High Heels, Small Towns: 'We're Here' Reveals The Uplifting Power Of Drag
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
A new TV series has sashayed onto HBO's streaming platform this week in high heels, of course. It's called "We're Here" - about the uplifting power of drag performance.
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GARCIA-NAVARRO: The series stars three well-known alums from the competition show "RuPaul's Drag Race" - Eureka O'Hara, Shangela Laquifa Wadley and Bob the Drag Queen, who won season eight. These queens travel the U.S., stopping in small towns to produce one-night drag shows with local participation.
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BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: You know, some of the girls getting up here tonight - it's their very first time in drag. So you guys got to show them so much love and excitement because they have been working and preparing for you today to express their individuality but also to share the love that Gettysburg has, OK? So you going to give them some love?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's lots of dancing, glitter and tears. We're joined now by Bob the Drag Queen. Welcome.
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: Hi. How are you?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm great. Tell me about the inspiration for this show. What are you trying to do when you're going into these towns?
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: Well, I think more than anything, it's just highlighting of queer communities in small towns, showing America the part of America they don't see too often.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, I mean, definitely in the first episode, we see y'all going into this town and, you know, having these very intimate talks with people who maybe haven't been able to have that experience before of talking and being understood and feeling seen.
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: Yeah, it's interesting because, I mean, we're all from small towns. Me, Shangela and Eureka are all from small towns. And I know my experience was a lot different than, like, probably wound up staying in the small town and finding community in the towns.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Which story moved you the most?
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: Well, there are some great ones. I mean, I got really teary eyed because one of the people I work with - a drag queen named Lucid Dreams - was telling me about the relationship with her grandpa. And hearing him - Grandpa Larry (ph) is his name. Hearing Grandpa Larry talk about his love for his child, his queer child who's sitting there and is so open with his grandfather was just so gorgeous.
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BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: Grandpa, what do you think of some of these scandalous outfits (laughter)?
GRANDPA LARRY: That's him. That's his thing, and he can do it. Whatever he wants to, I'm all for it.
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: In Branson, Mo., which is our third episode, I got to work with a guy named Tanner (ph) who was really struggling with his religion, which is something that I went through when I was younger. It was about representation and how representation matters. You know what I mean? It's seeing someone who is going through what you are going through, what you went through. Then you feel seen. You don't feel so alone anymore.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me a little bit about your struggles with religion that you felt connected you with the person you just talked about.
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: You know, I grew up Southern Baptist and - I'm not religious anymore, but this was a big - it was a pretty big part of my life when I was growing up. And I would go to church every Wednesday and every Sunday, sitting in the pews. And sitting - or sitting in a Bible study on Wednesday was a constant hearing about how I was wrong. Whether they knew I was queer or not, what they were preaching was about me and about people like me. And being told that, you know, twice a week - it really starts to tear you down.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me why this idea of drag can help people.
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: Well, I mean, I don't want to give the illusion that drag is super unique in its ability to be cathartic. I think a lot of art is that way. And the fact that me, Shangela and Eureka are the ones hosting this show - then, obviously, we are using this as our medium. But it also breaks down a lot of things regarding gender, gender norms and gender stereotypes that may be holding us back that we don't even know about or that we don't even realize.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So because you've done this - and I know some people are going through tough times right now for all sorts of different reasons. And part of the show is making people feel better through drag. What is something that someone could do at home if they wanted to bring some of that glitter and magic into their own lives? What would you advise?
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: Well, I always - but it's kind of an interesting statement. There is a lot you can do. I mean, honestly, sometimes, getting dressed is all you got to do. Get up and wear the clothes you would wear on a normal day.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Specifically now.
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: Yeah. But also, I got to be honest with you. Like, during the day, like, for me, what makes me feel the most comfortable is not getting dressed. I mean, I got dressed for this interview. And those over the phone, I'm wearing pants. But normally, I'd be in my onesie. I can't just wear this, like, zip-up onesie with ducks on it that I wear all day, and I wear it practically every day. However, sometimes, when I'm doing something official, even if it's not being videoed, I still get dressed so that I'm in a mindset that says, hey, let's be professional and engaging. But you also got to do what makes you feel comfortable. If shaving your head makes you feel comfortable, do it. If letting it all grow out, like, makes you feel comfortable, you got to do that, too. There's no pressure.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: True words. That's Bob the Drag Queen, one of the stars of HBO's new television series "We're Here." Thank you so much.
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: My pleasure. Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.