From the minute she arrived in our living rooms, showing off her knockout curves and legs that wouldn’t quit, Mariah, or as she introduced herself to us, “Mariah a/k/a Mariah Balenciaga, a/k/a Mariah Paris a/k/a Mariah Successful” was a force to be reckoned with on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Now Mariah takes her experience as a drag diva and belle of the Atlanta ballroom scene to the hallowed halls of RuPaul’s Drag U! One of Ru’s newest “fal-culty” members, this statuesque beauty dishes about eyelash etiquette, posture pointers and reveals a surprising source of inspiration in our exclusive interview. This Georgia-born queen is a real peach!
Socialite Life: So glad to be talking with you again and so glad to see you on RuPaul’s Drag U!
Mariah: Thanks! It was really a surprise when they invited me to do it. I was shocked! I enjoyed it.
SL: I saw your debut as a Drag U professor (airing tonight at 9pm EST on Logo!) and it was fantastic. By the way, you look fantastic!
Mariah: Thank you! It was so weird because with Drag Race you’re so used to rushing and having to hurry up and get your makeup done so it was definitely more relaxed.
There’s lots more with Mariah after the jump!
SL: As far as wardrobe, were you told what to wear or were you allowed to pick out whatever you wanted?
Mariah: In a nutshell, the main thing they were concerned with was to have our black for draguation but, other than that, they said be fabulous and make sure it’s within reasonable comfort!
SL: On this episode, your challenge is to make over a virgin – and, technically, you’re a Drag U virgin. What was the experience like for you?
Mariah: Well, I took my cues from Jujubee and Raven. They were very helpful…(laughs)…they were both already pretty crazy so I just followed their lead!
SL: Well, you did seem to jump right in and held your own against those two!
Mariah: You know, once I know what I’m coming up against and what I have to do, I just get ready go in expecting that anything and everything can happen – and it did – and I enjoyed it. You just have to clear your mind and have no standards or no pressure on yourself to perform, just be yourself. I think that’s why they wanted me to come to Drag U. I think that’s the best way to really handle any situation like that.
SL: When you saw Megan (the girl you were making over), the first thing you noticed was her poor posture. Is that really something that women should place more importance on to look good?
Mariah: Yes, because your posture – how you look on the outside and how you carry yourself – definitely is a reflection of how you feel inside and what you think of yourself and it also shows it to the world. It tells the world who you are and people will treat you accordingly. You know, your body language plays a very big role in how you’re perceived and how you perceive yourself to be.
SL: Megan, much like all of the women on Drag U was dealing with a lot of insecurities. Since you’re such a confident person, was it frustrating for you to try to help her overcome them?
Mariah: Well, (Megan) was kind of frumpy and you could tell that she has a great spirit but for whatever reason it was lying dormant. I didn’t get frustrated with her, you have to handle these people with understanding. Know why they’re hating the way they are. So that way, you can use it and turn it around and allow it to empower them. If you get frustrated with them, they get defensive. You need to keep your composure, especially when you’re dealing with someone else’s issues.
SL: Have you ever had any self-confidence issues of your own?
Mariah: Absolutely! From being in a predominantly white environment and being singled out for ridicule for being biracial, to being gay in a family environment and looking feminine – and then also I had some weight issues earlier on in life. We all go through those self-esteem issues – it’s just how you handle it and come out of it.
SL: On Drag U, the transformations seem to give the women a new lease on life. Have you had a similar experience in your life?
Mariah: Yes, but mine was less dramatic. When I was going into the 11th grade, I don’t know what it was, but it was something in my head just clicked and I said enough was enough of being ashamed or being angry about different issues. It’s just time to be me and let it go and have a good time because at the end of the day, you don’t want regret.
SL: Speaking of regrets, do you have any about your time on Drag Race? Is there anything you’d do over if you could?
Mariah: Ummm…I’d say no. I really wouldn’t. When I did leave, I had a little more emotional reaction than I really would have liked to have had but, for the most part, everything that was caught on camera was exactly what I would have done the same.
SL: When I saw you come in the door on the first episode, I thought you were a shoo-in to win, and I was surprised when you were sent home.
Mariah: Yes, I was disappointed that I didn’t go further and I was especially disappointed that I didn’t win but that was the roll of the dice and that’s what I enjoy about Drag U this season – the fact that I’m not competing and I can actually help somebody else compete. With losing the way that I did, I got a lot more support than I expected I would. It was wonderful.
