The following on-camera interview was brought to you by VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Just when you thought “RuPaul’s Drag Race” couldn’t get any bigger, the series notched another eight Emmy nominations this year, including outstanding competition program and outstanding casting for a reality program. That brings the series’ grand total over the years to 56 nods.
The drag reality competition show captures the immense skill set that performers need to succeed on the series—from acting, singing, dancing, and sewing to comedy, lip-syncing, and reading. The series has also launched the global careers of hundreds of queens.
Casting directors Goloka Bolte and Ethan Petersen, who won two consecutive Emmys in the casting for a reality program category, sat down with Season 14 competitors Jasmine Kennedie, DeJa Skye, and Angeria Paris VanMicheals to share theirs insights on how the show has changed both its own formula and that of drag at large. Plus, the CDs and stars discuss how to let your guard down on national television and what the casting process looks like.
Bolte on what she and Petersen are looking for:
“We pore over these tapes. We’re looking for authenticity; we’re looking for big personalities; we’re looking for people who seem like they have the ability to compete in all of these different spaces. [We’re also looking for a person who’s] a really great narrator and [has the] ability to tell a story and also be able to represent the show really well. Our whole message is love, acceptance, and inclusivity. We want our cast to be really diverse as well. So we’re always kind of weighing that in. But we watch the tapes, and then we watch them again, and we watch them again. It’s a very, very fun but very challenging process.
VanMicheals on stepping onto such a major stage:
“You definitely have to sit yourself down and say, ‘Hey, I’m about to be on national TV in front of the world.’ It’s not just: ‘I’m about to go do the gig.’ No, no, ma’am. You’re doing it in front of everyone across the world. Like, it’s not just the U.S. anymore; this is a global thing now, so everybody all across the world is going to watch you do your thing. So I think it’s really important to make sure that you are in that good head space before you walk into any of that, because it’s really going to change you for the rest of your life. My life hasn’t been the same. It definitely takes the life that you [had] every day before the show and turns it upside down—in the best way.
DeJa Skye on how to win at the casting process:
“I’ve gotten a lot of messages [from fans] about, like: ‘How do you get on? How do you do this?’ And I tell them—and it’s so cliche—but I just tell them, ‘Be yourself.’ I know that they don’t understand that…. I’m like, ‘No, literally sit down in front of a camera and talk how you would talk to your friends.’ I think that a lot of people think there’s some magic; the magic is you. Oh, my God, I’m Oprah. But that’s why they’re going to want to cast you. They want to cast someone that has been themselves, not [someone who’s] thinking, Oh, Laganja [Estranja] did this—let me do that; Alyssa [Edwards] did this—let me do that. They don’t want that—they already have that. So you are the person that they’re casting. You are the person that they want. Don’t try to be anybody else. Be you.”