The drag legend sounds off on sex, gender, political correctness and more.
You’ll all have heard of New York drag legend Lady Bunny. She’s an institution, a hurricane of high hair, high heels and high aspirations. She’s swept across the British and American drag scenes for the last two decades, bringing with her a unique and inflammatory brand of humour, and a fearlessly reckless defiance. She spits sequins in the face of political correctness, lives on her own debauched terms, and puts a sparkling middle finger up at mediocrity.
She’s currently in London for a whirlwind trip of shows, social engagements and DJ gigs and, in typical Lady Bunny fashion, has seemingly taken over the city. The trademark blonde barnet has been spotted bobbing up staircases and swaying at bars in every glitzy watering hole from Fitzrovia to Fenchurch Street, leaving in its wake nothing but a smashed champagne flute and perhaps a tearful model or two.
In one of her most in-depth interviews ever, she chatted to Dylan Jones about living with RuPaul, her experiences during the AIDs crisis, her views on politics, and much (much) more.
LADY BUNNY! Do you like the UK?
Well, I’ve been here a lot! I did Summer Rites with Wayne [Shires] for a couple of years. Sacha Baron Cohen was playing an Eastern European newscaster character and was interviewing everyone – I didn’t know who he was! I thought he was sexy! So I pulled him into a bathroom stall. The door was closed. I ain’t tellin’ what went on in that stall! I think I was a little more interested in it than he was though.
I saw you bounding up the stairs of Daniel Lismore’s book launch last week. How do you know him?
I met him when he was starting out. We instantly hit it off. He would come to New York, and I would get him a ticket to a fashion show. We were just together in Art Basel in Miami. He actually had the most impressive exhibit there, in terms of air conditioning. His exhibit had the best air conditioning.
What do you think of Daniel’s look?
There’s always gonna be naysayers who say ‘you’re copying Leigh Bowery’. But he admits Leigh Bowery was an inspiration! In the same way he was an inspiration to Boy George and Taboo and anybody else who fucking knew him! What Daniel has added, is extreme facial beauty. And the ability to use junk – objets trouvés – to impress the glitzy fashion world. He’s just one of those queens that’s got an eye. I think it’s genius. Maybe I’ll start ripping him off the way he ripped off Leigh Bowery! Pah!
There’s been a bit of a club kid renaissance in London recently. What do you think about that?
The scene is more fun because of extroverts and interesting costumes. So anything that adds colour is good. We have a tendency to go upscale with clubs with the VIP stuff, so anything that’s fresh and funky, is going to make it more interesting. Let’s have more interesting music too. And let’s have reasonable prices so that creative kids can do their thing. Young kids can’t afford to buy drinks anymore, so they’re carrying flasks. Which is generally associated with older people. More seasoned alcoholics.
Do you think that reflects changes on the scene over the last few years?
Well, the real story is the clubs closing down. The party’s online. Everyone’s on their phones. Someone asked me if they could take a photo in New York. And there were five people around, I’d just started my DJ set. And I said “Honey, I know what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna take a picture of us, put it on Instagram, and then you’re gonna sit there, and watch while the notifications come in. Bring some fun here, don’t suck the life out of it.” It mystifies me when I’m dancing and people wanna take a picture. I’m like “babe, this isn’t about documenting.”
One of my friends once missed a really hot guy in a bar because he was looking at Grindr.
Yeah, when I was in New York I saw three amazingly hot guys, just staring at their phones at this really happening club, I think when Grindr was just starting. I was like “you’ve paid a cover charge, to sit in here on your phone!” I just don’t trust the Grindr thing. Because it’s like whoever’s nearby. “Oh, I’m a mile away.” “Oh, I’m down the block.” “Oh, I’m upstairs.” “Oh, I’m your dad.” I don’t like that! I like to see somebody, and meet them, and get their body language.
There are some many things that depend on whether you’re attracted to someone. Like their voice, or their walk…
SMELL! If you meet someone online it doesn’t convey SMELLS.
Do you think young gay men are still struggling to be happy?
Well. I’m not a psychologist. I need one. I think people need to remember the importance of community; a lot of gay guys are going to mixed and straight clubs now…well, when you’re drunk, and you come on to the wrong straight guy and they punch you…you’re gonna be craving your community. The thing about my generation of club-going gays, is that that’s where we learned our lingo. The gay clubs. This is why I hate the notion that Grindr killed clubs. Because we didn’t just go for sex. There were certain clubs where you’d wear your dick down the side of your leg, and a handkerchief in your pocket. But there were other clubs where you’d learn about dancing, you’d learn about performance, art, your lingo. There was a sense of community. It was a safe space where you could queen out to Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, Madonna, whoever the diva du jour was. And you could kiss a man. And so that did give us – as did the fight against AIDS – a common purpose to fight for our rights. It bound us together. We were bound together out of fear, because our friends were dropping dead. But there is less of a sense of community now. And the community that is there, is online. Which we all know is full of snarks.
Me and my friends, we usually don’t feel obliged to pull in clubs, because we think “oh we could just find someone on Grindr”. I don’t know if that’s healthy or not…
Well LISTEN. I’m not gonna begrudge anybody on the way they find sex, because I have been a slut all my life. I lived with RuPaul in Atlanta and they had to put me in the back room so I could let my tricks in through the window because it was so shocking and shameful how many tricks I would turn in one day. AND, the age of some of them! But – while I’ve always been a slut and I think sex is very healthy – if you’re reducing someone to just their online stats, then you’re not catching their aura. You’re not catching their personality. We need to be more human.
