Derrick Barry strutted into RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 5 with something to prove. While she made it significantly far during Season 8, she herself felt that many questioned her “drag” and whether she was more than a Britney Spears impersonator. Berry’s talent show may not have been to everyone’s liking, but standing her ground against fellow competitor India Ferrah let us know unequivocally that this All Star has plenty more to share. As she anticipates hitting the stage for RuPaul’s Drag Race: Live, Berry sat down with me to discuss her time on All Stars, her always an interesting relationship, and what it has been like getting to know some former competitors and new friends in a completely different way.
Michael Cook: What was it like to go back into the Thunderdome of RuPaul’s Drag Race known as All Stars?
Derrick Barry: You know, this time I felt even better than I did during Season 8. I think confidence is key in a competition like that. It’s funny, when I was on the runway and I was put in the bottom and Mayhem Miller and Ongina had expressed how they had felt about having an off day, I thought to myself “bitch, I just killed my impressions so what the hell am I doing up here with you guys”? That is all perspective though. I think anytime that I do anything new that is not Britney-related, people are going to hold me to a different standard. I am known for doing one thing and I have built a career on it, and I love it. It does make it a little hard when I do something different because so many people want to put me in that box. They’ll say “oh well you look like Britney doing it”; that is not anything that I can change.
MC: All Stars 1 winner Chad Michaels is known for his extraordinary Cher impersonations that are beyond spot on, and they have become his signature. Have you ever had a conversation and compared your experience portraying Britney with his portraying Cher?
DB: Chad and I have talked about that. He said that every single gig he books, he is asked to bring “If I Could Turn Back Time.” You know what though, that’s amazing; why not? Nobody else looks like Chad Michaels in this business, especially from Drag Race, he does not have any competition. He also won All Stars, not from doing Cher, but his Cher is what has gotten him into the mainstream market. That is how you do that, that is the crossover ability to do an impersonation as opposed to having your own drag character. Now it is more accepted, but when Chad started, people wanted to know “what character do you do”? That is how you got booked in Las Vegas, you had to have an impersonation. There wasn’t a drag show on the strip-like RuPaul’s Drag Race Live that had people there that were their own persona. You had to impersonate someone. To hear that from Chad, it was like “oh wow, it’s not just me”. He does amazing drag, but his Cher is the best out there. So of course, people are going to want to see that.
MC: No one can say that watching some behind the scenes conflict roll out on the RuPaul’s Drag Race in front of the cameras is not endlessly interesting. Clearly you and India Ferrah had some conflict prior to filming. What was it like entering the workroom and seeing her standing there?
DB: I remember seeing her and thinking “you’ve got to be kidding me”. Then I am hugging all of the girls and she goes in for a hug and I remember thinking “I cannot believe this is my life right now.” It was a complete shock and we’ve seen that I am too real to be fake; you could tell when I hugged her that I was not into it. She is so fake that it is real, it’s real to see.
MC: Everyone has had a colleague that they have had difficulties with. As a professional, would you find it difficult to be on a bill with India?
DB: I think at this point I got everything out that I needed to. Being part of Drag Race, half of it is our drag and half of it is us. When I see somebody that I have disagreed with the way that they treated people in the past, it is very hard for me not to address a situation like that. This might be why people tell me I should have my own show, because I have no filter (laughs). The fact is, you get one shot at life. If you are okay putting opinions out online that you are not okay addressing in person, you are not my type of people. I have just seen too many times, the same repetitive cycle with her and other queens. It was time it was addressed, face to face.
MC: What has it been like in a post Drag Race world for you since your Season?
DB: There is not one gig that I have booked since Drag Race, even before actually, that was not Britney related. That is because the clubs, the theaters, whatever it is, they are asking for a Britney show. That is everything from two songs to an hour-long show. I thought doing Drag Race was going to give me that ability to do different things, but I also don’t want to go to a nightclub or theater show and the audience is waiting for Britney and I never do it. I wasn’t surprised that it all was Britney related shows. It opened me up to different markets as well. I had not gotten into Brazil until I did Season 8, and I had not been to London. I thought after America’s Got Talent, I would get all of those opportunities and I did do a lot of countries and toured a lot. I finally made the decision that it was time to add Drag Race to my resume. Now, I have America's Got Talent and I have Drag Race. For me, they are just little checks and I just keep checking the boxes until I fill my resume with everything that I set out to do.
MC: You have made your relationship with Nick San Pedro & Mackenzie Claude (aka Nebraska Thunderfuck) very public, and many would consider it unconventional. People are endlessly fascinated by your relationship; what do you attribute the attention to?
DB: You know, that is very exciting to me. For some reason, controversy always follows me and I get myself into situations that are very chaotic. Whether it’s the Stonewall moment or the Haters Roast, or me just not thinking, it becomes a crazy viral moment and starts controversy. So, as if it's not enough to be gay and to do drag, I also have two boyfriends. It really puts me out there and people can say that I am breaking every stereotype and every norm. I am cool with that. I love the trailblazing side of it and I think that if people want to say love is blind, then why can’t three people be in love? I have always talked about my relationship, but it was not something that I was comfortable talking about America’s Got Talent. I remember the first time that I was asked when I was doing press, someone asked if I was gay; and I froze. I nonchalantly said, “yes, I have a boyfriend.” It was so freeing to say that for the first time, because it’s just what people expect. I just feel like I am already outside of the box, so why wouldn’t I be with my relationship?
MC: What is next for you post All Stars and post quarantine?
DB: I am very excited about RuPaul's Drag Race Live to return to the Las Vegas strip. I can’t wait to fall from the ceiling again, it was butterflies every night. I didn’t talk to Asia (O’Hara) about the butterflies though (laughs). Just to work with that cast, like Yvie Oddly and being with Naomi Smalls from my season, and becoming better friends with her, that is something that I have wanted for so long and it has been a real highlight in Vegas. Being close with Vanjie also, she ended up next to each other in the dressing room and we just laugh the whole time. Kameron Michaels has been very inspiring for me, showing that you don’t have to have what is looked at as a “feminine physique” in order to do drag. That is why she is the "Bodybuilder Barbie"; she completely strips the idea that you cannot be fishy and have muscles. That has been very inspiring to me because obviously workouts are a big deal for me, my body is half my drag.
MC: So to borrow from another pop icon; are we seeing The Emancipation Of Derrick?
DB: I am excited about getting back to working with that cast, and people can get back to seeing my actual talent show. If you didn’t like the impressions, you can come to RuPaul's Drag Race Live and you can see me in seven different numbers throughout the night and meet and greet. I am just excited to get back to that, where we worked so hard and we were only open for six weeks. I want people to come to see that show, and to feel that love from the fans. They are saying I shouldn’t have gone home, they were surprised I was in the bottom things like that. People are saying that I should have my own show, or they can’t wait to see me on more shows, it's great because I did not get that on Season 8. To have that completely shift and have the fandom say that they need more Derrick because he makes great television makes me realize that me being real is all people ever wanted to see. Because it’s me. I almost feel like in the past, I just smiled and said okay, it did not lead me to much. It’s great to be a nice person, but it’s even better to be real. When you have a real conflict that comes through on reality television, there is no way to get more real than that.
"RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 5" airs Friday night on VH1 (check local listings)