Mariah Paris Balenciaga – The Socialite Life Interview
Socialite Life debuted back in 2003 and as a tribute to the thousands of articles and galleries that we’ve published over the years, we’ve reached back into the Socialite Life vault and are featuring another one of our favorite stories of the past in this Socialite Life Flashback. This article was originally published on January 17, 2011.
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia – the city that put Lady Bunny and RuPaul on the pop culture map – the luscious and leggy Mariah Paris Balenciaga is ready to bring her “A Game” to RuPaul’s Drag Race.
A veteran of the ballroom scene, this voguing vamp with legs that don’t quit is ready to claim the crown of America’s Next Drag Superstar! We chatted about unlikely inspirations and surprising beauty tips during last week’s southern snowstorms, but this queen is so hot, she could melt ice!
Trust us, this Mariah will make you completely forget about the Dreamlover songbird!
Socialite Life: How did you get your start in drag? I know you’re the only queen this season to come from the ballroom scene.
Mariah: I’ve primarily been a ballroom queen. I was recruited by…I guess you can call him the father of the House of Armani. He saw me in a club and asked me if I would be interested in doing drag and would I walk – and I was game for it. I’m always adventurous like that!
SL: Is the ball scene still big in Atlanta?
Mariah: Yes, I’m actually going to one this weekend for MLK. (The balls are held) mainly on the larger holidays like gay pride, Memorial Day, Labor Day and MLK this year. Those are some of the more popular ones.
SL: Do you perform in clubs as well as take part in the balls?
Mariah:I’m about to start performing at Einstein’s here in midtown Atlanta. It will actually be my first time performing regularly. I’ve performed maybe five times throughout my drag career.
SL: Are you originally from Atlanta?
Mariah: I’m originally from Gainesville, Georgia.
SL: How long have you lived in Atlanta?
Mariah: I’ve lived in Atlanta since 2001 and I’ve lived in midtown Atlanta for the past seven years. I love Atlanta. It’s such a beautiful place to live and you really can set your own pace. That’s what I love about it!
SL: Is it still snowing up there?
Mariah: Oh my gosh, no! But everything is so white – it’s all glazed over, it’s all ice!
SL: Can you drive in the snow, or are you hibernating?
Mariah:Well, I was hibernating for three days and I didn’t leave my house, but I have to get out of the house. I’m starting to gain that “winter weight” and I don’t like it! I’m thinking of going back on the “Tic Tac and water drag diet”! (Laughs)
SL: When you got the call to be on Drag Race, what was your first reaction?
Mariah:Preparation. It was relief, but in my heart, I knew I was going to be on (the show). When I set out to do something, I usually get it and I know I had really, really high hopes of getting in and I know that I had a lot to offer the show and I was hoping they could see that in my audition tapes. I was just ready to get my bags packed!
SL: What makes you stand out from the other queens on the show?
Mariah:Besides the obvious….In my experience in the ballroom scene, they always ask for us to “bring it” differently for every ball, so you have to meet what the instructions or the requirements are. So, following instructions and definitely reading and paying attention and executing a task is definitely one of my strengths over the girls when it comes to the drag competition. We have to be on our “A game” and we really can’t take anything for granted because the ballroom scene’s very “sudden death”, if you will. You have about 45 seconds to do the trick you want to do and if you don’t achieve it, you just fall apart – so it’s really intense but that actually helped me out a lot with the competition on Drag Race.
SL: Did you learn anything from the other drag performers on the show?
Mariah: You know what? I really didn’t. I’ve always hung around older people – and the drag community was not much different from my regular life – and I’ve gravitated towards people who are polished. I grew up in my drag career hanging around the veterans and so when I came (to the show), it was pretty much learning about production quality and everything that it takes to put on a show. That’s pretty much what I’ve learned. I didn’t expect to really befriend anybody – because I have a very tight, private circle – but I was pleasantly surprised to find some girls that I really got along with and had a lot of stuff in common. We’re completely different but we have such similar energies – like really, really good energies. So, I was pleased. I definitely would do it again.
SL: What was it like working with RuPaul?
Mariah:We didn’t get to go to the club or anything like that, okay? Obviously, she’s at work and we’re competing. So, it was a pleasure – of course for any drag queen or anyone in gay culture to get a chance to meet a cultural icon is a privilege. I definitely would have loved to have met her or gotten the opportunity to have one-on-one time – or just have lunch or something – just to get the chance to pick her brain a little bit. We didn’t get that opportunity because we were busy, busy, busy! It was definitely a pleasure. It was something I was looking forward to. When I was young, there were some people I knew I was going to meet and she was one of them – and it happened!
