By Isaiah Negron
Wielding incredibly sharp wit, an unapologetic tongue and a killer ensemble, Bianca Del Rio is a queen who consistently breaks the mold of what it means to perform in drag. Her coveted upcoming spot as a contestant on the sixth season of Logo’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” not to mention her rise to power in both New Orleans and New York City, has solidified her as one of the top drag queens in the country.
Born in Gretna, Louisiana, right outside of New Orleans, Bianca’s talent for design gave her a first taste of success and an ease about being in the spotlight, winning six Big Easy Entertainment Awards for costume design, including one at only 17. “I’ve always enjoyed design. I used to draw a lot and creating things has always been an important part of my life,” Bianca remembers. “Even now, I still keep a day job and do drag at night because I like the creative freedom to get to do both. I’m sort of a one-stop shop.” After attending FIT in New York City, Bianca returned to New Orleans at 18 and moved into the French Quarter.
In 1998, Bianca stepped out on stage for the first time and stole the show with her irreverent attitude and infallible insults. Her unmerciful entertaining got her voted New Orleans Gay Bitch of the Year six times and New Orleans Gay Entertainer of the Year for three years. “I always say that if I didn’t wear a wig, I would be called ‘nasty’ but when I wear a wig, it’s called hysterical,” she laughs. “It’s the packaging to get away with murder.”
After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, effectively shutting down the French Quarter, Bianca returned to the Big Apple after an invite from an old NOLA friend already residing in the city. “I felt like it was the golden handcuffs. I was working in a bar five days a week for ten years and still doing costumes for theater, but it kind of didn’t go anywhere. So a friend of mine told me to come on up and hang out, and I ended up staying,” she says.
In 2005, Bianca hit the NYC bar scene, hosting at some of the city’s most popular gay hotspots. Her insult-comic acts never fail to rip apart any unfortunate patrons that fall into her crosshairs using what she calls her “Rolodex of Hate” for her favorite part of hosting, audience participation. “I found it fascinating because, when I got to New York, people were always saying, ‘Well, what does she do?’ In the bars, you’re either a lip synch queen or a dancing queen or a queen who sings live,” explains Bianca. “I’ve done all of that, which does come in handy, but generally I choose to be the host and do comedy. It wasn’t really a plan, and sometimes I even surprise myself!” Her success as a personality and host most recently earned her the awards of Best Hostess, Best Comedy Performer and Entertainer of the Year at the 15th Annual Glam Awards last year, horning the best of NYC Nightlife, which she also co-hosted.
Two years ago, Bianca received a call from close friend and mentor, the iconic drag legend Lady Bunny. “I met Bunny when I was 20 in New Orleans. She came to me after a show I did and said, ‘I think you’re very funny. Find your own look, find your own thing, and you’ll have a career,’” she recalls. Together, through Lady Bunny’s acquaintance with the owners of XL Nightclub on 42nd Street, the outrageous and hysterical Friday night drag extravaganza “Hot Mess” was born. “She told me the only way she would do the show was if I did it, to which I said ‘I’d love to’,” says Bianca. “Plus she has the same sick sense of humor as I do, which is great.” With a phenomenal rotating cast of some of the city’s most talented drag queens, “Hot Mess” has set a new high bar for drag in New York City. xlnightclub.com/friday
Last December, Logo announced that Bianca would be appearing on the sixth season of their hit show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” to the thrill of just about anyone who had seen one of her performances. “I went through the process like everyone else. I auditioned, sent in a video, they called, they agreed and then I was out of town,” she explains. “It’s fascinating the exposure and the platform you have, but it’s all top secret though!” The show, airing in 27 countries with a viewership of over 1.3 million people last year, clocking it in as the highest-rated series in Logo history, pits 14 leading drag performers from across the country against each other in a series of challenges to find America’s top drag queen. “Everything I’ve ever done I was able to use in that environment. It’s all about skills,” Bianca acknowledges. “If you can’t sing, dance, act, do comedy or sew, the show really isn’t for you because it’s the only way to survive.”
Bianca’s newest endeavor branches her out into a different spotlight, one that resides in the film world. Working with her close friend, award-winning editor and aspiring filmmaker Matt Kugelman, Bianca will star in her first full-length comedy “Hurricane Bianca,” a movie about a small-town Texas teacher who is fired for being gay and returns as Bianca to enact revenge and wreak havoc on the malicious townspeople. The film, despite still being in its production stages, has garnered an impressive following on Facebook and Twitter, raising over $35,000 from fan contributions alone.
“I rarely get excited about things, but that’s one of the great things about having this moment,” Bianca says. “Life is an incredible ride. It’s fun to be out there and celebrate this amazing journey that I’m on.” “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season Six” premieres February 24th at 9pm ET/PT on Logo. To find out more about “Hurricane Bianca” and donate to the project, go to hurricanebianca.com. •
Bianca Del Rio