By Denny Patterson
Reminiscent of a spectacular Las Vegas variety show, audiences are invited to the Kravis Center’s Alexander W. Dreyfoos Concert Hall on April 11, 2020 for an evening of laugh out loud comedy and remarkable music all in one. “What Happens In Palm Beach…A Celebration of Music, Comedy, and the Iconic Las Vegas” is a star-studded experience featuring legendary entertainers like Clint Holmes, Tony Orlando, Rita Rudner, Sarge, and Alexis Michelle. Best known for competing on the ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Alexis is a theatrical gal from New York City who is excited to make her way back to south Florida. She was able to step away from her busy schedule for a couple minutes to answer some questions with OutClique.
Denny Patterson: Hi, Alexis! Thank you so much for chatting with me today. Tell us, what can audiences expect from this upcoming show at the Kravis Center?
Alexis Michelle: I think you can expect a little bit of everything. My dear friend and maestro, Luke Frazier, is putting together an exciting mix of talent and entertainment that I think will give audiences a thrill. There’s going to be a little bit of everything.
DP: Fabulous! What are you looking forward to the most about this performance?
AM: You know, it’s amazing, I could tell from the time that I have already spent in the community, I can tell that there is a thriving art scene in Palm Beach. I am excited to return and share what I can contribute and see more of the arts community down there. Of course, it is always a thrill to hit the stage and do my thing. That’s my happy place, being on stage, but I think I am excited to do it in a community full of people who love and support the arts.
DP: Since you have been to South Florida several times, is there anything special you like to do or see while you are in town? If you have downtime, of course.
AM: You know, I wish I had more downtime when I am working. Most of the time, I fly in, I will sometimes get to sleep, otherwise I get ready, perform, and I am usually out the same day or at the crack of dawn the next morning. So, sadly I don’t usually get to explore the fabulous places I visit. If anything, it is just a treat to get to visit warm weather, especially during the winter!
DP: What are you doing to prepare yourself for this performance?
AM: Well, I am pulling together some fabulous costumes because of course, this is a Vegas theme show, so there has to be glitz and lots of sparkles and feathers. Of course, there is a lot of visual preparation that needs to happen, but I also want to make sure that the material that I pick for the crowd is both entertaining, that should always be number one, but is also paying a fitting tribute to Vegas and the sort of entertainment capital that it is.
DP: You are best known for competing on the ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I had no idea that you auditioned eight times before finally being selected. Why were you so determined to be on the show?
AM: First of all, my drag was something that I love very much, but I was a little bit afraid of. I was also pursuing, kind of, a legit theatre career, and I was afraid that being known as a drag queen would pigeonhole me in terms of casting. So, I had been kind of secretive about my drag and it honestly was watching the first season of Drag Race. That made me go, “You know what, there is more that I can do with it and I want to do it that way. I can do that, and I want to do that,” and it became this goal that I set for myself. I honestly felt like it was part of my destiny, and I suppose that it was because I do believe that things happen for a reason. If it had not been part of my path, I don’t think it would have happened for me and I might have given up. I was about ready to give up before that eighth audition, trust me.
DP: Now that you have been on the show, how has it changed your life and what more do you hope to accomplish with your platform?
AM: It changed my life incredibly. It has had me traveling all over the world performing for people, which as I said, is the greatest joy. What I didn’t anticipate was how just by living my life truthfully, openly, and expressing myself the way that I do, I didn’t anticipate how that was going to touch so many people, especially a lot of young people. I get told a lot that just by continuing to do what I do, it inspires people, and that has been a very humbling experience that I am grateful for. The biggest change, if you can say just one thing about the experiences, it has allowed me to be a performer full-time. As someone who went on the show in my 30s, I spent lots of time as a performer working multiple jobs as performers often have to do. So, the fact that I have been able to make my career and livelihood solely from performing has been a tremendous gift that I will always be grateful for.
DP: Did you watch your season?
AM: I did.
DP: Is there anything you would have done differently?