SL: What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you since Drag Race?
Mariah: Oh gosh, the people I’ve gotten to meet…I got to meet Amanda Lepore and social icons that I most likely would have never met. And then working with my girls. I still love chatting and hanging out with Yara Sofia and Alexis Mateo and Shangela when I can It’s a sisterhood, a new-found sorority. I never expected that.
SL: Are you performing more now, or are you still primarily involved in the ball scene?
Mariah: At the beginning of the year, I retired from active participation in the ballroom scene but now I’m pretty much just behind the scenes with it. I’m not really competing anymore. I’m really hitting the performance circuit a lot more than I thought I would and it’s getting really, really crazy! (Laughs) Yara, Alexis and I have a Christmas tour coming up in November and it’s just about sold out, so it’s going to be really exciting.
SL: When I last spoke with you, you were doing hair in Atlanta. Are you still doing that?
Mariah: Oh yes, I’m still doing hair. That’s a love and a passion of mine. I have a strong clientele base and they’re pretty understanding. We all have hectic schedules so we work together and keep some time. I also do freelance photography work – I do hair for photo shoots and things like that – so it works with the Drag U schedule and works with the performance schedule. You just have to keep them all in order though!
SL: In our last chat, you said some of your inspirations were drag icons like Ru, Cher and Donna Summer but also actresses Diahann Carroll and Phylicia Rashad. Who’s been inspiring you lately?
Mariah: Betty White! She’s such a class act and so funny and so beautiful and has a great energy – and she’s going through life with the grace of an angel, I swear! Every time I see her, I’m just amazed.
SL: She just got an Emmy nomination…and speaking of Emmy nominations, RuPaul’s Drag Race was talked about as a potential nominee for best reality show. Even though it wasn’t nominated (Ed. note: shame on you, Emmys!), the show continues to gain fans. Are you surprised the show continues to increase in popularity?
Mariah: Am I surprised? No. Am I glad, excited? Yes. It is definitely deserving but you know what? We have another season to go! You
never know…we still might get it!
SL: I hope so! What else do you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
Mariah: I want to do television. I actually really, really want to do television. You know, a drag queen’s hips kind of go out over time if she’s not in shape and I don’t really want to wear my joints out, so I would really like to get into some acting and some correspondence work.
SL: I remember you saying you’d like to hit the red carpet with Joan Rivers!
Mariah: Yes, I’m still trying to get a call back from her people! (Laughs)
SL: Are there any new beauty tips to share?
Mariah: Make sure that your eyelashes are proportionate to your eye space. I’ve seen a lot of people walking around with bat wings stuck to their lids – and you can’t see their eyes! Customize your lashes, ladies!
SL: If you could give any celebrity a Drag U makeover, who would you pick?
Mariah: Ooh…who would I get? Diane Keaton. I would love to see her in some bigger hair – and you will actually see on a later episode we have this gorgeous older woman and she is a stone cold fox. I can’t wait for you to see what they did with her. When you see her, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I would definitely put her in something like that.
SL: Did you learn anything from working on Drag U?
Mariah: Well, yes, I actually did get this cream liner tip from Raven. It was very helpful. It was subtle, but it made a big difference.
SL: Did you gain anything personally from working on the show as well?
Mariah: Oh gosh! Actually – it’s kind of selfish – but I did get emotional fulfillment. It was amazing how drag being used as a metaphor can be the catalyst to help people move on or overcome things. The show does have its lighthearted moments but there are serious underlying issues. One of my ladies really got to me. She definitely hit an emotional note.
SL: Do you stay in touch with any of the ladies you made over?
Mariah: Not yet. I want to wait until the episode airs and then I’m going to contact them.
SL: I really want to know what happened to Megan. Her transformation was amazing.
Mariah: Thank you. Oh my God, she had so much energy! She has a great smile, but who would have known that she would explode like that? She is so goofy!
SL: Well, all of the ladies’ transformations were incredible…
Mariah: It’s like their body language even changes! Of course, there’s only so much we can do in that 48-hour period but I think the ladies were definitely all well on their way to turning over a new leaf.
SL: Would you want to return for Drag U season three?
Mariah: Oh, absolutely! I’m going to make sure to keep my phone on!