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May 5, 2010

Queen for (more than) a day

Drag queens have long been declaring their right to be fabulous, entertaining and over the top. Louisville’s own The Connection nightclub hosts one of best and longest-running drag shows in the nation. And now the hit reality TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is putting drag queens into the mainstream, launching the lovely lady-boys into their own drag superstardom.

One of the contestants vying to be “America’s Next Drag Superstar” was the beautiful and hilarious Pandora Boxx, who was crowned by RuPaul as “Miss Congeniality” and was kind enough to sit down with me at Hotel Nightclub last week.

LEO: Pretend I don’t know what a drag queen is. How would you explain it?
Pandora Boxx: The easiest way to explain it is that it’s like doing Halloween on a weekly basis and making a living at it. So many people love Halloween, because they get to be somebody else. And that’s what drag is. Every character you do is an extension of yourself to some degree, but you get to be this larger-than-life persona. It just happens to be that it’s a woman, or an extreme version of a woman. I consider myself an actor playing that role.

LEO: And you get to make up the role for yourself …
PB: Yeah, I get to create the character, and I get to choose what music I do and what I wear and everything. You are your own writer, director, creator and executive producer.

I think one of the best parts (about “RuPaul’s Drag Race”) is that you get to see a small snippet of what we are like … A lot of people think that every drag queen wants to be a woman, and that’s not necessarily true. For me, it’s not about that. For me, it’s being a character and having fun with it and getting to wear pretty dresses.

LEO: What are your thoughts on plastic surgery?
PB: Are you suggesting that I get some done? Bitch! (Laughing …)

It’s tough when you are on television, and you’re in the public eye. I’ve been thinking about it, because I see myself on TV and think, “Ooh, maybe I can fix that or fix this.” But, I think it’s more about being happy with yourself. I’m not opposed to plastic surgery, but I think it can go too far. It’s an individual choice. Things that are that personal need to be for yourself, not for somebody else.

LEO: I’m happy with a padded bra.
PB: I’m happy with a padded bra, too, because at night, I can go, “Woo! They’re gone!”

LEO: When did you first feel your inner Pandora coming out?
PB: I have a picture of me in drag, in my mom’s wig and blouse, when I was 5 years old. She was itching to get out at a young age. But, I didn’t really understand that I was gay because I was very naïve. I had crushes, but I didn’t realize until later in life. Growing up, there was not a lot of it on TV, and if there was a (gay) character, it was kind of made fun of.

LEO: You were very open on the show about your hardships as a teenager coming out. Do you have any advice for someone in a similar situation?
PB: It’s scary, especially when you’re young. My advice is just know that your teenage years are probably the hardest part of your life, because you really feel like everything is the end of the world — all your emotions are running crazy. Just know that it gets better. There are many people out there like you, and you can find people who have gone through what you are going through …

LEO: Where do you find your humor? How do you hope to use it?
PB: I think I’ve always had it. In some ways, it was a defense mechanism, being shy and not feeling like I fit in. If I could make a joke, then maybe I could make people laugh, and they would like me. And the more time I spend with my mother, I realize where I get a lot of my humor, where I get everything. It’s something that comes naturally to me. And I hope it takes me the places I want to go.

LEO: What’s next for you?
PB: Hopefully my own TV show. Check out my sketch comedy show online called “Pandora Boxx’s GAY SHOW!”
LEO: You better work it, girl.