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Interview: Rilan Wants to Bring Pop Music Back

Rilan has lofty goals. He wants to “save pop.” Bringing the joy back to a genre that’s caught up in moodiness will be difficult, to say the least. However, the Glee alumni and androgynously-voiced LGBT singer has a level of confidence that suggests he might just have the grit to do it. 

Photo: Edward Aninaru

Photo: Edward Aninaru

Derek: What did you take from starring as a Warbler on Glee that has helped you most in your career since?

Rilan: Do your job. That sounds obvious, but it’s forgotten by the majority of people in Hollywood. Working on the Paramount lot was incredible. There’s history and fame and glitz and glam all around you, but it’s a distraction from why you’re really there — to do your job. You have to focus, and you have to work. People really do forget that. When you don’t, you start to feel special, and then elitist, and then above criticism, and then you’re fired. I saw it happen. It’s a shame, but it happens all the time. I never partook in any on-set shenanigans. Honestly, the cast and choreographers nicknamed me “Quiet,” because I barely spoke unless I was spoken to. I’m a bit of a loner, but I’m not ashamed of it. It’s what makes me “me,” and I think a lot of people can relate. I think introversion is interesting. I’m more inspired by what goes on in my own head when I’m alone than sports cars and diamonds and LA bullshit. Art is what drives me, not fame or money or lifestyle. I’m an anti-socialite. 

D: Your new single “Love or Drugs” is super upbeat in a time where commercial pop is mostly mid-tempo and a little boring. What was your inspiration for the fun sound?

R: Thank you. That’s the biggest compliment to me. Music is boring right now. It’s all about “vibes” or whatever that means. I’ve never “vibed” before in my life, nor do I want to. Music should make you feel, not numb you. My goal as a writer is for my music to wake you up and move you, be that emotionally or physically or both. I grew up on ‘70s glam rock and ‘80s synth pop. The songs of yesteryear were exciting and dangerous and thought-provoking. That’s pop music, not “vibes.” I’m here to bring back pop, because it’s about damn time someone did. 

Photo: Edward Aninaru

Photo: Edward Aninaru

D: Your voice on “Love or Drugs” sounds androgynous in the best of ways. Was this a conscious stylistic choice?

R: I think my voice is naturally pretty androgynous. I have a bright tone and a higher range, probably a product of theatre. I always have. When I first moved to Los Angeles, every producer I worked with hated my voice. They said it was too theatrical and nasally and would always want to replace my background vocals with another singer’s to mask my voice. It made me insecure at first, but finally I just said, “Fuck it,” and found new colleagues who actually understood me. You see, most people in music are trend-followers. They want a hit, and they think that the quickest way to get one is to make a song that sounds like everything else. But that’s not what makes a hit. A great song makes a hit. An artist makes a hit, and an artist is someone who is unafraid to be different, go against the grain, and gives the world something they haven’t heard or seen before. That’s a hit — the new, not the trendy. I’ll never have a voice like the whisper singers of today who dominate the radio, and that’s okay. Like it or not, you will recognize my voice when you hear it. 

D: Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations, past and present?

R: I love artists who have their own perspective. I grew up on David Bowie, Prince, and Madonna. As I got older, I discovered darker artists like Soft Cell, Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson, and fell in love all over again. They were different, but not far from one another. My idols were all passionate performers. It’s passion that excites me. Whether it’s dance-pop or industrial rock, if it’s honest and palpable, I’m inspired. A point of view is what differentiates simply a performer from an artist. A performer imitates life. An artist creates their own world and invites you inside. Currently, that’s Marina and the Diamonds, Melanie Martinez, and Lady Gaga. Those are some artists I admire nowadays. They don’t live in this world, and I don’t think anyone should. I’m sure as hell never gonna. 

Photo: Edward Aninaru

Photo: Edward Aninaru

D: As a pop artist, are there any holy grail producers you hope to work with someday?

