(WM) Even within a profession built on marching to the beat of your own drum, Kameron Michaels isn’t your typical drag performer. Michaels has many tattoos and puts a lot of focus on weight training and physical fitness, earning the nickname “muscle queen,” which has helped her develop a unique drag appearance.
Along with muscle queen and drag superstar, Michaels is adding the title of recording artist to the mix with the release of “Freedom,” her new single. Michaels is bringing the muscles, the tats and the new single to the Parliament House Aug. 16 for Orlando’s GayDayS weekend.
Michaels chatted with Watermark ahead of her GayDayS performance about what we can expect to see when the muscle queen takes over the Parliament House.
WATERMARK: HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO PERFORMING DRAG?
KAMERON MICHAELS: I started doing drag when I was 18 years old when I was still a senior in high school. I was at a very religious Christian School in the suburb of Nashville, and I would drive up to Nashville on the weekend to perform. I started as a go-go boy, but didn’t we all [laughs]. Then I just fell in love with drag queens. I thought they were just these beautiful creatures. They’re so cool, so amazing. So I, of course, started doing it.
WERE YOU A FAN OF “RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE” LEADING UP TO SEASON 10 WHEN YOU WERE ON IT?
A lot of the girls like to give me shit because I am not a super fan of the show. I haven’t seen every episode of every season. I like to joke that sometimes in the group I would poke Eureka and be like, “What are we doing? What is this one?” Because I didn’t know what was going on a lot of the time. I think my reasoning for that is that I was very scared that I would walk into that work room and use someone else’s tagline or say something that was someone else’s shtick. So for a long time, I knew that I was meant to be on the show and I kind of refused to watch it because I didn’t want to pick up anybody else’s mannerisms.
HOW HAS BEING ON “DRAG RACE” CHANGED THE WAY YOU PERFORM DRAG?
I think it has changed it in all aspects. Going into the competition I was not a fulltime drag queen. I was doing drag once or twice a month, if even that. I was a hairstylist, so I wasn’t accustomed to the nightlife and hosting shows and performing. I think my drag has astronomically gotten better since the show just because I have been doing it, and practice makes perfect and it keeps getting better. I wasn’t used to hosting shows and now I’m holding a microphone in my hand in front of 8,000 people in Wembley Arena. So my confidence has become much greater than it ever was.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST THING THAT SURPRISED YOU FROM BEING ON THE SHOW AS OPPOSED TO JUST WATCHING IT?
I think if you asked any of the girls, you just don’t know what to expect or what it’s like until you’re living in it and doing it. It’s different watching it and experiencing it for sure. You can tell some of the girls struggle, like me, with their competence with being on a TV show. There’s nothing that compares to that if you’ve never done it before. You have eight cameras, camera crews everywhere, celebrities walking around; I mean, it’s a lot to take in all at once. I don’t think I really had any expectations but it was just very overwhelming.
HAS THE SUCCESS OF “RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE” AND DRAG GOING MAINSTREAM SURPRISED YOU?
Yeah, seeing drag queens on TV was never something that I expected to see when I was little. I think it’s really cool that kids now, and we have so many kid fans, look up to us as role models which is really cool because I didn’t have that when I was younger.
WHAT DOES BEING A MUSCLE QUEEN MEAN TO YOU AND WHY IS FITNESS SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I found fitness at a time in my life when I needed it the most. I think that’s the story for a lot of people that don’t grasp it in their youth and hold onto it. I didn’t start working out until I was 27 or 28. It was after a breakup so it was just very important for me to find something to give all of my energy to. I came back to drag after having been in the gym for a while and aesthetically you want to look, at least in the south where I’m from, you want to look as feminine as possible. So me having broader shoulders and bigger arms made it difficult for wardrobe and costumes to try to disguise that. Then me being on the show made me realize I don’t have to disguise it because I’m giving a voice to females in general that all come up to me at Drag Con and let me know that I’ve given them confidence in their bodies because some girls tend to be very weird about girls with muscles. They think it’s not attractive so I like that it is my aesthetic.
YOU HAVE A LOVE FOR TATTOOS, BUT WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THAT YOU HAVE?
My favorite tattoo is my whole left arm because it’s my favorite thing from my childhood. It is the alien from the “Alien” movie and I have raptors from “Jurassic Park.”
YOU JUST RELEASED YOUR DEBUT SINGLE, “FREEDOM.” WHAT WAS IT LIKE RECORDING THAT SONG AND MAKING THE VIDEO?
The song is interesting because the song and the mix of the beats were written simultaneously in studio while I was writing the song. The song I think piggybacked off of my “American” verse, which was my favorite verse. I’m sure I’m being biased [laughs], but I think it was a lot of other people’s favorite too because of the words that I wrote meant something to people. So “Freedom” developed into an extension of the story. I wanted to do something where the words mean something. That was important to me from my first song.
The video is really cool. I wanted to tell these three separate stories: the trans boy, the little gay kid not understanding why he’s different and then the couple holding hands. I wanted those specific stories because I think a lot of people in the LGBTQ community can relate and have seen them. I think it was really important watching those stories while listening to the words of “Freedom.” So shooting music video was very fun for me, because I had a lot of my friends there. The gay couple at the end of the video holding hands was actually fans of mine that came to see me at Drag Con and I reached out to them for them to be in my video.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE FROM YOU WHEN YOU ARE AT PARLIAMENT HOUSE FOR GAY DAYS?
I love working Parliament House because the energy is always so great. Usually, if I am doing two performances, I try to do something kind of campy and fun, and then just something full out dance with a lot of fun energy. I think what the crowd can expect from me is a good show that I’m having fun with, because if I’m up there having fun I think that pours out to the audience and helps them have fun too.