January 08 2019

Hot Tea with Laila McQueen: How She Relates to Anna Nicole Smith

New York-The Standard Interview
Alright ladies, let's turn up the juice and see what shakes loose... It's Laila McQueen! The RuPaul's Drag Race season 8 queen came by The Standard, East Village to serve up spooks and shows for narcbar's weekly drag party, Miss Girl. Before storming the stage, Ms. McQueen dished with us about her adoring fan base, staying afloat as a drag queen in a fishing village, and how she relates to Anna Nicole Smith.
Hey, Laila McQueen. Happy 2019! Do you have any new year’s resolutions?
I feel I am always on different journeys at different times. Just because the number changes, I don’t think everything resets, you know? I’d like to still have a job and pay my rent, so that’s always the goal. And beyond that, it’s to fully Anna Nicole someone and get rich. 

Ha! Well you have an amazing European tour coming up. Who would you say is the core of your fan base you see on the road?
Definitely a lot of underage, sad girls. Like the ones who hang out at the mall because their parents “just don’t get them.” That’s my drag: nostalgia meets emo, meets 80’s rock. Like, my parents still don’t get me. 

Do your parents come to your shows?
They do, when I’m at my hometown bar [in Gloucester, Massachusetts].

Is that a gay bar?
Oh, there aren’t gay bars in Gloucester. We used to do shows at this tiny restaurant on the water, and we performed on the dock. Literally. There’s one coffee bar that all the homosexuals hang out, at but no gay bars.

The Standard
How was it being a drag queen in a community with no LGBTQ spots?
A nightmare. I’m gay and weird, and like unconventional things, and I was queer and androgynous before I know what those things were. So in a small town where everyone knows everyone with no nightlife, it was bad. I grew up watching Rocky Horror and Party Monster and I remember thinking I couldn’t wait to be of age so I could experience all these things.

What’s it like meeting kids like that at your gigs and shows?
It’s surreal because I was one of them, and I still don’t see myself as a celebrity, or whatever, so it’s humbling and shocking. I love that they are getting inspiration and hope from me that I only got from movies and music. And it’s really cute when they come wearing looks of mine. They always have [my signature] heart on the cheek, or blue eye shadow. Lots of blue eye shadow. I wish rich men who were obsessed with me and wanted to give me cash was my fan base, but I love the ones I have.  

Your makeup style is super unique and severe. Where’d it come from?
I never tried to follow makeup trends, I just learned my own face and angles. I don’t like bushy brows, and I try to look mean. Like, Raven always looks so snatched and pulled, but she paints really big because she has a larger face. When I do that, I look like I’m a fan waiting in line to meet Trixie Mattel.

That’s funny! And leads me to the next question: RuPaul’s Drag Race. What was your path to the show?
Basically, I was doing drag for work and watched the show. It’s cool, and it’s a huge platform. I auditioned three times: the first time I just tossed my name in the ring, the second, I tried too hard, and the third I was just myself. I was a total idiot. When I got the call I thought I was being punked because they were so nonchalant and chill about it. They were basically like “Hey what’s up, you’re on season 8 of Drag Race.”

The Standard
The Standard
Tell us about the photo shoot with all the Drag Race winners on your first episode. 
It was terrifying. The whole experience was terrifying. When I sat down, Raja grabbed my hand and congratulated me, which was nice. But I was a big fish in a small pond [before the show], and then never having done drama as a kid, production and TV was a lot to me. I watched the show as a fan, so, like, peeking behind the Wizard of Oz threw me for a loop.

What was one of the weirdest things about seeing behind the curtain?
It’s a lot of awkward silences, and multiple takes for things. All the soundbites, music and rhythms on the final edit you see on TV keeps the show moving, but without it you’re in a quiet, cold studio saying all these things. It’s weird.

Who on your cast did you click or disagree with?
I was intimidated. Everyone had loud abrasive personalities. But we all got along for the most part. I wasn’t there long enough to make enemies [laughs]. I guess Dax and I aren’t really friends though. 
The Standard
Was it totally awkward backstage after your double elimination with her?
When you do the exit interviews, you’re usually alone so you can say your piece, but Dax would not shut up. She kept yammering on and on and interrupted me. I was like, these are union workers, Dax, hurry it up!

How did the show help evolve your drag?
I think even if I wasn’t on the show, I would have still grown and evolved. That’s the process of being an artist and entertainer. But Drag Race immediately puts attention on you and speeds up the process. 

If asked, would you go back for an All Stars season?
I’d go back for any more air time. I’d love to return and show I look better now than I did then, and I’m not totally nervous all of the time. Just a lot of the time.

Writer
Cameron Keady
Photographer
Morgan T. Stuart