R: I will work with anyone who wants to work with me. To be honest, you never know what’s going to happen until you get in the studio with someone. It’s usually the people you never expect who surprise you the most. Still, there are always dream collaborators. I’d love to work with Max Martin. He’s the pop Jesus, only more reliable. Just the sheer amount of Britney Spears hits he’s done is a testament to what a fantastic writer and producer he is. It would be an honor. I’d also love to work with Bonnie McKee and Justin Tranter. Bonnie did almost all of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream hits, as well as her own music. She’s ’80’s-inspired, high-energy pop perfection, and her sense of song structure makes my OCD brain so happy. Her work has certainly influenced my writing. Justin Tranter is famous for writing for Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, but I’ve been a huge fan since I was in high school. He was the frontman of Semi Precious Weapons, an outlandish glam-grunge band from New York City who opened for Gaga through every leg of her Monster Ball. I saw them live ten years ago and fell in love. He’s ridiculous and perfect. I have a big list, so I’ll keep you updated. 

D: Is there an album in the works, and if so, do you have any tea to spill on it?

R: There’s always an album in the works. I feel like if there isn’t, why are you even releasing music? I think of writing songs as creating a new planet. Each project is an island in my fantasy world. Sometimes songs merge together to create a larger continent. Sometimes they stand alone in the sea of my ideas. Regardless, they’re all a part of my world. Right now, I’m on the “Island of Satire.” It’s Hollywood exposed. It’s everything people do here, but don’t want to talk about. I’m going to talk about it. It’s going to be weird and dark and artistic, but it’s going to be pop, and it’s going to be good. 

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D: What has been the response so far from people you’ve played “Love or Drugs” for?

R: It’s been good so far. People seem to move to the beat and start singing along before it ends. That’s honestly the best thing I can ask for. When my friends first heard it, they were like, “You’re antisocial and this is all about party culture. Why?” But if you listen again, you’ll get it. It’s satire. It’s about all the Hollywood parties I’m not invited to. This is the first stop on my “Island of Satire.” A lot more is coming and all of you are welcome here. 

Music Video


What was your favorite episode of Glee? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

Interview: Mercedes Iman Diamond Talks Being the First Muslim Drag Queen on RuPaul's Drag Race

This interview also appears as the cover story of Issue 136 of Twin Cities Gay Scene magazine.

Photo: Twin Cities Gay Scene

Photo: Twin Cities Gay Scene

“Opalence, you earn everything!” 

Mercedes Iman Diamond is the reigning meme queen from the current Season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She also is located right here in Minneapolis, hosting weekly Drag Race viewing parties at the Gay 90s. I caught up with our hometown hero to talk about how her expectations of the top reality TV competition have differed from her real life experience. 

Derek: RuPaul’s Drag Race has a massive fandom. What were your social media notifications like the first 24 hours after you were announced?

Mercedes Iman Diamond: Everyone was filling my social media with the best love and support I could ever ask for! It took me a little bit to realize how this would change and affect my career and my everyday life.

D: How does it feel to represent Minneapolis on a national stage?

MID: I have always considered my home to be Minneapolis, this city has shown me so much loyalty and kindness — even at times I wasn’t the most deserving, they have stuck by my side! I’m forever grateful to represent Minnesota at the best of my ability.

D: Where are you most excited to tour? 

MID: Entertaining is my first love, and my second love is pleasing the fans! I have been very fortunate to already live my dreams as a entertainer 5 nights a week. I am most excited to see the fans and meet new friends I make on the road. Seeing the world is a opportunity of a lifetime, and should not be taken lightly — and trust, I don’t take this for granted! I am soaking up every minute of this year!

Photo: VH1

Photo: VH1

D: Has the Drag Race experience been what you had expected? 

MID: Yes and no; it’s not what you see on TV. It’s even harder taping the show. Being up for 18 hours a day without a break, tucked, loaded — and no pee breaks — yes, it’s a LONG DAY!

D: You are the first Muslim queen in RuPaul’s Drag Race herstory. You spoke about this in your Meet the Queens interview. Have you had a lot of LGBT Muslim individuals reach out to you since the cast reveal?

MID: I have had nothing but positive responses to my coming out as Muslim and being in the GLBTQA spectrum. [It has] been nothing short of a blessing. I am a human like everyone else. I want others to know that we’re all made to be a beacon of light in our own communities, and to show thy true self! I have had the fortunate opportunity to show the world that religion shouldn’t affect how you live your dreams, and being true to yourself only will help you love and live your life to its full potential.

D: Where are you now? I saw you just did the BUILD Series interview in New York. 

MID: I currently am touring! Check out my social media for future dates.

D: Did fellow Minnesota queen and Season One winner Bebe Zahara Benet give you any advice, coming into the Drag Race family?

