Vardaan Arora Talks Queer, Brown Representation and Staying Unapologetic

When he talks about his childhood, it’s no surprise that Vardaan Arora ended up being a singer. “I’ve always been obsessed with pop culture,” he says. “I would pretend to be a pop star and lip sync to songs in my bedroom.” Even growing up in India, Vardaan had what you might call a “universal” gay adolescence: “I put posters of Britney Spears and Hilary Duff on my wall, and I would try to tell people ‘oh I just think they’re really hot!’”

A love of performing led to Vardaan moving to New York City when he was 18, to study acting at NYU. “I was in the closet for 18 years, which made me a pretty good actor,” he says. “And I still live for it.”

This last year has seen him pop up in small roles in a number of TV shows, from Netflix’s Gypsy to ABC’s Blindspot but when he and I sit down to talk, it’s about his music career. His debut single “Feel Good Song” recently reached 2 million plays on Spotify, and his latest video, “Like A Polaroid,” was just accompanied by a profile in Billboard.

After graduating from NYU, Vardaan started performing cover versions of songs on YouTube, but soon grew tired of waiting and decided to make things happen himself. He wrote and recorded “Feel Good Song” in 2016, and it quickly started to appear on playlists on Spotify which was all the encouragement he needed that he was on the right track, despite not knowing anything about the business side of the music industry.

But while he might lack the business know-how, Vardaan is something of a pop scholar. “I love being a part of stan culture on Twitter, and fangirling over all these artists, and at the same time being able to do exactly what those artists are doing,” he says. “I’m so passionate about it, and that’s helped me develop an ear for exactly how I want my own music to sound.” He is also very aware of the connection gay men have with pop music: “Judy Garland, Madonna, Britney, up to Ariana Grande; they have huge gay fan bases, it’s like we want to live that glamorous life through them. It’s exhilarating to think about that feminine power, and how they can be dominant and command an entire room of people. And who doesn’t love attention?”

After years of being the makers of culture behind the scenes, we are now seeing queer folks and people of color begin to attract the mainstream appeal that they deserve but progress is slow. Artists like Troye Sivan and MNEK are still the exception, and when it comes to Indian artists, you have to look even harder. Vardaan wants to change that.

“Because representation is already so scarce, it’s difficult for South Asian people to imagine themselves doing something like that,” he says. “It’s already such a hard business to break into, but then you’re additionally having it drummed into your head that it’s going to be even harder for you. I’m exceptionally lucky, and I know not everyone has the support system I’ve had, but I want to set that example and let people know that it’s possible.”

I admit to Vardaan that right now, the only prominent musician of South Asian descent that I can name is Zayn. “Yep, I’ve been compared to Zayn, even though our music sounds nothing alike,” he says. “Artists of color who do get opportunities are pitted against each other, as opposed to being allowed to coexist. I don’t want to be compared to another artist because of the color of my skin, and I don’t want to be competing with them if we’re nothing alike.”

He’s right, of course. How many times have you seen people compare Rihanna to Beyoncé? While both are exceptionally talented, their music, personalities, and public images couldn’t be more different. “The other day I saw an article about Mahershala Ali and Idris Elba, asking which one is going to be Hollywood’s next leading man,” says Vardaan. “Meanwhile, we have five white guys named Chris leading five different superhero movies, all making a shit ton of money and getting a shit ton of exposure. Why can’t two stunning black actors both succeed without having to compete with one another?”

And if Asian representation is lacking, then the state of queer Asian representation is even direr, says Vardaan: “The gay characters you see on TV are mostly white. It’s rare that any minority in a project is queer; it’s almost like a ‘pick your diversity’ kind of thing, where you can be brown or you can be gay. But I’m both, and that story isn’t really being told.”

He knows that visibility is a first step, not a solution. While it’s important for queer South Asian people to see themselves represented in media, it’s also necessary for other people to have an awareness of that experience most notably the white gay men who are so often perceived as the figureheads of a much broader LGBTQ community.

