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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Adore Delano:RuPaul’s Drag Race Contestant Performs in S.F., Talks to SF Weekly

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 1:05 PM

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Adore Delano
, runner-up on last season’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, is touring the world in support of her debut album, the EDM-inflected and at times outright sinister Till Death Do Us Party. It’s a return of sorts, as Delano—performing under her birth name of Danny Noriega—initially came to fame as a Top 16 contestant on the seventh season of American Idol, getting dispatched by Simon Cowell et al. after performing “Tainted Love.”

Season seven of Drag Race is just around the corner, but Delano's star is on the rise. Having stopped in San Francisco to play a show at DNA Lounge Sunday night, she was gracious enough to speak with me on her day off in spite of being hung over. (“We got drunk after the show last night. I wake up super early, so I’m being lazy today and watching TV.”) She’s been to this city many times, and recalls the bad old days with no small amount of fondness: “My first experience [in S.F.] before Drag Race was at Toad Hall. Nobody showed up but it was so much fun for me.”

These days, Delano and her band are on a world tour and in spite of her fatigue, it’s anything but a grind. On the contrary, Delano recently tweeted that touring “is definitely saving me.” When I asked for elaboration, she confirmed it: “Absolutely. Towards the end of this summer, I went through a really bad depression. I hadn’t felt like that since I was 19. My dad had passed away and I was feeling a disconnect from the guy who I was dating. You become this weird robotic machine at the meet-and-greets where you’re like, ‘Hi! Hi! Hi! Blah, blah, blah.’ It’s a really big eye-opener where you have to realize people are paying to see you, just give them yourself. I was losing it for a second. Going on the road has saved my sanity.”

Curiously, it’s not her adult followers that give her the most joy, either. In Seattle, she met hordes of fans too young to get into the club. “I ended up just hanging out with the little ones outside in an alley for a good chunk of the time. I’m pretty sure they’re not all out, but I’m sure their parents know. Their parents bring them! This kid was like, ‘We drove four hours to come here.’ And that’s just the possibility of meeting me,” Delano said. It’s a testament to just how much punk drag has permeated society, too. “I like taking to the moms. Like, ‘You drove your kid all this way just so he could possibly meet me?’ There was no guarantee that I was going to come out or anything. I wish I had a cool mom like that.”

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Perhaps the wittiest distillation of Delano’s philosophy comes in the form of a lyric from “I Lookin Fuckin’ Cool,” an anthem for brash style: “I don’t even care who gives a shit.” That’s not to say she’s a self-destructive nihilist. “A lot of people don’t know that before American Idol, before I got this Jonas Brothers wardrobe going on, I grew up with skinheads and punks who fought for a cause and didn’t care about skin color. I was the only little gay. They used to call me ‘Tranny Danny,’ cause back then it was OK to say that.”

Does Adore Delano have a definition of punk? “It’s the opposite of what the new generation thinks it is,” she said, laughing. “I feel like a lot of people nowadays think it’s about not giving a fuck about anything and just doing your thing, rebelling without a cause. I feel like that got lost somewhere, maybe in the late 90s. Punk to me is about fighting for something your passionate about. Breaking the mold without being an asshole.”

“To me drag is like a superhero mask,” she added. “That helped me a lot in school. To put on makeup and pair of heels and take on the fucking world. And if I want to throw a t-shirt on and sing my fucking heart out, that’s still considered drag to me. You don’t have to be plucked and tucked and look gorgeous like a model, because that’s not realistic, is it?” 

When I probed the former “Tranny Danny” about RuPaul’s decision to ax the term from the show, she grew rueful. “I was quite bothered that they took that out because that’s part of our culture. ‘Hey, Tranny’ was what we said out of love. We took the power out of that word, and made it a loving statement. The transgender girls I grew up with were OK with that. I identified as transgender when I was younger, and I was OK with that.”

A commitment to not taking things too seriously infuses Delano’s entire aesthetic, from her arm’s-length relationship with realness to her confidence about seeking inspiration in the most unfashionable quarters. When I brought up the fact that her song “Party” and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” share the same tune, she squealed. “I love that song! ‘Party’ is so cheesy. When I heard the beat, I’d written a completely different melody and lyrics and my co-writer was like, ‘What about this?’ I started running towards her, like ‘Hold up, where did I hear this before?’ She was like, ‘Maybe Billy Joel.’ I said, ‘Bitch you’re going to get me sued!’ It’s such a cheesy song but it was fun to record.”

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Pete Kane

Pete Kane

Pete Kane is a total gaylord who is trying to get to every national park before age 40


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