"There is nothing sexual about what I do – I'm a classy lady”: Latrice Royale champions drag queens

"Drag Race" star and "We're Here" co-host explains the fight against drag bans and where God and drag meet

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published May 3, 2024 1:30PM (EDT)

Latrice Royale (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Latrice Royale (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

More than 12 years after her dazzling breakout performance in season four of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Latrice Royale is easily one of the most influential drag queens. She’s performed all over the country, had a Las Vegas residency and starred in the fourth season of “RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars.” Latrice's latest project is co-hosting Season 4 of HBO's “We’re Here," streaming on Max.

Beyond her playful, bright eyeshadow and bold personality, Latrice was eager to talk about why being a drag queen is deeply important to her life's work when I sat down with her on "Salon Talks." "I owe everything to this art form," she shared. "I wouldn't be sitting here without this art form. I was able to regain my power through the art of drag."

As someone with early roots in the church, Latrice now calls drag her "ministry.” And it's something she's fighting to keep doing no matter what. "I will defend it to the end," Latrice said. During this season of "We're Here," the queens travel to towns where anti-drag and LGBTQ+ laws, homophobia and overall misconceptions about the art form are all at play. Finding community in red states like Tennessee and Oklahoma wasn’t easy, but it was necessary work to uplift the queer groups living there. “You can't get rid of queer people," Latrice said. "To be able to live comfortably out and proud, and authentically, in places like this is important because people want to feel safe."

Watch my full interview with Latrice here on YouTube, or read the transcript of our conversation below, to hear more about how Latrice approached an emotional experience at a church during the filming of the show and her take on "Drag Race" Season 16 winner, Nymphia Wind. 

The following transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

What drew you into hosting “We’re Here”?

I've been a fan of the show since inception. When I got the call that they were doing the recasting of the queens, they were still experimenting on how they were going to proceed. When they finally figured out what they needed and wanted, they gave me the call and said, "We need your voice, we need your perspective. Are you willing to come in?" I'm like, “Absolutely!" 

I was in Vegas at the time when they called, finishing up my residency there. It was exciting because I was going to go straight from Vegas.

Straight to Oklahoma. Tell me about Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Not so exciting.

Bartlesville had effectively banned public drag shows at that point. There was ongoing tension between the queer community and others. What's your experience like visiting there?

It was shocking to see that they had been so beaten down. They had really lost all will to fight. They had given in to the pressures and the oppression and the haters, and they were tired. They made a deal with the devil that if people left them alone, they would not have drag or a Pride situation. 

That was really sad, really sad because the OK Equality of Bartlesville, who that's the voice of the people, they were the ones asking us not to come. That was a little shocking and jarring, but we came anyway because that's what we do. We found out, as you'll see, that this community needed us, they just needed a push to know that they are worth the fight. They were reinvigorated and galvanized, and very supportive.

Some residents were afraid of the backlash of having drag being performed in their city. What was that like seeing people so scared?

It's wild because in Bartlesville, we could not find one business to let us film inside of their place. We had to find a park bench outside in the public. The fear of losing their livelihood just by even being associated with a show like “We're Here” — the backlash and the fear that they would lose everything — rather than do that, which I understand, they just chose not to participate. It was quite like, "Whoa, no one here is going to?” It was like they were nice to your face, they were pleasant, but they're going to decline. It was just wild.

Why is it important though, as a cast and as a show, to go to places where there are queer communities that maybe are not visible?

“We're Here,” the title says it all. Going into these small towns and these rural areas is proof that queer life is everywhere. It's your neighbor. It's your friend. It's your family. You can't get rid of queer people. To be able to live comfortably out and proud, and authentically, in places like this is important because people want to feel safe. That's all. They want to feel happy and safe, and just live their life in harmony. 

"Don't tell me I'm an abomination, I’m going to Hell — because I'm highly blessed and highly flavored."

There's a church in every corner in Bartlesville so that had a lot to do with it. The whole separation between church and state does not exist. It's definitely blurred lines, and religion has a tendency to run the rules of life there.

Was it surprising to you to find this sense of community in Oklahoma?

A little bit. I performed in Oklahoma years ago, back in Tulsa, and it was lit. I was completely surprised that they had even a whole scene.

But then, when you travel 45 minutes outside of Tulsa into Bartlesville and you're just like, "We have stepped back in time. We have definitely done a time warp, and these people are a lot different and not so welcoming." They're welcoming, as long as they don't know. If you're not being flamboyant and you can blend in, you're good.

You mentioned religion playing a large role and, in part, the reason why people are so afraid. Can you speak to your own personal relationship with religion? Some of it is visible on the show. How do you reconcile queerness and religion?

That was a struggle. It was a struggle even up until the moment I walked into the church, for me. As a young person, I grew up in the church — very active in the church. I was on the usher board, I was in the choir . . . youth choir, young adult choir, I was all up into the church! I loved it. But as I got older and started understanding the word that the minister was preaching, I started to feel a disconnect because now, I feel like I don't fit in here anymore.

As I got older and started struggling with my sexuality, it definitely affected my faith, and the turmoil and conflict of knowing that I was gay or queer and keeping my faith. That was hard. It wasn't until I was arrested and went to prison that I reconnected with my faith again because there's nobody but you and God up in jail, you know what I mean? You're going to find something to believe in to get you through it. I had lost my mother at the same time, so everything in my world had came to an end. Reconnecting with God, with what I call God, was important to me.

