Being the first queen eliminated on RuPaul’s Drag Race has always been a legendary, yet bittersweet position. As the Pork Chop Loading Dock was christened this season on the American version of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Joe Black has taken being the first queen to sashay away on the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK with a definite positive spin. I sat down with the UK performer to chat about his Drag Race UK experience, his individual and unique aesthetic, & why this performer truly feels that Drag Race is indeed, “a family”.
Michael Cook: In this annals of RuPaul’s Drag Race, there have been many historic eliminations, but you being eliminated first on the premiere episode of Season 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK truly shocked both fans and your fellow competitors.
Joe Black: As unfortunate as it is leaving first, it is iconic; everyone remembers the first out, right? They now have the Pork Chop Loading Dock with a series of icons on the wall, right? With the response that I have had, I am kind of glad that I went first. Would I have gotten this much love if I had outstayed my welcome? I would have had more chance to fuck up or say or do something really silly! If I had gotten to a sewing challenge, I mean I’m not great at sewing I can do it, I just hate doing it. I am glad I left the way I looked, rather than having two sad pieces of fabric safety pinned to myself, you know what I mean?
MC: So its safe to say you have gotten a significant amount of love from the fans as well as other queens during this time, is that correct?
JB: It has been a lot, a lot of the time zones people were watching it. I had the UK response, then when I started going to bed very early this morning I started getting the US response; then I woke up to the Australia response today. I have heard from some of the Drag Race alumni also. Violet Chachki tweeted “make it make sense” with my Life On Mars look. Trinity the Tuck messaged me and said “this is ridiculous, Courtesy Act is furious”! A lot of people have reached out, even before the episode I had a lot of love from the alumni.
You hear so many people say “it’s a family” and it is very easy to say to yourself “of course it is, yeah”, you think everyone is just saying that. My experience though, is that it has been a family. Everyone from Yvie Oddly to Brooke Lynn Heights to Sasha Velour to Bianca Del Rio, they have reached out to say hi and introduce themselves and I feel very welcome.
MC: This is the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, and the cast is filled with some more prominent names from across the pond, as well as some newer ingenues. What was it like to be part of such an eclectic cast?
JB: Looking at the cast, it was such an honor when there were the twelve of us in the room and we looked around and realized that we were the the twelve; no one else was walking in. What’s really nice is that each individual person cannot be mistaken for anyone else there. Everyone really stand out as themselves and has their own strengths, aesthetics and weaknesses. To be in a cast where every person really represents the best part of themselves is amazing.
MC: Since the viewers did not get to see as much as we would have liked, what kind of a performer is Joe Black?
JB: Let me paint a picture for you; the year is 1928, Berlin. Beautiful curtains, but they’re quite a bit dirty. There is some mold, there are some very tired looking people in the corner with drinks, there’s lots of smoke everywhere. There is a battered old grand piano on the stage and there is me, laying across the piano, probably doing a polka version of the Spice Girls. I love that kind of filthy, back alley cabaret nightclub vibe, that is my thing.
MC: Coming into the workroom as Glenn Close in full Sunset Boulevard regalia was risky, but you did it seamlessly. That truly seems to be the aesthetic you are most comfortable with.
JB: Oh yeah, absolutely, aesthetically. Everyone I seem to like is dead, literally they would all be about one hundred and five! What I love about the Old Hollywood era, particularly the silent film stuff, is that the glamour that they are doing is so much. It is bordering on the grotesque, particularly with silent movies. Everything is a bit too extreme; the eyebrows are just a bit too high, they are so thin, they are wearing so much eyeshadow, it’s all a bit much. It is a certain period of what was glamour; it is one hundred percent drag.
I’ve watched many silent movie makeup tutorials or guides, and the way that the faces are painted, I’ll put it this way, I look so subtle in black and white (laughs). It’s a certain kind of painting and I just love it. I really stressed out Tia Kofi with it, she both loves and hates watching me get ready. I will pick up the biggest brush I can, I’ll dip it into a dark purple, and then just smack it into my face, then I’ll up the mess later. I just go “slap slap slap”, get the color on then I’ll clean up the mess later. She always says “you do it too quickly” . It always ends up fine but where’s this little point where you look and say “what the fuck have you done”? On the show, I was worried about how I would look in HD, but I thought my makeup turned out quite nice. I was in a bit of a glitter phase when I went to film that.
MC: What is the one challenge or experience on Drag Race UK that you think you missed out on that you really would have loved to have dived into?
JB:Well in the previews for next week you see that they are going to be doing the Rats: the Rusical. To get to do a parody of Cats the musical as a live performance, that would’ve been what I would have wanted to do. l’ll have my own musical now, we’ll do it on the tour and write me another part!
MC: What’s next for Joe Black?
JB: Well, for the immediate future I’ll be playing along with the show. I’ve got all of my wonderful photo shoots and some accompanying videos and things for that. I have no intention of saying “well my Drag Race journey is done”. I’ve made these looks and I am absolutely not getting away with not putting those up. I have a Patreon that I started during lockdown with exclusive videos. It really helps during lockdown to really improve and up the ante of my equipment at home. So now, the video quality that I can produce at home compared to the beginning of the year is incredible. That’s going to mean more YouTube content for everybody as well as the exlcuvie stuff on Patreon. I am going to bang out that content; I am going to have songs, music videos, maybe a podcast at some point, who knows. My absolute dream is to have my own line of gin; that is the final destination for me. I won’t be done after that, but maybe well go into absinthe after that! (laughs).
MC: How have you stayed creatively infused and inspired during quarantine? Your experience this year involved filming Drag Race UK, so it was truly a one of a kind one.
JB: When I sort of adapted to doing live stream shows, I did it because I needed something to do. It came at just the right time and I think people needed that really absurd antidote to the grim reality. What really inspired me was the very immediate support from fans I had before and from doing the livestream, this was before Drag Race had happened. That inspired me; and that is what inspired me to do the Patreon. I can push and work hard at content, it’s not going to be ignored; people are really behind it. People are so hungry for online content because they couldn’t leave the house and that in turn, made me really passionate about it.
‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ UK is available on WOW Presents Plus & BBC iPlayer
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