MID: I haven't had much time to speak to her, so unfortunately, no.

D: Are you musical? Can we expect an album or singles in the future? 

MID: You might see a single from me in the future; you never know! 

D: If you could achieve one big career goal within the next five years, what would it be?

MID: To aspire more Muslim queens to show their art and artistry. To inspire others to be true themselves, and never give up on what they believe is their destiny — and what they know to be true themself!


Who’s your favorite Season 11 queen? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

The Drag Roast of Heklina Brings the Heat and the Laughs

The Revry original is juicy and worth binging on 

Photo: Revry

Photo: Revry

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Drag queen roasts are currently a hot topic in the queer news sector, and for good reason; they always make a splash. By their very nature, roasts bring out the ultimate shade, which stems from shared love. A queen can only adequately roast their sister — or their frenemy. It’s a fool’s errand to try and roast someone you don’t know. 

That’s why The Drag Roast of Heklina is so brilliant. The Cheyenne Picardo-directed Revry original is a riotous, one hour, 20 minute-long Castro Theatre production starring some of the biggest queens in the game. From RuPaul’s Drag Race winners Bob the Drag Queen, Jinkx Moonsoon and Alaska, to legends like Julie Brown, Jackie Beat, Sister Roma, and Peaches Christ, everyone is there for the one reason: to skewer Heklina, their friend and guest of honor. 

In our community of devout Drag Race fans, specials like The Roast of Heklina are important. There are queens on and off cable television that are worth our attention — and that’s just “the tea” for today.

Watch The Drag Roast of Heklina here

Trailer


What are your favorite moments from the roast? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

Review: Trinity Taylor's Love for the Art Tour in Minneapolis

The season 9 stunner and All Stars 4 frontrunner held the Flip Phone-presented competition at The Pourhouse

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Trinity the Tuck emerged on The Pourhouse stage with an energetic lip-sync performance of the hypnotic, dark pop Kim Petras bop “Turn Off the Light (feat. Elvira).” Her tight lip sync, gorgeous ruffled outfit and energetic strutting got the night off to a fun start. 

She then threw herself into full-on MC mode, introducing the concept of her Love for the Art Tour, a nationwide series of drag competitions starring local queens. Minneapolis was the sixth tour stop so far, and as the night went on, she declared it the tightest competition yet. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

The talented Trinity MCed the competition with self-effacing humor, like telling the audience she would weigh 100 pounds if it weren’t for the “85 pounds of silicon” in her body. The first round was a look presentation, with each of the contestants showcasing a gag-worthy drag couture. The audience took the competition seriously, too, as I noticed a few people with paper and pen keeping track of their favorites.

  • Carińo came out in a blush-colored belted gown, and vamped along to a monologue about drag that transitioned into a Spanish-language pop song.

  • Allota Shots brought everyone back to the 90s wearing by their best Magic School Bus drag (literally, they stepped out of a bus they was wearing around their hips). From planets on their head, to makeup and hair inspired by Miss Frizzle, and a galaxy-pattern dress, the look was out of this world. Their look presentation was soundtracked to the show’s theme song, too. Trinity the Tuck said, “If drag doesn’t work out for you, you’ll be an arts and crafts genius, bitch!”

  • Giselle Ovarmé showcased an iridescent, crystallized costume with a silhouette reminiscent of The Fame Monster-era Lady Gaga. A haunting atmospheric track played in the background. Trinity thought Giselle looked like a mermaid.

  • Drag queen and king Meshika Shadows first appeared in a pink glitter gown with a long, flowing white train. The train was so big someone had to help them walk it down the stairs. They showcased the sparkling, flowing beauty of the piece while P!nk’s “What About Us” played.

  • The statuesque Laydee Swallowz donned a slim-fitting, glittery, star-covered dress with a matching headpiece. It was accentuated with dark aquamarine drapes hanging off their arms. Old Hollywood music hung in the background. They went above and beyond by getting on a microphone to describe their look as “glamour and Lisa Frank.”

  • Victoria Boom Boom Gotti rocked a stunning curled wig, which was perhaps the best hair of the night. Their black glittered dress caught the eye of many fans, and they received some of the most generous tips of the night. The chill R&B song “Queen” by Jessie J was a sensual backing track to their presentation.

