Fame and celebrity

Drag queen and insult comic Bianca Del Rio in Hong Kong debut, so audiences beware

When Roy Haylock won reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2014 it changed his life. He has already starred in two feature films and he is finally coming to Hong Kong on his third world tour with his caustic brand of humour

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 1:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 1:01pm

The larger-than-life drag queen and insult comic Bianca Del Rio makes her debut Hong Kong appearance on November 25 with her hilarious “Blame It On Bianca” tour.

Bianca, the alter ego of comic Roy Haylock, shot to worldwide attention in 2014 when she won season six of the reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race. She is known for her sharp wit, foul mouth and unapologetic humour.

“It’ll be my first time in Hong Kong, I’m excited. I’ve got a couple of days before the show and my friends have given me a list of things to do – eating and shopping is high on the list, along with a cocktail or two,” says Haylock, speaking from Bali where he is taking a few days break between the Australian and Asian legs of his tour.

Haylock grew up in Gretna, Louisiana, with his Cuban-born mother and Honduran-born father. The fourth of five children, he had three older sisters and a younger brother, and from the age of about 12 he remembers doing his mother’s and sister’s hair and make-up. He was so good that his sisters began paying him to get them ready for a date.

“I was always a creative child. I also liked to paint and draw. All those years of doing those types of things, I was grateful I had those experiences because it changed my life later on. I know they weren’t acceptable for what society assumed a boy should do, but I think its just your passion, it’s what you’re drawn to,” says Haylock.

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He started designing costumes and performing in plays at Gretna’s West Jefferson High School and by the time he graduated had already won a Big Easy Award for his costume work. After a brief stint in New York, he moved to Baton Rouge and that is where Bianca was born.

“I was involved in theatre and I would be doing costumes, wigs and make-up for several productions. There was a part in a play that required a drag queen and I already had the makings of a drag queen by being able to do hair and make-up. So I put myself in drag, did the role and 21 years later here I am,” he says.

“Blame It On Bianca” is his third world tour and although he says the show is scripted, it’s a loose script and he usually draws much inspiration from the audience. “I generally enjoy talking with the audience – they give you so much. They’ve usually had a cocktail or two and they are wild, so it creates a fun environment,” he says.

It’s his ability to work with an audience and razor wit that led the late American stand-up comic Joan Rivers to call Bianca’s humour “So funny! So sharp!” Indeed, The New York Times hailed Bianca as “The Joan Rivers of the Drag World”.

So how much of Bianca is actually Haylock?

“A lot more than people think. It’s not so much a complete act for me – it’s an extension of myself. Not the side that is nasty and hateful, but the fun part. Obviously everything about it is a joke and I’m the biggest joke. I don’t take myself too seriously, I try to always encourage people when they come to see me that nothing is really serious,” he says.

He hadn’t fully realised the power of television until he won RuPaul’s Drag Race, referring to the win as a “golden ticket”. The global reach of the reality TV show has meant that Bianca is a household name across much of Australia, America, South America, Europe and parts of Asia – all covered in his worldwide tour.

“When I was growing up I didn’t see many positive drag queen role models – with the exception of Ru. The show has changed America and the world’s opinion of what drag is,” says Haylock.

He was 19 years old when the movie Priscilla Queen of the Desert starring three drag queens (played by Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce) was released in 1994 – Priscilla the musical recently showed in Hong Kong for four weeks – but Haylock points out that the drag queens in the film were played by straight men.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert in Hong Kong – a backstage look at the hit musical

“It was acceptable for people to see straight men playing drag, but I truly feel that now is this new revolution where we are celebrated on this reality show for who we are. We are boys in wigs, but we also have our own stories,” says Haylock.

Riding on the back of his reality TV success, he has starred in two feature films. The crowdfunded debut indie film Hurricane Bianca (2016) was shot in Texas and is the story of a teacher who loses his job for being gay and comes back as Bianca Del Rio.

“It was dealing with a serious subject, but in a comedic way. We got a super response from it – people weren’t aware that this was the way things worked in certain states in America,” says Haylock.

The sequel – Hurricane Bianca 2: From Russia with Hate – wrapped up filming in October.

Now 42 years old, Haylock says he had planned to quit drag when he turned 40, but the opportunities provided by RuPaul’s Drag Race changed all that. He has revised his plan to continue doing drag for as long as he enjoys it, but is certain that won’t be forever.

“There is an expiration date on that for me. But there are other things I can go back to – the costume world and the other things I did before the show. I never rule anything out, you never know what’s to come,” says Haylock.

Meanwhile he is enjoying every minute of it and shrugs off the challenges of an intense travel schedule that will see him perform in more than 50 cities on five continents over the next 10 months.

“First of all, I’m not flying the plane. Granted you lose a bit of your personal life, but how amazing to get these opportunities. Even if I’m exhausted or having a moment, when I get out there and see a lot of people interested in seeing me it all disappears. A great reminder of ‘Wow – look at what I get to do’,” says Haylock.

Bianca Del Rio, Blame It On Bianca, Nov 25, 7pm, AsiaWorld-Expo, HK$488-HK$1,576, HK Ticketing