Chiffon Dior: Hello Paige! I’m glad we finally are able to get together to talk about what has become unquestionably the biggest drag competition in all of New York City, “So You Think You Can Drag” which is now in its fifth season! I know you’ve already done two weeks so far so I appreciate you squeezing me in. How are you doing today?
Paige Turner: Slurp! I’m great…working on a trillion things but happy to be busy!
CD: So before we talk about SYTYCD, let’s touch on your background a bit for people who might not be familiar with you. Where are you from originally? What was your first exposure to the world of drag?
PT: I’m originally from Beverly Hills 90210. I’ve always been a performer on the stage and Paige was something I would do occasionally for fun. After doing a musical, I realized I really wanted to do Paige more. I really get a total high out of doing it and love making people laugh. Now here it is five years later! I actually got my start doing shows at a restaurant in Chelsea where Edie the Entertainer and Hedda Lettuce also performed. It was like dinner theater and really helped me to establish a following, as well as to work on banter and to figure out what I wanted to do with my style of drag.
CD: So what would you say your drag style has evolved into?
PT: When I first started out, it was a character. It’s funny, I never mentioned being a boy or ever really stressed that I was a drag queen . I was just PAIGE TURNER…so the quote unquote character has turned into more of a personality. I really take all the things I love or maybe were ashamed to embrace as a gay boy and try to celebrate them in my drag. I am basically THAT girl -the Legally Blonde girl who’s parents are Barbie and Pee Wee Herman. I do drag first and foremost to entertain and make myself laugh. And I get to laugh A LOT! It’s good for the hole….. I mean soul! I’m also known for getting people naked, don’t know if you knew that!
CD: You’re doing the lord’s work honey!
PT: Laughs Well, a lot of queens did not respond to me very well at first because it seemed like I just came out of nowhere. But that wasn’t not true at all! I was just under the radar because there were lapses in visibility with me performing as a boy in and out of town. I have made the most amazing friends though doing drag and definitely have my group of sisters. It’s pretty fantastic. As far as the audience responding, I’d say very, very well. I think my style of drag had not been seen in the city for a while. Folks like Varla Jean Merman had left in the 90’s to pursue bigger things, so I think I reminded people of that comedic-retro style of drag ,but with a modern sensibility. I come from a musical theater background, so in New York City, my banter, my jokes and my choice of songs, people definitely got interested!
CD: So did you move from Beverly Hills to New York after a bad breakup with Dylan or did something else precipitate the move?
PT: I can do better than Dylan. I moved here to be an actress and well, I haven’t left the stage pretty much at all. I just added Spanx and some lipliner!
CD: Thank goodness for Spanx! They’re a gal’s best friend! So since you’re more than just the host of So You Think You Can Drag, you’ re also the co-creator, can you tell us a little bit about how this all came about?
PT: New World Stages is a fabulous theater complex in Midtown. I was asked to judge a karaoke competition there. Erin Depalma, the director of sales, took a liking to me and asked if I would be interested in creating a drag competition. Of course I was interested because I felt like there was a need for a really good competition that had a producer and a killer space with a chance to really gain exposure and to really celebrate drag.
I remember feeling intimidated in the few competitions that I had done and how overwhelming it was . Realizing it wasn’t for me to compete, I thought what if I created a competition that could really support up and coming drag artists, celebrate the art form, and still have a lot of fun in the process? It’s been very rewarding since I’ve always wanted to produce and create big projects. It was a perfect fit for me from the start!
CD: So when did the first season of SYTYCD start? How do you come up with the ideas for the different themes and challenges each week? Is it difficult to keep things fresh and not repetitive from season to season?
PT: SYTYCD started in the fall of 2010. It’s always in the fall and is a little over two months long.I love themes! I’m all about a theme! We actually have meetings starting back in early July to see what worked what didn’t, what can we change this year. Some themes I didn’t love but everyone else did so we kept them. Only once has a theme kind of bombed at least with material.
CD: Which was?
PT: Laughs You’re gonna think it’s bad! “I’m a little bit country, I’m a little bit rock n roll”
CD: Wow, you tried to have them serve Osmond realness!
PT: It went way over everybody’s heads.
CD: Well maybe when you do a season in Salt Lake City, you can bring it back! I’m sure the Mormons would eat it up!
PT: Right! Laughs
CD: Who have the winners of your previous seasons been?
PT: Season 1: Honey Davenport, Season 2: Crystal Demure, Season 3: Lady Bukake, Season 4: Sutton Lee Seymour
The nice thing is they ALL went full time with drag and have had really good success!
CD: Do you feel a bit like a proud momma when that happens?
PT: I like to say I’m their acting coach since that’s what a lot of them call me, as opposed to mother. Lawd that ages you quickly! You know, it’s a really nice thing seeing people grow and having success. Its totes rewarding and yes I’m proud!
CD: It doesn’t age you that much these days. In fact, if you pop a kid out in your early teens, there’s a decent chance MTV will give you a show!
PT: I’m here to say I can carry a butt baby to full term! Anyone ? Anyone?
CD: Oh god, I literally just spit my Coke Zero out! Laughs
PT: Well I’m glad it’s Coke Zero, I’d hate to have those calories wasted on the furniture.
CD: Laughs So let’s talk about this season which began two Thursdays ago. I know one of the contributors to my site, the subway fish herself,Alexis Michelle is competing, so clearly I’m a little biased towards her right off the bat but who are the other queens competing this year?
