“Oh, I’m tired,” Adore tells me, laughing, when I ask how she’s doing. It’s understandable, considering how busy life has become for the 24 year old Azusa, CA native. She called me from Boston after having just arrived from performing in Providence the night before. Future performance dates include a trip to Ireland, as well as a packed schedule of Pride performances around the US.
Until recently, most people knew Adore as Danny Noriega, the sweet and sassy Latino boy with the lesbian haircut, who traded barbs with Simon Cowell on the seventh season of American Idol in 2008. But that all changed when word leaked that one of Danny’s drag alter egos would be a contestant on the sixth season RuPaul’s drag race.
The talented singer and entertainer took TV audiences by storm as Adore Delano, and seemed to immediately win the favor of the judges with her boundless charm. But the transition from Danny to Adore wasn’t an easy one for her.
“It was a lot of hard work,” she said. “I felt like I had to prove myself two times more in the community. I felt like everyone was like ‘Oh, American Idol didn’t work out, so he’s just gonna be a drag queen.”
Performing in drag isn’t new for Adore though. Even before the stint on American Idol, drag was a part of her routine.
“A lot of people don’t know my history. In high school I used to perform in drag in singing competitions. The only singing competition in my city was in a christian college. I would win the competitions, and they thought I was a real girl.”
I do everything that Danny can’t do in a club. I literally make out with people and I smack people’s butts. I would never do that do that as Danny. I’m not shy, but when it comes to my sexuality I’m more like a hermit.”
Adore was one of two queens this season who came onto to the show with a history of performing on television reality shows. Having previous experience being on television was helpful in a very practical way for Adore.
“When I first did American Idol, I would choke up and turn really red in front of the cameras,” she confessed. “It really trained me to just pretend that they’re not there, and just to live your life like there’s not nine cameras in front of you.”
That Idol experience also helped her recognize the importance of opportunity, and taking advantage of it when it’s offered.
“When I auditioned for American Idol I was seventeen years old, a baby,” she admits. “I thought I knew what I was going to do. A lot of opportunities came to the the door and I was like, nah don’t want to do that, don’t want to do that. Now that I’m older, and more experienced, I’m really taking advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.”
“I’m just fucking excited,” she continues, gushing, “and I’m going yes, yes, yes, yes to everything. Like Gia said to Laganja, this is the moment that counts.”
Adore readily admits that she owes much of this to RuPaul, a fairy drag mother to so many queens now. Drag has moved much more into the mainstream since Ru began broadcasting her show, due in no small part to Ru, who’s been lifting queens like Adore from regional notoriety to national fame.
“It’s awesome,” she exclaims. “It really is awesome what Ru does. Like he really puts us out there, and pushes us a little bit closer to mainstream.”
“I overcame my fear of freaking out, thanks to Ru,” she adds.
It’s not about the clothes or the designer. I don’t know how many girls come out with like a fucking Alexander McQueen vintage gown and they just don’t have it. It’s like ‘Girl you can’t even walk in that dress!’ It’s not that serious.”
Adore was the first queen we were introduced to on the show this season, along with some of her signature catch phrases, including “party”, “fuck”, and “I’m a Libra.” While Adore and Danny both share a vocabulary that would make a sailor blush, Adore is bold, brash, and messy, where her boy counterpart comes across much more controlled and unsure. According to Adore, her persona is really an exaggerated version of her boy self.
“When I’m Adore,” she’s says, “I do everything that Danny can’t do in a club. I literally make out with people and I smack people’s butts. I would never do that do that as Danny. I’m not shy, but when it comes to my sexuality I’m more like a hermit.”
“Adore,” she laughs, “is like a human ball of laundry, she’s such a mess. She’s so fun. Last night, in the middle of my song there was an instrumental, so I was all ‘Who wants to make out?’ She’s such a fucking rock star, for real.”
What’s most fun about talking with her, or watching her perform, is that she has such free flowing positive energy. It’s powerful, and she’s not afraid to use it. Adore’s style, or lack thereof, speaks to a whole new generation of queens who are trying to break free from traditional drag, to break out of the lip synching pageant queen mold. It’s a movement that queens like Adore stand at the forefront of.
Looking at the top three queens in the season six, you see two queens who have made their careers based on polish and precision standing with Adore who, in her own way, is just as polished as they are.
She disagrees, of course.
“I wouldn’t say I’m just as polished as them,” she laughs. “But the thing is: I know who I am as a person. I know that I’m trashy, I know that I’m messy, I’m definitely the queen of mess. That’s who I am.”
It’s absolutely a quality that makes her relatable, and is surely part of the reason her charm is hard to resist. Especially for the judges.