“I’m a minority, but I’m not the only minority,” says Vardaan. “Intersectionality is the way forward; you need to learn from other people’s experiences and not just hold your own perspective in the highest regard.” He laughs, and adds, “I’m vain, but I’m not vain enough to think that my experience is the only experience that matters, and I think that’s an ideology that a lot of white gay men could adopt.”

He’s optimistic that things are changing, and that our current climate is encouraging people to check their own privilege and listen to other people’s stories. But it’s still just the beginning. “I’m always in two minds about how far we’ve come versus how much work we have to do,” he says. “Living here in the States, I can’t ever forget that homosexuality is still technically illegal in India. There’s so much work we have to do globally.” A lot of the people who reach out to Vardaan about his music are based in India: “Someone messaged me on Instagram to say ‘I’m not out of the closet, I don’t think I’m going to be able to come out living here, but I’m planning to move away and you inspired me because I can see you doing what you love.’ I’m really proud to influence that community.”

Vardaan is heading back into the studio in March to record new music, due to be released this summer. He’s tight-lipped about the new songs, but says they will be a departure, sound-wise, from “Feel Good Song” and “Like A Polaroid.” Rather than feeling some kind of duty to convey a South Asian or queer experience in his work, he feels that simply continuing to make music while being fully, openly himself is statement enough.

“I just try to let my identity speak for itself,” he says. “I want to defy the stereotype, but I also want to be fearlessly me and not hide the fact that I’m Indian. When I first moved here and was making white friends, I had this unconscious voice in my head: ‘maybe I shouldn’t talk about India so much.’ Whereas now, I’m gonna sit you down and tell you all about the history of Diwali, I’m gonna show you a Bollywood movie. Now is the time to really be yourself, without apologizing for it at all.”

A Definitive Ranking of Every ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Lip Sync for Your Life

On one of the great reality TV episodes, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2‘s “Revenge of the Queens,” eliminated contestants got the chance to fight for their way back into the competition. The episode includedall-new drama, caused by Alyssa Edwards overhearing shit her rival Phi Phi O’Hara was talking about her behind her back. The result was as juicy as you could expect, with Alyssa and season two queen Tatianna facing off in the final lip sync to see who would get to take Phi Phi out.

That lip sync for your life was jaw-dropping, and is called in many circles the best Drag Race lip sync ever. But is it really? That’s what we set out to find out.

Using a formula based on five criteria each lip syncer’s individual performance, plus the storyline motivations surrounding the lip sync, the choice of song, and an undefinable X factor that upped the ante for bonus points we ranked all 122 lip syncs from the show’s history. Non-competitive lip syncs like the ones in the season seven and eight finales, as well as the three- and four-queen lip syncs from the final episodes of season four onward, weren’t counted. Lip syncs for your legacy from All Stars 2and All Stars 3were considered and ranked.

Our goal was not just to find the technically best lip syncs, but the ones that left us gagging be it because of a heated rivalry hitting its fever point, or a surprise double elimination, or RuPaul herself having to intervene. The result is a list that’s representative of all the ways Drag Race leaves us shook, from great performance to can’t-believe-it drama.

Below, check out our full ranking, plus write-ups of the top 20 and bottom 10, plus a couple of other favorites along the way.

Top 20
1. “Cold Hearted,” Coco Montrese defeats Alyssa Edwards: season 5, episode 9

Coco’s performance: 10
Alyssa’s performance: 10
Song choice: 10
Storyline: 10
X Factor: 10

The only lip sync on this list to get a perfect score, “Cold Hearted” is what all other lip syncs should aspire to be. It featured two of the all-time best performers to appear on RuPaul’s Drag Race at their peak. It was informed by story, with a years-long rivalry finally reaching its apex. It was set to the perfect song, Paula Abdul’s dance track narrating these competitors’ feud. From Coco’s spinning sleeves to Alyssa’s jump-into-splits, every moment is gasp-worthy. There simply isn’t anything else like it.

