If we’re going by statistics, Adore Delano is the most successful daughter of the Drag Race legacy. She’s far outsold former queens on iTunes and recently became the most followed racer across social media. She’s consistently topped fan-favourite lists and is surely one of the more quoted queens. A few Adore buzzwords in particular: “Party!”, “Fuck!”, “Chola!”, “Pizza!” are irrevocably associated with her drag persona and have cemented her status as one of the most clockable queens. One sign of a great and classic drag queen is their ability to be easily parodied and impersonated. Fans thronged towards H&M’s sale rack to pick up their black-red plaid shirts this Halloween to do just that. The Adore halloween costume was ubiquitous this year, it was as though she’d stepped into a House of Mirrors and reflected back squat Adores, long Adores; fat, skinny, wobbly Adores. Although she has everything an elite drag queen should have – the catchphrases, the easily identifiable look and personality – Adore Delano is much more than just an empty caricature. In the case of some queens, their approach to drag is somewhat like a gayer, more fabulous version of trolling. Although Adore certainly keeps things tongue-in-cheek, she’s one of a few drag queens who aren’t afraid to play earnestly sometimes. Adore Delano reveals how the real person and his character creation converge, and the impact this has upon the man with his genitals tucked halfway up his anus.
Although I’m still not quite sure what I mean by this phrase it’s clear that Adore has ‘star quality’. Whatever that does means, she’s the kind of lady that would win Most Likely to be Famous at any high school prom. However, she tells me that she still gets nervous doing some of the things that fame requires. Despite their gag-worthy outcomes, Adore isn’t the most comfortable in a photoshoot setting. It’s a place that requires her to be vulnerable, scrutinised by strangers and without the control of being able to manipulate her body in the way she would like to. Instead she prefers to be in a much quieter location. Perhaps she is like the loveable Holden Caulfield of drag as she declares, “I wanna live in the mountains ‘cause I hate people.” The sentiment seemed like a far cry away from the pop-punk, party and pizza that I’d been so used to affiliating her with. I like her style though. I can very much relate to a queen who likes to get both crazy and cozy.
More often she chooses music over people. She confesses that she hasn’t had sex in over seven months since, “dick can distract” and she wanted to focus solely on her next album After Party. For a queen that still likes to keep an occasional eye on her Grindr profile, this clearly shows commitment. The word Adore uses is ‘correct’, she remained temporarily celibate because she wanted the album to be correct. Despite only giving us tiny, teasing insights into the work gone into this record, in the way that she describes it, it sounds like it’s going to be technical, precise and sophisticated. Again, far from the PG-13 content in the music of most drag queens. On the differences between her first album, Till Death Do Us Party and the upcoming one, she tells me that “it’s more of a serious take on what happened that whole year and what I was dealing with at the time that I wrote it. It’s less of like ‘party, pizza, fuck, chola’, it’s about the person who created this persona and how they’ve merged into one.” Adore has taken the brave decision to be more than just whimsical. Although there will still be tracks that could make the whole pride float wiggle – such as the trap-style title track After Party – it will also be full of darker glimpses into the life of Adore Delano. She says that, “I do think we need people to talk about the darker sides of what happens when you’re lying in bed at four in the morning crying and thinking about your family that you never see because you’re touring every single day.” Adore isn’t the only one to feel this way, but for now, she is the only one willing to start the conversation. She goes on to say that, “These are all things that we talk about and are kiki-ing about on the tourbus so why not write about it? We’re not fucking cupcakes and taking ass shots in real life, we’re crying in bed. Why aren’t we talking about this?”
