering Bob the Drag Queen if you listen carefully.
(SOUNDBITE MUSIC) Transcription provided by NPR. Copyright NPR.