 

2. “Shut Up and Drive,” Alyssa Edwards ties Tatianna: All Stars season 2, episode 5

Alyssa’s performance: 10
Tatianna’s performance: 10
Song choice: 6
Storyline: 9
X Factor: 10

“Shut Up and Drive” is a perfect storm of drag. You’ve got two fan-favorites fighting for their right to re-enter the ultra-competitive All Stars race. They’re dressed in remarkably similar outfits Alyssa in black, Tatianna in white. They leave nothing on the runway, emptying their proverbial bags of every trick and jump they have. And then, in a coup de grace only RuPaul the god herself could design, both win the lip sync, allowing them to simultaneously eliminate season villain Phi Phi O’Hara. The name of this episode is “Revenge of the Queens,” and appropriately enough, watching this lip sync will forever be oh so sweet.

 

3. “This Will Be,” Dida Ritz defeats The Princess: season 4, episode 3

Dida’s performance: 10
The Princess’ performance: 6
Song choice: 10
Storyline: 8
X Factor: 10

During the first three episodes of season four, Dida Ritz was a floater. She performed consistently OK, never rising to the level of great nor crashing and burning. So, impatient with her safe output, Ru threw her into the bottom two for the third challenge against The Princess, a solid queen who just saved herself in the lip sync a week before. But the princess was not ready for the hurricane of energy that slammed into her on that runway. Dida took “This Will Be” and turned it up to 12, hitting every beat of the song, moving forcefully all over the stage, and nailing the bridge so precisely, even the late Natalie Cole had to shout with joy. Fellow competitor Latrice Royale called it “high drag,” and five years later, we still haven’t come down.

 

4. “It’s Raining Men (The Sequel),” Phi Phi O’Hara ties Sharon Needles: season 4, episode 8

Phi Phi’s performance: 7
Sharon’s performance: 8
Song choice: 9
Storyline: 10
X Factor: 10

Before Alyssa and Coco ever stepped on the stage across from each other to do drag battle, Phi Phi O’Hara and Sharon Needles were the first fierce rivals to wage lip sync war. Set to Martha Wash and RuPaul’s sequel to “It’s Raining Men,” the season four finalists tore into each other in their respective styles, all while clad in angel and devil costumes. Phi Phi’s high energy was manic, but perfect for the song. Sharon took a more deliberate, slower approach that gave her ample opportunity to camp it up. It would be a shame to see either go and luckily, neither had to. For this was the lip sync that saw Willam disqualified at the end of it, adding a gag-worthy X factor. Drama, deep-seated rivalry, and one killer song: Who could ask for more?

5. “So Emotional,” Sasha Velour defeats Shea Couleé: season 9, episode 14

Sasha’s performance: 10
Shea’s performance: 5
Song choice: 8
Storyline: 10
X Factor: 10

The rose petals seen ‘round the world. In Drag Race’s first lip sync tournament finale, Sasha Velour needed something big to counter her best friend Shea Couleé’s impressive win record throughout the season. When she came out for her number in a cocktail dress and long, red wig, you’d be forgiven for thinking Sasha was throwing it away. But when her first glove came off, revealing a burst of petals, we could tell something special was happening. The final cascade of roses from her wig is as iconic an image as we’ve ever seen on Drag Race. Shea may have outplayed Sasha all season, but in the most crucial moment, Sasha knew how to leave us gagging for more.

6. “Whip My Hair,” Alyssa Edwards ties Roxxxy Andrews: season 5, episode 7

Alyssa’s performance: 9
Roxxxy’s performance: 8
Song choice: 4
Storyline: 8
X Factor: 10

We could quibble and say the repetitive lyrics of “Whip My Hair’ are an odd choice for a lip sync, or point out that, as the song went on, Roxxxy Andrews’ energy couldn’t match Alyssa’s. But we’d rather just scream “wig reveal!” and leave it at that. Because frankly, that wig reveal is all this lip sync needed to earn its spot in the top 10.

