Bob The Drag Queen And Monét X Change: Some Tea, Some Shade
Midway through her game with fellow drag queen Monét X Change, Bob the Drag Queen made an announcement. "For the listeners at home: I'm wearing a full-length Bob Mackie gown," she proclaimed sarcastically to Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York. "My hair is up in an elegant bun. And Monét... is wearing the sponge dress." This comedic sensibility — a blend of quick wit and warm snark — has defined both Bob's and Monét's time on RuPaul's Drag Race.Humor, as well as success. Bob won Season 8, while Monét placed 6th on Season 10 and is currently competing on the fourth season of the show's All-Starsiteration.
Growing up, Monét had almost no exposure to drag. At six months old, she moved from Brooklyn to St. Lucia and was immersed in a culture that deeply discouraged effeminacy. "Just me being a little bit feminine was a red flag on a Caribbean island," she laughed. "They were like 'That's the one! We see him!'" It was only after Monét moved back to Brooklyn ten years later that she recognized drag as a reality — and a possibility. "I remember seeing drag queens getting off the train as I was getting on the train to go to school," she said. "I was like 'These men are very weird and scary, and I will never have that as a profession.' And here we are."
As a classically-trained bosso profundo — an opera bass singer with an exceptionally low voice — Monét found her opera education naturally translated to her future profession. "Opera and drag are the same thing, it's just that opera singers wear bigger lashes," she said. "[You learn] how to be present, lip-synching, and looking people in the eye when you're taking their money." She began brainstorming punny names one afternoon in the Times Square Dallas BBQ when she stumbled on the phrase "Money Exchange." She added an X and a T, and Monét X Change was born.
Bob the Drag Queen, on the other hand, was actually exposed to drag at a young age. Her mother owned a drag bar in Columbus, Georgia and when she couldn't find a babysitter, she would bring Bob to work in the club. "She would put me in the booth to take the money," Bob said. "I used to have big hands... She would turn the lights off, so this black hairy hand would come out," she said.
Bob moved to New York City at age 22 to become an actor and stand-up comedian, but immediately faced challenges breaking into the scene. "No one told me that if you can't sing, you probably won't be on Broadway." Bob explained. "No one told me that!"
She began dabbling in drag under the name "Kitten Withawhip" — a nod to the 1964 crime drama starring Ann-Margret — complete with carrying a nine-foot bullwhip to her performances. That is, until a fateful karaoke hosting gig. "The guy goes, 'Give it up for your host... Kate,'" Bob recalled. But she made light of the moment, reintroducing herself as "Kate the Drag Queen," then "Kim the Drag Queen" throughout the evening. "Then at the end of the night, I was like, 'Give it up for... Bobthe Drag Queen.' And I was like, 'That sounds really funny.'"
On RuPaul's Drag Race, Bob and Monét are known for their originality and showmanship: After sewing her own handbag, Bob coined the phrase "Purse First," a line that she later turned into a single; Monét strutted in a dress made of yellow and green sponges ("the infamous," she cackled), a move that she also turned into a single. It's those two qualities that Monét sees as the key to drag success.
"For future generations of drag, I think what is going to be staying power is being the most authentic version of yourself," Monét said. "Something New York City is very signature for is queens being able to stand on the stage by themselves for an hour... and just delivering the best of themselves."
The queens have also created their podcast, Sibling Rivalry,as a way to stay connected despite their busy performance schedules — such as when Bob was acting in Angels in Americaat the Berkeley Repertory Theater. "It's just honest conversation and conversations we have all the time, and just us arguing," Monét said. Have they learned anything about themselves? "I'm normally right," Monét laughed. "But what makes me right is I'm a more informed human being."
For their Ask Me Another challenge, Bob and Monét competed in a round of This, That, or the Other, guessing whether a song lyric belonged to an opera, musical, or drag queen's original single.
Monét, on her relationship with sponge companies:
"I have emailed Brillo every day this week. Scotch Brite has stopped answering my DMs. I'm like, we could be making money together girl. But they have not approached me yet."
Bob, on his mom's support:
"I also grew up with a mom who told me I could do anything, so I was like, 'Y'all don't even know how amazing I am.' My mom was one of the moms who was like, 'You are so handsome why aren't you modeling? I am handsome, but model... let's not get crazy."
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