Already well known for her side-splitting videos impersonating gay icons like Madonna and Lady Gaga, many eyes were on Charlie Hides as one of the ones to watch on this season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. While she may have “sashayed away” during any anticlimactic Britney Spears lip sync, my chat with her showed me that the “Transatlantic Dame” is only just beginning her reign. From her new single “The Dame” to why she ended up going home this early in the season to why she felt it was important to speak about the H.I.V./A.I.D.S. crisis during her time on the show, my talk with Charlie Hides shows that she is in it for the long haul!
(SFGN) Charlie you were already well known both here and across the pond before you were cast on this season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. Your YouTube channel is hilarious, where you have impersonated people from Lana Del Rey to Lady Gaga. Please tell me you were going to do Lana Del Rey for the “Snatch Game” challenge!
(CH) I was desperately hoping to do Lana Del Rey! It was either going to be her or Joan Rivers. I also brought Teresa Caputo, the “Long Island Medium” with me, so I was ready!
What do you think contributed to you going home so early this season?
I was sleep deprived. I had come in directly from London and I was jet lagged since day one. I knew it was “Drag Race” and I could do the “drag” part totally fine, I slayed the runway every single time. Now the “race” part, the actual physicality, the getting up at five in the morning, dong a nineteen-hour day, then getting two hours of sleep and doing it all over again, I just simply didn’t have the stamina. I didn’t have as much fight in me as say, Trinity Taylor or Shea Coulee, and I’m not as hungry for it as Eureka is, but then again, no one is as hungry for it as Eureka! (laughs).
During both the challenges and the runway, we got to fall in love with you during your time on the show and you’ve gained a legion of new fans. What do you think is the biggest lesson that you take away from this season of “Drag Race” for yourself?
The lesson is to bring sleeping pills! (laughs). Also, I shouldn’t be doing cartwheels at fifty-two years of age, I mean I cracked a rib during that challenge! I spent the rest of the time in pain and struggling to get through it, sleeping on one side, so it was challenging. I enjoyed spending time with these girls that are so passionate about this art form that I love so much. That’s what I take the most away from this experience; I spent time on this show that I adore, and now I get to watch it from the comfort of my own home.
You brought such a great perspective on the differences between U.K. and United States drag, and the differences are vast. Can you share with us what the biggest differences are in terms of performing here versus across the pond?
Absolutely. Most of the time in the States, a girl will do a number, then three or four other girls will come out and perform, then the first girl will come out and do her second number. Now in England, we have to be on stage for forty-five minutes to an hour, just yourselves. We have to be standup comics, we have to be part bouncer, a ringmaster, a hostess, be self-deprecating, put the audience down at times, and keep the party going for a full hour all on our own. The U.K. drag queens are gifted standup comics, sing live, which is what I do. I am a singing standup comic that can entertain for an hour or an hour and a half without leaving the stage. There is a really big difference.
Who on your cast of “Drag Race” do you think could take this all the way to the end?
Trinity Taylor, Sasha Velour, Alexis Michelle, Shea Coulee and Alexis Michelle, these girls definitely. Alexis and Trinity come from the competitive world, and I have not entered a competition since high school when I was in a swim meet! (laughs). My competition is myself, I am an entertainer and I try to make the audiences laugh. These girls have fire in their belly, and were great at competing in a reality television show.
Now that your post “Drag Race” life is about to begin; you have an entirely different platform to be seen from. What do you want to do with this new attention?
Well the biggest thing that I wanted to accomplish is that I wanted to be seen as myself and not just a celebrity impersonator. As a celebrity impersonator, the best you can possibly hope for is to be a second-rate version of that person. I wanted to be seen as the standup comedian that I am, a singer, and to release music in my own right, and not just be doing a parody or Madonna’s latest release. I released a song earlier this year called “Don’t Call Us” and I have another song coming out this week on my YouTube channel called “The Dame”. I am doing comedy tours also, with Bianca Del Rio, Lady Bunny, Ben Delacreme, and all those girls. That’s where I really come alive.
Several of the girls spoke about the Pulse Orlando tragedy last week and you spoke candidly about how the H.I.V./A.I.D.S. crisis personally affected you. It was refreshing to see someone speak so openly about it from a perspective of someone who was there. How important was that for you?
Very important. You know, if I take nothing else from my run, that was one of the main things I wanted to get across. It’s important to know your status, get tested, play safe, all of that. I wanted this generation to know about the incredible contributions and work done by my peers during that generation. The peers that I lost who organized rallies, and marched and protested and did so much to get funding and have laws changed, and to make massive changes happen with research. Most of those people that were my friends have passed on and I wanted to honor their legacy. That is one of the things I wanted to do-to make sure that they were not forgotten. During my live shows, I try to point that out to. If I see a young twink sometimes I’ll tell him not to mock the “old guy” at the bar, I tell these kids, they owe those “old men” a huge debt of gratitude for what they have done; you’re standing on the shoulders of greatness. You have the rights you have because of them.
If you had to take your entire experience on “Drag Race” and roll it up onto one word, what do you think it would be?
Exhilarating. Without a doubt!