7. “Stronger,” Bebe Zahara Benet defeats Ongina: season 1, episode 5

Bebe’s performance: 7
Ongina’s performance: 6
Song choice: 7
Storyline: 9
X Factor: 10

An oldie-but-goodie, “Stronger” was the first time Drag Race was faced with a Sophie’s Choice. Bebe Zahara Benet and Ongina were, arguably, the season’s frontrunners (certainly up there with Nina Flowers), and to see either go home would be heartbreaking. But considering her two previous challenge wins to Bebe’s one, it seemed likely Ongina would win out. Color us shocked, then, when Ru after leaving the stage to deliberate, a rare move for the normally composed goddess of drag chose to eliminate Ongina. At the time, our jaws were on the floor; with time, we can see that in this instance, Bebe really did outshine her rival. In the process, the two gave us Drag Race’s first iconic lip sync for your life.

 

8. “Dancing on My Own,” Jujubee ties Raven (All Stars season 1, episode 5)

Jujubee’s performance: 6
Raven’s performance: 6
Song choice: 7
Storyline: 10
X Factor: 10

There are exactly two reasons to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season one. First, you watch for the giant fight in Untucked between Mimi Imfurst and the other girls. Second, you skip ahead to episode five and watch Raven and Jujubee’s emotional meltdown of a lip sync. Paralyzed at the idea of having to send her best friend home, both girls froze, wept and embraced. It was one of the most emotional lip syncs ever, complete with Juju hyperventilating after. Thank goodness Ru decided to save them both we don’t want to think about who would’ve had to go home.

9. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” Latrice Royale defeats Kenya Michaels (season 4, episode 10)

Latrice’s performance: 10
Kenya’s performance: 2
Song choice: 8
Storyline: 7
X Factor: 10

The guest judges are usually good for a solid reaction or two during a lip sync. During “Natural Woman,” guests Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jesse Tyler Ferguson do far more than that they build the narrative. Hewitt looks with pity at Kenya Michaels as she throws herself around the stage, totally missing the point of Aretha Franklin’s song. Ferguson, on the other hand, can’t stop glowing watching Latrice as she sings a gorgeous anthem of love to her unborn child. (It was a pregnancy-themed makeover challenge; don’t think about it too hard.) Latrice didn’t have to move from her damn spot to wipe the floor with Kenya. A drag TKO.

10. “Pound the Alarm,” Monét X Change defeats Dusty Ray Bottoms (season 10, episode 4)

Monét’s performance: 10
Dusty’s performance: 4
Song choice: 6
Storyline: 8
X Factor: 10

The newest entry to our top 20, and for good reason. Monét carries this one with a perfect fake-out, a gag-worthy stunt that had RuPaul herself freaking out. Dusty’s performance is more of a panic attack than a coherent lip sync, but Ru remained impressed by the overall performance. She even called it out as what a Lip Sync for Your Life is really like, giving “Pound the Alarm” the X factor it needed to reach the echelon of masterpieces.

11. “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Ginger Minj and Sasha Belle defeat Jaidynn Diore Fierce and Tempest DuJour: season 7, episode 8

Ginger and Sasha’s performance: 9
Jaidynn and Tempest’s performance: 4
Song choice: 8
Storyline: 5
X Factor: 10

Ginger Minj takes out scissors halfway through her performance to this Tiffany song, and gives her and conjoined partner a mastectomy on the runway. Where the hell else on American TV are you going to find that?

12. “Carry On,” Sahara Davenport defeats Morgan McMichaels: season 2, episode 5

Sahara’s performance: 8
Morgan’s performance: 5
Song choice: 8
Storyline: 4
X Factor: 10

The X factor here comes from Ru consistently naming this as one of his favorite lip syncs a tribute to her late mother that both queens perform beautifully. Watching it now, however, there’s a haunting element to it. Sahara Davenport passed away after her season, and remains the only Drag Race queen to have done so. Ru’s monologue about persevering through death takes on extra heft and meaning and Sahara’s performance resonates even more powerfully.