SL: Besides RuPaul, who else has inspired you?
Mariah: Obviously, all of the diva icons – Cher, Tina Turner, Donna Summer, Grace Jones…Phylicia Rashad – I love her energy. It’s so regal. I’ve never seen her raise her voice. I just love her poise. And, to me, I think drag queens should not only entertain and be beautiful, they should also have an elegance about themselves and that’s what I pull from Phylicia Rashad. And, of course, Diahann Carroll – anyone who’s got a mad, fierce attitude with the class to pull it off just right – that’s who I love!
SL: How would you describe Mariah?
Mariah: As a sexy bitch! (Laughs) No, honestly, I’m very grounded. I don’t take anything for granted. I work hard and hopefully, people enjoy what I do – whether it’s my professional life doing hair or on the stage at night in drag or in a ball competition. If I’m doing something, people’s reaction and how they light up when they see it – regardless of whatever the finished product is – that’s what I enjoy doing.
SL: How long have you been a hairdresser?
Mariah: 13 years.
SL: Are you still doing it, or are have you gone full-time with drag?
Mariah: I’m doing hair right now!
SL: What are your career plans?
Mariah:I definitely have plans to travel in the near future. My calendar’s already getting kind of hectic. I was surprised because we wrapped the show in September and it’s been a waiting game. I was getting anxious, no one’s calling, I don’t know anything about the performance circuit or the business – but everyone at Logo and World of Wonder has been wonderful with connecting us to the people we need to be connected to. I would love to be a correspondent for television and definitely portray drag and transexuals – depending on what the role would be – in an accurate light. I think a lot of times Hollywood – or just production companies period – doesn’t necessarily have the insight of the culture before they actually come up with the characters that they’re trying to convey to the audience. I think that’s something I could definitely offer. I wouldn’t mind playing with MissJoan Rivers on the red carpet and lighting people up! That would definitely be a career highlight for me!
SL: Were you a fan of Drag Race before you were cast?
Mariah: Oh, yes! I loved it. I studied everything because I knew at one point I was going to be cast. I love RuPaul – her look, her hair, her outfits – it’s always something different. And there’s always plenty of eye candy when you see her come into a room – even when she’s in her male attire. Her fashion is solely, uniquely hers and that’s what I love about it. I studied the parties, the behind the scenes, the Jon and John interviews (on LogoTV.com) – I did my homework. Like I said, preparation was my advantage – and strategy.
SL: Are you surprised at the popularity of the show?
Mariah:Absolutely not. I think, especially in the States, we’re finally really ready to accept more alternative cultures. You know, mainstream gay culture’s been chipping away at it – I think all of the different subcultures that are within the gay community are finally able to come to light and actually be appreciated for what we have to contribute.
SL: Do you have a beauty tip that you can share?
Mariah:Laser hair removal! Every drag queen needs some laser hair removal – especially if you have gone through puberty and especially if you are a career drag queen, I would recommend laser hair removal to anybody. And exfoliate! Skin care is everything. The makeup application is so much easier and so much more flawless. I mean, you can paint a rock, but it’s still going to be a painted rock at the end of the day – so why not polish it and make it as smooth as it can be? Oh, and liquid eyeliner. Liquid eyeliner is my best friend. I don’t think people utilize it to its full potential because it completely changes the shape of your eye – I mean completely. Sometimes I use liquid eyeliner over almost my entire eyelid and create a whole different look – it’s bananas. If you’re going to do that, use it under proper supervision!
SL: How can fans stay in touch with you?
Mariah: I’m on Twitter (@MUG4DAYZ) and I’m also on Facebook at Mariah Paris Balenciaga.
SL: I’m a little rusty on my ball scene info. Is Balenciaga your House?
Mariah: Balenciaga’s a ballroom house and I’m actually one of the founding members of it. We’re celebrating our 7th anniversary this year. The ballroom scene has definitely evolved and changed. It’s a whole new breed of kids because you know, in gay culture, the generations come along a lot quicker then they do in mainstream culture. So, every couple of years, you’ve got a whole new crew of kids graduating from high school that are discovering gay culture and nightlife and subcultures. You’ve got to keep up with them and steer them in the right direction a little bit.
SL: What kind of advice would you give to someone who was looking to get into drag?
Mariah: Hard work. Invest in quality. Never put your drag before yourself and never buy into your own hype!