PT: Alexis is great and she’s perfect for this competition! We also have Schwa de Vivre, Holly Box Springs, Dusty Ray Bottoms, Maci Sumcox, Countess Mascara, Lacy Lane, Kimberly Smallz, Jessa Minute and Charmagne Aultra. Charmagne is the only returning queen. If they’ve made it into the finale we don’t let them return but Charmagne was like 1 point away last year from the finale, so when she applied, we were happy to have her back.
CD: Do you get a lot of queens that come back from prior seasons? Has anyone ever come back from a previous season and gone on to win?
PT: Fifi Dubois has been in two seasons and Charmagne is the only other person back a second time. The show has been cast these past two seasons which it wasn’t before. It’s gotten serious!
CD: Well the prizes are serious too! $1000 is nothing to sneeze at, even in Manhattan! Do you just take that money out of your Swiss Bank Account or are there sponsors for SYTYCD?
PT: Well there’s a cover and obviously a lot of drinks so that goes towards it. The famous Ricky’s of NYC has donated gift certificates and weekly gift bags which are amazing! There are weekly prizes like bottle service at a BoiParty event, tickets to a show, a gift basket of makeup, it’s been some fun stuff!
CD: That’s cool! So since we’re already two weeks in, what have the themes been so far? Has anyone been eliminated yet?
PT: No one gets eliminated, that’s the unique thing about this competition! The top two lip sync in the showdown for the win.
CD: Oh okay, that is WAY more positive!
PT: It’s definitely more positive and we have really worked hard to make it different and not so taking each other out. People really become friends and get to really expand and work on their craft. There’s no GO BIG OR GO HOME, it’s go big and be even better than before! I know I must sound like the Marianne Williamson of drag.
CD: You keep this level of positivity and support up, you’re going to wind up on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday!
CD: So can you give us a little teaser of what to expect for week 3?
PT: Well, my judges are amazing, including Jackie Burns from IF /Then on Broadway! She’s Idina’s understudy and goes on the following week, all week for her. She was Elphaba for a year on Broadway as well. She’s a Paige fan so I was able to nab her! It’s Musical Theater/ Disney night! The queens have to perform from a musical and their look should also compliment their song choice or character. Some queens will be nervous because they are not so well-versed in musical theater choices however there’s always the Dreamgirls, Wicked, Chicago stuff for them to pick. I’ve been impressed with the choices, there’s some real gems. Song selection is really a major component of any competition, especially this one.
CD: Do you try to vary the themes up so it doesn’t favor the talents of one style of performer over another?
PT: DEFINITELY! Because to be honest, you have to have a variety of stuff to hold an audience and have a following. I mean it’s New York! There’s tons of queens and you have the RuPaul girls and all the other girls who’ve been in the business for years performing here all the time. You want to really own numbers and make them your own! People really know me for my numbers. Last year for instance, Sutton Lee Seymour’s Poor Unfortunate Souls won the musical theater night and I feel like she owns that number, even though I’ve seen it a hundred times by other people.
CD: So aside from SYTYCD, where else can people in the NYC area catch your upcoming performances?
PT: Yes, my 200th show of SLURP is in a week. It’s going on four years, my catchphrase and my weekly variety show at THERAPY 10PM on Sundays. Also I do WERK Wednesdays at Hardware Bar which has a rotating cast of girls with me each week. The two shows are very different. I also do a lot of other events and weekly one-offs,club nights for BoiParty, but am taking a hiatus to concentrate on SYTYCD . I’m also doing a big “Real Men Wear Pink” calendar launch party for Breast Cancer Awareness in October. Plus I’m in a new music video with Hedda Lettuce and Ivy Winters, playing maids to retro singer Isabel Rose!
CD: Slurp is a heck a catch phrase. Dare I ask where that came from?
PT: Yes! “Slurp” is my term for cute sexy thangs.. It’s basically when you see someone and you are just blown away…do me-mount me-sit on my face..you just say slurp!!!!!!!! It covers everything so when you see a cute boy you go slurp and it leaves a lot to the imagination! It’s my sexy affirmation. You will hear people say it all the time in NYC now, especially during my show when cute boys get called up! It started by accident and caught on! That’s the best thing about a catchphrase. You can’t plan them, they just happen. Now I have a whole slew of merchandise that says Slurp! (available now at www.paigeturnernyc.com)
CD: So slurp goes hand in hand with your getting people naked I assume?
PT: Well yes. I think it started with me getting cute boys up on stage and saying SLURP. I’m a little tawdry, not gonna lie. I’m not dirty but I’m a horny gal in a prom dress, the kind you take home to meet mother and ends up sleeping with your daddy. This is not a Danielle Steele novel, so I’ll stop there.
CD: I thought this was turning into 50 Shades of Paige for a moment there. So the best way for people to keep tabs on your appearances would be to follow you on social media I assume? (Follow Paige on Facebook here, Instagram here and Twitter here)
PT: Yes please check out my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. My Christian Mingle got taken down. There wasn’t room for another Mary! I guess you have to use your real name on there too.
CD: Thank you so much for the time Paige. I know things are crazy busy for you this time of the year. I’m very excited to announce though that you’re going to be joining me each week for the rest of the season to recap the previous week and to preview the coming week!
PT: Thank YOU! Your site is great and I’m happy you asked me! Until then! Slurp!
Featured image by Andrew Werner