13. “Stupid Girls,” Joslyn Fox defeats Laganja Estranja: season 6, episode 8

Joslyn’s performance: 7
Laganja’s performance: 5
Song choice: 5
Storyline: 7
X Factor: 10

What do you do if you’re in a lip sync against one of the most impressive dancers in Drag Race herstory, knowing for turning out tricks at every possibility? If you’re Joslyn Fox, who’s as clever as her last name would imply, you do the splits at exactly the moment you think your opponent, Laganja Estranja, will. The result: drag magic.

14. “I Think About You,” Alexis Mateo defeats Yara Sofia: season 3, episode 13

Alexis’s performance: 5
Yara’s performance: 2
Song choice: 6
Storyline: 10
X Factor: 10

Neither Alexis Mateo nor Yara Sofia performs this Patti LaBelle song particularly well, but that’s not the point of “I Think About You.” Two best friends who have been each other’s lifeline throughout the competition are, at the very last moment, made to lip sync against each other. Yara can’t handle the pressure and has a full-scale meltdown on the runway, and is unable to finish her performance. It was shocking, and though we’ve seen plenty of failures on the Drag Race main stage since, none is as heartbreaking as this.

15. “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” BenDeLaCreme defeats Bebe Zahara Benet (All Stars season 3, episode 6)

Ben’s performance: 4
Bebe’s performance: 6
Song choice: 7
Storyline: 7
X Factor: 10

“Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” is actually a much stronger Bebe lip sync than the score indicates. The problem is that the season one winner didn’t know that if you’re going to take off your wig, the new rule is that you have to have something happening underneath. As a result, her score shot down. Ben saved the whole thing, though. Not through her performance, but through the absolute shock of eliminating herself. We’ll never forget Wite-Out-Gate 2018.

16. “Vibeology,” Adore Delano defeats Trinity K. Bonet (season 6, episode 9)

Adore’s performance: 9
Trinity’s performance: 9
Song choice: 6
Storyline: 8
X Factor: 0

Give it to Adore Delano: She may have been rough around the edges during her season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but when her back was against the wall, she brought it. She faced down one of the best lip-syncers ever to grace the Drag Race stage in Trinity K. Bonet and matched her beat for beat. Their performance of this Paula Abdul song was sexy, confident, and cool. It’s a shame that both were underdogs peaking at the same time had they not had to lip sync against each other, both could have gone all the way.

17. “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” Chi Chi DeVayne defeats Thorgy Thor (season 8, episode 7)

Chi Chi’s performance: 10
Thorgy’s performance: 4
Song choice: 10
Storyline: 8
X Factor: 0

Sometimes, a great lip sync is two titans going at each other with all they have. Other times, it’s one competitor handed a song that’s undeniably perfect for them, while the other flails around, just trying to grab some shine. When Thorgy Thor did a cartwheel at the end, it was clear that Chi Chi DeVayne had not just beaten her on “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” the would-be Dreamgirl crushed her.

18. “MacArthur Park,” Manila Luzon defeats Delta Work (season 3, episode 8)

Manila’s performance: 10
Delta’s performance: 4
Song choice: 9
Storyline: 8
X Factor: 0

Um, see the “And I Am Telling You” entry, but replace “Thorgy Thor” with “Delta Work” and “Chi Chi DeVayne” with “Manila Luzon.” A lot of Manila’s performance on Drag Race hasn’t aged well, up to and including her pan-Asian caricature for the QNN challenge. But clad in her Big Bird feather-coated dress and equipped with Donna Summer’s campiest anthem, Manila chewed the scenery for her life, and gave us a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of performance.

