RuPaul’s Drag U Faculty Spotlight – Morgan McMichaels
Once you get to know this week’s featured drag professor, the sexy Morgan McMichaels, you’ll discover why she’s known as the “Scottish Scandal”! Beneath her edgy looks and and rock and roll attitude you’ll find a passionate soul and an awesome friend. Learn more about Morgan, how she got her start in drag, what really happened behind the scenes at Drag Race and get a bonus update about her fellow Drag Race season 2 contestant Sonique – all in our exclusive interview!
Socialite Life: Hello Morgan, how are you?
Morgan McMichaels: Well, the weather isn’t so bad here in California, baby, so I think it’s bearable enough to go outside!
SL: I know, I saw on your Facebook that you and Sonique were going tanning and shopping today.
MM: Well, yes, Sonique lives with me now. And I’m going to be helping her with her transition and when she gets her surgeries and stuff, I’ll be the one to take care of her. I can’t believe she’s actually letting me!
SL: How is Sonique?
MM: She’s good. She’s just here in the world. She’s loving California, you know, since she moved, we’re helping her get gigs and we’re helping her with her settling in and making sure she has work…I mean, once she gets into a gig, once she starts performing at a club, they fall in love with her, so she’s doing it herself, we’re just helping her with the shot. She’s adapting very well with California life – she already has that blond hair and that “California Girl” attitude, so goodbye Georgia, hello California! Say “hi”, Sonique!
Sonique: Hi! (For real, she said “hi!”. Two phenomenal queens in one interview – that’s what you get from reading Socialite Life! I left out the mandatory fan-girl fawning and pleas to come to my town to perform. Suffice it to say, Sonique is awesome.)
There’s much more with Morgan after the jump!
SL: Okay, I just have to ask this question for the uninitiated – how did you get started doing drag?
MM: I actually got started doing drag…I was a go-go boy with Raven
and I just dressed up one night as a joke and I got such a good
response from it, and then it just kind of blew up from there. It was
not supposed to, you know, be something I was interested in, and then, I
don’t know, it kind of snowballed and I really like entertaining – and
it was a kind of by chance thing.SL: How would you describe your look? MM: Well, it’s been said that my look is…I have too many costumes. I thought that personally, a drag queen needs costuming. I see queens who dress like real girls, but I like having my costumes made. I like being set apart from others. I’d say my look is very edgy, rock ‘n’ roll. I like that whole rock idea. I incorporate it into my drag quite a bit – like on the show, everything was rock and roll-esque.SL: I liked your Pink impersonation a lot, and I heard that you had replicas of her stage costumes created for you. Is that true?MM: Yeah, I do Pink as an impersonation – and I do quite a lot of other characters, but Pink is my favorite. So with videos and especially in the concerts – I prefer to perform the live stuff because she sounds better live, I think so, at least. I got all of the costumes from her concert constructed. I like to play the DVD behind me and so people can identify the costume with the concert. It’s just a little more added effort I think to really put that impersonation out there.SL: Are you planning on adding any acrobatics to your performances (like Pink does)?MM: Actually, it’s funny that you mention it! I do back handsprings and cartwheels and all that good stuff, but Sonique and I are going to take classes to learn how to do silks – and we’re going to be learning how to do all of the stuff she does at a place in Santa Monica, where she actually learned how to do it. The thing is, I’m afraid of heights but with this I get to add to the impersonation and also I get to overcome a fear, because I am absolutely petrified of heights.SL: So, you’re now training with the silks, but I wanted to ask you about your excellent lip-synch to “Two of Hearts” (on Drag Race). It was so well-choreographed – had you had a lot of dance or choreography experience? MM: I’ve never taken a dance class in my life, but I got grounded quite a bit when I was younger. And I watched a lot of MTV and a lot of Janet Jackson and Madonna and those kinds of things. When I look at something, I can pick it up very easy. So I guess that’s how I learned how to dance, from watching music videos. SL: I thought that was one of the best “lip-synchs for your life” on the show.MM: It was really tough, because Sonique is an amazing entertainer and I knew that she could do flips and all that kind of stuff and I wasn’t trying to do that on national television because if I eat shit and fall down, that’s going to open a whole can of worms. I believed I was going to keep my feet firmly on the floor! Going up against Sonique was tough because we became such good friends from the show and we really bonded – obviously, we’re living together now – but she really became my best friend. I love her more than anything and when I went up against her I was kind of sad because one of us had to go home but I was kind of excited and happy that I got to at least lip synch for my life against someone I thought was a sickening competitor. I wouldn’t have liked to have gone up against someone I didn’t consider a threat. We’re in a competition, but I wanted – and I said this on the show – I want to compete and