LAist has watched Project Runway with Santino Rice and thrown finale parties. We have followed his career through amazing times of designing Joanne Heyler's gown for the BCAM opening to visiting his magical design studio downtown. So when Santino told LAist he would be a judge for RuPaul's new reality show, we knew it would be something special.
From the beginning Santino's enthusiasm for the project was evident. This was to be no ordinary reality show. RuPaul's Drag Race asks some of the most amazing drag queens to compete for the chance to show the world that they can carry on the amazing tradition of transformation inspired by the one and only beautiful of the beautiful, RuPaul.
Recently we went with Santino to the premiere party for RuPaul and took oodles of photos to document the amazing and magical night. Today LAist asked Santino to tell us about his excitement about the show, how the rules of the competition work, and what he would make if he was asked to create a costume for RuPaul.
LAist: The show premieres tonight. A few months ago you told LAist you were going to be on the show and that you were excited about it. How do you feel that it is actually premiering tonight?
Santino Rice: I am so excited to see it. I am so excited, I am a judge on every episode. There is always a panel of specialist judges on each episode that really lend their eye and their point of view to judging these performers and the art of drag .
How do episodes of Rupaul's Drag Race work? What are the competitions?
It does spoof on a lot of other reality competitions. In every episode the contestants have to compete with some kind of exercise that usually involves a photo shoot or performance. It's not just about their visual and their looks, but they also have to use their experience, knowledge, and personality in order to win the challenge. Each week after the winner is chosen, there is a bottom two that are left. Those two have to lip-sync for their lives, to a song that they were given prior to the episode. It's their homework, just in case they are in the bottom two. We watch them perform against each other simultaneously. It's always evident who did the better job performing, but that decision is up to RuPaul and RuPaul alone.
Why do you think you were asked to be one of the judges?
I think that they chose me for my point of view. All the aesthetics that I hold true, as far as what makes something creative, imaginative, and beautiful, all come into play here in this competition. When they first asked if I would be interested in doing this show, I said, "Yes of course". This is the spice of life. This is one of those things that gives me a lot of inspiration. Watching performers like this... I think the overused word on Project Runway is 'chic'. I think the word I said most often in RuPaul's Drag Race is 'passionate'. I always talk about it because you really feel the passion from every single contestant. Everyone is on their way to becoming huge drag queen superstars.
The premiere party and drag queen art show at World of Wonder was quite a scene. There was so much amazing energy in the room. It was so well attended by the community of drag queens and people who love drag queens. Describe the scene for us.
Oh my god. The support, the overwhelming support, that came out for that premiere party was incredible. I don't know what the final count was. I don't think they ever could count everyone coming into the art gallery. I think that was the problem with the fire marshal. It was thousands, possibly two thousand people or more showing up. Every drag queen in history. Everyone showed up looking amazing. Everyone has their own persona. That's what I love about the art of drag is that you'll see with these contestants, really the only similarity between them is that they all perform this illusion of drag. Other than that , they are all from different walks of life. They are completely and totally different. It's pretty amazing that someone's personality calls them to create this illusion with their body, hair and the choice of clothing they put on. It's a combination of so many different types of art forms. It's mind-blowing. I think the audience is going to be completely and happily shocked, in a way they haven't been in a long time. The process of watching these performers is going to be the thing that will shock a lot of people. Their in-between stages.
Will the audience get to see complete before and afters?
Oh yeah. Like creating anything, it's a process. Watching these men transform themselves into beautiful drag queens, the hours of makeup, and to top it off sometimes they have to create their own looks.
What was your experience working with RuPaul?
It's great that RuPaul is back on the scene. I have been a huge admirer of RuPaul, everything that he has created. He is the most famous drag queen, superstar ever. I love that his concern for the younger generation, his concern for the art of drag and wanting to find someone to fill his shoes and carry the torch for this kind of art form. It lets you in on what a generous and sweet person that RuPaul is and where his heart is coming from. It's pretty incredible watching RuPaul every episode, the costumes, the hair, the whole experience gets better and better. I was blown away after every episode thinking, "How can this get any better?" And yet it still did.
If you were going to design an outfit for RuPaul what would you design?
On the show, Rupaul has amazing costumes all designed by his longtime collaborator, Zaldy. Zaldy also designed L.A.M.B. with Gwen Stefani. Zaldy does all of Ru's outfits for the show. They are really incredible. I have seen so many varied things that Ru has worn. I'd probably go with one of my signature pieces, a light, flowing, and frothy layered gown of chiffon. He wears a lot of body hugging sequins. I'd try making him something soft and feminine.
RuPaul's Drag Race premieres tonight on LOGO at 10PM.
Akashia, Bebe Sahara Rene, Nina, Shannel, and even Charo in the corner
Alexis Del Lago and James St. James
Charo and her milk jugs
Bebe Zahara Benet and some really weird dude
The Feircness that is Rupaul
Sauce, Second Sauce, Third Sauce