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November/December 2022 COVER STORY: Bob The Drag Queen Is Here (And For That We’re Thankful)

The Drag Race legend, dishes about We’re HereSibling Rivalry, role models, working with Madonna, new music and his favourite queens…

By Christopher Turner

Bob the Drag Queen burst into the spotlight back in 2016 after beating out 11 other contestants to be named America’s Next Drag Superstar on Season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. After snatching the crown and heading out on tour, Bob – the alter ego of nonbinary comic/actor Caldwell Tidicue (who uses both he/him and she/her pronouns) – found his name was in lights at some of the hottest venues around the globe…and it still is today. As co-host of the popular podcast Sibling Rivalry, and co-star of HBO’s award-winning We’re Here series, Bob has been reaching more people than ever before, continuing to make us laugh and changing lives along the way.

Drag Race may have been Bob’s introduction to mainstream drag, but the beloved TV show was hardly the beginning of his drag career. Immersed in drag culture from a young age – his mother owned a drag bar in Columbus, Georgia – Bob moved to New York at age 22 intending to become an actor and a standup comedian. That plan quickly changed. In the summer of 2009, he began dabbling in drag himself after watching the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race on TiVo, first taking the name ‘Kitten Withawhip’ (a reference to the 1964 film Kitten with a Whip starring Ann-Margret), but ultimately landing on Bob the Drag Queen.

After his epic Drag Race win, Bob headed out on the road with his own comedy tour and pursued acting, appearing in television shows such as High Maintenance (2016), Tales of the City (2019) and A Black Lady Sketch Show (2019). He recorded several comedy specials (including Suspiciously Large Woman in 2017), Crazy Black Lady in 2019 and Live at Caroline’s in 2020), released new music and became the first Black Drag Race contestant to surpass one million followers on Instagram. 

He also stayed close to other Drag Race alums, launching the Sibling Rivalry podcast in 2018 with his drag sister Monét X Change, and two years later began starring in We’re Here on HBO alongside Eureka O’Hara and Shangela. The series, which has been renewed for a third season, takes the trio around the United States to help small-town residents perform in one-night-only drag performances to showcase the transformative power of the art form. Bob even popped up on Trixie Motel, the reality series that follows along as Trixie Mattel buys and renovates a rundown motel in Palm Springs, California.

We caught up with Bob recently on his day off from touring with Monét on their Sibling Rivalry tour, and chatted about everything from We’re Here and Sibling Rivalry, to role models and his favourite queens, to Madonna and music, and much more.

Let’s kick things off and talk about We’re Here.

I’ve consistently said that We’re Here is the best drag on TV, it really is. It takes a village to build a queen and there are a lot of amazing, remarkable artists working on We’re Here. It was so amazing, we were just recognized with two Emmy awards for last season. It was particularly wonderful seeing my dear friend Laila McQueen, who was on Drag Race with me, snatch up an Emmy trophy. 

You’re coming back with Season 3? What can we expect this season?

We’re Here is a very heartfelt show. It is a real life show. We are truly talking about the queer experience from so many different angles. We just continue to expand how inclusive we can be, which I’m really grateful for.

Are there any stories from this upcoming season or a past season that have stuck with you?

I always tell people, if you’re only going to watch one episode – although I don’t know why you would only watch one episode – but you should really watch the Selma episode from Season 2 of We’re Here. [Editor’s note: In this episode, Bob mentors Akeelah, a trans woman living in Selma, Alabama, a city that has notoriously not been kind to Black or queer people; it also takes a deep dive into the history of the civil rights movement.] I don’t think anything has ever captured the story and the essence of the Black queer experience, the intersectionality, quite like that episode. And this is across television in general. This episode is so remarkable, so updated, so now, so current.

What kind of input do you, Shangela and Eureka have in creating the show?

We’re involved in the creative process. We are involved in coming up with our numbers, our outfits, our ideas with our team, obviously. I’ll say to Domino [costume designer Domino Couture], ‘I want to look like a football player and I want it to be a big jersey with a cat suit.’ Then Domino will use his expertise to make that vision really, really beautiful. 

But when it comes to the stories, we have producers who do that. So the story producing is another side. We have some really amazing story producers who help us tell these really remarkable stories.

What’s one thing about your relationship with Shangela and Eureka that we might not know?

We put it all out there. I think the reason why We’re Here works so well is that we’re able to do our own thing. It’s not quite like Queer Eye, where they’re all working on one project, one person. Shangela, Eureka and I each get to do our own thing and because of that we each get to shine in our own way.

You give so much guidance and advice on the show: what’s the one piece of advice that someone gave you that has really made a difference to you?

There’s a piece of advice about advice that I’ve been thinking about. When someone gives you advice, consider the source. So if your friend who is single is telling you how to get a man…you have to ask yourself, do you want to be like her? Consider the source. If someone’s telling you how to be happy and they are mopey and grumpy all the time…do you want to be like them? I’ve always said to myself, whenever anyone gives you advice, always consider the source.

What is your advice to people who are looking to you as a role model?

Seeking out happiness is really important. It was really important to me to find happiness, and my journey to happiness has taken me really far. But some people don’t have to go that far. I had to go from Columbus, Georgia, to New York City to Los Angeles. And to Minneapolis, San Francisco, Alabama and Mississippi in the meantime. But not everyone has to go that far. 

It’s all different advice to different people. To closeted people I would say, don’t let anyone pressure you into coming out; you have to come out when it feels right for you and when you feel safe. Everyone can’t come out in middle school; everyone’s situation is different. I’m a millennial and I grew up hearing, ‘you’re so unique, you’re so special,’ and we are special, but we all have different circumstances. So what works for me might not work for you, and what works for you might not work for me. There’s that saying, you can do anything you put your mind to, but that leaves out a lot of nuance. We get to redefine success for ourselves. Success doesn’t have to be the same for everyone.

Who do you consider a role model?

Well, I always look up to a lot of the queens who have paved the way for me in New York City: Peppermint, Bianco Del Rio, Sherry Vine. And, of course, icons who are slightly beyond my reach: Whoopi Goldberg, Madonna, Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, who is one of the smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in my entire life. I love comedians; I’ve always loved humour. I have a great sense of humour and it’s really taken me very far in life.

Congrats on the Madonna gig this summer. That was amazing!

That was really fun. [Bob emceed Madonna’s star-studded NYC Pride Party in June.] My team reached out and told me, ‘Madonna wants to work with you. She’s asking for you specifically and she won’t take no for an answer.’ So we got to work together. She’s really iconic and just brilliant. It was such an honour to work with her.

Anything you can share about the experience?

Here’s something really funny. My mom’s Instagram name is @BobTheDragMom, and my mom is basically part of my PR team. [laughs] I mean, she takes my videos and sends them out to everyone! I mean anyone that she can send them out to. So Madonna started following my mom thinking that it was me, and my mom sent Madonna my music video that I had just come out with, ‘Bitch Like Me.’ And she and Madonna were chatting back and forth, but Madonna thinks my mother is me.

If you weren’t doing drag right now, what would you be doing?

I’d probably be a theatre teacher. I went to school for theatre education and I love teachers. I think teachers are doing the Lord’s work and I think that they should be paid more than judges. Teachers mould the minds of practically every person in the country. That is massive. So, I’d probably be a theatre teacher at some high school in Georgia. My mother was also a teacher, so I have a lot of love for educators.

You have so many things on the go, it’s almost hard to narrow things down. But let’s talk music. You have more new music on the way, right? Tell us about that.

I’ve been working on some new music, which is very exciting for me. I just dropped a new single called ‘Bitch Like Me,’ which I worked on with Ocean Kelly, who is this really phenomenal producer, rapper and artist based out of Atlanta, Georgia, which is where I’m from. It was so exciting to work with him on this project and work on quite a few songs together. We got together with some other amazing collaborators and now I have this EP coming out in November. I can’t say enough good things about it.… I’m so proud of this EP!

We need to talk about that music video for ‘Bitch Like Me.’

Yes! When I decided to do a music video for ‘Bitch Like Me,’ I wanted it to be fun and unique, so I decided to do a vertical TikTok music video. I love TikTok – anyone who knows me knows that I’m obsessed and I’m on it all the time. I mean, I don’t know how I find time to do all the things I’m doing in life and do TikTok as well because I’m on it so much. But I decided to do a vertical TikTok music video, and I don’t think it will be my last. I think I’m going to elevate this art form even more.

I follow you on TikTok and, I mean, you are the king of transitions.

I could never dethrone Plastique Tiara! Plastique is really amazing. She can be the queen and I’ll be the king because she is really phenomenal when it comes to TikTok. 

Also, please keep hijacking Plastique’s TikToks.… It’s some of your best work!

[Laughs] Thank you. That girl is great!

How are you doing those transitions so quickly!? How much time are you spending on these? It takes me forever! 

Well, not too long. The more you play around on TikTok, the easier it gets. I did not edit my music video myself. I just want to make that clear. I did not edit that video! Someone else edited that. It was all my ideas and I showed them how to do it. I actually ended up teaching the editor all about TikTok because they are so advanced and TikTok is so rudimentary, so I ended up teaching them how to make the edits in TikTok style because they are so used to dealing with all the advanced equipment and programs. It’s much less fancy than what you’re used to doing.

Who are you listening to these days?

I really love Ocean Kelly, I just cannot recommend often enough that you listen to Ocean Kelly enough. I’ve also been listening to Mikey Angelo, a great queer rapper who I love. Obviously I listen to Doja Cat, she’s just so ferocious and so fierce, I just love her. There’s a great new rapper I love named Lady Blue. So, I’ve really fallen into obscure, rap TikTok.

What’s inspiring you right now?

Right now I’m inspired by girl rap, queer rappers and the TikTok rap scene. There used to be a lot of SoundCloud rappers and now there’s the TikTok rap scene, which I’m really, really into right now.

We should probably talk Monét and Sibling Rivalry.

[Laughs] Yes, of course!

After all these years, how much fun is it working on the podcast with Monét?

The podcast started because I was doing a play in Berkeley, California, and Monét had just gotten on Drag Race[Season 10], so we were only seeing each other on these video calls. We’re best friends and we argue all the time and it’s not an act, we don’t do it just for the camera or the podcast…this is how we interact all the time. And one day I said, ‘This is so funny, someone should hear these ridiculous conversations that we have. We should do a podcast and we should call it Sibling Rivalry,’ and Monét said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We’ve been doing it now for five years.… We’re the longest-running Ru-girl podcast, which I’m very proud of. We have an awesome fan base. I’m so incredibly grateful for those who follow us and enjoy our ridiculous content. It’s really been one of my favourite things that I’ve done with my career.

Talking Ru-girls and the plethora of Drag Race franchises kicking off around the world…

I think they’re doing Drag Race Mars sometime soon. Drag Race Neptune. [Laughs]

Do you have a favourite franchise?

RuPaul’s Drag Race. I still prefer the original. Call me an OG queen but it’s a really, really good show and the producers over there are just brilliant. Drag Race is a behemoth of a reality TV show. I mean, it’s the most Emmy-decorated reality TV show of all time. No reality TV show has ever won as many awards…I think it has 27 Emmys right now, which is huge! It won Best Reality Competition four years in a row; this year it was dethroned by Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls, which also is a brilliant show.

I’m wondering about All Stars. I know you had a couple of things to say when it came out, but if they were to do another all-winners season, is that something  you’d be into?

I think my days of competing in drag are done. I don’t think I have any more competitions in me! [Laughs] But I do love the show and I will always watch.

Favourite queens from the franchise?

Monét X Change is my favourite queen from the franchise. Not because she’s my best friend, but because she is genuinely one of the most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in my life. Jinkx Monsoon is brilliantly talented. Alaska Thunderfuck is insanely talented. Peppermint is just an icon in her own right and a trailblazer. Bianca Del Rio, Trixie Mattel, I could be here all day.

What do you want people to know about you that they might not already know?

I don’t really hide a lot. I don’t have any secret talents. I put everything on the table, so I think I’m a pretty open book.

Favourite TV show, movie and song?

My favourite TV show is Breaking Bad. It’s just so good. I hate to sound like a basic cis straight white guy, but it’s so brilliantly written. My favourite movie is, hands down, The Color Purple (1985), and I cannot wait for the 2023 theatrical release of the musical with Fantasia Barrino. I don’t really have a favourite song…but right now, I can’t stop listening to ‘Boss Bitch’ by Doja Cat.

What’s next?

So, I’m working on a book right now that I’m hoping will be out pretty soon. It’s a fiction piece called Harriet Tubman: Live in Concert and it’s about Harriet Tubman writing a rap album. [Laughs] We’re hoping to get it out late 2023 or early 2024.

CHRISTOPHER TURNER acted as guest editor for this issue of IN Magazine. He is a Toronto-based writer, editor and lifelong fashionisto with a passion for pop culture and sneakers. Follow him on social media at @Turnstylin.

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