WASHINGTON -- America's Next Drag Superstar does not look like the other drag superstars. When season 4 of "RuPaul's Drag Race" began, Sharon Needles stood out. In a reality show competition about drag queens, this isn't very easy to do.
Sharon Needles was crowned winner of "Drag Race" in late April. Since then her calendar has filled up with drag appearances, plays, photo shoots, parties and more. The drag star from Pittsburgh via Iowa has more in common with artists like Marilyn Manson than the show's namesake. Appealing to an under-served community of punks and freaks, Needles has the potential to become this generation's Elvira.
Needles spoke to The Huffington Post about her new title, love of Pittsburgh, new cars and more.
The Huffington Post: Are you still living in Pittsburgh?
Sharon Needles: Of course! Why would I live anywhere else? It's American's filthiest secret and until the grinding wheels of the Hollywood machine force me out there, I'm staying put.
HuffPost: Why did you leave Iowa for Pittsburgh? Where there stops in between?
Needles: There were plenty of stops in between.
I didn't finish high school, I didn't go to college but I wanted my learning experience. I wanted my life to be like the books I read and the films I watched. I got the fuck out of there pretty young and lived in art collectives, hippie houses, punk squats. The last place before Pittsburgh was Boulder, Colorado. I had some transient friends that were headed to Pittsburgh and I said, "Let's go." I thought it would be three weeks and it's been eight years.
HuffPost: Have you ever played in a band?
Needles: I've worked in a lot of noise projects. We couldn't play any instruments but we wanted to have fun and make a scene, make a mess.
HuffPost: All of "Drag Race" was filmed before the final episode aired.
Needles: Correct. We did three alternative endings with all of us winning.
HuffPost: Did you know you were going to win before it aired?
Needles: I found out with the rest of America. I found out with my mom, my best friend, my boyfriend and Phi Phi and Chad (the other two "Drag Race" finalists) as well. We had a party in New York. We viewed the episode, we had Raja there to crown whoever was going to win and then had a good, old fashioned drag show.
What's great is that I set up my drag show to be like a funeral. I came out in a casket. A lot of my idols "attended" my funeral. On stage I had Susanne Bartsch, Amanda Lepore and some of the other great, New York, inflatable, exaggerated clowns that are a real part of why I am Sharon Needles.
It's very full circle, darling.
HuffPost: Have you performed in D.C.?
Needles: I have never performed in D.C. but a good a drag queen friend of mine, Heidi Glum, recently moved there, was working at Town but was fired for being too offensive.
HuffPost: Are you worried about being too offensive?
Needles: I'm America's Next Drag Superstar so I'm not worried about much, it's kind of my year!
It's not like I'm just trying to be an irreverent shock artist. I always find that the best way to get my attention is to be shocking and loud and brass. I like to use that transgressional, John Waters, Gregg Araki approach to my drag, but it's never for no reason. As dumb as I act, there's always a social commentary of what I do.
It's reflective of our dark shadows and our own anxieties. I take the darkest issues and I force them into the brightest spotlight.
HuffPost: Are there any politicians you'd like to see at one of your shows?
Needles: I'd like to have Rick Santorum at one of my shows, just to make him sick. He seems like an old time boogey-man. I don't think we've had one in quite some time.
Politics are no fun unless you have that ridiculous, psycho, negative nutbags. I'd like to have him not just at my show but in my show. I think we could come up with a really funny number.
HuffPost: RuPaul tweeted that you bought a hearse with your winnings. Is this true?
Needles: It's true! It's the most expensive thing I've ever bought. We needed a car and I'm America's Drag Superstar but I was still calling everyone 10 minutes before each show to get rides! We needed something to get all props, all our stage equipment, all our fog machines, all our costumes, all the girls to the shows.
I looked at vans and trucks and none of them looked right. All my friends told me to go to a dealership, I said no, I'm going on Craigslist, I go to Craigslist because I know how that works, it's how I used to get my dates.
Instead of casual encounters, I click on cars, I type in "hearse," a 1972 completely restored Bonneville hearse with vinyl and coffins popped up for $5,000 and who's going to say no to that?
HuffPost: What do you see next for you? You seem to have some opportunities other former winners didn't.
Needles: I don't think I have opportunities that they didn't have, I think I have opportunities that they didn't want.
Lip synching pop songs in smoky nightclubs in the middle of the night is definitly not where I see Sharon permanently staying. It's something I love to do on my own terms but I have dreams and aspirations that I've had since I was a kid and that with this crown I'm getting the opportunity to do.
I'm writing a play now with the legendary Peaches Christ called "Silence of the Trans" that will be at the Castro Theater [in San Francisco] at the end of July. I'll be in San Antonio in October for three weeks doing a run of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" playing Frankenfurter. I'm working on music, I'm hosting parties with Susanne Bartsch and Amanda LePore in New York. I'm doing a photo shoot with the transgressional, transsexual punk rock artist Jayne County.
The greatest thing about this whole experience is that my idol, the people I've always to work with, aren't Lady Gaga, aren't Nicki Minaj, aren't Cher -- they're these people that are quite attainable and just as excited as they are to work with me as I am to work with them.
I want to start writing a book, I want to work on documentaries on transsexuals in America. My dream is to make a documentary about Jane Country and her past life and the way she lives now.
The sky is the limit for me! I'm a busy, busy girl. I don't know how to fit alcoholism and all of this in one day!
HuffPost: Do you have any advice for the teenagers attending Capital Pride?
Needles: For the kid that's being picked on all I have to say is, Dan Savage you're a great guy, but just because you turn 18, it doesn't get better. You're going to get picked on when you don't assimilate. The second you try to assimilate, try to look normal, try to be like everyone else, to avoid being picked on, if that's your remedy, if that's your aspirin, I hope it works and I hope you enjoy it.
I found that the bullying and hatred I received growing up, I used it as my gasoline in my engine of success. It's what pushed me. You can be bullied but you can also use that hate to put it into whatever type of art or avenue you want.
A great philosopher once said, "What other people think of you ain't none of your god damn business." That philosopher is RuPaul and I read that in her book when I was a teenager and it still resonates today.
HuffPost: Thanks for taking time to speak to us.
Needles: No problem! Happy Halloween and Hail Satan!
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