lip synch for my life against someone who’s going to make me sweat. I think that it makes for a better lip synch – and I thought it was the best lip synch for your life on the show.SL: You’ve obviously become great friends with Sonique, but was there really any animosity between you and any of the other queens on the show?MM: Well, you have to understand, in a situation where you’re taken away from your family and your friends and you don’t have any contact with anybody you’re associated with every single day – and then you’re in a competition setting and add a little bit of alcohol, and everyone’s under the stress of “Am I going home?” “Am I in the bottom two?” Tempers are on high and the stuff you see on TV is…people say “it’s the editing process makes me look like a bitch” – no – because the words still come out of your mouth. You can’t edit words into someone’s mouth. So, you know, a lot of people were really under a lot of pressure. It got heavy but we all talk. Everything that happened on the show doesn’t affect us today. I talk to Tatianna all the time; I talk to Mystique all the time. We all talked about it on the reunion, everybody’s made apologies. It’s tough, especially trying to be “America’s Next Drag Superstar” with RuPaul sitting there watching how you perform or how you dress – and that’s kind of nerve wracking! This woman has been there, done that and made a fabulous career out of it and obviously RuPaul is someone every girl on the show looked up to. So, you’re sitting there, basically shitting yourself, hoping that she likes what you have to offer. The other judges…yeah, everybody has an opinion, but Ru’s is the only one that really matters, she’s who we are. She’s experienced the same things we’ve experienced. I don’t know, we all talk though – there was no real hatred. I can’t speak for the other girls, and how they feel about others, but I talk to all of the girls, and I talk to everybody that was involved in the show – cast and crew included. You get along with the crew so well, they’re around you and they become your family and they become your friends. And you know, like it or not, we shared something that nobody else shared. The first season, they shared something so special, and our season shared something so special and you know, we’re a family – like it or not!SL: One last question about Drag Race – that Barbarella-inspired dress you created for the first challenge, do you still have it?MM: Well I actually kept it – I kept everything, I still have my wedding dress too. I did keep it and I performed in it one time…and found that it was not a performance outfit. It didn’t bode well on the stage. It’s one thing to walk and pose in a costume, but to try and move in it…it was falling apart like an old jalopy! (Making the dress) was very, very tough. I don’t make my costumes. I’m lucky enough to have someone do them for me and I basically lost a whole lot of blood making that costume – I mean literally, because if the sewing machine ran over my finger one more time, I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital. And then the hot gluing…but, you know what? It was an inspiration. I’m not a designer by any means, but I definitely took from the people I surround myself with – like my drag mother is the number one Cher impersonator in the world. His name is Chad Michaels and so the bottom half of the costume was inspired by Cher’s “Half Breed” costume and then I just went from there. I tried to add, you know, and I was like “I can’t really do a lot so I have to make this look like a lot”. I was so happy when I won that first challenge – I was kind of gobsmacked! I really thought Sonique was going to take it because her costume was just out of control. So was Tyra’s, I thought Tyra’s was really, really good. Her presentation was amazing.SL: When you were approached about appearing on Drag U, what was your initial response?MM: Well, I couldn’t believe that I was asked to come back. I was honored – because in my mind it meant RuPaul saw something really fierce in me. And all of the other girls on Drag U, we must have made an impression. I liked that, I was really honored – and, of course, I accepted in a second. I said “YES! This is going to be fabulous.” I didn’t really know what it entailed, because I think Drag U is something completely different from Drag Race. But in my mind at the time, I thought it was just going to be very similar to Drag Race and I thought I would be in the contestant spot again. SL: When you found out it was going to be a makeover show, how did that change your perception of the show (if at all)? Had you had any prior experience as a makeup artist before Drag U? MM: Well, you know, you paint your girlfriends and you paint your boyfriends in drag, and people in my life who don’t do drag, also do it for Halloween or do it for proms or you help do weddings, so you have some kind of experience in that area but this (Drag U) is more than putting makeup on these women, these women were very in need of a kick in the ass, basically. Because we, as drag queens, emulate women and we choose to emulate powerful, bitchy, rock star, slutty, whatever the case is. These women we emulate, like Jenna Jameson and Joan Collins and Carol Channing, are women who have a lot of power and fabulousness. These women that came into Drag U are not what we emulate but we still emulate a woman. And I think these women have what we want, they just have lost their way. Every