Bob the Drag Queen Talks Pride, RuPaul’s Drag Race and Stand–up

In 2016, Bob the Drag Queen blazed into our collective consciousness, purse first, as the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 8. Since then, she has barely had time to rest, touring the world and starring in multiple television series. Her stand–up special, Bob the Drag Queen: Live at Caroline’s, is one of the many highlights featured on Air Canada's new streaming platform exclusive to Aeroplan members, including Pride programming courtesy of OUTtv. We caught up with Bob to discuss her career, her thoughts on Pride in 2020 and just how much Brazilians love her.

enRoute Can you tell us how you got your start in drag, and what inspired you?

Bob the Drag Queen I started in drag in New York City after seeing it on TV. I was inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race, quite frankly. I saw Bebe Zahara Benet on Drag Race and thought she was beautiful. I found a place for myself in her, you know? So, I decided to start doing drag.

June 22, 2020
A New York City street with a yellow cab driving.
New York City.   Photo: Luke Stackpole

ER You won season eight of RuPaul’s Drag Race and have been a mainstay on tours and television ever since, most recently hosting The Pit Stop and being one of the queens of We’re Here on HBO. What has this journey been like for you?

BTDQ I got my start on the international scene with RuPaul’s Drag Race, and from there I did the tour circuit. I did a lot of tours – every major drag queen tour you can name, I’ve probably done it. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I really love what I do.

ER Air Canada just launched a streaming service for loyalty members located in Canada, and we have partnered with OUTtv to feature a collection of LGBTQIA+ and Pride–related content, including your stand–up special, Live at Caroline’s. How did you prepare for the show and what is your history with stand–up?

BTDQ I called my friend Matteo Lane who is a queer comedian in New York City, and I asked him if he had recommendations for places where I could try out some of my stand–up – outside of a gay bar and outside of a drag show. If you’re a famous drag queen, audiences kind of laugh at everything – which I’m grateful for – but you really want to test material out and see how well it can stand on its own. So, I went to a lot of New York City comedy spots to try out my material.

ER You are a fierce champion of drag and Pride as forms of activism. Can you talk about what Pride and drag mean to you, especially in the current landscape?

BTDQ For me, drag and being queer are gateways to acceptance. Pride Month and drag queens and the nightlife community really helped me understand and accept who I am. I found a group of people who were telling me that all the things in my life that were used against me, or that I used against myself, quite frankly, were all the things that actually made me really wonderful. That was so new for me.

ER In response to the recent global surge of the Black Lives Matter movement, you, Miss Peppermint and others organized the first Black Queer Town Hall. What was your mission with this event and what inspired you?

BTDQ Our mission was simple: to uplift Black queer voices. The big inspiration was when I saw Barack Obama’s Town Hall. It felt so nice to hear his voice talking about the state of our nation. And I remember thinking I really needed that. I then thought how remarkable it would have felt if there were also queer voices. And then I was like, if I need to hear some Black queer voices, then I need to put them together myself. There’s lots of stuff out there already, I just felt called to uplift Black queer voices.

ER You’ve toured around the world. Is there a place you’ve performed that stands out as a favourite?

BTDQ The wildest place I’ve performed is São Paulo, Brazil. I felt like a rock star. It was wild. I kept thinking, “They really think I’m famous here.” [Laughs.] I even crowd surfed. São Paulo was really into Bob the Drag Queen.

The Questionnaire

  • First travel memory Flying to Minneapolis. I had a job in an acting troupe. I’d never been on a plane before. I had never left the South before. It was really a big wake up call for me. It’s hard to imagine having culture shock in your own country, but that’s what it felt like.

  • Last trip Spartanburg, North Carolina to New York City. We were shooting the last episode of We’re Here in Spartanburg, and we had to shut down because of the pandemic.

  • Favourite souvenir I was in Australia and someone gave me a koala that was dressed up like me. Like, they dressed it in one of my outfits from RuPaul’s Drag Race. I still have it.

  • Dream seatmate Monét X Change. Monét and I are big nerds and we play a lot of video games. Oftentimes when we travel together, we sit side by side and play Super Smash Brothers on the plane.

  • Travel has the power to… Educate and enlighten. Travelling in itself can be exhausting, but seeing new things is knowledge. And knowledge is power – so therefore travelling is inherently powerful.