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Latrice Royale is a Biscuit — Let Her Sop You Up


Latrice Royale was born on Halloween night 1992.


“Oh, it was a dare,” says Latrice of the origin of the “large-and-in-charge, chunky-yet-funky, bold and beautiful” drag queen who would go on to find worldwide fame more than 15 years later on season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race


“I was just lip-syncing songs all the time with my friends — especially Whitney Houston. ‘I'm Every Woman’ was out in ’92 on The Bodyguard soundtrack. Girl, you couldn't tell me I wasn't every woman,” Latrice says with a hearty laugh. “And I knew all the words, but I never thought about doing drag — I was just chillin’ with my girls. But they dared me to do drag, so… ”


Never one to shy away from a challenge, Latrice, a color guard instructor at the time, built a “makeshift” costume from the leotards and gold lamé leggings her students wore for performances. She choreographed a lyrical dance to Shirley Murdoch’s 1988 R&B track “Husband” — “obscure then, obscure now,” she admits of the song — and took to the stage of the now-defunct, but once-legendary Copa Nightclub in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“[The song] was... not right for the drag show,” Latrice says. “So I got a drink ticket, a fashion citation, and sent home.” 


But Latrice was back at the Copa the following week in “this hot monstrosity of a dress” she sewed herself — and this time, she won the competition.


“I've always been someone who has overcome adversity and obstacles,” she says. “And that was my first hurdle.”


When Latrice Royale hits the stage at Boulder Theater on April 12 for Cabaret on the Rocks, it will be another notch in a heavily scored belt — yet another reminder of everything Latrice has overcome since her single-parent childhood in Compton, California. She’ll perform alongside Hugh Panaro, who played both the titular character and Raoul in Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera more than 2,000 times, and John McDaniel, an Emmy and Grammy award-winning music director with Broadway credits including Bonnie and Clyde, Catch Me If You Can, Brooklyn, and Annie Get Your Gun


When asked if such an experience was part of her childhood dreams, Latrice doesn’t mince words.


“Not getting killed [was my dream],” she says. “It was rough, I'm not gonna lie. There were some happy times, but they were few and far between. My dream was to survive and to be better than my surroundings. And my mother wanted that for me too. That's why she bused me out to Long Beach, and then we moved to the valley so I could get a little more culture with different ethnicities and all that kind of stuff, which helped in my development. But I didn't know what dreams were — not fully until I got into middle school and high school where I could understand that I could have a different future than what my brothers were doing.”


Latrice has navigated hardship by setting her compass to positivity and following in her mother’s footsteps by being “a doer,” not just a talker, and going after her needs and wants. 


As a plus-size drag queen, Latrice says she struggled to find designers who wanted to work with her on Drag Race. “We had to fight and scramble to find designers who would take on big girls,” she says. “And it didn't become fashionable until big girls were becoming fashionable on the show and designers were getting called out for being sizeist. And still to this day there are certain designers who have not worked with me.”


“Culture and society have told us that you’re less of a person because you're fat, you're less of a person because you're Black, you're less of a person because you're gay, you're less of a person because you're a drag queen — all of these things that crossed my intersection,” Latrice says. “I have to strip the negative power out of it ... I need to know that I am valid, I am worthy, I know who I am. I know that I'm a good person, and I know that my size shouldn’t and does not matter to anyone but me.”


In Latrice’s three appearances on Drag Race — season 4 and All Stars seasons 1 and 4 — there were oodles of hilarious and heartwarming scenes. There were the meme-able sound bites we all love: “The shade of it all,” “Jesus is a biscuit,” and, of course, “Get those nuts away from my face!” But the most significant moments for Latrice weren’t caught on tape. 


“​​I found my purpose,” she explains. “And when you have that a-ha moment on Drag Race and realize everything you've been through was for a reason, it wasn't for nothing, and you're going to help people through your struggle, that's when I realized that win, lose, or draw with the contest, there was something bigger than me afoot, and it didn't have a hashtag attached to it.”


Drag Race gave Latrice a platform to explore her artistry. With help from husband Christopher Hamblin and fellow Drag Race alum Mimi Imfurst, Latrice developed her “one-queen” cabaret show, Here’s to Life.


“I never even envisioned myself being a cabaret artist,” she admits. “Mimi came and stayed with me for a week. We did a workshop where we did a deep, deep dive into my life. I told stories and we dissected it all and figured out what was important for people to know, what were funny moments, what were not so funny moments, and we built the show. Once I got the hang of what I'm doing, I got better at it, and then really good at it, and I actually found my own lane — it’s a double wide lane, but it’s my lane.” 


“Being able to hold a captive audience for 90 minutes to two hours to let them experience me fully raw and vulnerable, it’s the scariest thing I've ever done, but the most rewarding and fulfilling,” she says of the show, which details some of the hardest moments in her life, including an 18-month incarceration just a couple of years prior to her first appearance on Drag Race


What may seem like a risky disclosure has resonated deeply with Latrice’s fans: “I get so many messages,” she says. “I got one [recently] from an individual who had just finished their master’s degree. They told me they’d channeled their inner Latrice, and that makes me feel good.”


While her early drag performances at the Copa mimicked pop culture characters like Jamie’s Foxx’s Wanda — “the fifth En Vogue member” — from In Living Color, Latrice Royale is based off of a real-life grade school friend.


“She was this beautiful little black girl, and she had the most stunning, wavy hair,” Latrice recalls. “Her mother used to always have her hair done with all these different barrets and little twists, and I loved it. I always try to channel her and keep it classy.”


Events like Cabaret on the Rocks, which will pair Latrice with not one, but two Broadway aficionados, indicate that keeping it classy is not a problem. Perhaps Latrice didn’t have the space to dream as a youngster in Compton, but she’s making up for lost time. 


“I have not been on the big screen in a blockbuster film, and I would love to be,” she says. “I love acting and voiceover work. I want to keep sharpening my tools and skills and I want to be on the red carpet at the Oscars and Emmys as a nominee. That would be wonderful.”


Cabaret on the Rocks 

Friday, April 12, 2024

Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder

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