by MK Scott -
SGN Contributing Writer
It has been quite a year as I brought about 2-dozen interviews (mostly exclusives) to the Seattle Gay News. What tied many of these interviews together - from Broadway stars to Drag Stars to Gay Icons - were my questions related to the current political climate - from Trump to #MeToo to Youth to Loss - and those questions got each interview subject talking with such passion. Here are highlights from 19 of my interviews based on subject.
MK:How long does it take you from conception to posting a song or video? Do you shoot or edit your own videos or do you have some help?
Randy Rainbow: I'm still doing it all myself from my apartment. You have to work fast in the age of social media, and especially with the never-ending circus going on every day in the news. I usually turn my videos around in a day. (March 16, 2018)
MK:How has being on 'Drag Race' changed you?
AJA: Being on Reality TV has opened my eyes to how things work in the television world. Now with those experiences I am pursuing my music career. Being on Reality TV is so much fun and amazing exposure but you aren't in full control of your own narrative. The best part about pursuing your own goals afterwards is knowing that you can control your entire narrative and have fun with it. The entertainment industry is all fun and predominantly a positive experience and I am lucky to have partaken in that experience. (December 7, 2018)
ON DONALD TRUMP
MK:What is Prince's opinion on Trump?
Prince Poppycock: Are we still talking fashion? He could learn some restraint ... perhaps a visit to Mr. S would do him good?
He wears a shade I could never personally pull off, and yet it suits him so well. What would you call it? It's like burnt sienna but more tropical ... Agent Orange? He's like a Baldwin and a potato mixed together... I call it a dick-tater.
He does understand the true power of the Pompadour though, back combed for the gods! This I can approve of, but he could probably use Stanley Tucci's hairdresser from the 'The Hunger Games' to really bring the look home. And last but not least, I'll take one of those gold toilets. (June 15, 2018)
MK:What is your feeling about the current political climate under the administration of Trump?
Rita Rudner: I find I'm taking a lot more antacids. I think everyone is overloaded on politics currently. So I don't talk politics at all in my act because I think everyone, including me, needs a break. (November 9, 2018)
MK:This is an interesting question. What would have been Matt's legacy? What was his dream? Or what would be his way to leave his mark if he had lived?
Judy Shepard: His dream was to be part of the Foreign Service. He was always rooting for the underdog. And when we moved to Saudi he saw what actually happens when the government sends aid to countries, but the aid never gets to the people who live there. It only lines the pockets of those in power. And it was infuriating to him. So that was, at that age, that was his dream, was to do something along those lines. (September 21, 2018)
ON CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
MK:Describe the most memorable night in your career?
Tony Moran: It was a night in Phuket/Thailand and there were thousands and thousands of people there. I played a special remix that I had done for Rihanna and the response was so emotional from the audience that many of them began to cry with tears of joy. I tried to hold it in, but I could not help crying as well as I was so grateful for their enthusiasm. Music heals. I can't wait to get there, Seattle! (February 16, 2018)
MK:In this current political climate, how can there be more support for gay youth?
Jeremy Jordan: Wow, it's hard to explain. I do feel like there is ground support in the world - outreach feels like it's growing. You know, I tend to veer on the side of hope, you know, more political figures are speaking up for gay rights equality. And yeah, I mean, I have hope, especially given that there's a lot of rejection from the current administration, and yet we have these incredible rallies and online campaigns and peaceful resistance movements sort of counter rejecting them.
And then, you also have amazing programs like the Trevor Project sprouting up and growing, you know, and really being able to help people. Online communities are starting to take charge of the situation, especially helping kids in rural areas that don't feel they can speak out in their actual communities. And I love that people in power are able to use their platforms online as well to help empower these kids.
And it's a tricky situation sometimes, there is a learning curve of what the right language to use in these situations is, but you figure it out as you go and hope people will be understanding. I think the main thing is just to be positive, and spread that positivity, regardless if you are famous or popular or just have a few good friends who follow you online. Everyone now has the ability to empower, and I think it's a responsibility we have to take on in order for the world to become more accepting of everyone, including LGBT individuals. (January 5, 2018)
Lisa Lisa: What I would say to people in Trump America is 'Vote'. Fight for what's right! Know that with 'Your' fight change Will Come! (June 22, 2018)
Serayah: Don't be led into violent thoughts and actions. Have a heart, continue to care about others before yourself. It's more rewarding that way. Also let's stop with the racism; we are a world full of amazing people; don't let old ignorance scare you from living your life and actually enjoying it. (July 6, 2018)
MK:When you were here in 2014, it made our Pride so memorable with you singing 'True Colors' draped in a rainbow flag. Lately you have been very vocal about the #MeToo movement and everyone was moved by your 'United' performance of 'Praying' at the Grammys.