19. “Greedy,” Nina Bo’Nina Brown defeats Valentina (season 9, episode 9)

Nina’s performance: 6
Valentina’s performance: 1
Song choice: 6
Storyline: 8
X Factor: 10

Surprised? Yes, Valentina flopped like mad during “Greedy,” complete with forgetting her words and trying to get through without taking off her mask. But it was that very stunt that catapulted this performance into the top 20: No matter what the quality of her performance, fans couldn’t stop talking about both her failure and Ru’s decision to stop-and-start the lip sync a never-before-seen twist. Combine that hot X factor with a solid Nina Bo’Nina Brown performance, ample amount of story heat and a solid Ariana Grande song, and you’ve got a recipe for controversial success.

20. “I’m Every Woman,” Trinity K. Bonet defeats April Carrión (season 6, episode 4)

Trinity’s performance: 9
April’s performance: 6
Song choice: 9
Storyline: 6
X Factor: 0

Trinity was remarkably consistent through her three lip syncs on RuPaul’s Drag Race season six. She interpreted each song perfectly, always melding her style to the tune. (Contrast her with someone like Latrice, who kills soul songs but fell short when she was presented with a country track.) But there’s something special about her first performance, when she practically exploded with energy after underwhelming fans (and Ru) for weeks. April Carrión, bless her, didn’t stand a chance; “I’m Every Woman” was Trinity’s coming-out moment, and she slayed it.

The Next Best Things

21. “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” Bob the Drag Queen defeats Derrick Barry (season 8, episode 8)

22. “Black Velvet,” Jujubee defeats Sahara Davenport (season 2, episode 6)

23. “I Kissed a Girl,” BenDeLaCreme ties Shangela (All Stars season 3, episode 4)

24. “Greatest Love of All,” Shannel defeats Akashia (season 1, episode 3)

25. “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” Latrice Royale defeats Dida Ritz (season 4, episode 9)

26. “Malambo No. 1,” Jinkx Monsoon defeats Detox (season 5, episode 11)

27. “Call Me,” Chi Chi DeVayne defeats Naysha Lopez (season 8, episode 4)

28. “I’m So Excited,” Coco Montrese defeats Jade Jolie (season 5, episode 6)

29. “Finally,” Nina Bo’Nina Brown defeats Aja (season 9, episode 7)

30. “It’s Not Right but It’s Okay,” Sasha Velour defeats Peppermint (season 9, episode 14)

31. “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” India Ferrah defeats Mimi Imfurst (season 3, episode 4)

32. “Point of No Return,” BenDeLaCreme ties Darienne Lake (season 6, episode 7)

33. “Celebrity Skin,” Mayhem Miller defeats Yuhua Hamasaki (season 10, episode 3)

34. “I’m Coming Out,” The Vixen defeats Blair St. Clair (season 10, episode 6)

35. “Roar,” Kennedy Davenport defeats Katya: season 7, episode 11

Kennedy’s performance: 9
Katya’s performance: 7
Song choice: 4
Storyline: 5
X Factor: 0

Don’t start with any “Kennedy wasn’t allowed to do the splits off the stage” nonsense. This is drag, and drag is all about fucking with the rules. Kennedy Davenport did a flying split off the stage, shook the judges to their cores, and turned a decent Katy Perry anthem into a rebel yell. Katya may be the fans’ ultimate favorite, but even she’d admit Kennedy wiped the floor with her this time.

