It never takes long for a drag queen to parody a Lady Gaga song, so here we have one of the firsts done Gaga’s new hit Applause by drag parody extraordinaire Charlie Hides with his impersonations of Katy Perry and Madonna included.
It’s been a long time coming, four years to be exact, but San Francisco has it’s first drag queen in the ever so popular drag competition reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5. And, it’s Honey! Honey Mahogany, that is. Honey has been a drag performing artist for 6 years in San Francisco, and is one of a very few drag queens who primarily sings live, as opposed to lip synching, when performing. When Season 5 kicked off on Monday, January 28, and with never having a contestant on Drag Race, the world was curious to see what San Francisco’s queen has to offer to the successful show, and to the world of drag. But, don’t we already know that? Queens from coast-to-coast constantly marvel at the depth and diversity of drag in San Francisco, so it is no wonder we have wondered since the introduction of RuPaul’s Drag Race on LOGO back in 2009 why there has never been a queen from SF until now? It sure hasn’t been from a lack of trying. Previous to Honey Mahogany’s deserved acceptance into the sorority of Drag Race Queens, many of San Francisco’s drag performers can place the words “auditioned for RuPaul’s Drag Race” on their list of accomplishments. However, Honey will be writing “RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 Contestant”.
I can definitely say that there was no shock or dismay when the drag community in San Francisco first discovered that their art would be represented by Honey Mahogany on Drag Race. Honey is one of those queens you just love to love! A well-rounded performer who sings live, Honey has graced the stages of shows in SF that represent all the varied types of drag performance in the city. And, solicitation from such credible TV shows such as America’s Got Talent and X-Factor that Honey possess talent that deserves recognition and, yes, exposure. And, exposure she’ll definitely get for being a contestant, win or not, on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5.
My chat with Honey will display Mahogany’s thoughts on why she was chosen to be on the show, why she thinks she represents San Francisco drag well, what factor, if any, her live singing will play in her success on the show, what past Drag Race winner she most resembles, and why she thinks she ready for this.
BeBe: First, I want to officially congratulate you on becoming San Francisco’s first drag queen on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5.
Honey Mahogany: Thank you so much!
BeBe: Are you comfortable with carrying that “First Ever Torch” for being the first queen to represent San Francisco on Drag Race?
Honey Mahogany: You know, I think I am. I feel I am good candidate to be the first (San Francisco) queen to represent on RuPaul’s Drag Race because I feel my drag has been able to cross over in the different scenes of drag in San Francisco. As you know there is so much diversity that happens in drag in SF. For the most part, the queens that are in the Castro perform mainly in the Castro. The queens in SOMA (South of Market) tend to perform only in SOMA. And, those in the Tenderloin, etcetera. I think I’ve been lucky enough to be able perform I all of those places. I think there are a few of us that do that but it is a small number. So being on of those that performs all over the city, I think I was a good candidate.
BeBe: I know over the 5 auditions, we have had a great number of queens who have unsuccessfully auditions for Drag Race, and many have auditioned multiple times. How many times have you auditioned for the show?
Honey Mahogany: I got on the show after my first time auditioning.
BeBe: Wow! You mentioned all the things that you bring to the table and hat your represent. But, why do you think you made it through the audition in one shot after so many previous girls, again many trying out multiple times, have been unable to make it?
Honey Mahogany: Well, I have no idea. I’m not the producer, so I don’t know why. All I know is that I made the decision to audition for the show after having a conversation with myself to see determine if this was something that I was ready for. I wanted a change in my life, and sort of opened myself up to making a difference in my life. It’s crazy how that kind of “putting it out there” to the world and the universe and letting your guard down and putting that energy out there really made a huge change in my life. In that year (2012), I got contacted by America’s Got Talent, X-Factor, and then Drag Race happened after I made that (to make a change) decision. I think it was a week after I made that decision that I heard from America’s Got Talent.
BeBe: That brings me to this, eventhough you are a fierce lip syncher, which most people associate the art of drag with, you are primarily known as a live as a live singing performer. And, do you think that in itself, being a live singer as opposed to a lip syncher, hurts you, helps you, or makes no difference on the show?
Honey Mahogany: I think for me I don’t think it necessarily helps or hinders because there are other queens on the show who definitely have backgrounds in singing. I don’t think it has any factor. I mean it is a talent that I have, but I don’t think it is an added bonus. And, I don’t think it hurts me at all. I definitely don’t think I was chosen to be on the show because I am a live singer.
BeBe: Besides competing on what is now the largest drag competition, as far as audience, in the world, do you have any precious experience in being in any other drag competitions? Because no matter how you look at your talent, how well rounded it is or whatever, the bottom line is that Drag Race is a competition.
