Throughout the 10th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Kameron Michaels has branded herself as the Bodybuilder Barbie. Michaels has brought up several times on the show the challenges she has faced being a muscle queen the teasing she’s received from fellow queens, the problems with dressing her body and, in an emotional Untucked, her own history of not facing emotions.
Last week, INTO took a deep dive into Michaels’ tenure on the show and what it meant to see a queen struggle with her body in the drag community. This week, we caught up with Michaels and spoke to him about his drag origins, Instagram thirst, and whether he thinks he’s more feminine or masculine.
Can you tell me a little bit about what led you to first doing drag?
So I started doing drag when I was 18 years old and I was working at a club on the weekends as a go-go boy. I was hanging out around drag queens and it was super interesting to me and I was like, “These are like angels! They’re so pretty, but they’re also so awesome and cool.”
Who were some of the models of your early drag?
Oh gosh, I don’t know. I think my aesthetic has always been inspired by cinema and video games, any fantasy characters. I really look up to them, because not a lot of people do it. I was modeling myself after the drag queens around me, like the Nashville girls. Just trying to be like them, I guess.
You spoke on the show about your time away from drag and how it had to do with being in a relationship with a man who was a big gym-goer. Was that how you picked up exercising so much, because of your partner?
Actually, the person I started going to the gym with is not, like, a gym-goerwe started going together and he stopped going, and then we broke up and then I started using that as filling the void of a breakup. So I started going to the gym religiously and adopted that into my life. And that replaced the relationship, and I kind of just flourished in the gym. I was just lifting weights.
What made you give up drag while you were with your ex at the time?
Well, that relationship I started going to the gym withthat I talked about when I said someone made me throw out all my drag. It doesn’t have anything to do with the gym; it had to do with the relationship.
You also said that your drag sisters didn’t think that your muscle body would be good for drag. Can you tell me about hearing that for the first time and what that felt like?
Yeah, I mean, it came from people I respected and it wasn’t very nasty, but I could tell they were serious. They weren’t being mean, but they were saying, “You need to cover up your arms,” “You need to wear costumes with long sleeves.”
I didn’t really care, but it was my sisters and I didn’t know anybody else like me at the time, so I thought “Maybe they’re right. I don’t want people to make fun of me on stage.” That’s the worst feeling, being made fun of as an entertainer. It’s never a fun feeling, and I thought people would make fun of me and I would like look like a man.
Before the show even aired there was a lot of thirst for you for being so muscular and handsome and I’m just wondering what it felt like for you to see all that thirst.
I mean, I had an idea watching prior seasons. And while we were filming, being with the girls I was with, I was like “I guess that’ll be my aesthetic on the show!” So I expected it but the amazing thing to me is, I want you to pay attention to my drag! I don’t want you to throw me in that box of like the “hot boy,” because my drag has nothing to do with that. My drag is very feminine. It’s very southern drag, very pretty.
I’m interested in dating as a drag queen and having a typically masculine appearance but identifying as femme. Have you ever gotten any grief about that from potential suitors?
Yeah, all the time. I can’t even count on my hand how many times someone has found out and it’s always very quickly. It’s casually dating and people have found out and then told me the reason why they would stop talking to me and that’s the reason why, is that they don’t date drag queens. I don’t know, I’ve heard that a thousand times and every other drag queen in the world can relate, because they all know what I’m talking about.
You spoke this week in Untucked about being uncomfortable with emotions and how that comes from your dad. Do you feel the show made you more in touch with your emotions?
Um, absolutely. And that’s the most frustrating thing right now. A lot of people I appreciate compassion and I’ve changed so much from the show. People are saying, “We want you to believe in yourself!” and the funny thing is I’ve learned that now. So it’s funny or silly to hear that six months later. So, yes, I’ve cried a lot since the show, so I think it definitely opened me up. I’m not as hard-shelled as I was before the show.
When it comes to masculinity and femininity, what do you consider yourself? Do you think you’re more one or the other?
Yeah, so um, if I could point the trigger one way or the other I would probably put it more towards feminine. I’m pretty feminine in my voice, the way I carry myself. I like to play with masculinity and that’s like the way I look in pictures, because I sound like this and act like this all the time. There’s nothing masculine about that. I like playing with that all the time.