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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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PerformanceOnstageFrom 'Drag Race' to Madonna tour, Bob the Drag...

From ‘Drag Race’ to Madonna tour, Bob the Drag Queen rules the world

'San Francisco is incredibly fun, incredibly queer, and so open,' says superstar emcee of 'Celebration Tour.'

Bob The Drag Queen’s star is bolder, brighter, and sparklier than the lustrous BOMO Beauty palettes he developed with his drag sister Monét X Change and the glimmering crown he won on Season 8 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” put together. 

Over the past eight years, the artist and activist parlayed his immense popularity in the drag world into success in other realms: comedy (Woke Man In A Dress), acting (Angels in America“Tales of the City,” Peaches Christ productions), music (Gay Barz), lifestyle (BOMO Beauty), and fashion (House of Bob). 

But it’s in presenting that he’s truly dazzled both audiences and critics alike, taking home multiple honors (GLAAD Media Awards and the prestigious Peabody) between his work on HBO’s Emmy-winning unscripted show “We’re Here” and his joint podcast with Monét X Change, Sibling Rivalry.

Hosting also won him notice from the legendary Madonna. After emceeing the pop superstar’s New York City Pride show in 2022, he was tapped to join her as hype queen on “The Celebration Tour,” a journey across 40 cities and 40 years in music, landing at Chase Center next week (Tue/27 and Wed/28).

I spoke to the longtime Madonna fan about working with the singer, the other two queens who have given him a platform to express himself, and (like Madonna) his ambition to rule the world. 

48 HILLS When you thought about what your career would look like after “Drag Race,” could you conceive of reaching this height?

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN I don’t mean to sound egotistical, but I always thought I would achieve great things. I saw “Drag Race” as a launching pad for my career, and I don’t think I’m done. I still have other things to achieve and other heights to reach. 

48 HILLS Drag Race” fans will remember the competition when you and your fellow contestants came out dressed as different Madonnas. When did you first become aware of the pop queen?

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN When I was in high school, the song “Don’t Tell Me” was popular. I would watch the video every day. I don’t know what about this music video drew me to it, but I loved it.

Then, the kiss with Britney Spears, which was my first live reaction to a Madonna controversy. That’s when I realized that Madonna is more than just a musician. She is a performance artist who has gotten America to hop on its rear feet. She has opened so many gates for so many people—the queer community, black people, and other marginalized people—not just through her advocacy but through her philanthropy as well. 

48 HILLS What are your top three Madonna songs?

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN “Don’t Tell Me” is one of my all-time favorite Madonna songs and music videos. It shows her versatility. I think “Vogue” is an obvious answer, but I don’t think I need to explain why it’s such a great song. What she did to highlight a vibrant, rich scene is so amazing. 

And I know it’s such a basic answer, but “Like a Prayer.” A friend of mine saw “The MDNA Tour” at the old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. When they heard her voice go, “God,” and all the lights went out in the stadium, people were cheering so loud that the stadium started rocking. He thought, “Oh my God, this place might crumble beneath our feet.” That’s the power of Madonna.

48 HILLS You first worked with Madonna after her daughter Lola recommended you to host the singer’s big Pride show in New York. Did you ever find out why Lola chose you?

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN No, I don’t know. I just assumed that it was my sense of humor and an appreciation for my performance skills and ability as an artist. But I never asked, “Why me?” I was like, “Thanks.”

48 HILLS I suppose when you’re asked to do something like that, you don’t ask questions. You just say, “Yes.” 

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN Exactly.

48 HILLS You’ve said Madonna respects you in a way that doesn’t feel like a novelty. What makes you feel that way?

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN I’ve done a lot of stuff as a drag artist and a lot as Bob The Drag Queen, specifically. I’ve done shows like Andy Cohen’s “Watch What Happens Live,” where I feel like a prop in the background. I’ve had celebrities ask me to stand in the background of their music videos or be like some queer virtue signal for them. 

When I work with Madonna, she doesn’t say, “You need to come and be in full drag.” She told me to come how I felt comfortable coming, and I did, like in that tour promo video.