Cyndi Lauper: It was really special to be part of Kesha's performance at the Grammy's and to share the stage with Andra, Bebe & Camilla. They are all amazing artists and I think for all of us to stand tall behind Kesha to show our support shows where we all are where it comes to Times Up and Me Too. We support our sisters. I support all of my sisters. Times Up!! Until we are all equal regardless of gender, race, religion we will always have strife and chaos. I know I am sick of the cruelty and immorality and prejudice. (August 24, 2018)
ON MEMORABLE FILM MOMENTS
MK:After I had met you, I realized that I had seen you in a feature film and a Queer cinema favorite, Longhorns, that played the Gay Film Fest in 2011. What was it like working on that film?
Derek Villanueva: I had an amazing time on that shoot. First, the director, David Lewis, is an amazing director and all around great person. I was so in love with the process of making films that I deputized myself as an unofficial gaffer, because I really wanted to understand every part of the process of film production. The rest of the cast was great fun, too. We shot the exterior shots in Grass Valley, CA (outside San Francisco), and got to know the local gay community there, which was a hoot. The inside shots were done in a studio in Oakland, and the cinematographer and crew were so creative in getting amazing shots in a small space.
I had the opportunity to be in Longhorns because I had co-written with my partner and starred in a short called Little Love about a year earlier that was directed by Quentin Lee and had been on the gay film circuit as a companion short to his feature The People I've Slept With. That was really my introduction to film, and it's now become the focus of my creative expression. I still love Longhorns and everyone who helped that get made. It's funny: I've been approached on the dance floor in Spain by people who recognize me from Longhorns, so things have a funny way of traveling out to all parts of the world and making a difference.
So that's my hope for me and for everyone, really, that we are all doing things that we are passionate about, that we are putting ourselves out there, and letting that travel wherever it may go, and hopefully it touches people and makes the world just a little bit better. (October 19, 2018)
ON MAKING AN IMPACT
MK:Speaking on the same subject of impact, making an impact: What was probably the most impactful moment of your life?
Melissa Etheridge: Impact. Wow. Hmm...Wow. Well, I mean, first to come to mind is my children. There's something about having children that really changes you. I mean it changed me from being a very, well, self-centered of a gay rock star, which, you know, where do you find children in there, you know? I had no plans of that at all. And then they came into my life. And it completely changed my understanding of what I'm here for. And why I'm here. And thank goodness, because you know, I got my dream at 33. I was a big ol' rock star. Hooray! And my life is so much, so much more than that. I mean I love the performing and the stage, because I love it, because it's an energy that I love sharing. So, the impact of really having children and finding that selflessness, that part of you that, you know, wants to take care of yourself so that you're better for someone else, you know, for my children. That's really had the biggest impact on me. (July 13, 2018, unpublished)
MK:What has impacted both of you the most in the last 20 years?
Dennis Shepard: Matt's death. And the realization that he is not considered a full human being in America with all the rights and privileges of an American citizen born in this country, and raised in the middle of the United States. That's the thing that, to me.
Judy Shepard: Yeah, just completely Matt. It's just literally actually feeling the fear of the community itself. But the hate directed at the communities. Both of those things are powerful and lessons learned.
Dennis Shepard: And overwhelming and disappointing. (September 21, 2018)
MK:Who is your greatest inspiration?
Steven Sawyer: One of my greatest inspirations is Bayard Rustin. Not only was he a brilliant American leader in the Civil Rights Movement, he was an architect of the movement for nonviolence and Gay rights. He advised and provided direction to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and helped organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen King's leadership. Rustin promoted the philosophy of nonviolence and the practices of nonviolent resistance, which he had observed while working with Mahatma Gandhi's movement in India, and helped teach Dr. King about nonviolence while living his life authentically. (August 17, 2018)
MK:I read that your Grandmother was very talented and an inspiration. What was your favorite memory of her?
