Kevin McHale never imagined he’d participate in a competition series like RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race. But after being approached about it, his boyfriend practically forced him into it, and McHale transformed into Chic-Li-Fay, and the rest is history. The Glee alum chatted with Shadow and Act Unscripted about his time on the show, and just how much respect he has for drag performers now that it’s over.
S&A: How was your experience on Drag Race overall?
KH: It was magical. I loved it. I miss it a lot, actually, but it was just so freeing, and I felt so supported. I think the whole RuPaul world, they really have like a great system for doing these shows – and a great support system and great crew members in every department. And it just was just like a really joyful experience.
S&A: How did your participation in the show come about?
KH: They just asked me. My manager called me and was like, ‘Do you want to do this?’ And it scared me. But my boyfriend threatened me and said, ‘If you don’t do this, then I’ll break up with you.’ So here we are.
S&A: Prior to doing the show, what was your educational level or your experience with drag culture?
KH: I’ve been to a lot of drag shows over the years. And I watched the past couple of years of Drag Race. So I was like pretty familiar with it, but I’m like a little late to it all, and my boyfriend is obsessed with it, so he was very good at being able to catch me up to speed.
S&A: What did you learn about it while working on the show? I've spoken to the other contestants who've been eliminated, and a lot of people have said that they didn't realize how hard that whole world was. What would you say was your biggest takeaway or your biggest kudos to that entire world or culture?
KH: I think probably to echo their same sentiment of drag queens have to be good at so many different things. They have to be able to do makeup, hair performance, comedy, wigs – like you have to even to come up with an act or come up with new costumes week in, week out. The amount of things you have to be good at the same time, it seems overwhelming, and I feel like because like we’re so used to seeing good drag now, which is great, but I think it’s so easy to take for granted that like a lot of the time these drag queens are doing all these things by themselves.
It is still such a gigantic feat because you have people all over the country, all over the world, doing drag in bars and in clubs, and they’re doing this all the time, every day. And it can seem like for us, it’s like, ‘Oh, this is fun and entertaining.’ But it is such an incredible skill set, and an art form
S&A: What do you think contributed to your elimination?
KH: At that point, there were only four of us left. I don’t I’m not sure. I think it was probably my weakest performance. I don’t think my Gaga performance is great. It’s sort of maybe my journey was just complete there.
S&A: And how would you rate working alongside your coaches?
KH: Oh, I loved it. Brooklyn was very, very hands-on and actually helpful watching rehearsal, and giving me notes. That actually changed the dynamic of most of my performances in such a great way, where I was very, very thankful to have her because she’s just so intelligent, so smart and like knows her shit. And it was nice to be surrounded by these veteran, legendary drag queens because you trust what they have to say. And so it was nice not even to have to worry about that. If they say something, just take the note.