Bob the Drag Queen. Photo by Rowan Daly

48 HILLS More people are currently talking about the cosmetic work Madonna has had done than the actual work she has done over the past 40 years. How do we change the narrative?

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN I’d be shocked if you and I were able to tackle ageism and misogyny in this interview. Madonna said it well: She’s caught at the intersection of misogyny and ageism. People have been obsessed with this woman and how she looks but are missing out on what she does and has done.

48 HILLS What you’re doing—opening for a major pop artist on a gigantic tour—is unprecedented among “Drag Race” alumni. This will take you into another stratosphere of fame by putting you in front of people who’ve never watched “Drag Race.” You may become the most famous drag artist in herstory.

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN Trixie Mattel would like to have a word with you. [Laughs]

I got a lot of great validation in my life. The first I got from a celebrity was RuPaul—when RuPaul gave me that stamp of approval. I can never thank RuPaul for what she’s done for my career. RuPaul is the queen of queens. She is truly “Mother,” and we will never be able to repay what she’s done for our careers. Because of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” I have been able to work with Whoopi Goldberg, who’s my idol. I’ve been able to work with Madonna. I have been on multiple TV shows. I’ve worked with Ilana Glazer, and I’ve got to the GLAAD Awards. I’ve won a Peabody Award. I have one of the most successful Patreons on the entire platform. 

RuPaul has created a platform where queer people can truly express themselves and a launching pad like no other. There’s never been anything like this for queer people. I don’t know if RuPaul will see this, but if she does, I am always and forever grateful that RuPaul saw something special in me when I was just some local New York City queen. RuPaul came to my bar, looked for me, and tweeted about me before I was even on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” That is huge for me. I will always be grateful to RuPaul.

48 HILLS Many people don’t know that Peaches Christ is a drag mother of yours. How did that happen? 

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN I didn’t have a drag mom when I started doing drag. I always say I have a couple of drag aunties who taught me drag from a distance without their permission. I forced their tutelage on me by going to their shows and being their friends. Peppermint, Sherry Vine, and Bianca del Rio were my big drag inspirations in New York City. I would go to their shows, sit at the end of their garments, and soak up all their wisdom and brilliance. 

I met Peaches Christ years before I went on “Drag Race,” when she cast me in a parody of Grey Gardens she and Jinkx Monsoon were doing. 

Then, when I moved to San Francisco for six months in 2018 to do Angels in America, I hooked up with Peaches Christ because I admire her work ethic and ability to create spaces for queer people. That’s so powerful and amazing. Peaches Christ is someone who makes opportunities not just for herself but for other people as well.

Bob the Drag Queen. Photo by Albert Sanchez and Pedro Zalba

48 HILLS I last interviewed you for Peaches Christ’s Bring It On parody. Soon, you’ll be coming back to San Francisco with Madonna. What’s exciting about the city?

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN San Francisco is incredibly fun, incredibly queer, and so open. People are just so hot, fun, and sweet. I love that town. 

48 HILLS You mentioned your ambition to achieve great things, which, of course, reminded me of Madonna telling Dick Clark four decades ago that she wants to rule the world. What are some of the items on your wish list? 

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN When I auditioned for “Drag Race,” I said in my audition tape, which took a lot of nerve, that I intended to go on this show and win—and that wouldn’t even be the biggest thing to ever happen to me. 

I’m an actor, performance artist, and musician, and I hope to continue to spread my message to people who align themselves with my vision of artistry—for a long time. I hope to continue working in television. I have a book coming out soon, which I’m excited about. Also, I hope to return to do more theater acting. Being asked by Tony Kushner to do Angels in America was a big deal. 

I’m glad that I’ve captured the eye of such remarkable people—Madonna, Armistead Maupin, Tony Kushner, RuPaul, and Whoopi Goldberg—who have admired my work and want to work with me. But I can’t wait till I’m in a position to start creating these powerful opportunities for other people, myself.

MADONNA – THE CELEBRATION TOUR  2/27-2/28, Chase Center, SF. $167.50-$557.50. Tickets and more info here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Joshua Rotter
Joshua Rotter
Joshua Rotter is a contributing writer for 48 Hills. He’s also written for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, SF Examiner, SF Chronicle, and CNET.

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