J&M: The Chad Michaels Interview

by [J]ustin and [M]artin

RuPaul’s Drag Race season 4 has introduced us to one of the strongest lineup of queens the show has ever seen. Perhaps one of the fiercest contenders so far is Southern California’s very own Chad Michaels.

With a solid twenty years making a name for himself in the SoCal drag scene, Chad has come to RuPaul’s Drag Race with not only a seasoned skill-set, but a lot to prove as well. Perhaps most known for his spot-on interpretation of Cher and work in the legendary drag group, the Dreamgirls Revue, Chad has come onto Drag Race to show America just how many tricks he has up his sleeve.

Justin & Martin
Considering that you’re so established and experienced compared to the other girls, what made you say “okay, now it’s time for RuPaul’s Drag Race?”

Chad Michaels
A lot of the girls in my show, the Dreamgirls Revue, had gone on the show. I had been approached to do it season 1 and I turned it down at that time because I was really apprehensive about it; I didn’t know what the show was going to entail. I’ve kicked myself ever since! (laughs) It turned out to be such a wonderful thing, such a wonderful showcase and really just a lot of fun. I had to work to get my spot on season 4. I submitted my videos for seasons 2 and 3 and I think I finally gave them what they wanted from me on my third audition tape.

My reason for doing it was that I wanted a platform to tell my story. I’ve had a lot of experiences and great times in the past twenty years but no one’s ever given me a leg up. I worked my ass off on my own in the trenches, at the clubs. I’ve been lucky enough to have a great agent who’s gotten me out of state bookings to perform as Cher.

Drag Race has allowed people who have known me as Cher to also get to know me. And, you know, I also had a bit of an agenda going into the show. I’ve gotten to talk about a lot of things I wanted to touch on, like the silicone and my relationship with Adam. And I’ll tell you what – I did not go on the RPDR to not do Cher.  Doing Cher on the Snatch Game was a dream and a goal, and to be able to do that and win that challenge…wow.

Justin
My god it was incredible!

CM
It was amazing! I wanted to have a good time and see if I could do it. I’ve said “no” too often in the past, and it was time for me to just say “yes” and see what I could do with the skills that I have and what I’ve learned over the years.

Martin
You mentioned the Dreamgirls Revue. What were some words of wisdom that you wish that the likes of Morgan or Delta had given to you before the show? Did you ever find yourself on the show saying “whoa! They didn’t tell me about this.”

CM
Well, there wasn’t so much advice from them because I think the experience [of RPDR] is such a different experience for each person. It’s hard to give anyone applicable advice. But I did have an opportunity to watch the past seasons and watch the girls in action to see how things go, as did all the other girls on season 4.  There’s a lot on the line, but like I said, I had the advantage of seeing how things work.

Justin
Going into the Snatch Game, did you expect to win the challenge? Did you feel like you had a lot to lose if you didn’t win?

CM
No, I didn’t expect to win and I did have a lot to lose. I mean, [Cher is] my main thing. To go on it and blow it would have really sucked. When I talk about Cher I really mean it. I very much have a lot of respect for her.  I didn’t want to go on there and do the typical bullshit. I’ve caught a lot of heat from a lot of people who say, “well, Cher does really do that.”  Cher does flip her hair, but what I’m talking about is this blown out stereotype that everyone attaches onto their Cher impersonation.

Justin
Right, like the Will and Grace type of impression of her.

CM
Yeah, totally! Many times I am at a club and someone will just walk up to me out of the blue and go “hoooooo!”

Justin
Laughs. Hoooo!

CM
And I’m like “really??” So I just wanted to figure out a way to elevate her and I took a little bit from her role in Stuck On You where she plays herself, and she does this rant and rave – I wanted to play up on the blown out ego which, if she is that way in real life, she deserves to be.

Martin
Totally. Speaking of entitlement, we’ve noticed that other contestants in the past have always said “I should have won that challenge” and “I should get this or that.” We’ve noticed that you’ve never said “that should have been mine.” It’s great to see someone actually go into this competition with a humble attitude.

Justin
Like in the first episode of this season when Ru tells the safe girls “bring it next time,” you were the one who said, “Yes ma’am, I’ll do it.” None of the “I should have won that.”

CM
I feel like there is a lot of feeling of entitlement in the drag community and there are a lot of blown out egos. Going into this, one of the things I observed is that nothing is yours until RuPaul and the judges give it to you. It just depends on what they like and what moves them.

Justin
Do you think anyone was eliminated too early or who stayed longer than they deserved?

