When Sharon Needles picks up the phone for our interview, it is obvious she is in the middle of something important. We quickly learn she’s getting ready for the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 premiere party, taking place in LA that night. Earlier, Sharon flew like a bat outta hell to Dior and bought a $3,000 man’s suit (complete with size 28 belt). Jokingly, the queen from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, who couldn’t book a Pride gig to save her life only a year ago, says, “I was racking my brain about what dress to wear, and then it just struck me that nothing spells superstar like showing up out of drag to your own event. It’s really a throwback to RuPaul. If I’m not getting paid, the wig’s not going on.” At that moment things become very clear: Sharon Needles, the macabre, Satan-loving drag queen — who makes her Toronto debut in February — has reached RuPaul’s level. And the bitch deserves it.
Darryl Mabey: It’s been a whole year since RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 premiered.
Sharon Needles: It’s only been a year?
Only a year, my dear.
You know, it’s like a dream; you can’t really tell the time.
How has your life changed, if you could summarize it a little?
I don’t worry about how to pay the rent bill or how I’m going to get cat food. The only thing I worry about now is my own personal time and home life. Being on RPDR has really taken my kind of punk-rock aesthetic and shell and put it on the main stage, which has taken me everywhere all over the Unites States. I just got back from Europe. I’ve done two plays, and I’ve been modelling, doing community service work with PETA. It’s allowed me to dive into every avenue of fame that there is, which is always what I wanted, but I kind of have that personality that once you got it you kind of question why you needed it.
Do you even have a bucket list anymore? It seems like you’ve checked it all off.
That’s really funny because I use that word a lot . . .
Same with me.
It started off with Episode 1 [of RPDR], with meeting Elvira, and just ended with me doing a European tour. And everything in between, from stage acting, television, hosting, modelling . . . I’m looking for things that are on my bucket list, but I found that when you get a taste of what you’ve always wanted, the most important things, really, are family, friends, pets and home.
Absolutely. And speaking of pets, how is your cat Cerrone doing? I remember when he went missing, after you won the show, and eventually you found him, thank god.
Cerrone went missing for 11 days, and it was a terrifying experience, but it was also really grounding and humbling. I remember thinking in my head when my cat was gone how much I would give up to have him back. I would give up my crown. I would give up my prize money. I was prepared to really let things go, and I wonder how many people who seek fame really have that type of objective in their brain. I’m so glad I still have it. Fame hasn’t turned me into a total monster!
Tell us about the moment when RuPaul announced you as the winner of RPDR Season 4. I know they had pre-taped three alternative endings with the three finalists to keep it a complete surprise, so you were watching it with friends and family, like we all were . . .
Going into the show, I knew I wasn’t going to win, and the second the show aired I knew I wasn’t going to win. But when it started ticking down towards the end — no tea, no shade — I had a feeling there was a good chance that I could win. Then I started thinking about the way RuPaul’s Drag Race works, and the winner usually ends up surprising and shocking the audience. So I was prepared not to own that crown. But when I did win, it was just the most surreal thing ever. Going from someone who treated drag as a drunken hobby and then having one of your childhood idols tell you you’re the most important drag queen in the entire world for one calendar year is very surreal, very humbling, embarrassing and exciting.
As Chad Michaels [Season 4 finalist and winner of RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race] said, you showed up with a bag of dirty laundry and you made it happen.
Right! And she showed up with a million costumes and didn’t win. [laughs]
You won more challenges than anyone else in your season. How did you manage that?
It’s weird, but I love challenges; I love theme parties. If someone said everyone has to show up in purple, I’m not gonna be the one that says I don’t want to do it. I get so excited about not only complying, but manipulating what I’m being asked for. So for every challenge I always tried to play by the rules but inject a ridiculous amount of Sharon Needles right into it. If you watch Episode 2, the “girly-girl” runway-look challenge, I knew everyone was going to wear pink, so I wore vomit green or, like, a baby-shit mustard. Just because I knew it was playing to her [RuPaul’s] rules, but it was still taking a step back. For the rest of the competition, that’s all I wanted to do — was remain myself, which is —
Which is the best thing to do . . .
And good enough to beat them but different enough to be remembered.
Absolutely, and you definitely did that. Now tell us about your new album, PG-13.
It was so great doing it. I worked with not just myself, but the great RuPaul, Amanda Lepore and the punk-rock legendary transsexual Jayne County. I also do a track with my boyfriend/girlfriend Alaska Thunderfuck [who will be competing on Season 5 of RPDR]. It’s fantastic, and it’s a contradiction between club music and my own self.
Love it. I’m so excited about your album, I have to say. I’m going to be eating it up.
Well, thank you.
You’re going to be performing in Toronto on Feb 2 at fly nightclub. Have you ever been to Toronto? What can we expect from your performances?
I’ve never been there before, but I used to spend a lot of time in Montreal, which I know is the last thing they’d like to hear. I know that there’s a vibrant gay scene and that their Pride is one of the best in the world, and I have great friends who travel long distances just to spend Pride in Toronto. And for any fan that’s coming to see the Sharon Needles show in Toronto, first of all I want to say thank you for spending the money, and I apologize for the terrible performance you’re about to watch. No, just joking, it’s going to be something that’s beautiful, spooky and, of course, always stupid. I’ll be popping out of a coffin; I’ll be doing three songs off of my album. I’m not only going to represent RuPaul’s Drag Race at large, but also queens that can actually sing live and put 100 percent into being a complete Ru-Tard.
I can’t fucking wait. So what is the one thing you must have in your drag bag when you travel?
Alcohol. If I don’t look that pretty . . . you know I’ll get prettier after a couple of shots.
Oh please, don’t we all.
And being in Canada at this time of the year, you best believe I will be doing a couple shots of whiskey before I even touch the earth. Canada is colder than my morgue!
Do you have any advice for anyone who is thinking of doing drag for the first time?
To the queen who wants to do drag for the first time . . . RuPaul always says, “What other people think of you is none of your goddamned business,” and that really applies to a drag queen. I always say, “When in doubt, freak ’em out.” Leave them with a message; make sure you stand out from the crowd. And as Lady Bunny always says, “Retire!”
If the three famous words to describe you are beautiful, spooky and stupid, what are the three words you would use to describe RuPaul?
Legendary, standard . . . and black.
Well, thank you so much for talking with us today.
Well, thank you for wanting to still talk to me even though my reign is almost up.
Oh please. Those queens have nothing on you, I’m sure.
[laughs] They don’t.
Thank you so much, and happy Halloween to you too, baby. Hail Satan.
See Sharon live at Fit at Fly, Sat, Jan 2 at fly nightclub 8 Gloucester St
$15 before midnight, $20 after $10 all night if you come in full drag (no comfortable shoes!)
Showtime is 11:30
Sharon’s album, PG-13, is now available.
Catch Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race every Monday on OUTtv.
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