A Deep Chat With Adore Delano About All the Women Who Inspire Her
Because behind every great drag queen is a long line of pop cultural icons.
It took me forever to get hold of Adore Delano. When she wasn't flying to various performances in various cities, she was out partying, or fast asleep on the other side of the world while I was waking up in a time zone eight hours ahead. Finally, over a long weekend here in the UK, my phone rings and on the other end is a familiar slow Cali drawl. "Hi... it's Adore Delano," she says, before telling me how she's sitting in the departure lounge of an airport sipping a bloody Mary.
By now, you're surely well aware of RuPaul's Drag Race because it has become a kind of reality TV empire and cultural behemoth (if not, nick your mate's Netflix password and power that shit up immediately, then we'll talk). Adore Delano appeared on both season 6 and All Stars season 2, and was easily one of the show's brightest stars. For starters, she can sing – really sing (she was a contestant on American Idol as a teenager and her performance in 'Shade: The Rusical' is nothing short of iconic). She also gained a dedicated young fanbase for her deadpan one liners – "I'm a fuckin' Libra" – as well as her inimitable drag style, which looks a bit like someone popped a handful of Xanax before falling through a thrift store backwards en route to a Hollywood strip club. In other words: she's cool as fuck.
Since then, she's released three albums, the last of which is called Whatever and basically sounds like Courtney Love and Britney Spears if they'd had a lovechild and raised it on stage in Vegas. All of which is to say: behind every great drag queen are a long line of pop cultural icons. To that end, I asked Adore to pick five women who have inspired her the most, and then we had a chat about them.
Noisey: Let's start with Courtney Love. She's actually one of my absolute favourites too!
Adore Delano: I was speaking about this to RuPaul the other day. I love how she takes what other people think about her and then just owns it. I think that was really empowering to watch as a little kid and I've loved her ever since. It's this idea of not caring that I'm drawn to, and this idea that you can do anything. I really love that as a human quality.
Would you say she inspires your drag style as well?
Oh, absolutely. I could go on about how many people have created 'Adore', but Courtney's definitely always been one of the main ones. But also her attitude, her lyrics… as a musician I think she's a lyrical genius; I really love the way she puts words together. She's just an asshole, I love her.
Have you met her before?
I haven't, but she's come onto my live chats on Instagram before which is so cool and I was freaking out, man.
What would you say to her if you met her?
I grew up in the LA scene or whatever, so I've always tried to stay away from celebrities because they scare the shit out of me, but she's definitely somebody I'd go up to in the market and be like "Babes, just wanted to say hi. You're cool as fuck. Bye."
So let's chat about Amy Winehouse. What is it about her that you love?
My mum and I were just talking about this. I was at a drag convention in the UK yesterday and everyone was like, "oh my god, you remind me so much of Amy Winehouse" but I'm like, "it's because it's intentional, I promise you." I fuck with these girls for a reason, and she's definitely a musical influence as well – especially her vocal runs. She came out at a really cool time in my life and to see somebody that different, and somebody who really didn't give a fuck, during that decade in particular, really inspired me as a teenager.
Yeah, she's one of our most recent real 'icons'. It feels like just yesterday she was around, releasing albums.
I always say that too. It's so sad. You don't usually find those people in the last 20 years.
What's one of your favourite songs of hers?
I love "Back to Black", I love "Tears Dry on Their Own", and I loved the whole of The Lioness because it was so raw and it felt like another layer of her beauty. But really… I love anything she's ever written, in the same way I love early Courtney. It's genius shit. She's a true lyricist.
All the other people you chose I'm also obsessed with, but I never got into Janis Joplin in the same way. What is it about her that's so cool?
I feel like I picked these girls who are kind of similar within their decades. She's a musician first and foremost, but the way she looks comes after that. She wasn't conventionally beautiful, she didn't do whatever other girls did, she had masculine tendencies, she loved women, she loved men, she was stunning. Her story is inspiring as well… it's like she just felt in her soul that she had something in her, and she picked up and went to San Francisco and never looked back.
