Latrice Royale From ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Brings Drag Into the Mainstream (Exclusive)

Drag icon Latrice Royale from RuPaul’s Drag Race encountered an entirely different landscape when she burst onto the drag scene more than 20 years ago. Drag was primarily an underground movement before the turn of the century and Royale was part of the evolution that has made the drag culture a family affair.

Latrice Royale
Latrice Royale | Photo credit Erika Wagner

Royale acted as a creative consultant for the new Netflix smash hit, AJ and the Queen. The series follows Robert (RuPaul), otherwise known as Ruby Red, a heartbroken drag queen who finds herself on a road trip across the country with AJ, a 10-year-old stowaway (Izzy G.). The heartwarming series shows a heartfelt connection between Ruby Red and the child, which translates to today’s drag culture.

While drag roots are still firmly planted in showmanship, talent, and (of course) a healthy dose of snarky comedy, the genre now transcends the walls of small cabaret clubs and gay venues. Royale recently spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet about her new groundbreaking cabaret show and how drag has gone mainstream.

Latrice Royale: A life well lived

Fans know the story of Timothy Wilcots, the genius behind Latrice Royale. Originally from Compton, Calif., Royale was raised by a single mother. Royale took an interest in the performing arts as a teen, becoming part of the high school color guard team.

Although Royale had an affinity for performing, her drag career was born after she was dared to give it a shot at age 20. “I got into it on a dare, but I won the first contest, and I got that acceptance and the crowd cheering for you,” she remarked. “[Plus] they are giving you money. That was very attractive, know what I mean?” As a result, Royale began to develop her drag persona now known as the “chunky but funky” Latrice “Motherf**king Royale.

“Drag filled that void of performing and I got that rush of adrenaline I got when I performed with color guard,” Royale recalled. “Drag became my passion and way to perform on stage.” Royale’s drag career was briefly interrupted when she was arrested for possession of marijuana and Klonopin in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Royale ultimately spent one year in prison after a missed meeting with a probation officer. She’s been a vocal proponent for the restoration of felon’s right to vote in Florida.

Royale continued to perform and eventually scored a spot as a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2012. Although she didn’t win the competition, Royale was a breakout sensation, winning the hearts of millions of fans worldwide. Since then, her career has exploded. She returned to the Drag Race, competing in All-Stars competitions. She is also a recording artist and a documentarian. Royale recounted her time in prison in the documentary, Gays in Prison. Royale also hopes to share her extraordinary life story in a book.

This isn’t your mama’s drag

Drag has come a long way since Royale’s early days in the 1990s. The fandom now includes individuals of all backgrounds and ages. “We have come light-years,” Royale shared. “Drag Race has really brought the art to the forefront. Now that people see it as a viable career or sensible and it normalized it. So the new generation of queens now can just look at a tutorial on makeup. If you can operate a computer, you can learn how to do drag.”

Royale is also keenly aware that many new fans are children, especially those who may be struggling to fit in. “Mothers and parents are saying how drag is doing wonders for their kid,” she said.

“It helped them get out of their depression or awkward stage. We have given them confidence. It’s beautiful because drag has no boundaries, and it transcends through all races, creeds, colors, and backgrounds. Everyone can relate to something,” Royale said. “Even the straightest of men. You find some connection to drag.”

‘Here’s to Life’

Royale’s upcoming South Florida performance was decades in the making. The show Here’s to Life will feature Royale singing. Her husband Christopher Hamblin is the musical director.

“The show is completely different in the respect that I’m singing live,” Royale explained. “It’s definitely not what the fans are used to, but are completely delighted when they experience it.”

The show is essentially autobiographical. “Telling my story and my journey through this thing we call life. It’s very uplifting and the goal is to open your hearts and let it all go. This is a safe place. I’m going to bring up some things that may be uncomfortable. But we’re going to feel together, you’re going to feel better about yourself and feel like you can conquer the world. And not to toot my own horn, but beep beep,” she laughs.

Royale promises an intimate evening, plus an opportunity for a special meet and greet for fans. Currently, fans can catch two shows in South Florida on Saturday, Feb. 1. However, Royale says that more shows are being developed for future dates.