She may exude glamor and sophistication on the outside, but there’s a surprising, cheeky – and a little bit bawdy – side to busty beauty Delta Work. Wowing crowds in her home state of California as a part of the legendary Dreamgirls Revue, this outrageous entertainer talks to us about her style inspirations and dishes about her fellow queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race! This “California Gurl” is definitely unforgettable!
Socialite Life: I went to see the Dreamgirls Revue when I was out in LA recently and it was a pleasant surprise to see you there hosting the show. You were really awesome!
Delta Work: Well, thank you! I host that show (at a club called VIP in Riverside, CA) on Fridays – I guess I’ve been there a year now. We have a lot of fun there, it’s a rotating cast of performers and I’ve actually been at that bar for eight years but it’s been my show for a year now.
SL: There’s a lot of Drag Race alums in the Dreamgirls Revue – were they able to give you any advice for the show?
Delta: Absolutely! I worked for a long time with Shannel in Las Vegas and also with Tammie Brown, a contestant from season one and then, of course, Raven. I also got to know Shangela and I’m really close friends with Morgan McMichaels. They just gave me advice about what to expect as far as like the press that’s coming and how to keep a level head with the work that we already do in town and then what’s going to come up out of town.
SL: So, are you ready for the premiere and the onslaught of fans and press?
Delta: I’m hoping that comes – I’m hoping the other seasons didn’t hog it all and now that season three’s here there’s not going to be any left for us! (Laughs)
SL: I think it will be quite the contrary – it seems everyone’s really looking forward to this season!
Delta: I think it should be a lot of fun. I think each season sort of amps it up a little bit more. More is expected and they push the envelope a bit. Also, this season there are a lot of entertainers who do this as their full-time job.
SL: Is drag your full-time career?
Delta: Yes, it’s my full-time job. I do it six days a week.
SL: How did you get started in drag?
Delta: Oh, probably on Halloween, like everyone else! (Laughs) It usually stems from there or somebody’s birthday party or somebody wants to just run around and act like a fool and have carte blanche to do that because they’re in disguise – so that’s probably where it started.
SL: And how long have you been performing?
Delta: I’m going to say…I’ll be 35 in about a week…so, maybe 12 years?
SL: How would you describe Delta Work?
Delta: Oooh, that’s a good question! I don’t know – what did you think when you were at the show?
SL: I didn’t know what to think! You came out looking glamorous and then you performed “Smell Yo’ D**k” and I was like, “Oh my God!” I think of you as “expect the unexpected”!
Delta: I would think so, yeah. Essentially, people go out to a nightclub to have a good time and let loose – and so they want to hear the top 40 or their favorite song from the 80s or whatever but I think our job sometimes is to sort of push the envelope and insert a little social commentary sometimes or pull things out of your hat that people kind of didn’t expect. Because they sort of expect you to do certain things – like if you’re Morgan, they expect one aspect and one aspect only but she’s capable of more than that. The same thing applies to myself – people sort of expect from an entertainer what they envision or what they’ve seen from other entertainers like them and when you go against that, sometimes people freak out a bit because they think that you have somehow escaped the cage that they’ve put you in.
SL: Who are your inspirations?
Delta: Jayne Mansfield, Peggy Bundy – not so much celebrities, but maybe characters that they’ve portrayed like Peggy Bundy or Suzanne Sugarbaker, Ginger from Gilligan’s Island – stuff like that. And, of course, red carpet trainwrecks like Sally Kirkland and Jean Kasem.
SL: What do you enjoy most about performing?
Delta: It’s definitely an extension – an outlet of who you already are, it’s an extension of that. You know, it’s good to see people who come and watch the show relax and get away from their problems for a little bit, so that feels good. And you have carte blanche to say whatever you want…I don’t want to say within reason – it’s permission.
SL: What was your reaction when you go the call that you were going to be on Drag Race?
Delta: I was completely blown away! I went blind, I went deaf, I s**t on myself, I smacked the person next to me….You know you realize that after season one – which was like a headhunt – they went and found the best. Season two was an application process and then season three is even a tighter application process – a lot of people dropped themselves out of the race immediately because they knew they didn’t have what it takes. When you realize, “Okay, I’m going to go ahead and do this” and then we had open call auditions and you had to do your tape and you’re thinking to yourself, “There’s a lot of really, really fierce people out there. Am I that fierce? Can I do this?” and then you really just have to throw caution to the wind and realize that, “Yes, I’m totally ready for this” and when you’re told that (you made the show), you just shrink into a little boy and you gush and you’re just like “Geez Louise, what have I just put myself on a course for? Obviously success, but what the hell kind of hurdles are coming my way?”