woman to me is a fabulous being and there’s sexuality in every woman – it doesn’t matter your size, or your color, or any of the physicalities that people have – they have nothing to do with being fabulous. I think some of the girls on the show – like the Dateless Divas – these women haven’t had dates in 20 years, or have never been on a date, or whatever the case is because they don’t know how to be fabulous. They’ve lost that spark that every woman has. We bring that out. We lend our secrets to them – I mean, you don’t have to walk out of your house looking like a drag queen to be sexy. And I think that’s we teach them. We tone it down for them to use, because we obviously do it at 100% more than a real woman – you’re not going to go out there in a pair of thigh-high boots, a mini-dress and huge hair to go to the grocery store. But there’s nothing wrong in going to the store in a fabulous sundress that makes you look great and your hair is done and you put some makeup on and we basically teach these women how to go into the grocery store looking like a million dollars feeling like a million dollars and just owning the grocery store, basically. SL: Did you face any particularly tough challenges working with the women on Drag U?MM: Well, being a woman yourself, you know you’re set in your ways. And you have ideals and you have things that make you feel comfortable in your life and you don’t really want to step outside of that box because, you know, it isn’t how you live your life. And these women have really just accepted that kind of…”Well you know, I’m the smart one so I guess I’ll just dress like the smart one and it doesn’t matter how I look physically, because I’m smart.” And trying to push this (new) persona onto them and make them step outside of that box, we faced a lot of challenges with that because some women were just blatantly not having it. They were just not willing to do what it takes to be something else other than what they are. Some women were really living, they were just “Oh yes, let’s do this! Make me someone else. I just can’t be myself anymore” – because they’d reached the end of their tether. For example, my girl (on the “Dateless Divas” episode) gave me a little bit of a hard time, she was very introverted and very shy and she wasn’t willing to really do a lot. But, you know, we work around that. Drag queens have a persuasive attitude!SL: Did you take away anything from working on the show? MM: Well, you know, just because we were the teachers this time…we still learned a lot from RuPaul. And it’s funny to be in a different setting, first we were on Drag Race and we were in that contestants’ place and we were trying to learn as much as we could while we were competing. Being a professor this time, it was so much easier to take in what Ru was trying to teach us – and she does it in such a manner that you just have to stop and think and relax and just take it bit by bit and she taught these women this lesson also. I think RuPaul is very positive and she has a forward way of thinking. Like, this whole Drag U idea, the whole concept of Drag U is basically a “pay it forward” show. RuPaul has given us a shot to be on Drag Race and now we’re internationally known – everybody in the world knows who Sonique, Tyra, Jujubee, Morgan McMichaels are. Everybody knows our names, we’re now icons. So, with Drag U, we’re paying forward to these women and we’re pushing the lessons that RuPaul taught us on to these girls and every woman who watches this show is going to learn that lesson also. So, yeah, there might only be so many contestants on the show, but there’s millions of millions of viewers and these women who are sitting at home watching TV thinking they’re not good enough or they’re not sexy enough or their husbands don’t love them – they’re going to pick up these tips and they’re going to use them in their everyday life. So, you know, I think that 20 years ago, RuPaul really kicked down doors…well, she did it again and it may not be as dramatic this time because, you know, 20 years ago no one in their right mind would have thought there was going to be a 7-foot-tall, skinny, gorgeous drag queen as an A-list celebrity. This time it’s more of a subtle takeover – like she’s done it again. And men are going to learn so much from this show because, honestly, they’re sitting there with their wives or their girlfriends or gay friends or whatever the case and they’re going to watch and they’re going to pick up tips on how to treat a woman and how the things they say to women affect them. So it’s not just “Oh, this is a show to make straight girls look pretty”, it has such a deeper meaning. SL: On the show, there’s a lot of emphasis on affirmations. Do you have your own personal affirmation? MM: Well, I believe truth is what it is for me. I live by the truth. Honesty is the best policy and you know, you have to be very self-effacing to have that way of thinking. I mean, I know I’m not the perfect person, and I know that I’m not the perfect drag queen, and I know that I’m not everyone’s favorite. If you think those things, then you’re fooling yourself. But to be honest with yourself and to try to fix your flaws, it’s going to make you a better person. I believe in tough love because tough love gets results. And I know that not a lot of people agree with that and I think that’s one of the things that RuPaul taught me, was not to judge others so harshly who don’t share my way of thinking. Because