Michelle Visage: RuPaul's Drag Race winning Emmys would make a 'statement to the world'
With a staggering 12 Emmy nominations (one for every reveal during the season 10 finale lip syncs), RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10 blazed a trail for queer visibility on mainstream TV. And, if the television Academy votes with any shred of justice on their ballots, it stands to break a long-standing tradition in the Outstanding Reality-Competition Series category, too. Across the last 15 ceremonies, only three shows — The Amazing Race, The Voice, and Top Chef — have claimed the prize, leaving a huge opportunity for Drag Race to loudly and proudly revolutionize the space.
“Last year [with] the trans movement, I thought it would be a perfect time for us to make a statement, and The Voice won. It’s like, okay, of course it won. Either that or The Amazing Race wins all the time,” co-judge Michelle Visage tells EW. “At the end of the day I think our voices as an LGBTQIA+ community…. it’s more important now than ever before to be united, loud, and strong. Us winning this year would be a loud statement to the world.”
With Emmys voting now underway, EW caught up with Visage to get her opinions on why season 10 deserves all the Emmys — and what it’s going to take for the Academy to recognize her directing skills with a long overdue nomination.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why is now the right time for the TV Academy to champion RuPaul’s Drag Race in both the Outstanding Reality-Competition Program and Outstanding Host for a Reality-Competition Program categories?
MICHELLE VISAGE: Last year [with] the trans movement, I thought it would be a perfect time for us to make a statement, and The Voice won. It’s like, okay, of course it won. Either that or The Amazing Race wins all the time…. At the end of the day I think our voices — especially now, because last year we were under the current administration, but it hasn’t been as much buffoonery as it is now — as an LGBTQIA+ community, it’s more important now than ever before to be united, loud, and strong. Us winning this year would be a loud statement to the world.
It’s sort of a metaphor for the community in some ways, this niche show growing and expanding to be heard.
It’s almost like the only time in history this has ever been done. The show started very small on our beautiful sister network [Logo] for queer programming, and that’s what we are: a queer-based television show serving the community. It very slowly grew every year with higher ratings…. And we’re still getting higher ratings for season 10. And that’s kind of like the community: It’s always been very small and quiet, and it got louder and louder until Stonewall burst the doors open…. it’s symbolic in many ways.
Most of the other shows in this category are defined by one element: The Voice‘s competitors sing, The Amazing Race has people… well… racing… but this show fuses so many of those elements into something totally unique.
The Voice is great and they were fun and innovative…. And The Amazing Race shows the power of relationships through adversity, but it’s really about physical and mental endurance. RuPaul’s Drag Race…. is very little about boys who dress up in girls’ clothing: it’s very much about grit, integrity, heart, power of perseverance, and the power of love. It’s also opening a dialogue up about the persecution and the marginalization of trans people, of queer people, of gender non-binary and gender fluid people…. Gay conversion therapy, religion, all these things that are taboo and affect everybody in queer culture but are rarely talked about, especially on a TV platform that isn’t hard news. It encompasses everything that is so important to a queer child’s life and even those who aren’t children but have suffered silently and haven’t had anybody to talk to or understand what they’ve gone through. And that’s what makes the show really special.
Love her or hate her, The Vixen started a conversation about racism that the other girls ran with during the show and even after the show.
I think The Vixen’s conversation is valid, important, and necessary…. I think the fandom needs to be responsible for that as well. Not to take anything away from what she was saying, but it got really ugly this year. And there were ugly things said about Eureka’s size, too, and so much hate being thrown against her. The things that I saw from our fandom mortified me and it gets to a point of being hateful, and that’s not what this show represents at all. We have to be responsible for ourselves, and there’s something lacking. People need to check themselves before they say such vile things, but I think The Vixen needs to keep doing what she’s doing with her Black Girl Magic shows…. I think it’s important, and the fandom definitely needs to hear what she’s saying.
Did it surprise you that these contestants like Vixen, Blair St. Clair, and Dusty Ray Bottoms brought up these serious issues of race, rape in the gay community, and conversion therapy, and that they also stuck as much as they did within the fandom and community?
Did it surprise me? No, because I lived through the AIDS crisis, which is still not over. These are things that need to be talked about and have always been talked about in my circle of friends, having lost so many to AIDS and drugs and sex workers being killed on the job. For me, no, this has always been a part of my life as an ally in the community. What’s amazing is that we have such a beautiful platform like VH1 that allows it to make the edit. A lot of stations might go, ‘Nope, this is too heavy,’ but this 100 percent has a place in our community and in our world. These are things that need to be talked about. I’m glad that World of Wonder goes with it and VH1 sticks to it.
And credit — as well as another Emmy — should go to RuPaul for being not only a great host, but also casting all of these dynamic, interesting girls who had great chemistry together and made season 10 as memorable as it was.
He’s the executive producer! And not only that, he’s lived this life. Every challenge, he’s done in real life; they come from his brain. He handpicked every single one of those queens. He’s gotten a lot of sh— over the years, and he’ll tell you: [People said] he’s not black enough or he’s this or he’s that, and he has fought those things…. I think some of these younger kids, no matter their color, no matter their status in society, financial or otherwise, have to listen to that…. 100 percent Ru is hands-on and has lived these things, and I think that’s why he casts people who have a story to tell. The story is super important and Ru related to that in many ways, but I also think Ru is a person who will take responsibility for his actions and his past and wants to teach these kids how to do the same thing.
Can we be real for a second though: You were snubbed in the directing category for helming Breastworld. As one of our nation’s great directors who consistently makes incredible shorts within the show, how do you suggest we change that?
You couldn’t be more correct. I’m so sick of being snubbed! [Laughs.] What they really do need to do, though, is start a judging category, because there are so many of us out there now. We had to fight to get reality TV competition an Emmy category, so maybe I have to petition for judges, too. It’s going to take a while for me to get the director nomination, I’ve got to be honest with you.
Yeah, I don’t think there’s ever going to be a “Best Director of a Satirical Short Within an Existing Reality-Competition Program” category!
There friggin’ should be!
You would be a multi-winner if that category existed.
Bless your heart! Don’t tell Ross Mathews and Carson Kressley!