After a season full of drama, designer fashion and duct tape, RuPaul has crowned Drag Race season 4′s top “queen-testant”, America’s Next Drag Superstar – Sharon Needles! Sharon came into the competition with a spooky style and edgy sense of humor and wowed Ru, the judges and America with her perfect combination of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, talent – and plenty of freaky contact lenses! Fresh from Monday night’s coronation, Sharon took time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about her Drag Race experience and her quest for the title. I’m sure I wasn’t her first interview – and I certainly was not her last – but Sharon was sweet, gracious and, of course, funny. Read on and you’ll be able to rest assured that RuPaul chose a true champion to follow in the footsteps of Bebe, Tyra and Raja!
Socialite Life: Hi Sharon!
Sharon Needles: Hi Christine…bring me the axe! (Laughs)
SL: Congratulations on being named “America’s Next Drag Superstar”!
Sharon: I’m sorry, can you say that again?
SL: Congratulations on being named “America’s Next Drag Superstar”!
Sharon: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you…can you say it just a little louder so that everyone in the room can just hear that one more time?
SL: How does it feel to be America’s Next Drag Superstar?
Sharon: Oh, America’s Next Drag Superstar…thanks for reminding me, Christine! It’s embarrassing, it’s humbling, it’s terrifying, it’s gratifying and it makes you wonder “Has RuPaul lost her goddamned mind?” (Laughs)
Lots more from Sharon…
SL: I think she definitely made the right decision.
Sharon: Well, I’m a little partial because I’m such a fan of Sharon Needles – having been a character I’ve created, it’s so great to watch her excel. But I must admit the embarrassing part of this crown is looking Chad Michaels in the eye – because not only has she been a great friend to me throughout this entire competition, but an idol to me for several years and has really been the industry standard.
SL: With Raja winning last season and now you winning season 4, do you think RuPaul’s really embracing this new style of drag and the queens that are putting out something truly unique?
Sharon: You know, the oddest thing is that RuPaul’s Drag Race is my favorite show on the air and I never considered Sharon Needles to be polished or ready for America or for television. And I remember watching last season, when Raja was crowned, I thought “Well, God, if I ever got on that show, which I probably won’t, I’ll never win now because finally a freak has won this competition” and you would have to bitch slap me to make me not only think I would I be considered for this program but that I would actually taking home the crown and representing a new generation of outside gay/bisexual/transgender and just all-around weirdos in general. (And) I’m so proud of my fans because they come from all over the board.
SL: Well, when RuPaul first started out, he had that androgynous, “gender f–k” look – do you think that may have influenced his decision in some way?
Sharon: That’s so great that you know that. I think what RuPaul saw in me is that I’m a historian of the “her-story”…most people know RuPaul as “Supermodel of the World” but I know better. I own “Starbooty”, 1986, Funtone Records on vinyl and I’m very aware of her films with Nelson Sullivan and her work with the New York club scene and Suzanne Bartsch and so on. I think she saw a little bit of herself in all of us in the top three. I think she saw the beginning and the vulnerability and the honesty of her career in me. I think she saw the cutthroat, “I’ll step on anyone to get where I need to be and make my place in this industry” in Phi Phi O’Hara and I think she saw the warmth and almost psychological, guiding concept in Chad Michaels. No wonder it was such a hard season for her to pick the winner because all three of us really embodied a piece of RuPaul – and, fortunately, I think I embodied the coolest part of RuPaul and that’s the “I don’t give a fuck, let’s go out and make a big old mess and try and change minds one freak show at a time.”
SL: I’m glad that you’re representing that part of RuPaul. I loved her drag during those Atlanta years and I’m glad to see it come back in such a big way.
Sharon: Right. RuPaul, Lady Bunny and Lahoma (Van Zandt) stared such a great scene in Atlanta drag and I think they outgrew Atlanta and took it to New York and it was RuPaul and Lady Bunny who really exposed it to the entire world and I’m so thankful to be working with them. I wouldn’t call them my contemporaries, I’d call them my heroes.
SL: What was your favorite Drag Race experience?
Sharon: The whole experience was a real “trick or treat” for me. I would say the most beneficial thing to come out of the show was the forever lasting friendships I made with people like Chad Michaels and Willam Belli and DiDa Ritz. The temporary fun, insane stuff with the whole competition was all great – but to know that I have these legendary performers who have my back for the rest of my life is like being embraced by an entirely new family. (And) I’m so privileged and I just feel so loved by all 12 of the other girls.
SL: You revealed a lot about your personal life on the show. Was it hard to share so much with total strangers?