It’s very interesting to me. First of all, what do you want people to say? “I like everyone”? With these PC types who are bitching about this, would they prefer that the black or Asian guy comes all the way over to their apartment, and then they open the door and say “Oh I’m sorry, I’m not attracted to you but I didn’t want to put that on my profile because I was worried it was insensitive.” No, that doesn’t make any sense to me.
But don’t you think it’s important to be sensitive about these things?
Oh, so should I then hit up a black or Asian bodybuilder and lie, and say I’m fit as a fiddle and trim and buff, and then they get over to my apartment and they’re not interested? Then I could say “You’re fat-shaming me!” No! I lied!
So you think people are too sensitive these days?
I saw a New York Times article, where a college was frowning on the greeting “what’s up, guys?” because that might exclude women. Let me tell you something. If you are looking for enemies – because, as the republicans call it, you’re a ‘special snowflake’ – you’re going to find them. And we’re also in the realm of ‘should.’ Everyone’s got different ‘shoulds’ though. So when you’re trying to enforce your ‘should’, it barely makes any sense.
I read an article by Amanda Palmer that said the silver lining of Trump’s election is that it’ll trigger a lot of wonderful art and music. Because creativity responds well to hardship. What do you think about that?
As a performer, I respect what she has to say about that – but not all of us ARE performers and creative people. Sadly, life isn’t like that for most people. If your life is art, then good for you. But what about the unarmed blacks who are still getting gunned down by police? Police whose wages I pay with my taxes.
Tell me what you think of politics in the US at the moment.
Donald Trump is so vile – in both personality and policies – that he is forcing people to resist and define what their goals are. Even during the Democrats, Obama was known as “Deporter-in-Chief” by immigration activists. My feeling is that the parties are far too similar. So we are gonna have to wake up. Trump – whose TV catchphrase is “you’re fired” – America believed he was gonna be the one to bring back jobs. And he was able to paint himself as a populist! A populist billionaire! That doesn’t even make sense.
Well…can I ask how you voted?
I had a very bitter battle with many of my friends, because many older gays support Hillary unquestioningly. I could never support her. I would never. I voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party, but I live in a blue state so Hillary’s gonna win either way. But it was very contentious.
The subject of political correctness is very prevalent at the moment isn’t it, and people seem very on edge about everything. Why do you think that is?
Well, the alt-right is coming up to strip us of our rights, joining forces with the evangelicals, who are the biggest enemy of homosexuals. Any religion is. That’s what we need to worry about. But it’s ridiculous just how sensitive we’ve become. For Christ’s sake, Beyonce had a makeup-shaming campaign! How dare SHE sit with every spa treatment on your skin, and Botox and whatnot, in photos taken by professional photographers, and filters, and then tell ME I don’t need makeup! Bitch, that’s my job. I. Need. Makeup. Fuck you.
So…what’s your relationship like with make-up and drag?
Well. You won’t find me on Grindr, you’ll find me on Craigslist. And you’ll find me under “T for M”. But that’s a different thing. There are a lot of guys who won’t go to a gay bar because they’re confused. Then, after they have sex with me, they’re really confused. But they like someone who is swishy and feminine.
You remind me of my friend Lady Lloyd.
I know Lloyd! We were out the other night. She’s a whore. And that’s what I love about her. She’s a complete whore. It’s so refreshing. But guys love that though! Here’s a real tale, ok. So you meet them in drag. And I don’t have pictures that don’t look like Bunny. There are top and lower lashes, and if they’ve got some good dick, the lashes are ruined by tears because I’m gaggin’ on that big meat! PAAAAH! And there’s no smaller wig that I wear. I wanna look my best. But they don’t care because they just want that good head. My transsexual friend told me, she said ‘Bunny, to a trannychaser, there is no difference between a post-op transsexual with fifty operations, or a drag queen who looks like Ronald McDonald.’ If a dick’s coming out from under a skirt, they can suck it and still be straight.
You talked about this stuff in your show didn’t you. How did people respond to it?
The funniest thing was how young the crowds were. And how many straight females there were! They seem to have been told they need to be upset constantly about the latest PC outrage. From makeup shaming to the sexism of ‘hey you guys!’ Maybe they feel we’ve gone too far. I’ve never said I’m correct! It’s my viewpoint, which counters a popular viewpoint. And I consider myself an ally of the trans community. If they’ll have me!
What’s your relationship with the trans community?
They are jewels in my life. Who I have a stronger connection with than anyone else. More than with gay men. I gravitated to them immediately when I came out. Their situations maybe born of weakness. From their family, or if they can’t get a job, or if they’re forced into prostitution – and some people like prostitution, let’s get real, it’s good money – but they’re facing physical challenges every day. But they have actually had the strength and clarity to rearrange a mistake made by nature. But they all come to me and say ‘girl, when are you going to transition? You’re one of us! Come on girl, let’s go get a nosejob and retire in Boca Raton.’
So is drag a big part of your identity?
Well, my mother calls me Bunny. But I find that how I act changes when I’m in drag. When this guy came over on Craigslist and I was in drag, I was doing stuff that was very flirty. And he was already there with his dick out. But I was acting all flirty! But I would NEVER have behaved like that out of drag. So I guess, on some level, I don’t fully identify as a clear-cut male. That’s the odd thing. I am one of those genderqueer, non-binary, xe or he or whatever people. I just don’t feel the need to feel precious about it and box myself in. I am me. Come on in!
• Lady Bunny will be back at the Soho Theatre in June.