Chad Michaels become known nationwide for the sassy, glamorous, and fun-filled performances that gar
Chad Michaels become known nationwide for the sassy, glamorous, and fun-filled performances that garnered her a second-place finish on season four of Logo’s top-rated reality competition show RuPaul’s Drag Race and the title of winner on RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars. What fans of the show may not know, however, is that Michaels has brought full-blown fabulousness to live audiences across the country for more than two decades. One of the world’s premier impersonators of Cher, Michaels has not only channeled the world’s favorite diva, but has actually shared the stage with the one-name wonder herself.
Southern Illinois audiences will get a chance to see that behind all the makeup, glamour, and sequins, there is, well, more makeup, glamour, and sequins when Michaels performs Saturday, May 4 at Two 13, joined by Akasha Royale, Janessa Highland, Holly Haliwell, and Carbondale club legend Blanche DuBois.
Currently producing for and performing with California’s long-running female-impersonation show, The DreamGirls Revue, Michaels went on to support her Drag Race family by participating as Professor Chad Michaels in the third season of RuPaul’s Drag U.
Not many years ago, drag performers, if recognized at all, were limited to small stages in underground clubs and bars. Michaels, thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race and its various incarnations and tours, is taking the art of drag to audiences in areas of the world where such performances would once have been considered objects of ridicule. In a recent interview with Nightlife, Michaels said that Carbondale audiences should not only expect the same glamour and excitement that were her Drag Race calling cards, but also a lot more surprises. Most of all, they should expect to spend time with a performer who truly loves and is grateful for fan support.
“My show in Carbondale will of course include my impersonation of Cher,” Michaels told Nightlife. “I’ll will be thankfully forever bound to the diva, and my fans expect to see her when I come to town. I never disappoint my peeps! I will also bring some other drag delights for the crowd to feast on, followed by a meet-and-greet, my favorite part of the evening. I love to meet my fans and give a little back to those who have supported me so faithfully.”
Michaels gives credit to RuPaul’s series for bringing her exposure to nationwide audiences, and says the experience pushed her personal and professional endurance to its limits, raising the bar of excellence for the career she enjoys today.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race was a life-changer in many ways,” Michaels says. “It was truly a test of endurance and determination. I really wanted to see how I would fare in a shark tank, so it was kind of a personal journey for me to see what I am made of. I think the biggest reward is being able to tell one’s story during the course of the competition and positively affect people’s lives. The queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race are given the responsibility and the opportunity to influence and inspire. That is a great honor and one I do not take for granted. I think the changes to my life after Drag Race could never have been anticipated.”
Michaels says that although she is a little uncomfortable with being called a role model, the Logo shows and their positive portrayals of gay people have done much to inspire pride, not only in herself, but in the gay community as well.
“The most positive part of the RuPaul’s Drag Race experience has been the fans and knowing that in many ways I’ve helped some people out in their lives,” Michaels says. “The drawback is that the responsibility can be heavy at times. I’ve received emails from people contemplating suicide, being bullied, ending relationships, et cetera— very serious business. It is important and sometimes stressful to come up with the right response. Many people look to us as role models and it is paramount to me to live up to that expectation.”
While drag performance was once thought of as something only to be enjoyed by its core audience, and to be largely ridiculed by the rest of society, the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race tells Michaels that the world is more ready than ever for a new light to be shed on the art form and a community that has long stood in the back-alley shadows of entertainment’s spotlight. Michaels feels it is now time for the queens and kings of drag to step into the light and take their place in the entertainment royal court. She praises RuPaul and Drag Race for playing a part in that transition.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race has bridged the gap,” Michaels says. “People now get to see us as real people with lives, emotions, and hearts. The taboo, the veil, has been lifted from drag, and the beautiful disaster is there for all to behold. I think people are surprised and sometimes shocked to see how similar we all are no matter what road we walk in life. That is the beginning of understanding.”
Even when it brings fame and fortune, Michaels confesses that the constant rigors of impersonating others (in addition to Cher, she plays Celine Dion, Reba McEntire, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Marilyn Manson), can tire a performer. Some of her favorite Drag Race moments were when she got to be herself, and credits the show for allowing her that freedom.
“My love of celebrity impersonation has faded a bit, to be honest,” Michaels says. “After all these years of being someone else, I am enjoying being understood and appreciated for being Chad Michaels as opposed to Chad Michaels as Cher. Although Cher has been the love of my career and my number-one diva, my talents and needs as an entertainer extend far beyond just impersonating Cher. People now know what I am capable of after observing me for two seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and my creativity has really been set free in a sense.”
Still, Michaels’s impersonation of Cher has endeared her to audiences. But how does Cher herself feel about her number-one fan’s mirror image of her? And what of the other celebrities who make appearances in Michaels’s live shows?
“I met and opened for Cher in 2003 at a function put on by music mogul David Foster,” Michaels says. “She is, of course, everything, and treated me like a queen. The others, I don’t know, and to be honest, don’t really care. Her opinion is really all that matters. If Faye Dunaway would have one thing to do with Mommie Dearest, I would love to hear her review on my Joan Crawford tribute, though.”
Michaels says the impact of mainstream-television portrayals of gay characters are exciting, and there is hopefully much more to come in the future.
“Gays and gay performers have run this business for decades, and mainstream is starting to realize that,” Michaels says. “People are starting to understand and accept all aspects of the gay lifestyle and the social climate is becoming much warmer. The hetero community seems obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race, and during the course of their journey watching the show, they are coming to not only understand us, but love us and want to know more. Things are looking up. Our final battle is the institution of our equal civil rights as GLBTs in American society. That is coming quickly, to, I hope.”
For more information, visit <http://www.ChadMichaels.com>.
who: Chad Michaels
what: drag show
where: Two 13 East
when: Saturday, May 4