The Standard Interview

Hot Tea with Morgan McMichaels

Fix your hair, fix your mug, and check yourself, because Morgan McMichaels is in the house. The season 2 and All Stars 3 alum of RuPaul's Drag Race is an undisputed icon. With a sharp tongue, quick wit and acrobatic performances, she is a queen unmatchable in charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. Last week, Lady McMichaels came to The Standard, East Village for our weekly Drag Race viewing party in narcbar and dished some scalding hot tea before taking the stage.

Let’s go back to the beginning. You were on the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, what was your impression of season one that made you want to audition?
Oh, girl, all those years ago! I was obsessed with season one. I had friends on it, and was enamored with it. Plus, the cast was so diverse. We got all different types of drag, with Tammie Brown, Nina Flowers, fashion from Ongina, the cute boy, hot drag queen thing from Jade. I thought it was so fabulous.

At that time, where were you in your drag career?
I was the drag daughter of Chad Michaels and I worked in his show Dreamgirls which was the highest caliber of drag show you can be in. They’ve been in California thirty-something years. Frank Marino’s Divas and La Cage in Vegas were the shows that made you a successful queen. When Drag Race came around, it changed the whole face of drag.

Were you scouted for the show or did you seek it out?
I didn’t know if there would be a season three, to be honest, and didn’t want to miss a lifetime opportunity. Looking back, I should have waited and honed my craft more because I felt season two I was Morgan as Pink, or as Annie Lennox. I was more of a character illusionist.

I’m not sure that’s entirely true; you have such a strong personality I feel like we got to know you.
Well you either love me or hate me. I’m quite polarizing.

We love you. And are still obsessed with your lip sync to “2 of Hearts” when you sent Sonique home. That performance is iconic, had you performed it prior to the show?
No, I always wing it. I love music so much I dance to what I thought it would be in a music video. You have to embody the artist and what the song represents and have fun. Drag is fun, and a lot of people forget that.  

Do you think that fun has gotten lost in the later seasons of Drag Race?
I don’t know, but [the queens are] a lot more censored because they don’t want to upset people or be viewed as the villain. The girls are now very guarded. Not me. Don’t care! You saw me on All Stars 3.

How was that experience for you, so many years later?
It was night and day. Nothing was like season two. Granted I lasted longer then, but it was such a different animal. The challenges were harder, and the bar each season is raised. If you’re going to be a superstar, Ru is not going to make it easy for you. It wasn’t easy for her.

Who are you still tight with from your season?
My girls are Raven, Nicole, Sonique. Juju and Pandora. At the time I didn’t like Mystique or Tatianna, but they are two of my closest friends now. It was a competitive setting, and we were away from our families and social media, and tempers ran high. But over the years, anytime a girl comes to California, they stay at my house - Mystique and Tati have both stayed. We hashed it out in person on our season and moved on. Some girls in later seasons hold grudges because they try to be sisters while filming.

Anyone you still have tensions with?
I’m sure some do with me. The only one I have issues with still is Tyra.

Yeah, what happened there?
I may be aggressive with protecting my friends, and I went in with physical violence [after Tyra came after Raven], which wasn’t the way to go. And I unbooked Tyra from my show. But I did make sure she got paid! I know how Raven and Tyra both get, add alcohol into the equation, it was time to blow up. Once that came to the surface, she had told everyone I died. It was juvenile. And insane. I’ve taken care of Tyra for years, and was one of the few who was on her side. But that negativity and poison eventually caught up with her.

It was pretty major that you took the high road and threw a funeral party for yourself.
Delta Work, who is one of my best friends, told me to kill her with kindness. Be shady in a way that’s not name calling. Read her and let her know that you’re the queen. We had people reach out for interviews for us to come on TV together, but there’s nothing positive about that. Tyra is so talented and so beautiful, but she’s her own worst enemy. I love her but I can’t excuse the public behavior.

Damn. OK so back to All Stars 3, who were your girls?
Shangela and Bebe, since I knew them from previous seasons. My favorite person was Thorgy. I fell in love with her on her season and thought she was the greatest thing ever. She’s mental and I live for it. The New York girls I got along with well. Unfortunately it didn’t last long.

But then you came back! How did the dynamics change during the episodes you missed?
I was very vocal when I returned and that didn’t sit well with some of the girls. I told Dela she was a hypocrite. I’m not angry, I’m forward.

What did you think of Dela’s self-elimination?
You come on the show to be the next superstar, so by doing that you basically wasted someone else’s spot. But she played the game her own way, which is kind of drag superstar material. Ru did it her own way and she became the goddess of drag.

How are you feeling about All Stars 4?
I wish I’d been on this season. I would have been more vocal about the negativity brought by Gia. I would have never let her talk to Farrah Moan the way she did. Her lip syncs are amazing, but her attitude is shitty. She expected respect but didn’t give it.

Anyone you’re rooting for?
I definitely think Trinity is super strong contender, as well as Monique Heart. Naomi Smalls and Monet are floating by. I’m excited to see what Latrice does now that she’s back. It was tense and vocal between her and Monique when she came back. I also thought it spoke to her character when she called herslef “one of the most beloved queens” [in the show’s history]. Everything done outside the competition in that moment doesn’t matter.

Do you think the finale will be a voting system like it was on your All Stars season?
That did play out controversially. A lot of us did stick by our votes, but I don’t think that’ll happen again. Ru will throw another curveball. We can never expect the same thing.

The season 11 cast was just revealed, what do you think of these new queens?
There’s a lot of girls that seem very, very hungry. I like that hustle. They don’t seem like they want to be internet celebrities or the most popular; they are ready to compete. I think there’s going to be twists, turns, and lots of drama.

That whole thing of creating an internet personality for yourself, do you think it’s gone too far with drag?
That’s part of the biz now. Drag Race has changed drag entirely. It’s not just you, you have to be a brand and a business, and have other projects and hustle. We all do our own thing and support each other.


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