“I don’t know how many people can relate to somebody who’s completely polished every single day of their life. That’s not human, and that’s not my drag. I’m very rough around the edges, and I really like to embrace that.”
I feel like drag to me is a celebration,” she proclaims. “As long as you’re having fun and the people watching are having fun, then you’ve fucking succeeded. You don’t have to hit every single note perfectly. You don’t have to death drop as soon as you walk into season six.”
It was one of her potential weaknesses early on in the show, that roughness. And yet, where other queens showed more polish, deeper characters, and better sewing skills, it’s still Adore that made it to the final episode with a genuine chance at the crown, turning that potential weakness into a strength.
“I let people know that you can literally wear whatever the fuck you want and be a fucking star and stand out. As long as your face is blended then you’re cool.”
By that theory then, a queen with the right character and charisma could come out on stage in a paper bag and still be cool, I offer.
“Exactly,” she exclaims. “It’s not about the clothes or the designer. I don’t know how many girls come out with like a fucking Alexander McQueen vintage gown and they just don’t have it. It’s like ‘Girl you can’t even walk in that dress!’ It’s not that serious.”
And it’s exactly that attitude that makes Adore a winner. Whatever she may be perceived to lack in polish or style, she makes up for with an abundance of caring and grace.
“I feel like drag to me is a celebration,” she proclaims. “As long as you’re having fun and the people watching are having fun, then you’ve fucking succeeded. You don’t have to hit every single note perfectly. You don’t have to death drop as soon as you walk into season six. The thing is to me, it’s a celebration. It’s a fucking party. Life should not be taken so seriously. We’re all men in dresses, some of us have beards, and that’s fucking gorgeous.”
Given her platform as an internationally recognized drag star, what does she have to say to the throngs of up and coming drag sensations watching her Angel Baby videos for inspiration?
“I just want them to know,” she says, “that everything that inspires you in life, whether it’s a man, a woman, or anything, put that into your drag. Stay true to your character, blend your fucking eye shadow, and just fucking slay ’em.
“People think that there’s rules to drag. They think that there’s certain ways to paint your face. They think that you should look like Roxxy Andrews. No. Here’s the thing, drag is drag because there’s no fucking rules. The sky’s the limit. Just be confident in who you are.”
After professing that you don’t have to have a drag mother, Adore admitted that she’s a drag orphan herself. But with all of this wisdom and experience to share, does that mean we might be seeing a House of Delano at some point?
“Absolutely not,” she laughs. ” I don’t want any kids running around. That’s like babies having babies. Fuck these hoes.”
Not that she’d have time for that anyhow. Besides touring and performing, Adore’s been busy recording her first album, Til Death Do Us Party, which she says will be released in a couple of weeks. Her first single, DTF, and its video drop on 5/20, after the Drag Race reunion show, and she couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s a really fun album, and I think the concept works perfectly. It’s a really well produced album, and it sounds fucking legit. You know you have a good album when you’re like ‘I don’t know what the single should be’ and they’re all really good for different reasons.”
Adore heads for the Pacific Northwest in a few weeks as well, headlining Nark Magazine’s Dickslap Portland Pride Edition on Sunday, June 15.
“Oh I love dick slaps,” she assures me. “It’s not a party without a dick slap, that’s awesome. I’m talking about the real penis slaps. It’s so fun!”
Dickslap, of course, is Nark Magazine’s wonderland full of free beard rubs, slick hands and magical dancing gogo men the happens monthly at the Seattle Eagle. It’s also traveled up and down the coast, recently featuring BenDeLaCreme at Celebrities in Vancouver, as well as Willam and Jake Shears at the Eagle in San Francisco. Where ever it happens, it’s raunchy, tasteless, and just plain fun, which is music to Adore’s ears.
“That’s fucking awesome,” she says. “It’s perfect. You guys booked me at the right fucking place.”
Adore’s live performances are well known for pushing boundaries, with everything from fire breathing to near nudity. She assures me that this appearance will be no different.
“Oh babe, it’s everything. I mean, the other night I just wore a jockstrap and busted to Iggy Azalea, and they were trying to finger me. It was awesome!”
While she’s in Portland, she tells me, she’ll also be shooting the music video for her second single from “Til Death Do Us Party”, “I Adore You.”
“It’s gonna be gorgeous,” she says.
She was also excited to learn that her fellow top three queen, Bianca Del Rio, will also be performing in Portland that day for Pride. I mentioned that it would be awesome if Bianca stopped into see her drag sister’s performance. Adore was confident that she would.
“I’m totally making her come,” she promises. Sounds good to me.