Becoming a household name after competing in two seasons of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” where she showcased a vibrancy and stellar fashion sense, this beauty is also the first drag performer from that franchise to chart with original music on Billboard. And now that she’s soon to be paying tribute to her musical theater inspirations for a very special NYC show, Blair St. Clair is truly in the air once again! [Cover photo: Willyum Baulkey]
Thotyssey: Hello Blair, thanks so much for talking to us today! I was wondering where in the world you’re living these days. Are you still in your native Indiana?
Blair St. Clair: I actually split my time between my house in Indianapolis and an apartment in New York City! I coast back and forth based on work. I love NYC, but my family and community are in Indy, and they are a huge part of my life.
How was your New Years Eve, and what are your hopes for 2023?
NYE was great this year! I took time off. I’m usually performing, but I spent the night out with friends ringing in 2023! This year I’m not necessarily making “resolutions” per se, but I’m trying to be more present and more vulnerable. So I’m really putting myself out there. I’m a perfectionist by nature, so I’m trying to get away from “perfect.”
Looking at some of your recent drag pics, you seem more naturally and effortlessly gorgeous than ever before… and you’ve certainly been a beauty queen from day one! Are you conscious of maybe presenting your makeup and overall style differently in recent years, or does evolution happen subtly and randomly?
This is an interesting question, because I have definitely experimented with trying new makeup looks and changing my aesthetic as a visual artist over the years. But I think the evolution has happened over time. I was originally taught how to do drag makeup, and I thought it had to be done one specific way… so it’s taken time for me to develop my own identity and look.
You’ve always drawn from really classic glamor styles in your own drag. Who are some of your style icons?
I have so many favorite style icons from Marilyn Monroe to Ashley Tisdale–and, yes, Miss Tisdale has slayed us with some funky early 2000s looks! I have this embarrassing obsession with the Kardashians; I don’t know if I’m fascinated by them or the idea of them, but holding so much power in female influence is so hot to me.
I feel like the cycle of RuPaul’s Drag Race you were first cast in, Season 10 (2017), was pretty important in the history of that show. It really seemed to connect with a huge audience, and the looks and numbers you were all serving really inspired lots of future contestants. There was that heated discussion between season winner Aquaria and The Vixen about how POC people can be stereotyped on reality TV that was really timely, Eureka’s shocking injury-related departure, Dusty Ray Bottoms‘ discussion of conversion therapy, Miss Vanjie’s iconic sashay, and poor Asia’s butterflies! Do you still remember your time on that first season well, or does it all seem like a distant blur?
It really does seem like a blur, to be honest. All of the girls are friends of mine, so I don’t think I really look at them the same way the public does. There were a lot of heavy topics discussed on that season, but that’s a pretty big thing Drag Race pushes–discussion around trauma. I think a lot of those conversations both on and off camera brought us together. That was the first time I had been in a room with queer people from all over the country with different life experiences. It was incredible. Oh… and I do remember all of the free food. Major perk in my world!
Your return to the franchise for All-Stars 5 (2019… wait, really!?) was also quite epic, and you showed so much growth as a performer since S10. Do you recall re-entering the franchise then with a lot more confidence and self-awareness?
I look back at some of these moments and smile for the person I was at the time, and how proud I am to have pushed myself… and I look at other moments and cringe. I had wanted to prove so badly that I had grown and taken time to work on my craft. I had felt like I didn’t fully advocate for myself and show my talents well enough on my original season, so I went into All Stars to prove a point. I did that, but I wish I had just enjoyed myself. I placed way too much pressure on myself when I came back. I’m not saying that I’d ever do it again, but I’d go in today with the goal of just having fun.
Between those two seasons, you bravely discussed some struggles and traumatic moments in your personal life such as a sexual assault in college, a DUI arrest and your sobriety journey. Does it feel gratifying today that you spoke about those things on TV knowing that those stories have likely helped lots of fans deal with their own hardships, or is it weird to have that intimate info out there?