watching myself on Drag Race, I saw myself being very hard on people like the other contestants. And I think RuPaul has really taught me that I can’t judge others so harshly for not being in the same mind frame as myself. I have to take people for who they are and accept them – and their flaws. It’s easy for me to say “If you see a problem, fix it now and then it will be done.” But people have a different way that they think and RuPaul really taught me to accept everyone for what they are – and it was a hard lesson to learn and it was humbling. RuPaul humbles you because she’s been through it all, she’s done it all so…take heed. I don’t know if that’s an American thing, I don’t know if that makes any sense. But in Scotland, when you take heed, it means that you listen up. RuPaul’s not wasting her breath for no reason. I appreciate everything she’s done, not only for me but for everybody. I mean, Tyra Sanchez’ life is different and Sonique’s life is now different, obviously, you saw the reunion show where she came out as a transsexual and she got to tell the world who she really is. These straight women on the show and these gay women and straight women in the audience are really going to be affected by the words. Because…it’s easy enough to have a television show, and I understand that but I think that Drag U is really something else. It’s really inspirational and there’s no negativity about trying to help someone. And I think at the end of the day, I’m sure RuPaul’s super happy that she has another television show, but I don’t think that was the goal. I think the goal for Ru was to leave a legacy – I think this is RuPaul’s legacy. And in the gay community she’s such a celebrity and she’s held up on such a high pedestal and she’s really transferred that back into society. The life lessons that she’s learned, she’s really kind of shared with everybody and now we all know RuPaul. I guess that’s her legacy, I don’t really know how else to explain it. It’s a good legacy to have, I think – something so positive. SL: Well, since you always look fantastic, and I strive to look fantastic, do you have a beauty secret you can share?MM: Well, one thing I’ll say…you know at the end of every episode of Drag Race, RuPaul said “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?” and that’s so true to form. I kind of look at that as a mantra. I live for that phrase, I love it. But, you know, everybody’s fabulous, it’s just how you feel inside. The outside can be plucked and changed and sucked and pulled and worked out. Another thing that Ru said was “You’re born naked, the rest is drag”, and I think that’s so true, because it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, because half of the people are going to hate you because of the way you look and half the people are going to only love you because of the way you look – and it’s so superficial. You have to love yourself from the inside. You have to be happy with who you are on the inside – and then you can work on the outside. I love who I am as a person. You never stop learning, you never stop growing and every day is a challenge – and that’s part of everyone’s life. But you really have to be happy with the things you say and the things you feel and treat others how you want to be treated. It’s a common sense thing. And if you’re talking about beauty secrets for how you look on the outside, of course moisturize every day and take care of your skin – those are the obvious things but you can’t be unhappy with yourself and expect everyone to love you. All it is…drag is a form of entertainment. Drag is overdone makeup and overdone hair and outrageous costuming but it’s the power that you have as a drag queen that makes the drag queen you are. Now that we’re on this international level, we need to use our voices for something good – and that’s another thing I’ve learned from the show. We have a voice now and there are millions and millions of people who watch Drag Race, take in what Drag U is about and use it for positivity and use it for the good of the community – whether it’s the gay community or the transgender community – something you believe in. For example, I’m a big advocate for gay marriage and gay rights. That’s my thing, so I’m using that voice. And I think everybody – women, men, anybody who watches the show, hopefully they pick that up and they see I have a voice and it may be only my voice, but it’s still a voice. It takes a whole village to raise a child, they say. SL: I was going to ask you about your advocate work promoting gay rights organizations. Are you involved with any organizations? MM: I am, actually. I’m involved with the NoH8 campaign, which is run by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley. They’re actually friends of mine and I was there at the beginning when the whole prop 8 situation took off and destroyed our chance of marriage here in California. (Ed note: this interview was conducted before California’s controversial Proposition 8 was – thankfully – declared unconstitutional.) And then I work with Equality California and I am now working with GLAAD. I believe if we don’t have the same rights, why do we pay the same taxes? If I can’t marry who I want to marry, you shouldn’t be able to marry who you want to marry. That’s just it. I think it’s quite disgusting that being such a progressive nation and being a superpower that something like gay marriage is really holding us back – when there’s a million other