Honey Mahogany: I think I’ve only competed twice before this. Actually, no, there have been three. My first ever pageant was (SF) the Desperate Diva pageant (benefiting AIDS Housing Alliance) back in 2009 or something like that. It was when I first started doing drag. I came in first runner-up. Raya Light won that year. Then, I did the Something Pageant. And then the Miss Trannyshack Star Search Pageant (produced by the legendary drag queen Heklina). I then I actually started my own drag competition back in 2008 at and while I attended UC Berkeley called Berkeley’s Next Top Drag Performer. I had based it on (Tyra Bank’s) America’s Next Top Model. Which is funny because it was that same year that RuPaul’s Drag Race started on LOGO.
BeBe: And it (Drag Race) as a similar format as America’s Next Top Model, too.
Honey Mahogany: Correct.
BeBe: Well, there are three previous national drag queen pageant winners on this season of Drag Race with Roxxxy Andrews, CoCo Montrese and Alyssa Edwards giving them exposure to competing with drag performers from all over the nation as does Drag Race. Though you have some pageant experience, it is limited to local San Francisco competitions. Do you think the three queens I have mentioned have any advantage because of their success in drag competitions on a national level?
Honey Mahogany: I think participating in those kind of pageants give them an edge on the rest of the competitors, because they are just so polished. Everything is flawless. Every hair is exactly in place. They have a lot of practice at that. They also have a certain caddyness that happens within the pageantry system that really lends itself to reality television. The great thing about being from San Francisco and what gives me a leg up in the competition is our dedication to the performance aspect of drag, and our real love for good storytelling, and being avant garde and real trailblazers.
BeBe: Let’s talk about performance and being polished at performing as a asset, because on the show, there really isn’t a lot of opportunity to show your performance skills unless you are in the bottom two weekly in the competition on the show with the Lip Sync For Your Life segment. There doesn’t seem to be a lot
of emphasis place on the performance side of the art of drag. The show seems to be geared toward the reality tv format which breeds being cunty and bitchy on the show. And, you are known as the “nice” queen. You have the reputation of being one of the nice queens. Is your skin thick enough to compete against these girls that are used to, shall we say, dishing it out?
Honey Mahogany: (Laughing) I know what mean. We definitely get a chance to show of our performances in some of the challenges on the show, but I think you are right, the show is definitely geared toward those dramatic moments. I definitely am more the cool, calm and collected girl on the show, but there are moments where I have to step up and say something. I definitely don’t think I will come off as one of the bitchier queens.
BeBe: With that being said, who is the bitchiest girl on the show for Season 5?
Honey Mahogany: Ooh, girl! You know I can’t say that. (We blow up with laughter)
BeBe: Girl, I wanna know! Inquiring minds want to know, Honey! There definitely will be those scrutinizing eyes on last season’s winner Sharon Needles’ partner in life, Alaska, who is also on Season 5. Do you think that helps keep the pressure off the rest of you girls so you can really shine and do what you need to do to win this competition?
Honey Mahogany: I actually think it will be tougher for her (Alaska), because the public is going to be expecting a lot from her or they already don’t like her because she is kind of riding on Sharon’s coattails. We will all have our moments to shine. Alaska’s drag is very different from mine, and I think we all have our own little niches that we will be able to exploit.
BeBe: You don’t do drag full time. You have a career as a social worker helping at risk youth and young adults. But, with being on the show and the mass exposure you will gain, nationally and internationally, will your career status change from Social Worker/Drag Performer to just Drag Performer?
Honey Mahogany: I think will depend on how busy I am. Right now my plan is to stay on my social work job as log as possible because I love it. It is so rewarding, and I’d hate to have to give that up. But since the show I have gone from being full-time to only working 4 days a week, and I may even cut my hours further. But my plan is to keep doing both.
BeBe: If you had to compare yourself to one of the previous queens who have won on RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 1 – BeBe Zahara Benet, Season 2 – Tyra Sanchez, Season 3 – Raja, Season 4 – Sharon Needles, All-Stars – Chad Michaels), who would you say you are most like?
Honey Mahogany: You know that’s hard to say, because there really hasn’t been any winner that has been primarily a singer amongst them. I’d probably say, however, BeBe Benet because she was a “first”, the first winner of the first season. Also, she’s African and my family is from Ethiopia. And, we are both dancers. But, I also think I relate to Sharon Needles too because I have crossed all over the place.
BeBe: And about your singing, you released a new single back in December.
Honey Mahogny’s single “It’s Honey” cover art
Honey Mahogany: Yes, my new single “It’s Honey”. As you said, I released it in mid-December, and we are currently in production of the video which will be out there soon.
Honey Mahogany is a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 airing on LOGO every Monday night. www.logotv.com
Honey also hosts Honey Mondays every week in San Francisco with a drag variety show and RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party at The Midnight Sun. www.midnightsunsf.com
You can purchased Honey Mahogany’s new single “It’s Honey” on iTunes.