Manila Luzon Reflects on Her Drag Legacy and Offers Advice to a New Crop of Queens
It wasn’t surprising that Manila Luzon (along with fellow All Stars 1 contestant and “Latrila” teammate Latrice Royale) was one of the first queens to appear on two cycles of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, because she’s been kicking down barriers with stilettos as long as she’s been in the game.
After coming in second place on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Manila Luzon became one of the first queens to take the platform she was given and truly craft a career. She’s released music videos, has toured significantly and has crafted a template for her future Drag Race sisters to follow when they look to make it happen for themselves.
After being seen as the frontrunner on this current season of All Stars, many were shocked and disappointed to see Manila Luzon eliminated. Now Manila and Hornet sit down to discuss her years-in-the-making legacy, her journey of stepping back into the Werk Room and what advice she has for the latest crop of Drag Race queens.
Here is Hornet’s post-elimination interview with Manila Luzon:
Manila Luzon, you were part of the first twist of the season when you and Latrice Royale came back for another All Stars season. What was it like coming back in for another crack at the crown, and how was this experience different from your All Stars 1 experience?
For All Stars 1, it was definitely a sense of What are we getting ourselves into? Then, at the same time, we also had the team twist, where we were each teamed up with other competitors, and it was like, OK, I guess this is how we are playing the game now.
At that point, it was like I was going in blind. Now, coming into All Stars 4, I figured out how to navigate it for myself. Being able to showcase my fabulous drag, able to be a crazy kooky character and to also get under the skin of some of these bitches! [Laughs]
When you came in this season, handcuffed to Latrice, who were you surprised not to see when you got a look at the cast?
You know, there are definitely some queens that I would love to see on a season of All Stars. Laganja Estranja would be great on the show. I would love to see Delta Work also; I know she’s doing RuPaul’s hair right now, but I would love to see her on the show. I thought Ivy Winters may make an appearance; she is such an interesting queen.
There are so many queens who are really good, I’m sure we will have many more seasons of All Stars and many, many more queens. Since they are bringing back queens, maybe they can bring back Adore Delano. They could even bring back me, I don’t know.
Manila Luzon is both a RuPaul’s Drag Race and a drag trailblazer. How do you think Drag Race has reshaped how we all look at drag?
You know, I saw firsthand on Season 3 how viewers all of a sudden started to understand the people who do drag and what drag was. I know that many times people had their own ideas of what drag queens were, getting it confused with crossdressing or being trans or whatever, but I feel like now, people understand that it is a form of entertainment, it is an art form, it is a career for people, it is a hobby. It is something that anyone and everyone is welcome to participate in.
I think the fact that an entire industry has been built up around drag, from companies making rainbow lace-front wigs to makeup companies to places selling shoes in sizes bigger than a 10. It’s all over the place. Drag is more mainstream than ever, yet still keeps its punk rock attitude. I think it’s really cool to see how big it has gotten, how much it has changed, and how much more it is accepted by the population.
You were looked at as a frontrunner to win the competition, so you’re the person to ask: Who do you think will snag the crown and win All Stars 4?
Well, unless Shangela shows up in the last episode in a box, I think I’m putting my money on Trinity the Tuck. She has been a fierce competitor, she has the best track record now, her drag is beautifully done, she has a great attitude. She is shady as fuck when she has to be, but she is also a lovable person. She has stayed true to herself the whole time also. I am rooting for her. And, of course, Latrice; that is my ride-or-die.
The Season 11 cast has been announced, and you and Honey Davenport have a special relationship. She’s mentioned you as a great mentor to her drag career and aesthetic. What advice can you give her and all the Season 11 queens from your own experience?
My advice to the new girls is to just be confident in yourself. Know who you are and don’t let the outside influence how you see yourselves. The best way to do this is to obviously — if you are getting upset at what the fans are saying about you — take it as a critique. If it upsets you, you deal with it on your own personal level rather than lashing out at other people. For example, if someone calls you out for having a shitty hairline, don’t get mad at the person who criticized you. Fix your hairline. [Laughs] You know what I mean?
From “Hot Couture” to “Helen Keller” with Cazwell, your music is some of the most polished to come from Drag Race girls, and you were one of the first to really put out some truly professional tracks. Tell us there is new Manila Luzon music on the way!
Yes, girl, you know I would not go on All Stars and not have music coming out! You have to check out my new album Rules; its on pre-order right now and it will be on sale in a couple weeks. I dropped my new music video, “Go Fish,” after the elimination. [Watch it below.] It was really exciting! I love making music; it’s another way of me expressing my creativity.
I love making music videos because, as a drag queen, I usually make one costume and then go out onto a blank stage. With my one costume, I create for the audience this whole fantasy. Everyone uses their imagination, and they are in the castle with me. With a music video, I can create that whole fantasy and all of the people that live in it. It’s a really fun experience for me to expand my little drag fantasy for everyone, and the music is a soundtrack. I had a really great team working on the music with me, so I am really excited to release the album.
What keeps inspiring you as a performer after being in the game for so long?
I take inspiration from everywhere. I actually have a song titled “Inspire Me” on the album, which lists off all the things that inspire me. It is ongoing and ongoing, really. What has been really inspiring to me recently are the drag queens who have been showing up everywhere. I love it; they have so many cool ideas, and they now have all the resources and the knowledge to do drag really well. As a queen who helped pioneer some of the ways of a RuPaul’s Drag Race queen, I now get to look at some of these younger queens and let them inspire me so that I can keep doing what I do.
During your season, you were in a relationship with Sahara Davenport, who was a contestant on Season 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. While Sahara may no longer with us, what do you think she would be saying right now about your journey?
If Sahara was here right now, she would be so proud of me. If Sahara was with me right now, she would probably be on All Stars winning right now. Sahara was an amazing person, and our love for drag was probably one of the things that really made us close as partners. She was really influential in how I do my drag. If she was here, she would be very proud and probably be slaying right next to me.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars airs Friday nights on VH1.
Featured image of Manila Luzon by Vico Velez Photography via Instagram