Randy Rainbow: I used to sleep over at her house on Friday nights when I was a kid and she'd help me run lines for whatever community theater or camp show I was in at the time. She was the funniest. Joan Rivers, Lucille Ball, Bea Arthur and Betty White rolled into one Jewish Grandmother. (March 16, 2018)
MK:You are one of the legendary funny ladies that include Bette Midler, Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller. What did you learn from them over the years?
Rita Rudner: Friends with them all. I met Bette when we were both in Las Vegas. Joan and I shared a theatre at The Venetian in Las Vegas. And Phyllis and I did a film together, plus I have one of Phyllis's paintings hanging in my house. The quality we all have in common is tenacity, which all women in show business need. Except for Meryl Streep. (November 9, 2018)
MK:What does Pride mean to you?
Lakin: Pride is a privilege. The fact that we can celebrate who we are freely is something that I don't take for granted. I'm happy to represent a small part of the LGBT+ community in this celebration. (July 27, 2018)
Serayah: It's a celebration of being your true authentic self. Showing support without judgment or second thought. It's always amazing to see so much positive energy and people creating memories that last forever. (July 6, 2018)
DeAndre Brackensick: Pride is an important time to me, being part of the LGBTQ community, it's a time for me to reflect and remember who I am, is to be celebrated not only for this month but the whole year. Even though we have progressed in the world, it's still hard to be LGBTQ, there's still little kids out there and adults with no support from family, public bullying, even homeless because of who they are. So I think pride is necessary to show not only the world, but most of all our community, that's it's okay to love and live and we'll always have a place in the world. (July 27, 2018)
ON SETTING THE RECORD 'STRAIGHT' - WORLD EXCLUSIVE!
MK:What part of the LGBTQ community do you identify as?
DeAndre Brackensick: I identify as bisexual. (July 27, 2018)
ON PERSONAL CHALLENGES
MK:As a psoriasis sufferer myself, I thank you for being a familiar face on those COSENTYX commercials. Does it work?
Cyndi Lauper: Of course! I would not be a supporter, if I didn't believe in it. Cosentyx allows me to work. I really really suffered and since I have been on it I have been clear for 3 years. (August 24, 2018)
My burning question is usually my last question and I do this to take my subjects by surprise and I personally really want to know the answer to this question.
MK:Finally, you have influenced other queens in town from Aleksa Manila to Gaysha Starr. Describe their best quality in one word.
Arnaldo: I am not sure I was an influence to many other queens as I am least well known among the younger ones unlike Aleksa and Gaysha. Aleksa has been a dear friend for many years and she has influenced me as much I have her. Aleksa to me continues to inspire! She is a smart, talented, kind and motivated human being and we are only starting to see the many achievements she will do in and outside the drag world. Her future is very, very promising! Gaysha and I know each other but are only now starting to get to know MORE of each other. I so appreciate what she does with her philanthropy work and I have always admired her and her work from afar. Seattle is very lucky to have three active and very civic-minded Filipino American queens in Aleksa, Gaysha and Arnaldo! ... sharing what we can in our own unique ways to help make the world a little better for all. (February 23, 2018)
MK:Which one was the best video shoot experience, 'Lost in Emotion' or 'Head to Toe'?
Lisa Lisa: Both. But then again 'Lost in Emotion' was shot in the streets and was the most fun! It was shot during the fair on 116th St. [in Spanish Harlem, NYC] So many people, music, food, etc.!!! I felt right at home! (June 22, 2018)
MK:What would you say to a Queen?
Prince Poppycock: It depends on the Queen, of course! HRH Queen Elizabeth: 'Hellerrrr ... Where are the puppies?' HRH Oprah: 'HelloOoOoOo! Do I get a car too?' HRH Beyoncé: 'Oh oh oh oh oh oh, your Majesty.' (June 15, 2018)
MK:What is coming up in 2019?
Nora Michaels: Next year I plan to create an Audio Book of my Life. Why live it, if I can't tell the stories?! (December 21, 2018)
MK:As I mentioned at the beginning, you have done film, theater, books, stand-up, etc. Is there anything more that you want to do in your career that you haven't had a chance to do yet?
Rita Rudner: Trapeze. (November 9, 2018)
MK:Trump 'fired' you when you were on 'Celebrity Apprentice' in 2010. What would you say to him today?
Cyndi Lauper: Your turn's next! (August 24, 2018)
MK Scott is a Seattle-based arts blogger. Check out his blog at uniteseattlemag.com
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