CM
When Milan went home…you know, being there with Milan I saw a bit of a different side to her. When she went home, I was a little bit surprised. That lipsync between her and Jiggly could have been questionable, in my eyes. But you cannot understand what it’s like, especially for a drag queen, being at the back of that stage and watching those kids lipsync [for their lives]. You just want to run up there and grab them and hug them.  These girls have a lot invested in each other; more than just the competition. So thus far it’s been very, very difficult to watch people go home. But it’s you or them, at the end of the day.

Martin
We have to agree with you about Milan. We see her every week at Boxers NYC during the Drag Race viewing party and there is just this quality about her that is just so infectious and energetic.

CM
She’s just a very energetic, full character. He’s a very fulfilled person and I love that about him. We got along really well when we were there [filming the show] – I adore him.

Martin
Back to Cher for a second. I am very much a die-hard Britney fan and always have been. One of the things that I’ve encountered from others is “he’s obsessed.” So that takes us to that moment in the Snatch Game episode where Jiggly was like “Chad is just too obsessed with Cher.” What would you say to those people who just call you “an obsessed fan” when you know there’s more to it than that?

CM
I grew up with Cher. It’s kind of engrained in me, but I wasn’t really a fan of hers until I started impersonating her. To anyone like that, I’ve just been like “just check it out.” But for me, the relationship [with Cher] is a little bit different.

I don’t have a huge Cher collection or anything like that, but it’s more of gratitude for her…in the sense that I’ve been able to make a living and a career out of her voice and her image. In fact, she has supported me, which is awesome. I think each person is just going to love it or leave it, but obviously Cher is a legend.

Martin
So who else or what else has inspires your character aside from Cher?

CM
If you’re local in Southern California, you’ve known me for twenty years and seen that I do so much more than Cher. I’m just a big kid really. I love fantasy and action movies and horror movies and super heroes, Mad TV and SNL and cartoons – it’s just this whole genre of wonder that I get my inspiration from. I love Carol Burnette and Liz Taylor and Joan Crawford. I also do a spoof of Bette Davis. Someone came up to me once and was like “that was really funny, but what were you doing?” I said, “I was doing Bette Davis” and he was like “well who’s that?” So I feel lucky to have this knowledge of great artists and great women. I’m inspired by remarkable women, I think that probably comes from the fact that my mom raised me and I was with my grandma a lot of the time – both really no-nonsense go getters.

Justin
So given those inspirations, how have you been able to adapt to an ever-changing drag scene? There are definitely those queens who have been doing the same thing they were doing fifteen years ago, but your character is evolving all the time…

CM
You have to evolve in this business all the time or you won’t survive. Especially when you’re working with an audience. They know what they’ve seen before so you have to keep it fresh and interesting so that they keep coming back so that you can keep making a living doing drag. I know what I like but I also know I have to give my audience what they want to hear. I’m not always against top 40’s, something cool that I can dance to, but then I do the things that I really like. I’m obsessed with Florence Welch right now and Florece + the Machine, so I’m doing this crazy red-headed Chanel. I think everyone’s kind of going “I don’t know if I like this or not,” but I’m totally cool with it.

Justin
But on the show the judges have called you out on being “perfect.”

CM
I’ve been criticized with being too perfect, but you know I get my hands dirty. I chose to leave the whole spooky thing to Needles. I did Marilyn Manson ten years ago and sweetie pie was in britches then…But you know, I went there to be perfect, I did not go there to be “messy.” If I’m gonna be messy it’s going to be absolutely intentional.

Martin
So if it’s not you who wins, who would you appreciate seeing crowned the next drag superstar?

CM
I can’t really comment much on that side of the competition, but I will just say that there is such a diverse style within this season, more so than any other and I love that. You know, of the kids that have not been eliminated yet, in my opinion it’s a very close race. I love Sharon, I love Sharon’s spirit, and her irreverence, and her gift of gab. She’s fearless and I love her as a sister and I think she can go so far, not only in this competition, but just be such a star in her own right.

Justin

Just one last question for you. What would your words of wisdom be to a future cast member?

CM
Definitely the words that RuPaul imparts for all of season 4 which is “whatever people think of you is none of your business, so stay off the f***in blogs, and live your life.” That’s my thing, because no matter what you do people are going to be critical. Hold your head up high, and believe in what you do and what you’ve done, and carry on like Martha Wash says.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “J&M: The Chad Michaels Interview

  1. Pingback: Hot off the Magazine Rack | J&M

  2. Pingback: We’re Baaaaaaaack | J&M

  3. Pingback: J&M

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s