When iconic pop superstar Taylor Dayne was revealed to be RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race contestant Electra Owl, fans were instantly sorry that they didn’t get to experience more of one of music’s biggest names on the Drag Race main stage. A longtime fan of both the art of drag and RuPaul, Dayne told me that participating in this brand new Drag Race iteration was a no-brainer; “When RuPaul comes knocking, I’m there for him.”
While her Secret Celebrity Drag Race journey may be over, Dayne has big future plans (can you say multiple Grammy’s)?! Whether we were talking about her New York City past coming up alongside a gay community that was falling in love with her or her experience working with some of Drag Race’s most legendary queens, Dayne’s love affair with the LGBTQ community remains one of the biggest chapters of her story.
Michael Cook: What was your experience like on RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race? It certainly looked to be a once in a lifetime experience!
Taylor Dayne: It was completely that; I like to say that it is “Glee on Crack”! Everyone is breaking out into a vignette and telling their story to a song that you love and appreciate!
MC: When did you realize that the genre of drag performers was so interwoven in your career?’
TD: It would have to be when I initially broke. When I started really going to a drag club as an entertaining experience for me, that would have been in my early twenties, that was during “Tell It To My Heart”. There was one in St. Louis that I will never forget. Outside they were cooking ribs and chicken thighs in a trunk…there is such a street sensibility with drag, such a cutting edge of people who just don’t understand. That is the New York capacity, knowing how hustle and bustle it is, walking out of the Pyramid Club.
Those were the streets that I basically broke on. I didn’t go to the Pyramid as a dancer or drag queen on any level, but it was all of those nooks and crannies; ABC, Alphabet City, all the shit. That was the foundation and the playground of where I really got my inspiration from. Second and Eighth Avenue, St. Marks, that is all of the beginning. When you look at the “Tell It To My Heart” shoot, that is all of it. The tulle, hardcore makeup, but pretty glam. If that’s not drag, I don’t know what it is. And it wasn’t me that put it together, it was a drag queen trust me (laughs)!
MC: What about the Secret Celebrity Drag Race experience that truly surprised you the most now that you are looking back on it?
TD: Well first of all, I am a woman. And I’m a pop star who has had, God knows, them do me better on stage than I can do myself! I went in to have a good time because quite frankly, I knew they were just going to pull me apart, & put all that hair and all of that craziness on me. Now get up, dance bitch and sing to someone else-perfect! It amazed me how they turned this into Secret Celebrity Drag Race; that is the part that I didn’t see coming.
MC: How did it amaze you that the Secret part was such a twist?
TD: Well, did you recognize me the minute that you saw me? Some people said they could, but most people said no. They did a really good job, but this is the best of the best!
MC: Are there any nuggets of wisdom these queens shared with you that you knew you would be taking into your own career going forward?
TD: It was just so celebratory back there, so supportive. I really have to say, Brooke Lynn Hytes, Monét X Change…. it was just a wink and a kiss and you just know; when you know you know. I’ve been doing this a long time. It was like “girl just try and be a drag queen because we try to be you every night”. I was like “I could never do it as good as you” (Laughs)! I know when I am giving it everything, and they just encouraged me to keep going.
MC: When you decided to take this challenge on, did you just go in blind and say “here we go” or did you really over think the whole process?
TD: It wasn’t really blind, I’ve been fiercely loyal to RuPaul-and vice versa-for so many years. When he comes knocking and there is something going on, I am there for him and vice versa. Another opportunity and another time to stretch, and trust me “stretch” is what we are going to call this one; challenge, stretch, whatever, but this one was definitely a challenge!
MC:The LGBTQ community has been such a die-hard fan base of yours for decades and we absolutely adore you. Is there a moment that you simply knew that “wow these boys love me”!
TD: Well I absolutely love you too! It was never really quite like that, when you grow up in New York and I was immersed in trying to break at nineteen, twenty, or twenty one. This was my playground; the Pyramid Club, Second and Eighth Avenue, it was this myriad of, not quite goth…the Limelight, my brother was starting to DJ and VJ at a place called Private Eyes, you had the Danceteria; and I was very fortunate, that was my home. It was always gay ,straight, an incredible mixture of the guys pulling out all of the stops at the Pyramid Club, then going where the music was taking me over at Paradise Garage, and that was stuff coming in from Trenton and Philly, hardcore house; but gay as could be! That is not how it felt though, because I was sweating just like they were; that was tribal, it was everything. I said “my shit is gonna be on these speakers soon enough”.
MC: Is there a time that Taylor Dayne goes to a gay bar and just hits that dance floor?
TD: You know, I really don’t even think about it that way, I got out with my friends and my people. A lot of times I like looking at the scenery!
MC: There is almost nothing you have not done; what is there that you want to do?
TD: I want to collect about three to four to to five to six Grammys, I really do. This next record, it’s a vocal thing for me. There are still achievements that I need to hit. Another hit record coming from the clubs, coming from something as organically as Europe, breaking here as I did thirty-five years ago. That is a foray into something that is so touching; my Private Dancer, my Nick Of Time…
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