  • Ty Torres wore a large feathered piece around their shoulders, and a matching feathered headpiece. The shoulder piece came off in two, as handheld fans they waved around for the audience. Trinity the Tuck was impressed, shouting, “Come on full production, let’s get sickening!” 

  • Local favorite Martina Marraccino of Queer Circus wore an ornate green dress with plants coming from it. It contrasted beautifully against their bright red gloves and stilettos. Their silver headpiece sparkled, and had plant life bursting out the top. Trinity joked about being “hypnotized” by this performer in the dressing room. “Don’t ‘dickmatize’ me, bitch!”

  • The gorgeous Moéh stood tall in a pink dress with a squiggle design, a black belt and black shoulder pads. Their blonde-with-dark-roots wig recalled Madonna’s Hard Candy era hair looks.

  • Rosie Bottoms wowed the crowd wearing a red wig, and a floral print dress with a large bird puppet coming out the front. The puppet was hand-operated, and created the illusion that they were riding on its back. This was achieved by Rosie wearing long stilts on their legs, covered with bird leg-patterned material.

  • Priscilla Yuicy did their best runway walk onto the stage, soundtracked to Rihanna’s “Phresh Off the Runway.” They rocked a large updo, a green felt jacket, and long silver boots. The coat came off to reveal a silver, chain mail-inspired dress. The music transitioned into an audio recording of Samirah Raheem’s epic anti-slut shaming conversation with Jesse Peterson, which has gone viral. 

Round two was the performance category, which included lip synced performances and even some live instrumentation. DJ Izzie P kept things moving with minimal downtime between performers’ tracks.

  • The bouncy Carińo broke it down to a Spanish-Language dance track. Their intricate arm choreography and death drop were so good, Trinity asked them to teach the audience how to pronounce their name so they wouldn’t mess it up.

  • Allota Shots came out dressed like Mary Poppins, umbrella and all. They performed along to a dubstep mega mix of songs from the classic Disney flick. Shots even spiced Poppins up by taking off their overcoat to reveal a slinky bodysuit underneath. The performance inspired Trinity the Tuck to troll the crowd, saying, “If you can spell ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’ I’ll give you $500… and if you believe me, I’m lying!” 

  • Double entendre queen Giselle Ovarmé straddled a venue staircase as they entered wearing large, holographic angel wings and a shiny costume. The iridescent outfit played well in the stage lights, soundtracked to a lip-sync of “The Cold” by Exitmusic. During the final chorus, the angel wings were revealed to be rigged with dazzling LED lights.

  • Meshika Shadows slayed in a green, glittery kimono-shaped dress. They showed off their lip-sync skills to P!nk’s cover of “A Million Dreams” from the film The Greatest Showman, before a high energy transition into Katy Perry’s “Part of Me,” including several many cartwheels back and forth across the stage. Trinity was impressed by the full costume change Shadows did between the two songs. 

  • Laydee Swallowz donned a short, white 1920s flapper dress. Their lip-sync was to Miss Shirley Bassey’s legendary vocal recording of “History Repeating.” She had a classy updo with gems in it. They had several layers which came off, including a chest piece that revealed a pink triangle, and a back piece that revealed the word “RESIST.” They ended the performance with a fist of power. Trinity the Tuck complemented their Bob Fosse-inspired moves. 

  • Victoria Boom Boom Gotti came correct with a remix of Kesha’s “Woman." Gotti led the crowd in a clap-along as they yanked off a smock that revealed a black body suit underneath, complete with revealing cutouts. Their high energy choreo stunned the audience, as did their death drop into a rain of cash. Trinity was also shook, stating “I wouldn’t wanna lip sync against her.”

  • Ty Torres came back to deliver an amazing performance of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” by Charlie Daniels. Torres’ denim cowboy look with human and devil makeup on either side of their face perfectly fit the song’s lyrics. Torres did not have a fiddle like the song references, saxophone, which they played live. “That’s a talent,” Trinity declared. 

  • Martina Marraccino returned to the mic for an impressive live vocal performance of “A Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga. Their singing showed restraint, was on pitch, and sounded great alongside a live-sounding acoustic guitar recording. Their yellow and black cow-print smock was hilarious and went with the country sound of the track. Their vibrato was gorgeous, and a fellow audience member agreed with me. Trinity couldn’t resist referencing her All Stars 4 sister Monique Heart by saying, “Yes, yellow cow stunning!” 

