It hasn't even been a year since Sharon Needles took the title of "America's Next Drag Superstar" on season 4 of the hit Logo reality series RuPaul's Drag Race, but the self-proclaimed "beautiful, spooky and stupid" drag performer has arguably seen more fame and success than any other queen who's competed on RuPaul's addictive show.
After becoming a spokesperson for PETA, securing her own show on Logo and being selected as one of Out's prestigious "Out100" and claiming one of the issue's covers, Sharon can add another accomplishment to her list with today's release of her first full-length album, PG-13, along with her first music video, for the single "This Club Is a Haunted House."
On Sunday, Jan. 27, the captivating Ms. Needles was gracious enough to speak with me at her official album release party, which was held, appropriately, at the fictitious McKittrick Hotel, the set of the creepy, interactive theater experience Sleep No More, in Chelsea. She discussed her new album and music video, being a role model and what she thinks about potentially collaborating with Lady Gaga, whom she calls the "queen of the game."
JR Tungol: Congratulations on your first album, Sharon. Twelve tracks. That's amazing. What was it like working on your first album? What can we expect? And was recording the album at least easier than singing with Phi Phi O'Hara when you were on Drag Race?
Sharon Needles: I don't do anything easy. I've been working my entire life to achieve this impossible fairy tale called fame, and I have it. I nurture it. I put really, really high expectations on myself. On the album, I knew I didn't just want to make a pop record. I wanted elements of punk. I wanted elements of metal. I wanted to work with my idols, and I just didn't want to have a "tranny track," as we call them.
Tungol: All the material was written by you, and I read that you've actually been writing an album, or at least coming up with the idea or concept of an album, for 10, 15 years now? Can you tell me about that?
Needles: I think every drag queen who isn't blessed, getting the opportunity to do whatever they want, lives in their fantasy headspace. At times they are a pop star; they are a supermodel; they are a celebrity. And yes, as much as I was fake modeling and fake acting and being "famous," I was also just documenting a lot of poetry and stuff like that in hopes of one day having a pop record -- and now I have one! [Laughs.]
Tungol: You have some amazing collaborations on this album: RuPaul, Amanda Lepore, Ana Matronic, your boyfriend/girlfriend Alaska...
Needles: And Jayne County! Don't forget Jayne County.
Tungol: Yes, of course! What about future collaborations you might be interested in?
Needles: I dip my toes in just about every opportunity a celebrity can have, because I love being one, and I love the idea of them. This year I played Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show. I'm a spokesperson for PETA. I have my own show on Logo. I have my own album. The sky's the limit.
Tungol: I have to ask you this, just because I love Drag Race. I would love to see a collaboration between you and Raja. She's kind of punk rock. What do you think of that?
Tungol: You and Raja doing a music video: I would die for that!
Needles: Yeah. I'm premiering my video tonight -- "This Club Is a Haunted House" -- and I really wanted some of my favorite girls from RuPaul's Drag Race [to be a part of it]. We just couldn't get them in New York in the two days. Raja is a great friend of mine. Not only is she a friend; she's really an idol to me. She's so statuesque and stunning. I'm jealous as shit of her! She always gets hotter trade than me, too.
Watch the music video for "This Club Is a Haunted House":
Tungol: I have to ask this, too. I'm also a big Lady Gaga fan. What about you and Lady Gaga? What do you say to that?
Needles: I wouldn't deny the opportunity. But let's be honest here: It's probably not going to happen. I am a reality star on a network very few people have. Lady Gaga, she's pretty much the queen of the game. She tweeted me once!
Tungol: I know! That was, like, last year during the competition.
Needles: Right. Right! The great thing about this album is I know she will hear it, and it's just odd to know that she will hear it, and she will have an opinion. And I'm glad to hear what she has to say!
Tungol: What was it like working on the set of your first music video, working with such creative people? Tell me about the casting.
Needles: It was fun. This is what I'm designed to do. I'm designed to work with cameras. As much as I play a stupid, drunk, dead clown, I'm a very professional person. I wouldn't have had it any other way. I have to work with people who know what they're doing, because I have a vision inside this head. If it isn't done the way it needs to be, I get really upset.
In the cast, it's half New York club superstars and half fans, so it was really nice to have people who are just really into Sharon Needles, who love to get dressed up, be a part of the video, but also people I'm such fans of -- you know, like Jordan Fox, Miles DeNiro, Dina Marie, just great New York nightlife staples.
Tungol: The cast members of your video had such great things to say about you, and they speak so highly of you. How have you responded to that, everyone just looking up to you as an inspiration for being who you are and what you stand for? What does that feel like to hear that from fans and even from your peers?
Needles: I think they see more of themselves in me than they're actually seeing the real me. I'm not a great person. I'm just as damaged as anyone who looks up to me. I just think that they see themselves in me. I think they see the beauty and the flaws. I think they see the ups and the downs. I never asked to be a role model. I wanted to be a f***ing supermodel. But I'll take the responsibility, but I also only let it go so deep into me. What they love about me, unfortunately, a lot of it isn't real. You know? It was just a TV show, and it was just a part of my life right then and there. Like I always say, never meet your idols. That's the problem. I get a lot of anxiety that I won't be enough for them. Like I won't have enough of what they need me to be. I always feel like I need a stick of gum, and I need to say the right things, and I just need to be whatever they need for me to be, and I know it's not going to happen. I know they're in love with an artifice of Sharon Needles, but they don't really know me, and I don't really know them.
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Sharon's debut album, PG-13, is now available for purchase on iTunes or in her online store. And around mid-February, keep an eye out for This Book Is a Haunted House, a limited-edition book that documents the production of Sharon's music video. The book is available for pre-order in her online store. It is the perfect companion to Sharon Needles: Parental Guidance Suggested, a documentary on the making of the "This Club Is a Haunted House" music video.
Check out photos from Sharon's NYC album release party, courtesy of Cameron Choi Loeb from the McKittrick Hotel, home of Sleep No More: