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This gorgeous Jersey girl won a Madonna look-alike contest at the age of 16, and soon after shuffled into NYC to pursue a career that has kept her around for over two decades.
Before Michelle Visage hit it big with the pop trio ‘Seduction’, she was the first ‘biological’ girl to walk vogue in a ballroom, having entered a dance scene previously exclusive to drag queens. Funnily enough, the Queen of Pop would end up ‘vogueing‘ her way into the 90’s while Michelle made her dreams come true with ‘Seduction’ and the S.O.U.L.S.Y.S.T.E.M.
After several hit songs, including a track for the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time, ‘The Bodyguard’, Michelle sashayed away from the stage to re-invent herself as a prestigious radio and TV personality. Being pop culture savvy makes her an A-list eminence in the entertainment industry and yet she oozes a down-to-earth vibe that combined with her snarky sass landed her a well-deserved job on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’.
Alongside her best friend and reigning Drag superstar RuPaul, Michelle delivers showbiz longevity realness and spicy snippets of her wild mind. Keep reading and let the iconic Michelle Visage show you what you can learn from a bunch of dudes dressed-up in drag couture. Regardless of your gender, sexuality, age and wig of choice, you’d better tune in!
Toonari Post (TP): You scored big hits with both Seduction and The S.O.U.L.S.Y.S.T.E.M. Besides royalties, what’s left of the young R&B sensation in you?
Michelle Visage (MV): Too bad the royalties never existed with seduction. We never saw a penny, it was one of the worst deals in history. Everything is left! I’m still the same little 20-year-old girl from south Plainfield, New Jersey with stars in her eyes…
TP: You left New Jersey and moved to NYC at a very early age to pursue your career. Tell us about your inspirations, where did your drive come from?
MV: I’m a Virgo. I was born in overdrive. Thank God for me, I had two parents that supported my dreams of becoming an entertainer at a very young age.
They paid for classes, trips to NYC to audition… Mind you, they both had regular jobs (mom was a realtor, dad owned a trophy shop) so they gave up everything to see me realize my dream. As far as inspiration, it all started on Broadway for me. ‘The Sound Of Music’ and ‘West Side Story’ were the musicals that made me want to perform.
TP: You took part in one of the most extraordinary underground movements in the history of pop culture. Tell us about the Vogueing scene in NYC.
MV: Vogueing was amazing in the late 80′s. When I moved to NYC I was instantly welcomed into the gay scene and I became completely immersed in it. I didn’t know anything about it, but I knew that was where I belonged. they loved me for all the freaky things I represented and it just felt like home.
I started to vogue in 1987 at a club called “the underground” and from there I was nurtured and taught by the legends Willi Ninja and Cesar Valentin and I was the first real girl to walk vogue in a ballroom. I snatched. WERK!
TP: Back in the day it was reported that Madonna’s label had warned you to stop copying her style. How did that come about?
MV: I was told when we were at the heartbeat video shoot that Madonna’s label had contacted ‘Seductions’ label which was Vendetta/A&M records and said: “please have Michelle Visage stop copying Madonna’s look to avoid confusion. and if she has the need to continue to do so, at the very least, couldn’t she do it better?”
By the way, that was the highest compliment that Madge was threatened by little ol’ me!
TP: Take us back to the mid 90’s when you were the co-host of ‘The RuPaul Show’. Was America ready for its ground-breaking premise?
MV: America was ready, corporate America was not. It was an amazing show, way before its time and should be revisited.
TP: You’ve continuously reinvented yourself as a stellar radio personality. What is it about radio that you love so much?
MV: Thank you. Well, radio is a passion. it always has been. I remember as a kid staying home on new years eve so I could listen to Z100 in NYC to write down the top 100 songs as they played them and when I missed some, I knew they just kept playing the countdown on a loop so I would wait. I used to listen to the top 10 countdown on WABC when they played music on AM.
It’s just something I was always destined to be involved in and I am blessed that I have spent the last 17 years as a morning show host in NYC, LA, Miami and West Palm. It’s the best, still free, form of mass communication and what’s better than starting your day with great music and a girlfriend on the radio that makes you laugh on your way to work or to drop off the kids?
TP: You and RuPaul have been besties for quite a long time. What do you guys do together?
MV: We do everything everyone else does together; get waxed, cruise, shop… Ru is the best friend a person could have. When we have our “talks,” I come away from it energized and ready to take on the world.
TP: Having you on RuPaul’s Drag Race is just like having another fierce queen on screen. Why did you wait until season 3 to join the show?
MV: OMG that’s the best compliment EVER! well, it’s like this, Ru will tell you the show was conceived with me as a judge originally but I had a boss at the time (in radio) that was a homophobe (unbeknownst to me) and wouldn’t let me have the time off to shoot. Therefore, they hired Merle. She did a great job, I’m very different in the way I approach Queendom.
TP: I was floored by the level of expertise and talent the queens delivered last season. Tell us about the fourth generation of queens. Can they outdo their predecessors?
MV: These queens do not eff around. People laugh when they watch the show, but what everyone has to remember is that this is their lives. They live this every single day; this is not just a TV show, this is a chance at changing their lives forever.
This season is very different in many ways from any other. It’s not a matter of outdoing, they are different so of course, the show will be different but I know no one will be disappointed!
TP: You stay in touch daily with your fans through Twitter. What is the outcome of exposing yourself to all kinds of feedback?
MV: The outcome is that I get to talk to thousands of people that I wouldn’t normally be able to go back and forth with. It’s an amazing thing, Twitter. Of course I have the haters, but what they think of me is none of my business. If they care to share it, then what can I do? I answer them back and it is what it is. I have never been one to hide or lie about anything, I have been honest about everything in my life but it’s the way I exist. life is too short for that.
SHOUT OUT TO MY GLITTERAZZI CHILDREN, MAMA LOVES YOU! @michellevisage #HAUSOFVISAGE
TP: For those out there thinking they have nothing to do with a bunch of Drag Queens lip-synching for their life, what can kids, biological women and straight men learn from RuPaul‘s Drag Race?
MV: Such a brilliantly worded question. RuPaul’s Drag Race is so much more than queens lip synching for their lives. It’s about freedom to be who you are and be accepted for who you are 100%. On that main stage they know they are being loved, admired and appreciated. Though the judging is harsh, it makes them better at what they do, therefore earning a better living and learning to love themselves more.
Most of these queens have struggled in their personal lives, fighting to be accepted in their own communities or just to survive, and RuPauls Drag Race gives them the courage they need to say: “I LOVE MYSELF FOR WHO I AM AND DAMMIT, I AM BEAUTIFUL!”
Catch “RuPaul’s Drag Race” every Monday at 9/8 central on Logo TV and join the #HAUSOFVISAGE to get more info on Michelle Visage! You can also enjoy our exclusive interviews with fierce “RuPaul’s Drag Race”contestants Pandora Boxx and Manila Luzon.