Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Exclusive Bob The Drag Queen on Why “We’re Here” is a Form of Activism • Instinct Magazine

As We’re Here season two launches on October 11th on HBO, we’ll see some of our favorite drag performers once again travel the country spreading their own unique version of wisdom and ferocity. Regardless of the challenges of filming a show like this during a pandemic, viewers can expect the same heartwarming stories (and disgusting performances) they got in Season 1 of the highly acclaimed HBO docu-series, The Cultural Impact of the Sibling Podcast Rivalry that Bob makes with his friend and collaborator Monét X Change, and why the days as a New York drag performer will always be time for Bob The Drag Queen remembers fondly.

Michael Cook: Congratulations on Season 2 of We’re Here, one of the most important shows to air today. How does it feel to come back?

Bob The Drag Queen: That’s a general question that I don’t have enough time to answer (laughs). It took ten months to shoot this season, so there were a lot of emotions involved in producing Season 2 of Were Here. From joy to happiness to sadness to encouragement everything was there.

MC: To shoot a show like We’re Here, a show that has a lot of heart, probably just to bring you closer together, is that fair?

BTDQ: I think we were definitely very safe and did a lot of testing. I think this is such a nuanced, personal and unique experience even outside of the pandemic that it would be really hard not to get out of it around the people you have worked with.

MC: In We’re Here you travel to different cities that may or may not accept drag and the associated culture as much as other cities. Did you go into season 2 with fresh eyes and the lessons from season 1?

BTDQ: I don’t know that resistance is not accepted in every small town; In every city we were in, we had to turn people away. What is special about a small town is that you are usually surrounded by many other small towns. So the small towns around the small towns come together and want to see and get a little taste of what is going on; that felt really wonderful. There was some disagreement, people called the police, prayer groups were held outside of our shows, that happened and that doesn’t happen very often in bigger cities. The thing is, Shangela and Eureka are used to traveling around and doing drag, so this is not completely alien to us.

MC: You all had such a monumental impact on your subjects last season and this season promises more life changing moments. Looking back, is there anyone who decided to keep doing drag after you left?

BTDQ: I know that Shangela’s drag kid from Branson was doing a bit of drag I think. I know I had three drag queens in Twin Falls, Idaho who were already dragging, and I was able to encourage them to get on with their own art. I was able to meet a wonderful activist named Lady Shug in Farmington, New Mexico, who was also a drag queen & environmental activist & civil rights activist for the people of the Navajo Nation near Famington in Ship Rock. It was wonderful to see her career flourish too.

Photo Jessica Perez / HBO

MC: As a performer, you’ve always been a straight shooter and spoken honestly and truthfully. When you decided to do We’re Here, did you see it as an increase in the activism you’ve already shown?

BTDQ: I believe that if you live as a marginalized person, live particularly well, it is a form of activism; it’s a FU for the system. I’m really proud of where my drag is today … honestly what it is, I have a big mouth and I can’t turn it off. I don’t have the ability to shut up and know my place. There are probably times when it got in my way and it has probably held me back in some aspects of my life. I can’t say that it always worked for me. Last night I was having dinner with a friend and my friend brought another friend and that started talking shit about Madonna. I thought to myself, “I could let go of this, but I’ll choose not to”. It ruined the mood and it was like “You’re not going to sit here talking shit about Madonna while I try to eat my omelette” (laughs)!

MC: Podcasts seem to pop up every other day, but the one you have with Monét X Change Sibling Rivalry really doesn’t compare to anything we’ve seen. The banter between you and Monét really is the backbone of the entire podcast.

BTDQ: I love Monét, is my sister and my best friend, but I’ll call her about her bullshit when she’s messy and that’s all the time (laughs)!

MC: The podcast seems to have gone from a lot of drag race talk to a weave in your real life with family, activism and some really personal moments. They even have a Patreon page and live shows. Could you ever have seen what it would be now? You recently said that Sibling Rivalry could become the new breakfast club and I think you weren’t that far away.

BTDQ: I always thought that Monét and me had a really interesting bond. That made me call Monét and tell her that I had an idea for a podcast called Sibling Rivalry and that we had to do it. Basically, of all the Ru girls, we have the longest running podcast; and it’s really exciting. A fun fact we never got to see was that coronavirus was such a big problem this year, and anyone who had it was asked to leave the set on We’re Here. In the event that I, Shangela, or Eureka got coronavirus, we were asked who would replace us and my replacement would be Monét X Change. I got the vaccine and never got COVID, but there was a small chance so I’m surprised Monét didn’t put some COVID in my coffee or something (laughs).

Photo by Johnnie Ingram

MC: The days when you went to a New York bar and saw a drag queen show were always a pleasure. Do you miss these days?

BTDQ: Pixie Aventura recently visited and we remembered those old days and hung out in New York City and I miss it. Go to a diner at 4 a.m. and take the train home. You’d go to the club by 4 a.m., then to the diner by about 6 a.m., and then take the train home. There would be a crossover where the drag queens went uptown and everyone with nine to five jobs went downtown. It was always a great time on the subway platform when you see a ragged drag queen next to a pimped up lady in a suit skirt and she makes her look like “sis” (laughs)?

Photo by Jessica Perez / HBO

MC: It’s been a really surreal year and a half for each and every one of us. As an actor and person, what do you take with you from the last 18 months into the next phase of your life and career?

BTDQ: Well, I am thinking of accessibility and people who have access to drag and performance. There are people who cannot go to clubs because of their place of residence or their disability. or their money, or because they have children, but they love to pull and never get to see it. Now that these drag performers are online, people can see them. I want to keep my digital footprint wide so that people who like my art can still see it without leaving their home; I know some people can’t for some reason and I want to keep that accessibility.

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