Sharon Needles campaign for PETA
In the world of drag, no-one is hotter than Sharon Needles right now. In fact, you could say she is the undisputed queen of drag. Granted, this may have a lot to do with her winning season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Logo TV earlier this year, but, to give her her due, she’s been that show’s biggest break-out star ever, with a legion of adoring fans that have come from far and wide, and not just the gay and drag scenes.
Because, you see, more than just being a drag queen, Sharon Needles is a FREAK. She speaks to everyone who has ever felt outcast, for whatever reason, and in this era of dying conservatism (where anything different is labelled “wrong,”) she does a pretty damn good job of standing up for the outsiders. Her winning of the TV show against some fiercely talented and beautiful contestants felt like a victory for anyone who is different, for the bullied, the awkward, the bizarre and the downtrodden.
So I just had to interview to her. It took nearly six months, but I was finally granted an email interview with this underground superstar last week, and I’ll be damned if I was gonna waste it on bitching about the other Drag Race queens, or questions about drugs and shoes, or having a kiki with the Scissor Sisters. No, Needles’ is a brilliant, dangerous mind and I wanted to know more about the “serious” stuff.
So, if you still need more of an introduction to Sharon Needles, then read the post I wrote about her back in April, but If not, let’s take it away:
THE NIALLIST: Something tells me you won’t be voting for Mitt Romney this year. Do you mind telling us how you will be voting? And how are you finding the political discourse in America in the run up this election?
SHARON NEEDLES: There’s definitely a severe polarization in politics these days. I blame this on the media, and big money. I find politics to be something quite personal, and something that I keep to myself. But as Snoop Dogg, now known as Snoop Lion, has recently said in an interview, you can either vote for Lucifer or Satan. He is choosing neither. True change comes from within, not a 3 piece suit.
TN: As a performer, I sense your work draws a lot from non-typical drag influences, ie a lot of stuff outside the world of drag. You’ve been forthcoming about your love of Marilyn Manson, and most of the interviews I have read with you tend to focus on your drag-spirations, but what non-drag artists have had an impact/influence on you?
SN: Willam S. Burroughs, Andy Warhol, serial killers, under-appreciated horror films, transsexuals, politics, rock ‘n’ roll, and an all around distaste for organized religion.
Photo by Austin Young
TN: Are you going to any of the “Twins Of Evil” tour? And what is your opinion of Marilyn Manson’s most recent work? Do you think there are any cultural figures from the last 5 years that could claim his level of influence and/or subversion?
SN: Marilyn Manson was my Backstreet Boys growing up. Though I’ve felt a disconnect with his body of work in the last decade or so, he was an inspiration to me in my developmental years. Anything after Mechanical Animals, I unfortunately think is downgraded… what went wrong?
TN: Guest question from Mark @ Tranarchy - what would you be doing if you hadn’t discovered drag?
SN: First of all, I’d like to say I love Tranarchy, I’ve been following their work. And if wasn’t doing drag I’d probably be writing, traveling, painting, or dead.
TN: Guest question from Lady Munter @ Menergy - how relevant do you think RuPaul really is to our generation (late 20s-early 30s)? Before Drag Race, he was out of the limelight for quite some time and was seen to be a bit of a naff 90s memory.
SN: So many people hold the responsibility for social relevancy. Pop culture took a much more boring twist in the early 2000’s, with such safe creations as ‘N Sync and Britney Spears. They left no room for the genius that is RuPaul. But unlike so many who have gone to the wasteland of reclusion, RuPaul has proved to be a true pop icon and underground survivor.
TN: After a recent mis-identification involving a dildo, Joshua Grannel described Peaches Christ as being “sex-negative”. Would you say Sharon Needles is sex-negative or sex-positive, and why?
SN: Sharon Needles is an example of American, consumeristic, exaggerated, inflatable beauty. She is designed to be considered sexy, but should never be considered as being fucked. So many drag queens use sexuality as a way of describing their characters, I distance myself from that, there are bigger fish to fry. But in terms of one’s personal sexuality, I’m game for anything. No one should be judged for something that no one sees, we tend to be publicly scrutinized for something that is the most private thing in our lives, our sex lives. Dead girls never say no.
TN: How was it working with Peaches Christ on Silence Of The Trans? If you two re-teamed to do a different movie and had an unlimited budget and a cast of thousands at your beck and call, what would you like to do?
SN: Working with Peaches Christ was a nightmare come true. It’s very refreshing to work with entertainers that have like-minded concept on drag performing, someone who prefers to frighten and enlighten people, before titillating them. Me and Peaches have discussed working on film projects, though I would prefer our film to have a low budget. Big budgets ruin horror film. If we were to make a film, I would call it “Methamphetamine Zombies.” If Meth can wake the living, then Meth can wake the dead. I smell a sequel.
TN: Speaking of the word “trans,” what is your view on the controversy that flared up a few years ago about the use of the word “tranny” on Glee, and the ownership/use of that word by different communities?
SN: There are real dangerous people doing real dangerous things in this big dangerous world to hurt people. Words only carry the merit that you give them. Intent trumps language. In my culture, language is twenty-six consonants and vowels swirled around to create dialog. Dialog can also be misinterpreted, but I’m the wrong person to ask. I love foul language, I love pushing barriers with my tongue. No one is safe. And I’m a tranny.
TN: You are no stranger to controversy yourself, in particular an incident involving the word “n****r” from earlier on this year. How has winning RuPaul’s Drag Race affected your performance, and have the reactions to, or the expectations of, your work changed since that particular incident?
SN: No. No one controls my art, and no one, and I mean no one, can say I have ever acted out, spoken out, or performed out of hatred. Do yourself some good, do some research, research Patti Smith, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Marilyn Manson, and William S. Burroughs on this very controversial word. Is it shocking? Yes. Have I ever used it without thought? No.
TN: Guest question from Gregor @ Mutate Design - on RuPaul’s Drag Race you were quick to point out you weren’t a “singer,” and struggled with that challenge. What then was the motivation for making a Sharon Needles album? And what can you tell us about your album (which I hope is called “Punk Rock Sex Clown”) - what are your main musical influences?
SN: I’ve never considered myself a singer, though others have told me otherwise. I’m currently playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show, and have since been applauded for my vocal range and talent. My “album”, set to be released at the end of January, is a total example of compromise. A compromise between me and the industry, a compromise between underground and pop culture, and definitely a compromise within myself. That is why this album is entitled PG-13. All PG-13 films are compromised R-Rated films, and I’ve learned in this roller coaster of a year that happiness and success come with a compromise between you and your detractor.
[The album also features] Jayne County from Jayne County & The Electric Chairs, she was a 1970’s New York Punk Trans goddess ,completely underestimated and underappreciated, but I’ve devoted much of my spare time promoting her past, present, and future. She will be a guest on one of the tracks of my upcoming album.
Happy Halloween, Hail Satan, kill your parents, and steal everything.
TN: Thanks Sharon!
In this brilliant interview from The Daily Freak Show, James St James interviews Sharon Needles (as Aaron) and the legendary Jayne County:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Dangerous Minds fully endorses Sharon Needles