It was just last week when we at Hornet, like drag enthusiasts the world over, were bowled over by the announcement that Wigstock — that end-of-summer festival celebrating wigs, heels, comedy and all things drag — would be making its much-anticipated return to New York City on Saturday, Sept. 1. And as can be expected, the lineup is literally nothing short of “legendary.” All the drag greats will be in attendance and sharing a stage, not least of which is RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 winner Bianca Del Rio, who recently sat down with us to discuss what’s in store next weekend.
It’s no small feat to put together a one-day drag extravaganza like Wigstock, but Lady Bunny, who originated the NYC festival in 1984, did just that — most amazing of all, without news of its coordination leaking to the press! That’s a secret that several people were likely sitting on for quite a while. Just don’t ask Bianca Del Rio how long. “I honestly have no idea,” she tells Hornet. “It could’ve been years. I don’t pay attention when Lady Bunny calls me. It’s too hard to understand her because her mouth is always full of food.”
Bianca Del Rio wasn’t exactly a regular in those beginning years of Wigstock (“I know I’m old, but I’m not that old,” she says), but she has memories of the formerly annual festival through the 1995 movie, a documentary that offered a look into the inner workings and talented names making it happen.
“It’s pretty amazing that I’ve since become friends with some of those performers, though,” Del Rio says, citing several legends of drag including Bunny, Jackie Beat, Sherry Vine and Coco Peru. “What’s even more amazing is that those old bitches are still alive. Well, Jackie Beat is dead inside, but that doesn’t count.”
The roster for next weekend’s Wigstock revival is a veritable who’s who of the drag world — past, present and future. In addition to the legends mentioned above, expect to catch sets by Alaska Thunderfuck, Alex Newell, Amanda Lepore, Barbara Tucker, Basil, Bob the Drag Queen, Candis Cayne, Charlene Incarnate, Darnelle XV, Desmond Is Amazing, Dina Martina, Dita Von Teese, Heklina, Jada Valenciaga, Jinkx Monsoon, Joey Arias, Justin Vivian Bond, Kevin Aviance, Latrice Royale, Lina Bradford, Linda Simpson, Lypsinka, Murray Hill, Peppermint, Raven O, Taylor Mac, Varla Jean Merman and Willam.
A great mix of fiery, young drag talent (including the super young, à la preteen Desmond Is Amazing) and “the greats,” Wigstock 2018 is destined to introduce younger generations to some of the drag world’s most immense talents. And that’s intentional. “I think it’s important to see and experience these brilliant drag dinosaurs — I mean ‘pioneers,'” jokes Del Rio. “They truly are the best and have inspired so many of us.”
One thing we couldn’t help but notice is that the roster for the impending Wigstock revival isn’t jam-packed with Drag Race alums, who most drag lovers see not only on television but at club nights and other nightlife events in hometowns nationwide. Could it be that Wigstock wants to remind the world that drag may have gotten a boost from the powerhouse reality competition show but not its essence?
Bianca Del Rio, meanwhile, hints that the lack of “Ru girls” could have been for a more happenstance reason. Asked if the lack of Drag Race alums was by design, she says, “If ‘by design’ you mean there were only a few of us who were able to get approval from our parole officers, then yes, it was by design.”
Looking towards the big day, Sept. 1, the final details of Wigstock 2018 are still being ironed out. One of those still up-in-the-air things is exactly what the crowd will be seeing from Bianca Del Rio, known for her prowess in hosting a gig and shepherding an audience through a wild, raunchy night. If nothing else, though, Del Rio offers a hint at one thing that’s certain — namely, her trademark insult comedy.
“As evident from my two movies (Hurricane Bianca 1 and 2, available now on Netflix), I’m the Meryl Streep of the drag world,” she says. “So I have decided to perform an ‘acting piece.’ I will be acting like I’m enjoying those other queens perform.”
Hey, it wouldn’t be a Bianca Del Rio appearance without a bit of venom, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Wigstock returns Sept. 1 at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17. Purchase tickets here.
Teaser image of Bianca Del Rio by Chris Pavlich