36. “Tell It to My Heart,” Alyssa Edwards defeats Detox (All Stars season 2, episode 3)

37. “Two of Hearts,” Morgan McMichaels defeats Sonique (season 2, episode 4)

38. “Green Light,” Kennedy Davenport defeats BenDeLaCreme

39. “Cover Girl,” Bebe Zahara Benet defeats Nina Flowers (season 1, episode 8)

40. “Macho Man,” Peppermint defeats Alexis Michelle (season 9, episode 11)

41. “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” Latrice Royale defeats Tammie Brown (All Stars season 1, episode 2)

42. “Break Free,” Jaidynn Diore Fierce defeats Kandy Ho (season 7, episode 6)

43. “Champion,” Raja defeats Manila Luzon (season 3, episode 15)

44. “Got to Be Real,” Alaska defeats Phi Phi O’Hara (All Stars season 2, episode 4)

Middle of the Pack

45. “Stronger,” Peppermint defeats Trinity Taylor (season 9, episode 14)

46. “Think,” Adore Delano defeats Joslyn Fox (season 6, episode 10)

47. “Wrecking Ball,” Trixie Mattel defeats Kennedy Davenport (All Stars season 3, episode 8)

48. “Holding Out for a Hero,” Aja defeats Kimora Blac (season 9, episode 3)

49. “The Boss,” Bebe Zahara Benet defeats Trixie Mattel (All Stars season 3,

50. “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” Monét X Change defeats Mayhem Miller

51. “Oops!…I Did It Again,” Honey Mahogany and Vivienne Pinay double eliminated: season 5, episode 4

Honey’s performance: 1
Vivienne’s performance: 1
Song choice: 7
Storyline: 4
X Factor: 10

Objectively, of course “Oops!” isn’t a good lip sync. It’s one of the worst. But my god, watching Ru break all Drag Race’s rules by eliminating both queens in the bottom two because they botched an iconic song so badly? There’s not a ranking high enough to reward that moment. It was clear-eyed integrity from a show that sometimes makes fan-disliked decisions; Honey Mahogany and Vivienne Pinay really shat the bed, and they deserved that double elimination.

52. “Best of My Love,” Eureka defeats Kalorie Karbdashian Williams (season 10, episode 2)

53. “Mickey,” Carmen Carrera ties Yara Sofia (season 3, episode 9)

54. “Jealous of My Boogie,” Tyra Sanchez defeats Raven (season 2, episode 11)

55. “I Wanna Go,” Trinity Taylor defeats Charlie Hides (season 9, episode 4)

56. “Anaconda,” BenDeLaCreme defeats Aja (All Stars season 3, episode 1)

57. “Meeting in the Ladies Room,” Stacy Layne Matthews defeats India Ferrah (season 3, episode 5)

58. “Vogue,” Milan defeats Kenya Michaels (season 4, episode 5)

59. “Whatta Man,” Trinity K. Bonet defeats Milk (season 6, episode 6)

60. “Straight Up,” Raja defeats Carmen Carrera (season 3, episode 12)

61. “Music,” Peppermint defeats Cynthia Lee Fontaine (season 9, episode 6)

62. “Shake It Off,” Roxxxy Andrews defeats Tatianna (All Stars season 2, episode 1)

63. “(It Takes) Two to Make It Right,” Detox defeats Coco Montrese (season 5, episode 10)

64. “Ain’t Nothing Going on But the Rent,” Alyssa Edwards defeats Ivy Winters (season 5, episode 8)

65. “Jump (For My Love),” Shangela defeats BenDeLaCreme (All Stars season 3, episode 2)

66. “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” Tatianna defeats Jessica Wild (season 2, episode 7)

67. “I Was Gonna Cancel,” Kennedy Davenport defeats Jasmine Masters (season 7, episode 3)

68. “Cherry Bomb,” Alaska defeats Katya (All Stars season 2, episode 6)

69. “Believe,” Shangela defeats Carmen Carrera (season 3, episode 10)

70. “Toxic,” Jiggly Caliente defeats Alisa Summers (season 4, episode 1)

71. “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” Raven defeats Nicole Paige Brooks (season 2, episode 2)

72. “Something He Can Feel,” Jujubee defeats Tatianna: season 2, episode 9

Jujubee’s performance: 7
Tatianna’s performance: 3
Song choice: 5
Storyline: 6
X Factor: 0

Tatianna’s bad in “Something He Can Feel,” and she knows it. So there’s something quite admirable in how she takes herself out of her performance, watches Jujubee kill it, and can’t help but smile, laugh, and applaud her friend. It’s a decent-at-best lip sync, but that cute little moment makes it worth watching.

