Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato are the brains behind one of the biggest reality television shows over the past decade, RuPaul’s Drag Race.
RPDR has grown leaps and bounds since its initial debut in 2009, so much so that they scored the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality Competition Program in 2018. And there’s also that whole DragCon thing that sees thousands of fans come in and out of its doors each year, the endless catchphrases that we use on the daily and how this show has practically taken over our lives in the most delicious of ways.
Fenton and Randy chatted with Instinct Magazine exclusively about the show’s success, their thoughts on season 11 and their shocking new SundanceTV documentary series surrounding controversial Evangelist Tony Alamo.
What made you want to get involved in this project surrounding Tony Alamo?
Having made The Eyes Of Tammy Faye we were familiar with many evangelical scandals. But this wasn’t a story we were familiar with.
Can you tell our readers a little bit more about him for those who are unaware of who he is?
Tony and his wife Susan founded the Alamo Christian Foundation in Los Angeles in 1969. They began as street preachers, attracting hippies and other youth, who took to calling themselves “Jesus Freaks”. The group was anti-Catholic, homophobic, and pro-polygamy. Also a proponent of child marriage, arguing publicly that “puberty is the age of consent.” Alamo and his wife relocated to Arkansas. There, they established a business empire, which included gas stations, a grocery store, and a restaurant. But his most lucrative venture was a line of bedazzled denim jackets that were popular with celebrities and fashionistas in the 1970’s and 1980.
It was after Susan died of cancer that things took an even darker turn as followers were ordered to bring her back to life by praying over her corpse. And that was just the beginning of the madness. Parents willingly allowed their children to be beaten and taken up as underage ‘brides’ by an increasingly vicious and unhinged Tony.
Eventually the law caught up with him, he was sentenced to 175 years in prison where he died in 2017.
What was the most shocking thing you found out about Tony when working on this documentary?
How about the fact that he was an open pedophile polygamist whose followers let him abuse their children sexually and physically? But as someone recently said of the Trump investigation, “If you took it all in in one day it would kill you”. There is just so much. Taken one by one – the financial fraud, the sexual abuse, the cruelty and violence – are shocking and deplorable in their own right. But put them all together and combine with Tony Alamo’s ability to escape justice for so long… it’s really hard to comprehend.
Why should viewers ultimately tune in?
Because cults are among us, and we all need to be aware of how blatant lies repeated often enough can rob rational people of their ability to tell right from wrong. You only have to look at whose in the White House today to realize how susceptible we all are how vulnerable we are to lies and delusion.
Season 11 of RPDR is off to a stellar start. What has been your favorite moment so far?
Rachel Maddow and Trump: The Rusical on almost the same day that the Mueller report dropped. Drag Race is fun, and it is also serious fun in that this is a show about acceptance and inclusion, about tearing down walls, not building them.
Are you shocked that the show has developed such a massive following over the past decade?
We are so happy that it has connected with people far and wide because drag is, we believe, a universal experience. Unless you’re naked reading this, you are in drag. We’re born naked and the rest is drag. Owning and enjoying that makes life more fun, more wonderful.
What was it like to win the Emmy back in September?
Amazing and also humbling; Ru in his speech thanked Dick Richards who was an early mentor and inspiration to us. The truth is that we stand on the shoulders of others, many of whom – like Dick – are not here to share the applause they deserve for being pioneers by living their lives out loud.
Learn more about Ministry of Evil here.