things that this country needs to deal with, like the Gulf and the oil spill…we’re taking care of other countries and we’re doing all of these other things…and wars…and I understand those are very important but then the hot topic is “Do we allow gays to marry or not?” I just think it’s such backwards thinking. Every other country in the world has had to deal with religion – I’m from Scotland and the Catholic Church and the Church of England are very prominent in the state, like they’re intertwined. America was founded on the separation of church and state – they shouldn’t have anything to do with each other, but it seems to be a problem when it comes to the rights of gays and the church’s involvement – whether it be the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church or any of the others. And it’s kind of destroying…I wish America would open their eyes. You know, there’s a movie and it’s called A Day Without a Mexican. And it was kind of a documentary style movie and it was very informative. Could you imagine a day without a gay? No one would have their hair done and, of course, no one would have their make up done. Gay people are intertwined in daily life with everybody – even if they don’t agree with the gay lifestyle. There is a gay involved everywhere and for people to sit back and say “I don’t agree. I don’t like it.” I understand everyone’s opinion, but….Just imagine, if we all left, this country would suck – and the interior decorating business would go right down the tubes! I think people need to look at their friends and look at their family members and be like “Well, I want my son to be married” or “I want my best friend to be married”. It’s so simple and people make such a big deal about it. SL: What are you up to now as far as performing goes?MM: Well, ever since Drag Race, the bookings have been insane. All of the girls are traveling all over the country and sometimes we’re lucky enough to be booked in the same club together so we get to see each other and spend time with each other and stuff. This whole Drag U situation is basically starting what Drag Race started (all over again) it’s just taken off again and we’re lucky enough to be doing interviews and traveling and promoting this great thing. But, you know, personally, I’d like to be on a second season of Drag U. I think it was so much better than Drag Race, I love the inspirational side of it and the positivity of it and I’m hopefully going to be releasing my own (music) track soon, I’m just working on that right now – and my website, moragnmcmichaels.com is up and you can find links to Drag Race and Drag U and RuPaul’s website as well – and all of the Logo and GLAAD and all of that good stuff. And then, I’m just working on my career, trying to make some kind of imprint somewhere. You know, if it never happens again, I want to be able to use my voice to voice my opinions on things – working with GLAAD and the NoH8 campaign is something I’m really passionate about so, hopefully I’ll be working a lot with them.SL: You mentioned you were working on a track. I heard Nina Flowers was the one who encouraged you to record something. Is that true? MM: Yes, it absolutely is. Now, I met Nina in L.A., when she came to see my show. They were coming to film their reunion and I had previously met Ongina – Ongina and Nina were my favorites on season one I just thought they had such good auras and energies and they were crazy and amazing and colorful and I loved that about them. And Nina sat me down and said “This isn’t just a chance to show people that you’re in drag on television, this is a chance for you to audition for movies, make your own music, promote yourself – you’re a product. Use that to your advantage and make a career out of it. And she let me hear her first track and it was amazing – and her new track is actually really crazy. She’s very creative. But, you know, I want to do my own music and I think that I’m definitely going to channel the character of Morgan into that. I’m not trying to write love songs and I’m definitely not trying to write any kind of poppy hit, I’m just going to channel what I feel and what I see and who I am into that and I think that Ongina and Nina really kind of helped me focus my energies on those things I wanted to do. And it’s good to have them as mentors. SL: Any last thoughts?MM: Hopefully everyone’s watching RuPaul’s Drag U and supporting the cause because you may not be involved in drag and you may not even like drag but drag queens are still doing something for our community. We’re in the public eye and we’re getting our causes and our identities out there. You know, someone from Oklahoma who hates f**s and is a part of that “God hates f**s dot com” church they might come across it and it might change their mind. Even if they pick up a tip that RuPaul gives out, that’s something that affects everyone. So, hopefully they’re supporting the cause. And I think that RuPaul’s book, I would advise your readers to go pick it up, it’s called Workin’ It Out and when I read it I was like “Oh my God! I wish I would have written this book!” The book is really great and it has a lot to do with the whole concept of Drag U. So, tell your readers to check out the book and check out the show – and I’ll love them forever! Well, we love you too, Morgan! Keep up with her on her Facebook page, Twitter feed and at MorganMcMichaels.com. And don’t forget to tune in to RuPaul’s Drag U tonight at 9pm EST on Logo!