Sorry about being a couple of days late on this one. A huge congratulations to the winner of Rupaul's Drag Race Miss Bebe Zahara Benet from Cameroon! If you've been following the show like I have then I'm sure you were tuned in to the amazing finale on Monday night. If you missed it the entire show can be viewed online here.
Out Magazine had an opportunity to chat with Benet shortly before the finale aired and the new drag diva opened up about her life in Cameroon, her experience on Drag Race, the criticisms that drag impersonation is misogynistic, and why she's a "drag artist" and not a drag queen. Get into a few excerpts below:
Out: Drag is sometimes described as misogynistic -- a parody of women that does them a disservice. But you believe you’re highlighting the beauty in women.
Benet: My mom was a very influential person in my life and she had been very empowering and just seeing what she did raising us and what she did for our family, it’s a celebration of women. I will let you know -- each drag artist, you need to find out her story. You need to find out what she does and why. I’m telling you my story -- I’m trying to empower women and I am trying to represent women and show so many different ways of beauty but another character has a different reason for doing drag, so you have to ask her.
Out: It’s very individual.
Benet: Very. That’s why I don’t like it when people refer to us as drag queens. I refer to us as drag artists because we all have a different way of expressing ourselves. And it’s not necessarily looking like a woman. I decided to impersonate a woman or hold the illusion of a woman. Others do not.
Out: It seems like part of what you’re doing is really about exposure -- around the world but also in America -- especially small town America. Before RuPaul came on the scene a lot of people had never even seen a drag queen.
Benet: Drag has been stereotyped for a long time and people have -- even in the gay community -- it’s been such a stereotype: “This man is trying to be a woman” or “Why is this man dressing like a woman? If I wanted to be with a woman I wouldn’t be gay” or “Oh, they’re full of drama!” Each person is an individual and the situations you find in the drag community are the same as you find in any community. The only reason you know about the situations in the drag community is because you are searching for those situations. It’s as easy as that. The bottom line is that these are just artists -- you come to the shows, you watch the shows, you cheer, you tip the entertainers -- you do all of this and you enjoy yourself, so what makes you feel like these are not entertainers? Why do you feel they just want to be in dresses? It’s so amazing that after everything is done you see the same entertainers out of character and you still cannot separate them.
Out: RuPaul’s Drag Race has shown how much hard work you all have to do. Not only the hair, the makeup, but the performing itself.
Benet: And you cannot take it for granted. I don’t care who is the worst drag artist out there -- it’s an emotional roller coaster. You have to prepare yourself psychologically, physically -- everything -- to be out in the spotlight, to be criticized. And there are a lot of people who don’t have the guts to do it. So, I think this show is a blessing because if you do not understand what we do and you watch the show and you still do not understand, then you have a problem. [Laughs] Because I don’t think there’s any better way to express what drag is all about.
Get into Bebe Zahara Benet's crowning moment on Rupaul's Drag Race below.