SL: Since there was such fierce competition to get on the show this season – and it looks like the cast is really diverse and talented – what did you think when you saw your competition?
Delta: You know, I’ve said this before and I really feel this way, you know they always say when you’re in some sort of contest “Everyone’s a winner”? It’s a nice thing to say but you want to be the winner. That’s the bottom line. However, when you’re at Drag Race, because all of these people are the best in what we do – if you are the best and the cream rises to the top, you have a professional nature about you – and the only way you got there was with some ability to be self-effacing and some level of being empathetic or sympathetic to others – and it’s just sort of holding your tongue. So when you get there, you realize that it’s a meeting of the minds. It’s the best of the best. It’s kind of like “drag camp”, it doesn’t feel like a competition – maybe that’s a good thing and maybe it’s a bad thing in the sense that if you don’t see everyone as a competitor, you’re losing sight of the fact that you’re in a competition. But when you’re there – and I don’t know if maybe it’s just a homespun thing – you have so much gratitude for being there.
And, for myself, I was so eager to learn from everyone else – there were people there like India (Ferrah), who’s 23 years old and she’s been doing drag forever and she knows everything – she’s like a master craftsman at pretty much everything. She can sew, she can do wigs the best of the best, she can do all of those things – and then Raja’s 900 years old and she’s been doing it forever – so you can learn from every aspect – it truly is like “drag camp”. It’s hard to size people up because I hold myself to a completely different standard than I hold anyone else. So, I figure it doesn’t really matter what everybody else is doing; as long as I’m on the top of my game then I’m going to make it to the top!
SL: What is the most important thing you took away from this experience?
Delta: I think the most important thing I took away from the experience is probably just to keep your eye on the prize and realize that you’ll always be friends but at times you have to realize…you know they always say “separate business and pleasure” kind of thing…we’re all friendly. I mean, you’re going to see catfights and you’ll see maybe more than catfights – if I don’t let out too much – and you’re going to see people hating on each other and loving each other – but at the end of the day, again, they’re in a competition. So, I would say what I left with was again, just keeping your eyes on the prize and if there’s a goal in life, you have to achieve it…sometimes your head has to speak over your heart.
SL: What was it like working with RuPaul? Did you gain any pearls of wisdom from her?
Delta: Well, Ru…I mean, let me tell you about Ru! Ru has so many little sayings and references that hold within them so much wisdom and sometimes you walk away from it thinking, “What did she just say?” And then you realize, “Ohhhh…”! They’re really pearls of wisdom – and when she’s serious about something, you know she’s serious. She has no problem looking someone dead in the eye and telling them exactly what she thinks – not to hurt their feelings, not to make fun of them, not to kiss their ass, but to tell them the truth about themselves and the truth about what you’ve done right and what you’ve done wrong. And working with Ru, you couldn’t ask for anyone better or higher in what we do. The goal is to essentially follow in Ru’s footsteps and those are big shoes to fill – no pun intended. She’s one of the most humble, genuinely interested people. She’s really, really smart and savvy and she’s just got her finger on the pulse of so many different things as far as music and television and all of those things; but at the same time, she’s got no problem sitting down and talking to you – and remembering you said to her the time before – even if there’s a million people talking to her, she can remember the last conversation she had with you – and that makes you feel really special.
SL: What are you looking to get out of being on the show professionally?
Delta: I probably shouldn’t, but from time to time, I’ve been known to go on to the Internet…and already there are people blogging and saying some things and making references about who they assume that you are and there’s been quite a few of them who have said, “I can totally see Delta Work with a cooking show on Logo.” And I thought, “That might be kind of interesting”, but I don’t think I could be a “Barefoot Contessa” – I’d have to have pumps on! And when I was in high school, I was always into writing and I always had a passion for journalism so that could be interesting.
SL: Are you planning on traveling and touring after the show?
Delta: Oh yes! If somebody’s ready to book me, I’ll go – that’s for sure! It sounds so exciting. I’ve seen everybody else go and do it. I haven’t really traveled that much; I stay mostly on here on the west coast – Las Vegas, Palm Springs. I have my home base club here and if anything corporate comes up, I usually do that also.