Sharon: You know, when I walked onto the set for the first day, I had devoted the first 9 hours to never breaking character. Sharon is not me, she’s an irreverent dumb-ass who is very…shall we say…she’s a f–king idiot. She likes to act like she doesn’t know what’s going on for the sake of entertainment for others. That character can only be held up for so long before you start slowly losing your mind. It was about 9 hours into taping that I decided that, “Let’s use RuPaul’s Drag Race as a personal diary for myself and as much vulnerability and as much pain and lack of confidence that I felt that I was purposefully going to mislead America and make them feel like I didn’t have; I decided to let the camera just document the absolute truth. If you’re going to call this reality TV, I wanted to make it as real as possible.
SL: Did you do anything on the show that surprised yourself?
Sharon: (I was) not surprised by what I’ve done, I’m surprised how America has embraced Sharon Needles. I mean, my name alone is enough to make people take a step back – and for people just to embrace a comedic, irreverent, transgressional artist whose name is about sharing needles for the sake of drugs and essentially spreading viruses….I’m not surprised at what I’ve done – I can no longer shock myself – but for the American people to give me a big warm hug, that’s the most surprising and shocking part of this entire experience.
SL: What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you since appearing on Drag Race?
Sharon: Other than meeting all of my fans and meeting these kids from around the world who identify with Sharon Needles, I’ve also gotten to work with some of my biggest idols growing up. I’ve gotten to work with the glamorous Monique, I’ve gotten to work with Suzanne Bartsch, I’ve gotten to work with Amanda Lepore. I’m working with such great fashion designers like odd-style.com and Brian Bustos, the fashion designer for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on Broadway. I’m working with Peaches Christ on a play in July. I’m doing a photo shoot with Jayne County – who’s such a punk rock idol to me. The fact that I get to work with people who have inspired me so much and have really aided in the creation of Sharon Needles – that’s the biggest treat to me – because before I was famous, I was obsessed with fame and these were the people that were the “bees knees” and really gave me a buzzy feeling of fame and now I’m working with them. And…ta da! (Laughs)
SL: Speaking of Amanda Lepore, I heard that at the reunion party in New York on Monday, you staged a mock funeral for yourself (with Amanda and Raja as pallbearers). What did that signify exactly?
Sharon: The theme for this season (of Drag Race) was “This is the beginning of the rest of your life” and I just wanted to close the chapter on something that has dominated my life for an whole year, which is this campy, cheesy show mocking reality TV by taking men and putting them in dresses and mocking the reality TV formula. It has been such a dominating thing in my life that I just wanted a night to let it go and give it to the world and spin it back into outer space and the satellite it was sent from and embrace what is about to come into my life and to own my life a little bit more and to separate myself a bit from the phenomenon that is RuPaul’s Drag Race. I walked into the workroom wearing a witch hat saying “I wish I was Amanda Lepore” and I ended it in a $4,000 witch hat with Amanda Lepore – so it was a great, full circle way of showing my growth and showing my progress and also burying this pop sensation that is season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race and allowing me personally to move on – and to work my f–king ass off to stay relevant and to stay important to pop culture. I’ve had a taste…pop culture to me is like blood to vampire – you get a taste and you must have more. And I have a feeling I’ll be sucking on the neck of pop culture for quite some time.
SL: With season 5 on the horizon, what advice do you have for aspiring drag superstars?
Sharon: You know, my only advice is to listen to your own intuition. At the time, you feel like the judges hate you and they demand change from you, but really what the judges are there to do is just to give you their opinion – but what they will value the most is that you remained yourself in the face of adversity. So, always listen to yourself and don’t aim to please America, don’t aim to please the judges, aim to demonstrate exactly who you are – because if you stay true to your own personal creation the world will eat you up. EAT IT!
SL: I’m just curious, do you think there was any divine intervention in play – do you think Tammy Faye (tattooed on Sharon’s arm) had anything to do with your victory?
Sharon: Umm…no. I play stupid on TV but I consider myself pretty smart. I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in Satan or hell, but throughout this process I’ve learned to definitely believe in myself – and if there was a church where we worshiped fans, I’d be front row every Sunday morning because the faith I have in the people who have faith in me is so strong and so true. But, do I love Tammy Faye? Of course. Did I love her for her religious views? Absolutely not. I loved her for the reasons people hated her – and that was for the lack of realistic expectations, her compulsive obsession with beauty products and her naive sense of humanity. I love Tammy Faye not for her strength, but most definitely for her flaws because I find beauty to be strongest in flawed areas.
SL: Do you have a special message for your fans?
Sharon: Absolutely! Any boy out there or any girl out there who wants to be an exaggerated, feminine clown, I applaud you. And, just to let you know, I am America’s Drag Superstar so what I say has some f–king punch – at least for one calendar year, starting today. I just want everyone to know that I love beginner drag. I love all facets of drag, but I especially love bad drag. Bad drag is the most inspirational drag and it’s the most entertaining drag to me because it’s terrible. And remember, children, if you get booed off stage, it’s simply applause from ghosts! Happy Halloween!