Watch out, Atlanta. The reigning queen of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Sharon Needles, is about to make her Atlanta debut.
Needles, the winner of the fourth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, has quickly become a stand-out in the drag scene for her macabre style and wicked humor. Even Lady Gaga tweeted about her during the season’s run, wanting to borrow one of Needles’ outfits.
More controversially, she’s also becoming known for her use of shocking imagery and comments that have been deemed transphobic and racially insensitive, attributes that Needles thinks are not accurate.
In the middle of a whirlwind schedule, Sharon Needles took the time to speak with David about her drag origins, her controversial statements, RuPaul’s Drag Race and her many trips through the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
For someone who’s never seen RuPaul’s Drag Race and will be getting their first exposure to you when you come to Atlanta, what do they need to know about Sharon Needles?
Well, first of all, I don’t think there’s one person in Atlanta who hasn’t seen RuPaul’s Drag Race. It is the highest-rated television show of all time. Of course, of course I’m joking, but I guess I would say for the few people in the gay community who are unaware of the phenomenon of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the three [things] that sum up Sharon Needles are: she’s beautiful, she’s spooky, and she’s stupid. But most important, she’s very approachable. She really is turning the drag world upside down, and taking it from a beauty contest and turning it into real performance art.
What are the major differences between Sharon Needles in and out of drag?
I’m an intelligent, sensitive punk rock guy who’s in love with education, literature, art, and music, and Sharon Needles…she’s an idiot. She’s Kelly Bundy in black lipstick. She’s irreverent and intentionally acts a fool, but it’s a great juxtaposition between the way she acts and the show that she gives, because the show is very politically motivated. It’s very based on social issues and social anxieties. Her favorite thing is to take very dark issues that people don’t like to talk about, and force them in the spotlight where hopefully we can all create some dialogue, and laugh at ourselves.
You’ve come under some fire for your use of controversial imagery. What is the intention of using these symbols in your act? Is it for shock value? A deeper message that you’re trying to portray?
I do consider myself a shock artist. The reason I love shock art so much is when I was a kid, I didn’t want to watch Jurassic Park and Titanic; I wanted to watch Pink Flamingos and Dune Generation. I wasn’t listening to Britney Spears as a kid; I was listening to Ministry, Marilyn Manson and the Sex Pistols. I’ve always been a fan of people who liked to make a stink, and I think it’s hard to get a message across when you’re so fluffy about it. I never use shocking imagery or audio for the sake of upsetting people. I have a great compromise, a juxtaposition of shock imagery and performance art, that I think really creates a message. I’m basically saying, “I’m not afraid to talk about everything that we’re all thinking but not saying.”
On a similar note, you’ve made some comments recently about the trans community that have sparked some controversy. Would you like to clear that up?
That was directed at someone personally who has put my work under attack. I really don’t think we should give her that much attention, since she’s just a Pittsburgh little brat who has done nothing but try to cause me and my family a lot of pain, so I’d prefer not to give her a lot of attention. But you know what? Here in Pittsburgh, me and the Haus of Haunt, we call ourselves “drag things.” I think it’s misogynist for a drag queen to even be called a “her” because drag queens look nothing like women. They’re the exaggeration of American consumerism amongst the female population. So, yeah, I choose to use the word “thing” when I’m not quite sure what to call you. In my personal opinion, I say “Call me he, call me she, fuck – call me Regis Kathie Lee. Just call me.”
Next: Needles’ Drag Inspiration and her brand new car . . . a hearse?