I got through that situation, rebuilt my life, found out my purpose, started walking in my purpose and changing other people's life through my own testimony. That's how I reconnected with my faith. Now, I'm not religious, I'm very spiritual. I have a very, very strong connection with my faith because I know where my blessings come from and I wouldn't be here without the help of God. Now, I have something to battle and conflict these Christians with. 

You will not argue me under the table about religion, faith, God because the God I know got me here. Don't tell me I'm an abomination, I'm going to Hell because I'm highly blessed and highly flavored.

You have this moment in a church where a preacher is preaching acceptance and you say it's the first time you've heard this.


You cry. What emotions did that stir up for you?

Well, the truth of the matter is production, the queens, no one knew that I was going through this internal struggle just 10 minutes prior to walking into the church. I didn't want to go in, not in drag. I thought I was strong enough and willing enough, but as we were getting closer to walking in, I knew I looked the part, I looked great. But those voices came back, that I was making a mockery of God and I was playing in His house and tabernacle, and I was going to Hell for this. What am I doing?

"There are people who are trying to eradicate us and make what we do illegal. I'm not having it because I owe everything to this art form."

I had to shout those voices down and really remember what my purpose was and walk through those doors. Then when I did, I felt his overwhelming sense of relief and welcome. Then to hear this man, the man of the cloth, use words like, "Drag ministry," oh my goodness, that was just it for me.

That's all I do, my drag is my ministry. For him to affirm all of that was everything.

You see your purpose as serving people through drag, right?


Drag has become this very contentious battle with “Don't Say Gay” laws and Drag Story Hour being banned, for example. How does this affect the larger drag community, and also you as a performer?

It's unfortunate because there's so many different facets of drag. The biggest thing that the conservatives are doing and the opposition is doing is sexualizing what we do. There is nothing sexual about what I do. I don't do that type of drag. I'm a classy lady. I'm a woman of faith, all these things. There are different types of drag, just like there's different genres of movies and music. You do what's appropriate. 

We are very, very sensitive to where we are and what the conditions are and who our audience is, and we act accordingly. For some reason, people don't see that part. We are here to dispel all the myths, all the misinformation, all of that propaganda that they're spreading, and put it into that.

You were ranked as one of the most powerful drag queens by New York Magazine. How does it feel to wield that much power?

There's a huge responsibility in what we do and how we move. Especially now, because there is definitely watchful eyes on everything that we do, everything that we say. I'm not editing myself. I am definitely being authentic and 100%. 

"Going into these small towns and these rural areas is proof that queer life is everywhere. It's your neighbor. It's your friend. It's your family."

But I am mindful that there are people who are trying to eradicate us and make what we do illegal. I'm not having it because I owe everything to this art form. I wouldn't be sitting here without this art form. I was able to regain my power through the art of drag. I was able to regain my life through the art of drag. I will defend it to the end. We not going nowhere. I promise you, as long as I have air and breath in my body, I'm going to be doing this.

What does it feel like to be that symbol of representation? Do you see it that way, or is this just you being you?

A lot of it is me being me. My mother was a person that helped others, and we had people live with us my whole entire life. She would take people in like stray cats. But no one was going to go hungry or homeless on her watch, and that's just what she did. She was always positive, she always looked for the brighter side of the things, and the lessons and the things that did not go well and try to persevere through them. That's how I live my life as well, and knowing that I am affecting people positively through my story and experience is amazing.

Someone did that for you at your first drag show.


In Las Vegas, right?


Was it a full circle moment for you?

Sixteen-year-old me never would have thought that I would be on the Vegas Strip. No. I'm watching this show, "Boylesque" by Kenny Kerr, and all these bevy of beauties who were men who looked like the stars, the Chers and the Madonnas. They were legends. I could not fathom, these are men? This is wild. It was so cool. Then 30 years later, here I am still doing drag, never thinking that that was going to be my avenue, but here we are.

In 2017, RuPaul was on “Salon Talks” and said that drag, in itself, is about people “not taking themselves too seriously.” Do you feel that same way?

100%. We're not trying to give into the gender norm. This is our way of combating that and doing the complete opposite. Why does a gender have to be attached to anything? Because what goes on in your bedroom is your business. Drag for me, this is why it's so important because it takes all that out of the equation so now, it's more of a human connection versus whether this is a man, a woman situation. Or, gay and straight. It has nothing to do with sexuality.

Right. It's a larger thing.

It's a larger thing, it's bigger than me.

It is bigger than all of us because “Drag Race” has gone on for so long. Fifteen years. How does it feel to be one of the pioneers of the genre?

Back in my day, when we were Logo TV. Now these girls, they grew up watching us and now they're becoming stars in their own right. It's amazing to be a pioneer. It's amazing to be one of the most beloved queens in the world. And still carrying the legacy and working. I must be doing something right.

It's paved the way for Season 16 winner, Nymphia Wind. What did you think of her final performance?

Amazing. Oh my God. I knew that she was one of those girls who had a bag of tricks that she wasn't going to let anyone see until the time was right. She played her cards very close to her chest and it worked. Everyone got to see a little bit of her come out and transform. Her insecurities, gone.

Insane! Acrobats?

Stunts. Reveals. Hair.


Fashion. Forget triple threat, she does it all. She's self-sufficient because she's a designer, and she sews and makes her own queen. That's a whole ‘nother level of excellence.

By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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Docuseries Drag Queens Latrice Royale Lgbtq Max Reality Tv Ru Paul's Drag Race Salon Talks Tv "we're Here