There's a song on your new album called " The 27 Club ", which obviously reminds me of both Janis and Amy. Why did you write that track?
For obvious reasons I'm super drawn to that whole vibe; I love Kurt, I love Amy and Janis. But really, I wrote that track during the end of our tour. It had all got a little dark and I was writing a lot of music and poetry and that melody kept going round my head. So I called my sister and was like, "I need to record this! Let me send you a demo!" and when I played it to her she started crying. So yeah, I drew from personal experience, but I also wanted to write about these revolutionary human beings.
Do you feel like you've come out of that dark place you were in when you wrote that song?
Absolutely. Although I do still battle depression and stuff like that, and when you're on the road you don't always feel like you have a personal life. It's like you're famous enough that people recognise you, but not famous enough to order security or have people around you to keep you safe when others invade your personal space, so that's weird. But I'm figuring it all out the older I get.
I feel like a lot of the women you chose have had these wild, party lifestyles – do you still party much yourself?
Yeah I mean I'm drinking a bloody Mary as we speak… it's in my blood, I'm Native American. Although I've actually never been a huge drinker – I started drinking and dabbling in drugs in my mid-twenties and I always tell the little kids that the reason I'm so candid about my drug use. It's because I lived my youth out first. You don't get your past back and you've got to still have that brain to retain those memories or you're fucked.
I'm so happy you chose the Spice Girls! They're quite different to a lot of people on this list.
Yeah, I just did an interview with a rock magazine and they were like "what's your favourite rock band?" and I was like "Spice Girls!" They were every part of every girl growing up in the 90s, they had every type of identity in there and I remember not knowing what I was as a kid, but looking at Scary and Ginger and Sporty and seeing how different they were but also how in synch they were, and it was great to watch. They were super inspiring.
If you had to play one of the Spice Girls in 'Snatch Game', who would it be?
I think I would do good with Scary, but I'd want to be Ginger so bad… you know, all my friends call me Gender Spice.
What's your favourite Spice Girls song?
I actually really love the slow ones… I love "Viva Forever". I did a show in Amsterdam where I was supposed to do only two songs but I ended up doing 13 because they kept playing songs that I love and they played "Viva Forever" and I started crowd surfing to it. It was so funny to do because it's such a depressing song.
How did the Spice Girls inspire the way you dress on stage?
I still love the whole 90s style with the Buffalos, which all the girls are wearing. Everything that I secretly really wanted to wear when they first came out… I can actually wear now! I can wear it as a 27-year-old man and the world has to deal with it.
What is it about Joan Jett that you love?
I think it's her style. I love her music and I've performed some of her stuff before, but I was introduced to her by my dad as a kid and I thought she so beautiful and also masculine – she was so "in between" and embraced both sides, which was kind of liberating as a kid. I was like, "I want to dye my hair and get a guitar!" and that was because of women like Joan Jett. I'm really obsessed with women who blur gender, and even men, like Pete Burns… I've always been drawn to ambiguity.
Do you think you did that enough on RuPaul's Drag Race ?
No I think I was in a different headspace at that time. I did a lot of dumb things with my wardrobe because I thought that's what you're supposed to wear on a show like that, so it was representative of how I'd usually dress. Like, you could look up videos of me before Drag Race and I'd be wearing a Budweiser bikini and throwing beers. You have to polish it up for a TV show of course… but that's why I left All Stars 2 because I was like "dude, they're treating it like a pageant still, I've got to get out of here man! No way."
Do you think you'll ever return to the show?
Not right now… I'm super fixated on the music and a few TV projects which I'm excited about. But maybe, I'd never say never.
Before we say bye, do you have any other honourable mentions for your list of icons?
I always plug Mechanical Animals-era Marilyn Manson. Pete Burns. Ozzy Osbourne. There are so many.
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