  • Moéh lip-synced Florence and the Machine’s 2018 cover of the classic song “Stand by Me.” The stage lights accentuated Moéh’s gorgeous white wig and pink and silver gown. 

  • Rosie Bottoms came for blood with a high-energy performance of “Scheiße” by Lady Gaga. Wearing an aquamarine, see-through lace jumpsuit and white slouchy boots, Bottoms brought the house down with big choreography. This included a death drop which went into high-octane floor choreography. An astounded Trinity said, “I’m out of breath just watching her. I need to go to the emergency room!”

  • Priscilla Yuicy also brought the heat with the Ciara song “Got Me Good”; cool timing, because Ciara was a guest judge on that night’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4. Their red glitter cape come off to reveal an orange dress with a black lace back. In a twist of events, that dress also came off, unveiling a jeweled red bodysuit. Like Bottoms before them, Juicy dropped to the floor to do intricate floorwork. Yuicy's dancing here was some of the fiercest of the night. 

After Bottoms and Yuicy almost literally brought The Pourhouse down with their savage, high-energy performances, Trinity the Tuck welcomed all the contestants back to the stage. She delivered a powerful speech about how much the night and the tour at large meant to her, before asking the crowd to vote for their favorite performers by cheering the loudest for their pick. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

One by one, contestants were lovingly eliminated and thanked for their work. Lots of standouts left the stage, before it was down to Rosie Bottoms and Priscilla Yuicy. Bottoms won by a small crowd noise margin, so Trinity declared Yuicy would also advance to the national round of the Love of the Art Tour competition. For their slayage, Bottoms won $500 and Yuicy snatched $100. Trinity thanked the Minneapolis crowd, which was audibly delighted to have two representatives going to Los Angeles. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com


Who’s your favorite drag queen, local to you? Tag them in a tweet to me! @DerekPlease

Interview: Miz Cracker Talks Touring the World After RuPaul's Drag Race

The Season 10 stunner teases what’s to come

Photo from Miz Cracker

Photo from Miz Cracker

Season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race ended in June, but cast standout Miz Cracker has already performed in Minneapolis more times than queens from past seasons! After her third show here in a few months’ time, I got a chance to speak with her about what keeps her coming back for more. 

Derek: Hi, Miz Cracker! Thank you for taking the time to do an interview with me. I had the chance to speak with Monet for the last M&P tour, and she spoke highly of you. What has life been like for you since RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10 ended?

Miz Cracker: It’s December now, and I’m realizing that this has been the most eventful year of my life. Since the show, I’ve visited almost a dozen countries, worked with some of my idols and hosted two national tours. Incredible.

D: Your Drag Race reaction series Review with a Jew is hilarious. Can we expect more during All Stars 4, and possibly even Season 11? 

MC: I don’t think I could show my face to the world if I didn’t continue Review with a Jew. Also, Katelyn my copilot in life would come break my legs. It’s our baby, our “art” and our biggest achievement. 

D: Is there a Miz Cracker album in the works?

MC: I mean, Cher covered ABBA. Is it time for me to cover Cher covering ABBA?

D: What are some of your goals for 2019?

MC: My goal for 2019 is to really put my philosophy to work—show the world that drag can do amazing things for queers and women in a real way. Stay tuned for more. I can’t tell too much.

D: You recently performed your one woman show “It’s Time!” and co-hosted Murray & Peter Present War On the Catwalk - The Queens of Season 10, both here in Minneapolis, before hosting this Christmas tour stop. What’s your favorite part of performing here?

MC: I’m not gassing you up when I say Katelyn and I love the Twin Cities. I’m not even sure what it is—the wild audiences? The good diners? The quirky event spaces? We’ve been all over the world and we CAN’T get enough of this place.
D: Give a tease of what audiences will experience on the Murray & Peter Present A Drag Queen Christmas - The Naughty Tour

MC: I’ve never had so much fun on a group tour honestly. Audiences should expect a group of wildly different queens poking fun at each other mercilessly and still celebrating their differences. Some penis jokes. And a lot of jokes about my recent weight gain. Honestly, I’m not always this cheery. I just happen to love this tour and this city.


What’s your favorite Miz Cracker moment? Tweet me! @DerekPlease