View this post on Instagram
Iced tea with an iced tea spoon, salad with Catalina dressing, Topaze perfume from Avon, JAFRA Royal Jelly cream, Virginia Slims in a patch-work cigarette pouch. @ronniescharffer @psycadella you feel me? #deltawork #soisays Those glasses were vintage #rivegauche by #yvessaintlaurent gifted to me in Palm Springs.
SL: It says in your bio that you do a lot of charity work. Do you have a “pet charity”?
Delta: No. I have to admit that I haven’t really made too much time for that and I’d like to use my appearance on the show as sort of a vehicle for that – maybe lend whatever celebrity that comes with being on the show that will attract people to hopefully making a difference. There’s some people who do have those “pet charities” but I live in a suburb of Long Beach, California and we have lots of different charities that I have friends associated with and I’d like to involve myself in that a little more.
SL: What do you think separates you from the other queens?
Delta: I think that would probably center around my age – I’m much older than the others so, you know, there’s isn’t much as far as gimmicks and cattiness and all of that stuff that I haven’t already experienced and realize that if you get yourself involved in that and you make that your focus, you definitely lose sight of stuff. There’s really no need for running around and bragging and showing out in the dressing room situation because essentially, it really doesn’t matter what you think of yourself. What really matters is what your fans think of you and I just have an ability – and it may be hard to do – but I think it’s always important to take the high road. It pays off in the end, it really does.
SL: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Delta: Hmmm…that’s a good question. Gosh, I don’t even know! (Laughs) Let me think about that one….
SL: One thing that surprised me is that you’re Mexican-American.
Delta: I think that does surprise some people. Some people say that too, maybe because I look so different in and out of drag. So, for some people, they would consider me…what’s the term they use? I think the term that was going around was “coconut” – which is brown on the outside and white on the inside – because I don’t speak Spanish. But living in Southern California, that is kind of the nature of what goes on here. There are so many people whose families have all lived in Southern California for a long time – generations – that don’t speak Spanish. The only Spanish I really know is what I learned in school – I took four years of Spanish and I could barely get through ordering at Taco Bell! It’s got nothing to do with not being proud, it just hasn’t been necessary up to this point. I think it’s beautiful that people are able to speak more than one language. I probably should…well, I speak English and I speak drag – drag has it’s own language, completely!
SL: When I saw you perform, you had a lot of different looks. Do you have a favorite look?
Delta: I like any look that sort of lends itself towards something from the past. So, I like the 1940s still shots of celebrities like Gene Tierney and Lana Turner. I love those looks – they’re really simple but they’re really clean. I also love the 50s and early 60s the pulp fiction novels – the girls with the scarves around their necks and their hair is whipped creamy. I love that kind of look. I love Russ Meyer girls – I absolutely adore Russ Meyer girls! So, any of those looks that are kind of over the top – like the really pointy boobs and big hips – I think those kind of looks are really fun to wear and you don’t see too much of them, so I like doing that.
SL: I loved the corset you had on during your show.
Delta: I love corsets. I love wearing them. They can be painful at times – if you’re wearing the right one. A lot of girls wear them, and they mistake a bustier for a corset but when you’re really corseted and you’re wearing metal boning, you know what it’s like. I guess you know when you’re really wearing a corset when it was $400, it wasn’t $20! They’re so damn expensive!
SL: Do you make any of your own costumes?
Delta: I do make some of my own stuff. When I first started, I looked to shop off the rack but, when you’re my size and you do entertain, you can’t always wear off the rack. What I like to do sometimes is go out and look for something and see if I can take it apart and embellish it and make it look like more than it is or I’ll sit down and sew something. I’m completely capable of doing it, I’m just really lazy and I get really frustrated – that might be something people don’t know about me. I get frustrated really, really easily and I would much rather pay someone to do it right the first time than to sit down and spend money after money to make it happen. If I can’t make it and if you’ve seen me in it and it’s really fierce and it looks cool, it was probably made by my friend who’s a designer – Adam Magee. He is probably the only person who has not had sex with me who has seen me completely naked! (Laughs) Being naked can be very uncomfortable, especially if you look like a Shar Pei when your clothes are off! (Laughs)
SL: How can fans stay in touch with you?
Delta: They can find me on Facebook, I have a fan page. I’m not really on Twitter…I suppose I should do that. My Facebook fan page is run by someone else, but I do answer people back. I like to get on the computer when I come home from a show at 2 or 3 in the morning and just read up on what everybody’s doing, so that’s usually when I’ll be answering stuff if people want to send me a little note or something!
You can find Delta Work on Instagram!