RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Manila Luzon (real name Karl Westerberg) has had quite a year. Not only has the self-described “Asian Glamasaurus” been climbing dance charts with her catchy (and kitschy) music like “Hot Couture” and “Best XXXCessory,” but she’s had to deal with tragedy when her longtime partner (Sahara Davenport – also from Drag Race) died of heart failure last year.
As she moves forward – stilettos and all – Manilla will be making two appearances during Philly Pride. Catch her first alongside The Goddess Isis and Notorious OMG during a special Pride edition of Thank Goddess It’s OMG (June 7 at 9 p.m.) at Tabu – and again the next day at the William Way’s Homecoming (June 8 at 6 p.m.).
As she packs her couture, wigs and lashes for Philly, we chatted with the drag superstar about what she loves most about the City of Brotherly Love – and what she really thinks of this season’s Drag Race.
What does Gay Pride mean to you?
These days Gay Pride means more to me than it used to, because now Gay Pride is the busy season for my touring schedule. I’m in a dozen cities across the country this month working hard to entertain at the biggest celebrations of our community’s accomplishments in the last few decades. I’m so excited to rally to make everyone know that we are out and proud and willing to fight for what’s right. It is a celebration of who we are! And we are fabulous!
When you’re not performing at Tabu and William Way’s Homecoming next week, how do you plan to spend your time in Philly?
I’m gonna hopefully get some time to see some friends – and enjoy some festivities. Philly is so much fun this time of year! It’s gonna be a party!
Silly question maybe, but did you watch Drag Race this season? Any reactions?
Duh! It’s the coolest show ever! I was very entertained watching this season – it was fun to see my fellow New Yorker Ivy Winters go at it and I’m very proud she was voted Miss Congeniality. The girls were fabulous and beautiful and the drama was really fun – maybe a bit like last year with the Roxxxy vs. Jinkx plot line. But hey, if it works, don’t fix it, ‘cuz I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.
The show has inspired a lot of younger performers to step on stage for the first time. What’s your advice to them?
Don’t do it! I’m just kidding [laughs]. Have fun. It takes a long time to get from playing around in makeup to what you see before you, but strive for the top, gurrls! It’s a great view from here.
Any plans to release new music this year?
Yes, of course! I find it much easier to just make a new song to perform than learning all the lyrics to the new Nicki Minaj song. I just did a cover of “One Night In Bangkok,” my favorite song from the 80s musical Chess (here’s a teaser of the new video). I originally planned on performing it on tour, but I decided to make it into a 3D video so everyone could see. I recorded a rap song with Cazwell called “Helen Keller” that will be coming out later this summer. We filmed the video in New York City last month and I think it’s gonna be bad ass. And I just wrote a new song called “Bring It” with Adam Joseph – it’s being produced by Jared Jones who did “The Chop” – and it’s featuring our newest reigning drag super star Jinkx Monsoon. There’s a lot of auto-tune coming up this summer.
What music is getting you into the summer Pride state of mind?
When it comes to Pride, I love the classics – from disco to 90s house. It’s all about Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out,” RuPaul and Martha Wash [doing] “It’s Raining Men” and a whole lot of The Village People!
Here’s one of Manila’s own dance hits: