"RuPaul’s Drag Race" Mayhem Miller is in South Africa and the Queen of the Party showed Cape Town audiences a ball of a time, and set to perform in Johannesburg this weekend.
Mayhem is a well-known drag queen within the Los Angeles region and even before her tenure on the Emmy award-winning reality show, she was a prominent fixture in the drag world.
We sat down with Mayhem following her performance at Zer021 Social Club in Cape Town t o find out how she started in drag, what her "RuPaul’s Drag Race" experience was like and advice she would give new queens.
Speaking about the start of her drag career Mayhem said: "I started doing drag when I left high school and coming from a performing arts background I missed (performing). And then when I saw my first drag show at 18, I was like oh my God this is like gay performing arts ... I sought out the prettiest drag queen I saw, and begged her to be my drag mom. She told me no."
However, Mayhem was persistent and eventually, the drag mother caved and put Mayhem in drag and 17 years later Mayhem's still doing it.
When it comes to "RuPaul’s Drag Race" contestants there have many LA-based drag queens who have appeared on the show. Some of them include Raja, Raven, Willam, Delta Work and Mayhem’s BFF, Morgan McMichaels. Fans have wanted to see her on the show for the longest time, and when it finally happened with season 10 she was overjoyed.
Speaking about her reaction when she found out she made it on the show Mayhem said: "It was exciting. It was validating. For years, I was that queen that everyone was anticipating to be there, but never got the call. So when I finally got the call I was like 'oh my God, I’m gonna have my shot for the rest of the world to see what everyone has been talking about'."
"RuPaul’s Drag Race" has made drag queens bonafide superstars and when the show moved over in season nine to VH1 it gained an even bigger audience. Talking about how it’s like being a "Drag Race" superstar Mayhem said: "It's weird when you get recognised in places that you’re not expecting it. It's weird when you get recognised outside of your home. It’s just different."
A certain sector of the "Drag Race" fandom has gained a bad reputation for taking the show too serious to a point of saying means things to queens they don't like, especially black queens. Talking about her experience Mayhem said: "Well, to be honest I’ve had a pleasant experience being a queen of colour from "RuPaul’s Drag Race". I do receive a lot of love. However, being a black queen you don’t get the recognition and the adoration that most white queens get."
She continued: "You can be the most sickening b*tch in the room, but you’ll still be looked over for someone that’s mediocre. You still have to work twice as hard to get love. And you get the love but there’s also the hate. Me being on my season, I was not a mean queen, I wasn’t a bitch. I was really nice and kind to everyone, and I still got hate mail and death threats. Being called a n*gger, that I should die and kill myself. Being told I was ugly when we all know that’s not the truth...And the hate they throw out there is exactly the opposite of what the show is about."
Mayhem also became a surprise viral meme queen when an old video of her’s started circulating where she makes her eyes big and stares at the crowd. "It was fun to wake up every morning being tagged [on social media] in so many variations of it," she said.
"What made me so happy about it was, this is something that was old work of mine that I’ve been doing for years and I thought it was forgotten. And it forced a lot of drag fans to research my work ... a lot of "Drag Race" fans only focus on the show and not really who these queens are, where they come from and what they’ve done over the years. So it was good to see something I’ve done so long ago be relevant again."
Talking about season 11, which is available the day after it airs in the US on Netflix SA, Mayhem says that she is thoroughly entertained and that the queens on this season seem as if there are fans of the show. And that they know what the viewers probably wanna see. Adding that she wishes the girls were more genuine and that they showed their talent more instead of manufactured drama.
"Drag Race" has made being a drag queen as a viable career option and the advice Mayhem has for anyone that what to do drag is: "Simply have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Don’t seek fame and fortune that will come if you have actual talent. If you what to do drag, that’s for anyone. Gay, straight, bi whatever. Get up, put on glitter, put on some heels and have a great time."
Mayhem Miller is performing at Babylon the Joburg Bar on Friday, May 03. Tickets are R150 - R350 and are available at Howler.
The show is brought to you by S&S Productions and MVT Productions.