Lady Bunny Source: Steven Love Menendez

EDGE Interview: Drag Legend Lady Bunny Talks New Show, Politics, and RuPaul's Book Club

Timothy Rawles READ TIME: 8 MIN.

Lady Bunny. You hear that name and the words "drag legend" come to mind. That or geriatric. That last sentence might seem sharp, but that's just what people do when they encounter her. Like leaving an offering at an altar, you throw a bit of shade at Bunny and she blesses you with a comeback. Usually at her own expense.

But it isn't all fun and games. This legendary drag queen is not only smart-mouthed but also smart in general. Even though her latest show is called "April Fool," she isn't one. It's a part of her act to joke about pop culture or politics or the LGBTQ+ community but away from the stage, she's just as regular, if not a little more reclusive, as the rest of us.

She spent her early life in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A part of America that's known for its waterways, railways, and bluegrass music. But Bunny, as people affectionately call her, now lives in New York among the hustle and bustle of the big city. She's been there since 1983 where she met a young club kid named RuPaul Charles who would go on to be an Emmy Award-winning host of his own groundbreaking competition reality show, "RuPaul's Drag Race."

Bunny sometimes uses stars from "Drag Race" as fodder in her act, but they don't seem to mind, being that the legendary performer isn't coming from a hateful place even though some of the barbs can be razor sharp.

That playful contempt is sometimes turned inward.

For instance, she told EDGE in a phone interview that she doesn't like to be hot and even turns off the radiator during the winter. But in the last couple of years, something has changed and now she wants the heater on, but it wasn't working.

"I was like, is the landlord not, you know, giving us enough heat? And then I said, 'No, honey, you've lived here for 30 years,'" she says in her lilting falsetto which changes timbre every fourth syllable. "Your circulation doesn't work. Your own heart can't pump the blood to your extremities anymore."

Her vascular problems aren't from living a sedentary life. In the over four decades since she has been performing professionally, it seems like she hasn't slowed down. It all began back at The Duplex, a legendary bar and cabaret theatre on Christopher Street in New York City. Her first show was called "24 Carrot Lady," and both her mother and a young Andy Cohen were in attendance. Since then, she estimates there have been about 10 shows in her oeuvre and she admittedly uses some of the old material as an act of conciliation to longtime fans.

Always on top of pop culture and social trends, Bunny moves with the times. She has a fondness for counterculture and politics which she often blends together in her act which consists of politically incorrect one-liners, provocative songs, and satirical homage. It all comes together in a one-woman sketch comedy routine reminiscent of the late '60s television show "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in," known for its quick-as-a-wink punchlines.

"April Fool" isn't going to stray from that formula, but that doesn't make her any less nervous.

"This show is almost all new and I'm flipping out trying to remember the lyrics," she says. "Of course, I'm a drag queen so we can always, uh, lip sync. I'm not the best at lip-synch. I'm probably more like Valentina." That's a reference to season nine of "Drag Race" where contestant Valentina famously wore a face mask throughout her lip sync challenge and was consequently eliminated.

Lip-sync or not, Bunny's new show will probably sell out as they usually do. There is magic to seeing her lyrical irreverence because, like a mad doctor, her genius lies in the manufacturing of the material and delivery itself, not the beast that's unleashed. It's like the insult comics in the old days when audience members would say, "Do me next!"

Maybe recently turned R&B cowgirl Beyoncé wouldn't say that but she is the latest to get Lady Bunny's attention. Like Queen Bey, Bunny is also going country in her new show and Beyonce's latest song "Texas Hold 'Em" is getting a parody, as are several other artists like Shania Twain and Tammy Wynette.

Musicians aren't her only marks; politicians should also take notice. Maybe that is because Lady Bunny isn't just a comedian, she is also a political enthusiast. She was a Democrat for a long time but changed to the Independent ticket seeing that the two-party system wasn't working for her.

She voted for Bernie Sanders in 2016, who she feels had policies that would have changed the lives of working Americans but was cheated by the Democratic Party. Her choice to back him was met with backlash. People said Sanders' votes cost Hillary Clinton the presidency.

"Well, I mean, that's not true because first of all, a lot of those people were never ever gonna vote for Hillary and also no one controls my vote," she says with conviction. "I control it. that's what a democracy is."

Lady Bunny
Source: Steven Love Menendez

In 2020, Bunny, who comes from a long line of rare southern democratic voters, says she turned her back on the party because President Biden was essentially colluding with the opposing party.

"One thing that Biden said that I cannot abide by is, in 2020 he told wealthy donors, quote, 'nothing will fundamentally change' unquote. So that means that whatever your cause is; codifying Roe V Wade – which Joe and Obama failed to do with majorities in Congress – or whether it's Black Lives Matter or whether it's trans rights, Joe is gonna do what he's done for his whole career, lie and then end up siding with Republicans," she says.

Grassroots democracy is what she hopes for in 2025, "I support Jill Stein in the Green Party who I supported in 2016."

Politics aside, she's also outspoken when things don't make sense in pop culture; no one is safe from her discerning eye, not even a longtime friend and colleague.

Recently media queen RuPaul published a memoir titled "The House of Hidden Meanings" and at about the same time started a book club on Allstora, an online bookseller he co-founded. The company has its own catalog but also acts as an e-nook within the expansive library of a distributor called Ingram. Think of it as literary drop-shipping. But, like it or not, Ingram's library includes anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ+ books that go against Allstora's message of inclusivity.

You may have seen RuPaul's social media ads where he backs up a rainbow-colored bus reminiscent of the ones in grade school where you could purchase actual books inside. It seems like a nice throwback idea if it were real, but the campaign is just an extended meme. Getting wind of the controversy, Bunny wrote a social media post calling out the online bookstore's hypocrisy and RuPaul's naivety. Allstora has recently removed the offensive books from its accessible catalog and the CEO apologized), but Bunny thinks Ru shouldn't have let his guard down.

"Ru was trading on his name as a noted gay figure to kind of like act like 'I'm gonna come to your town on a rainbow bus and it's gonna be this feel-good thing,' and well, that really wasn't what it was," she says. "But, you know what I didn't like was the phoniness of it, saying 'I'm a gay icon so come and join this book club.' Why not just say, 'I wanna sell all kinds of books, come check it out.' You know, some people would have made a stink about those books and then people try to say, 'What? You're for banning books?' And I'm like, I'm not for banning very much. I'm halfway canceled at any given point. But, you know, I'm glad they did the right thing."

Aside from her political views and near-daily social media posts, Lady Bunny has a show to do. "April Fool" is starting on April 12, and then select dates at the Green Room 24 in New York City. The legendary drag star just keeps on going. The stage beckons. After breaking her toe last year she did her act wearing an orthopedic boot. I passively asked her about retirement and why many celebrities continue to work even though they have monetary success.

"Because you need the audience," she says.

That's something she learned partly from the pandemic when she became depressed because she couldn't go to work. "Some people are just more at home on stage than anywhere else and it fulfills a need for them."

But her public wants to see more. People wonder what the artful drag queen looks like out without makeup, and you would think it would be easy to find, especially on the internet. But aside from a few pictures, she's remained surprisingly elusive.

"I come from the world of the big clubs back in the '80s and '90s," she says. "So, I need to dress up to feel, you know, some excitement. I'm not in drag right now and I'm not shy but drag kind of gives you an excuse to be bolder. That's actually the number one Googled thing; people trying to figure out what I look like out of drag, and I'm like, I put on all this bullshit and glue these wigs on my head and shove my testicles up inside me so that you can wonder what I'd look like without it?"

People might get their chance. Like most icons, she is also writing a memoir. It's not done yet, and maybe that's because if she finishes, it marks the end of something, and Lady Bunny still has a way to go. Still, she jokingly says, "I need to [finish it] before I forget everything."

She promises one thing though. In her signature high-pitched laugh, she says, "I'll put a picture of me out of drag on the last page."

Lady Bunny's "April Fool" is at The Green Room 42 starting on Friday, April 12. Tickets start at $22. Check out the venue's website for dates and times.

by Timothy Rawles

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