AM: Oh, I would have done so many things differently! [Laughs]. I think that part of the challenge of Drag Race is it’s a very internal kind of experience, and that’s on purpose. Part of the challenge of the show and succeeding in the competition is being able to push through that when you are taken out of your own comfort zone. So, there’s lots that I look back on. Even right after I did it, I was like, “Oh, I should have played that a little differently, or I should have worn that dress.” It is so much easier to see those things after they happen. So, yes, there are lots of things I would do differently.
DP: Do you think how you were portrayed or edited impacted your career in any way?
AM: I think that the challenge in reality television is that there’s so much footage filmed. As with many forms of entertainment, but I think with reality, because it’s unscripted, you film so much more than what actually hits the air. I think that sometimes if personality gets a little bit skewed, I think that it’s just a matter of context. So, I will be honest, there were times when I didn’t feel like my true self was being represented, and it’s hard to say the impact that it had. I know what impact it had on me personally, but I have done my best to just press on in my career and continue to show up and show people my art and passion and who I am. That served me pretty well over the past few years.
DP: I would like to ask you about the reading challenge. A lot of people came for you because of the way you reacted to Farrah Moan’s read about your weight. Is there more to the story than what we saw?
AM: As I have opened up quite recently on my Instagram, my weight has been something I have struggled with for most of my life and felt uncomfortable about for a lot of my life. This is a good example of context, sometimes things can be lost when they are out of context. I was particularly sensitive in that moment because we had a very open, intimate conversation about eating disorders and body dysmorphia and body image. You saw some of that discussion on the show, particularly for the girls who were talking about anorexia and bulimia and that side of the spectrum of eating disorders. What you did not see was my side of the spectrum. You didn’t see it at all. So, all of a sudden, when this moment of sensitivity popped up for me out of context, it did not sit well with people because it looked like I could dish out insults, but couldn’t take them. It really was the context. Now, it’s a journey to self-love, acceptance, and self-care, and that is the journey that I am on. I am feeling great right now.
DP: I saw the Instagram post you are talking about, and you look great! Losing thirty pounds is quite an accomplishment. What are you doing to lose the weight?
AM: Thank you so much. For the past year, I have been working out very seriously with the help of some trainers. Being active feels fantastic, but it took some serious focus to pay attention to what I eat. The funny thing about food is that it can be abused like other substances, but it is also what keeps us alive. It’s a pleasure to be enjoyed. So, it has been about sort of reprogramming my relationship with food, and I have had great success and happiness by way of Haylie Pomroy’s fast metabolism diet.
DP: In addition to drag, as you mentioned, you are a trained actor and singer. Have you performed on Broadway before?
AM: I have not been on Broadway yet, but that is a dream that is very much alive within me that I expect to fulfill in my life. Even though my focus turned toward drag, my theatrical dreams are alive and well.
DP: Do you have any dream roles?
AM: Oh, so many! Of course, the best answer is that I would love to take on an original part that I could make my own. But, I am a musical loving queen, so there are plenty of revivals I would love to star in.
DP: If you never pursued drag or performance, what path do you think life would have taken you?
AM: Oh, I love that. All of my interests are quite creative, most of them visual, and all sort of stem from entertaining. So, the other interests I have that are not performance related, I see them as having performative elements, but I would probably be working with food or flowers, or both.
DP: You also appeared on TLC’s Drag Me Down the Aisle alongside Bebe Zahara Benet, Jujubee, and Thorgy Thor. Can we expect any more episodes of that?
AM: I would say, stay tuned for more!
DP: Would you consider returning to Drag Race for an All Stars season?
AM: We will see what the future holds. We’ll see what my schedule looks like and such. You never know, but I would be open to it.
DP: What’s next for you? Any other upcoming projects we should be on the lookout for?
AM: Yes, definitely. Keep your eyes out for my upcoming cabaret schedule including April 24 and May 7 at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City, as well as upcoming appearances at Club Cumming, also in New York City. And again, keep your eyes out for me, Jujubee, Thorgy Thor, and Bebe Zahara Benet in 2020. It’s going to be a great year!