Drag Race’s Paloma: “How Being a Drag Queen Opened Professional Doors for Me”

Paloma en drag queen pour sa photo officielle dans Drag Race France

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Posted Jul 14, 2022, 6:00 PMUpdated on Jul 15, 2022 at 12:08 PM

“I used to watch RuPaul's Drag Race in my teens thinking, ‘ It's awesome [d'être dragqueen], I want to do it ! “. When the opportunity arose, I wrote myself a fictional character, Paloma, a drag queen for the short film of the same name, of which I am the actor and the director. That's how Paloma was born. What was supposed to be a fictional character finally became my professional character.

I started acting when I was four years old. At ten years old, I told my mother that I would be an actor and that has never changed. I did a theater baccalaureate in Clermont-Ferrand, my hometown. When I was 18, I continued my studies at Cours Florent in London. I was doing a bit of drag there, playing female characters.

From comedian struggle to drag queen success

At that same age I started working. I've been an actor, director, costume designer, screenwriter, wigmaker… These years of jack-of-all-trades help me a lot in Drag Race. I can pretty much do everything you expect of a drag.

Of course, I auditioned for roles. I believed it! Everyone told me I was going to rock. I worked hard to succeed. However, I did not meet with great success. In most male castings, you had to play a straight, manly character. I have an effeminate voice and manners, long hair. I was advised to cut my hair downright to look more manly.

In fact, I was not in the norm. I put on little polo shirts, plaid shirts. I tried to play the ideal son-in-law, but it didn't really work. It was not me. I don't think an actor can play everything.

DR: Kameliya S.

Finally, I was more a director than an actor for ten years. I struggled, I spent those years putting on shows while having trouble filling the halls. But everything changed when I really got into drag.

I do not stop working so much I am successful. As a drag queen actor, I can take on roles that I wouldn't normally have access to. I am my own director. And besides, I have a lot more role proposals as a drag queen actor, since we are not 50,000 in London…

I am my own director.

Clichés in the political fight

However, I hesitated to apply when the English version of the famous American show Drag Race was launched. It took me two weeks to respond when I learned that my application had been accepted… I was afraid that it would close doors for me as an actor.

I come from theater and auteur cinema. This milieu is snobbish towards comedy, reality TV and popular series… Very few people have carte blanche to switch from one to the other. Aside from Valérie Lemercier or Gérard Depardieu… In short, I took the risk!

There are quite a few boys like me, misrepresented in the theater or in the cinema, who end up in drag. Drag queens have been marginalized for a long time, but they've managed to turn teasing into art and they're enjoying it now. Today, people love us. I think I serve as a role model for a generation that needs to be represented on television. I lead a form of fight for the next generations. I have the power to change their future and educate the public. Whatever we say, being drag is a political act!

Whatever we say, being drag is a political act!

That being said, I'm not fooled. There are still a lot of cliches about drag queens. Because of all these television reports, which always feature the same marginal character in stilettos, people think that when you're in drag, you're either full-time, or you're trans or that we are a sex worker. Yes, we can be trans and drag but we are not always. There are hetero drag! Except that in the cinema, the characters I am offered are always a prostitute, a trans, a transvestite…

Fortunately, there is change! I was recently offered a drag role for season 5 of Balthazar (2023) broadcast on TF1. I had my doubts at first, I thought the role would still be full of clichés. I play a new character in English fiction, both Balthazar's (the main character) best friend and his daughter's babysitter. Staging a drag carrying a baby in her arms is a real political act. We erase the glitter side of the night world that we generally stick to drag. We make a drag queen a person who has a place in society.

After Drag Race?

When the first episode of Drag Race aired, I was afraid we'd get a torrent of homophobia. But not at all, I get messages of support from people in their 40s, sometimes 60s, not at all in the LGBTQIA+ community. You don't have to be from the community to feel involved in the program. Everyone has felt left out once in their life.

I have the impression that the new generation, both men and women, is trying to deconstruct the masculine, virility. That's probably why drag is popular. It's become trendy to have a drag queen on the catwalk!

For my part, I am 184 cm tall. I have to buy made-to-measure. For my part, I manage to manage because I have an intermittent salary… But the job of drag is still very difficult and precarious for many. Many of them are hampered in their creativity.

I have a responsibility that goes beyond my personal ambitions. The drag must be considered as artists in their own right. The challenge for me today is that drag pays for my outfit. I impose a minimum wage, but it must also automatically impose a flat rate for the outfit, the wig and the round trip by taxi. I'm not going to take the metro in London at the risk of getting my ass kicked…

When the show comes out, I want to do shows, movies, or why not a talk show with Paloma. I want to work as long as possible with her. But how long will she be famous?

Last point: I want the public to know the creation, but also the creator. And if tomorrow I direct a film, Paloma will be the actress and Hugo the director. It's important to me that we know both. Paloma has become my Lady Gaga. I am sure that she will open the doors for me to accomplish what I did not succeed with Hugo. We are complementary! »

To note

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