Latrice Royale, the “chunky, yet funky” queen of RuPaul’s Drag Race, has been offering those immortal words of confidence to fans for years.
But in 2020, she’ll be taking them straight to the polls — voting not only as a beloved leader of the LGBTQ community, but also as a former inmate with newly restored rights.
A drag queen, activist, and television personality, Royale first came into the national consciousness in 2012 as a cast member on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4. Snatching the title of Miss Congeniality and placing fourth overall in her season, Royale established a reputation of integrity, kindness, and talent early on in her public history, regularly using her primetime platform to advocate for a cause near and dear to her heart.
Arrested for a minor drug offense in 2001, Royale served one year in the Florida prison system prior to appearing on the show. Straightforwardly reflecting on her experience and famously parodying a prison guard in Season 4’s “Queens Behind Bars” episode, Royale used her initial Drag Race run to bring awareness to many of the issues faced by former inmates, including the lack of viable employment and safe housing for those with criminal records.
Royale cemented her legacy with appearances on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ Seasons 1 and 4, and has continued to use her fan-favorite status to encourage change. Most significantly, Royale gave her public support to Florida’s “Amendment 4,” a 2018 ballot initiative that successfully eliminated the state’s lifetime voting ban for residents with felony records.
The legislative victory granted Royale and approximately 1.4 million others the ability to voice their opinions, wants, and needs to the U.S. government. Royale tells Mashable she is particularly eager to use her restored rights in the upcoming presidential election, voting for the first time in nearly two decades next November.
Mashable sat down with Royale to talk self-love, the changing world of drag, giving back to your community, and her upcoming return to the ballot box.
The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.
Mashable: In honor of Pride Month, what’s something you’re personally proud of?
Latrice Royale: Just being me. I’ve gone through so much and I’ve overcome so much.
I tell people, Pride is something that we celebrate once a year, once a season or whatever — but it really is a lifestyle. So, I take pride in everything that I do everyday of my life because it’s precious.
When you’re a hot commodity — and I’m just saying that, as everyone should feel like they’re a hot commodity and like they’re the shit, because you are —you take pride in that and you want to showcase it in the best possible way. And so, I try to inspire people to find their inner diva, you know?
Mashable: Drag Race fans have learned so much from your honesty and candor. How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?
LR: It’s a struggle. It really is. Like everyone, I’m human and I have moments of weakness, and I have to put myself in check every once in a while.
But just like anything that you wanna get good at, you have to practice. And so, I practice a lot. You know you have to fake it ’til you make it sometimes. And even when I’m not feeling it in my bones, I have to act like I’m feeling it so that comes across to others — because that energy transfers fast.
I just try to fake it ’til I make it, and for the most part it has always worked out because I start actually feeling what I’m trying to portray.
Mashable: What was your first time in drag like?
LR: Oh, my first time in drag was horrible, girl. [Laughter]
It was so bad. I thought I was going to do like an interpretive dance at this drag show. I didn’t even have shoes or a wig, so I was trying to makeshift something.
So I’m out there looking like a Martha Graham reject. And honey, [the judges] looked at me like I had eleven heads and said, “No, ma’am. You will not be winning this contest.”
But then, I made a dress of my own and came back the next week and won. So they were like, “Oh, OK. You got something girl. You might be onto something.”
26 years later, I’m still doing it!
Mashable: Obviously, a lot has changed in those 26 years — not just for you, but for the art of drag at large. What would you like to change 26 years from now?
LR: Wow. You know, we’ve come so far. But we still have a really long way to go.
I’m so glad to see the evolution, and now drag is starting younger and younger and younger. These kids are like 7-years-old and they’re discovering and getting their life through drag.
So I want to see it more normalized, I guess. I want it to just be, “Oh, that’s awesome” and to have people not give it a second look as freakish or a sickness or a fetish. What we do is art, and we find joy through our art. We just want to spread it around.
Mashable: You want to see drag classes next to the piano lessons and the soccer practices.
LR: That’s exactly it! You know, teach it in schools. That’d be amazing.
I keep saying there’s no school for this — but there honestly should be! It’s a viable career now. People are making more money than doctors doing drag. So, it’s a viable career!
There was a time when everyone aspired to be a doctor, or a police officer, or a firemen, or a nurse. Now, you can be a drag queen and make your coin too.
Mashable: What advice do you have for young queer and trans people as they celebrate Pride 2019?
LR: Well, number one is to be involved with Pride events within your community.
You know, it’s good to go there and party and drink with everyone, but to actually have a cause and foundation, something like a center for the youth or [another charitable event]. I’m big on Pride centers that give people a place and a safe haven to come and get counseled, or seek an escape from their home life because they can’t be their authentic selves at home.
Being involved in your community is the best way to be a part of not only that community, but society in general.
Mashable: Speaking of being involved in your community, the restoration of voting rights for former inmates is a cause you have publicly supported for many years. Since your rights were restored in 2018 as part of Florida’s Amendment 4, have you made it to the polls? And if not, what are you most excited to vote for when you do?
LR: I have not voted yet! I’m excited to go register.
We’re still not even out of the fire on that, really. [The Florida legislature] passed a bill that limits the effect that [Amendment 4] is going to have on the people who got their rights restored, because now they have to pay restitution — and a lot of them don’t have the money. [Editor’s note: If signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the bill will go into effect on July 1.]
But fortunately, I am paid-up and I can’t wait to go register and vote for a new office. We have got to serve some eviction notices in 2020, and get that White House cleared out and some new residents in there. That’s gonna do some real good.
We’ll do a little bit of celebrating. Get his ass outta here! [Laughter]
Mashable: We’ve covered a lot, but is there anything you’d like to add?
LR: Yes! Buy my shit! [Laughter]
You can catch Latrice and buy her shit, later this month in Australia and New Zealand when she joins her sisters for Dragfest 2019! Melbourne and Brisbane are sold out, final tickets are on sale in Sydney and Auckland.