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Latrice's Secret Weapon

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The undisputed star of RuPaul's Drag Race this year is Latrice Royale. She didn't come away with a win on Logo TV's runaway hit competition show, but she is blazing past everyone else on the diva drag circuit and beyond.

On the show Latrice is a self-described "large and in charge" Queen with a capital Q. Her drag persona, which embraces her size, has captured the imagination of millions of fans. Latrice's drag persona has range and depth, whether she is in a sequined, midnight-blue, form-fitting formal from the house of Eleganza, a metal breastplate à la Disco Galactica or a lioness wig and a bejeweled top that creates a cyclone of sequins when she starts to spin.

Everything about Latrice is big, but the biggest thing about her is her heart. On the show she talked about her past incarceration and cutting her father out of her life. Even with the show fanning the flames of backstage backstabbing, Latrice not only won the congeniality award but became a fan favorite. She coined one of the show's unofficial taglines: "The shade, the shade of it all."

She gave viewers one of the show's most memorable moments in a "lip-sync for your life" moment when she was up for elimination. In a dressed-down, black-and-white-print, form-fitting dress, looking nine-months pregnant, she sang Aretha's "Natural Woman" to her unborn child. If there was any doubt before, Latrice became a TV star in that moment. She is now climbing the dance charts with a club track, a duet with fellow RuPaul's Drag Race Season 4 alum Manila Luzon, sardonically titled "The Chop."

Meanwhile, Latrice has been a legendary for 20 years on the Miami drag circuit, with something she has not been able to really show on the Drag Race runway except in flashes. Not since the legendary days of the vogue balls in New York, where the vogue realness of Willi Ninja was born, has someone been such a distinctive dancer on the drag stage. Dance is Latrice's secret weapon.

Her second tagline is "chunky but funky," and she knows how to move with precision and abandon. She's got cyclonic dance fever in videos of her performing "You Make Me Feel So Good, Baby," with explosive gyrations, hurricane turns, fan kicks and splits, moves that audiences aren't used to seeing from a person of her size. And she knows how to be still as a dancer and build rhythmic tension (take a lesson, Dancing With the Stars competitors). Then, when she hurls herself into a split, she sends her audiences into a frenzy. People throw money at her, because her dancing is so inspiring.

Latrice has a drag mission, but her mission is also tied to her community work with several AIDS and LGBTQ organizations, where she continues to give back. In a recent interview she was asked what inspired her look, and her response was, "Today? It's about being big, colorful and real." Such genuineness is her trademark, and Latrice tops it off with her sonic whiplash laugh. It's the laugh you want to hear when you need to erase negativism. It's like a universal seed sound that just throws you and the house down.