Culture: Latrice Royale — The wind beneath her wings

Jul 16, 2014 at 5:00 am
Culture: Latrice Royale — The wind beneath her wings

“I didn’t expect to be doing no drag ever, ever, ever,” says Timothy Wilcots, who has been doing drag as Latrice Royale for two decades. The south Florida resident, 42, has seen her art form rise from the underground to the mainstream, and her own fame is due to competing on the TV series that is largely responsible for that shift: “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

A fan favorite on two seasons, Royale became known for her warmth and humor, for lasting in the competition longer than previous big girls, and for having previously spent time in prison. The past few years have been good to her, as drag has become more profitable, and progress in civil rights has helped her — not only personally, but also in her side career as a marriage officiant.

What started out as a favor for a friend has evolved into helping a cause move forward. “I’m very excited about that,” says Royale. “My whole view on the marriage thing has really changed since I’ve been involved with the weddings, performing them, because it wasn’t an option before. It wasn’t even a consideration to think about the possibility of being married. You just put it in the back of your head, like, ‘That’s something that gay people don’t do’ — and now it’s so tangible. It’s right in your face, it’s absolutely happening. We just would like for it to happen a little faster, that’s all. That’s what I’m trying to do now.”

Then there’s the inevitable dance song. The list of “Drag Race” alum who have used their TV status to try to expand into music is increasingly long, and Royale recently dropped “Weight.” She says, “It’s a big-girl anthem. Or whoever! It’s a feel-good, body-conscious, body image, positive … gotta get them awake!” she laughs. “I’m loving it, and I’m performing it wherever I go.”

She says it took seven or eight years to finesse her onstage look and performance. “I’ve always been larger-than-life. Nothing ever, for me, came off the rack, because they don’t make clothes that big. Not stylish clothes, anyway, but for drag.” She made everything for herself until success allowed her to pay others.

“I’m a pageant girl at heart. Any girl that’s really polished and shows me their very best thing and their craft, that’s the kind of queen I’m attracted to that really gets me going,” says Royale. “It’s an expensive gig. But I don’t like to look cheap on stage. I don’t like to look at cheap queens on stage. I feel like that gives us a bad name … So if you’re gonna call yourself a superstar, you should be a superstar!”

Everything has changed lately. “It’s a complete different ball of wax from when I started working to what it is now. Obviously, it was way more underground. It was just something that was definitely our culture, a gay culture thing. When you saw it on TV, you saw it on ‘Sally Jesse’ — you know what I mean? She would put the girls on and put them in a good light. But then you had the Jerry Springers, who would make us look like fools. It was just different. It wasn’t so mainstream — and now, it has just taken off and it is the trend! If you don’t know what drag is and you haven’t seen a drag show, you’re tired and lazy and you need to come there and get cultured!”

It’s a trend to be fabulous, she declares. “It’s hip, it’s hot and it’s only growing. People are getting more educated now, and it does make it a lot more fun to be understood in a positive light and not just made fun of. It’s only going to get better. I’m gonna use my vocal cords and stretch my wings as far as they’ll go.”

And perhaps another wedding is coming soon. “I actually have to be honest and say, yes, I have been thinking more about it. Obviously, there’s some stipulations and things we would have to get over and we’d have to work through. But I’m all about it. I would love to get married, yeah, sure. If it was possible and I was in the right place, absolutely. I gotta get out of Florida first, though.”

Latrice Royale

Friday, July 18

Play Dance Bar

1101 E. Washington St.

$TBA; 10 p.m.