You know, I never intended to talk about personal trauma of mine publicly. I’m not special for having trauma. We all come from dark moments and experiences. I think talking about mine helped me heal, and I didn’t know that would happen until it happened. I’ll always be grateful for having found my voice through being on a reality TV show. A lot of my drag has changed because of this. I’m healing and growing and developing every day, so my drag changes with me.
Have you watched any of the new fifteenth season on MTV?
I haven’t been caught up. I’m so grateful for the popularity of the show and the opportunities it’s provided me, but I have to separate myself from the show at times. I’ll catch up on this season soon, I’m sure.
This season focuses on young “social media queens” that emerged post-lockdown. What are your general thoughts on that generation of drag? Lots of those performers are camera ready thanks to Insta stories and TikTok and YouTube–and arguably near perfect with looks–but have very little experience with live performance or interacting with fans in person. Are they changing the game of what it means to be a drag performer, for better or for worse?
The world has and is changing, especially since COVID. I think people are understanding that any entertainer or artist has to treat their brand like a business, and social media is literally free advertising for your individual brand. I love seeing this new wave of drag; it’s both inspired me and pushed me to keep elevating. The one thing I will say, though: whether you’ve started drag during the lockdown or years ago, do your research and know that we have the ability to be public online with our art because of so many queer people who have paved the way for us to have this privilege. We deserve to be seen, but this would never have been possible if it weren’t for so many people making this change.
You are one of dragdom’s most successful recording artists, being the first Drag Race alum to top the Billboard charts! Were music and songwriting a part of your life long before drag?
Music has always been part of my life. I think music is what’s helped me find my voice–literally and metaphorically. When I sing, I want to tell a story; I connect to the meaning and to the emotion behind that story. I didn’t start making original music with the intent of breaking records or whatever. All that stuff is very cool and validating, don’t get me wrong. But I wanted to do what people had told me I could never do: sing in a female presenting form.
Generally speaking, is the solo Blair St. Clair live experience more like a music concert or a drag show?
It’s neither–it’s more like a mini-musical. It’s dramatic. It’s beautiful. It’s silly. It’s lovely. It’s my time to live out my life as all of the female musical divas I wanted to be when I was younger.
You’re a big fan of musicals. Do you have a favorite Broadway show of all time, and a favorite showtune?
This is the hardest and most impossible question to ask. I have many favorites: Big Fish, Legally Blonde (wow, shocker!), A Chorus Line, Waitress, Dogfight… to name a few.
What have been your experiences like performing in New York, and do you have any favorite performers here?
I love performing in NYC, but I also love seeing my friends shine. I think my favorite NYC performer is Lagoona Bloo. She has that “It” thing–she’s absolutely captivating, creative, and wildly talented!
You’ll be in town in soon for a special stage experience that will combine all your talents: Legally Blair at Green Room 42, February 2nd (7pm) and 3rd (9:30pm)! It’s going to be a musical theater revue with some amazing showtunes! Ben Rimalower is the director, and Eric Svejcar is the musical director.
Yes! I’m so excited for this show. This is a culmination of all the things that excite me most about musical theatre. It’s a love letter to my favorite leading ladies, and the pieces of them who make me who I am today. The show is about my life and my cry for more gender non-conforming artists to be highlighted on stage in the future. The show is silly and dumb, but also has a deep meaning to my life about dreams.
What else is coming up for you that the children should expect?
After my cabaret show, I’ll be walking in New York Fashion Week. I’m also working on a few other projects that I can talk about in the future – but the main goal is to keep my focus toward working in theatre as a gender non-conforming person.
And finally: what’s your best advice for a drag baby who is figuring out how to break into their local scene and be the best performer they can be?
The best advice I can give is to find the things that make you the most passionate about doing drag. Focus on those details. If you’re not enjoying it, take a break, recharge, and come back when you have that passion again.
Go out to your local clubs and venues and tip your local queens. Watch them. Take notes. Introduce yourself to them. Sign up for open stage shows. Work on building your brand. Keep pushing forward and be kind and doors will open!
Thanks, Blair… have a great show!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Blair St. Clair’s upcoming area appearances, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and her website. Also, stream or download her music on all major platforms.