Whilst splitting up with her boyfriend, having her father pass away and going through one of the hardest times of her life, she was still selling out shows. She describes it as ‘bittersweet’, struggling with the private adversities of Danny Noriega (the man behind the drag) and revelling in the public successes of Adore Delano. The tensions between the two were in themselves another problem for Adore. She reflects on it being, “weird, after doing it every day, sometimes twice a day, your lives kind of merge and you lose a lot of your boy self. I took a few months break but I was losing my mind. It turned into an identity issue. I’m still trying to figure out who’s who, but I know the experience happened to both of us so it’s like, Adore’s becoming a more real person every day and it’s kinda scaring the shit out of me.” I suppose this must be the trouble with character development. I can now understand the benefits of drag queens to remain cartoonish, but Adore is too nuanced and openhearted not to pursue this difficult commitment.
I ask if she’d ever consider releasing music without the makeup, wigs and gowns – just as Danny. Others have wondered the same and even offered her record deals under the condition that she either release her songs as Danny or with a Black Label name. Instead she assures me that, “I think right now I really want to just focus on breaking boundaries as Adore.” Despite the difficulties and confusions that come of performing as Adore, the relationship between Danny and Adore and its impact upon them both has been decidedly positive. She remembers first discovering Adore and creating her from the “influences growing up that merged into this melting pot.” Among these influences she cites Anna Nicole Smith and Amy Winehouse as well as her Drag Race peers, Alaska Thunderfuck and Sharon Needles. However, her biggest influence has always been her mom. She tells me that, “A lot of what I do as Adore I get from the strengths of my mom. I see all the things she accomplishes and I see how she handles herself in certain situations and if I get into an awkward situation I always think about like, what would my mom do?” It is through drag that Adore can become a part of the person she idolises the most – her chola mom. When she first saw herself as Adore she tells me that, “My insecurities were all thrown out the window as soon as that last lash was glued on. It’s like a superhero mask.” She adapts the simile and rests on: “I’m like a modern day Hannah Montana.”
Adore’s mission statement has always been for drag to break into the mainstream. She may be the closest queen to it and it seems that her quest for world domination will begin in 2016. Despite the initial plan being to release a 22-track album in the winter of next year, talks are now going ahead to release two separate 11-track albums. Adore has in mind a more sombre album for winter and a dancier one for summer. However, a greater audience will require a greater responsibility over Adore’s public image and more caution as she presents herself to the world. This became an issue for some fans over the summer as they accused Adore of ‘cultural appropriation’. I asked her what she thought of these claims; whether she should engage in this conversation or if she thought drag gave her a free pass. She says, “I don’t know about a free pass, I don’t know about drag, I do know about cultural appropriation and I do know about culture. I don’t want to offend anybody but it’s not like I’m just this dumb-ass little white southern kid that doesn’t know about culture.” She points towards the window behind her: “I live in the centre of Mexican culture right now and it’s a very diverse community where I live and I grew up with all types of people. I grew up with cultural appreciation where people were dressing up as cholas and black people were dressing like gangsters and the gangsters were corn-rolling their hair. I think there’s a big difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation and that’s my thing.”
Finally, I ask Adore about the sisterhoods she has formed since involving herself in the world of drag. One of the first and most pivotal was with LaGanja Estranja, a formidable duo in their early days of drag. Adore recounts how other queens “were all jealous of LaGanja and I because we would always beat them in competitions and they didn’t know how to do what we did. LaGanja would like fucking dance her ass off beautifully and then I would sing my fucking little heart out and they’d be like fuuuuck. They couldn’t fuck with us, LaGanja and I slayed that town for a little while.” Despite not having the opportunity to perform together recently, Adore says that she would still love to. She calls her “one of the hardest working girls and I’m so proud of her.” Throughout the morning our conversation was intercepted by little pings. I asked who kept messaging her and she tells me it’s the top four girls, the ABCD (Adore Delano, Bianca Del Rio, Courtney Act and Darienne Lake) of drag. This seems to be Adore’s core sisterhood. She tells me, “It’s always been the top four. It’s never changed since the day we were given our phones back. We talk at least every other day and it’s almost been three years now – it’s like get me out of this room, shut up!” Nevertheless she’s aware that “The world needs a person like me, and the world needs a person like Bianca. She’s stunning and beautiful and statuesque in her gown, and I’m a fucking slob that can sing her ass off.”