73. “I Will Survive,” Dax Exclamationpoint and Laila McQueen double eliminated (season 8, episode 2)

74. “Baby I’m Burnin’,” Alexis Michelle defeats Farrah Moan (season 9, episode 8)

75. “Cool for the Summer,” Shea Couleé defeats Nina Bo’Nina Brown (season 9, episode 10)

76. “Take Me Home,” Detox defeats Lineysha Sparx (season 5, episode 5)

77. “Show Me Love,” Ginger Minj defeats Trixie Mattel (season 7, episode 10)

78. “Turn the Beat Around,” Darienne Lake defeats Magnolia Crawford (season 6, episode 2)

79. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” Darienne Lake defeats BenDeLaCreme (season 6, episode 11)

80. “Ain’t No Other Man,” Kalorie Karbdashian Williams defeats Vanessa Vanjie Mateo (season 10, episode 1)

81. “Twist of Fate,” Katya defeats Sasha Belle (season 7, episode 2)

82. “Cut to the Feeling,” The Vixen defeats Monique Heart (season 10, episode 7)

83. “Don’t Cha,” Raven defeats Alexis Mateo and Yara Sofia (All Stars season 1, episode 4)

84. “Only Girl (In the World),” Monica Beverly Hillz defeats Serena ChaCha (season 5, episode 2)

Forgettable to wish-you-could-forget

85. “Knock on Wood,” Alexis Mateo defeats Stacy Layne Matthews (season 3, episode 7)

86. “Le Freak (Freak Out),” Alaska defeats Katya (All Stars season 2, episode 2)

87. “Even Angels,” Alexis Mateo defeats Shangela (season 3, episode 11)

88. “We Break the Dawn,” Akashia defeats Tammie Brown: season 1, episode 2

Akashia’s performance: 6
Tammie’s performance: 1
Song choice: 5
Storyline: 7
X Factor: 0

With no help from Tammie Brown, who didn’t even know the words to Michelle Williams’ solo song, Akashia made this one legendary. In retrospect, her performance is just OK, but for overcoming expectations and turning a show, she seemed like a hero at the time. Indeed, she broke the motherfucking dawn.

89. “Nasty,” Jujubee defeats Manila Luzon (All Stars season 1, episode 3)

90. “Born This Way,” Jiggly Caliente defeats Milan (season 4, episode 6)

91. “Mesmerized,” Robbie Turner defeats Cynthia Lee Fontaine (season 8, episode 3)

92. “Freaky Money,” Shangela defeats Trixie Mattel (All Stars season 3, episode 7)

93. “I Love It,” Derrick Barry defeats Robbie Turner (season 8, episode 6)

94. “I Hear You Knockin’,” Raven defeats Mystique (season 2, episode 2)

95. “The Right Stuff,” Shangela defeats Venus d’Lite (season 3, episode 2)

96. “Shackles (Praise You),” Rebecca Glasscock defeats Shannel (season 1, episode 6)

97. “Bad Romance,” Delta Work defeats Phoenix (season 3, episode 3)

98. “Cover Girl,” Sahara Davenport defeats Shangela (season 2, episode 1)

99. “Shake Your Love,” Jujubee defeats Pandora Boxx (season 2, episode 8)

100. “Responsitrannity,” Chad Michaels defeats Raven (All Stars season 1, episode 6)

101. “When I Grow Up,” Coco Montrese defeats Monica Beverly Hillz (season 5, episode 3)

102. “Head to Toe,” Laganja Estranja defeats Gia Gunn (season 6, episode 5)

103. “Dreaming,” Pearl defeats Trixie Mattel (season 7, episode 4)

104. “Supermodel (You Better Work),” Akashia defeats Victoria Porkchop Parker (season 1, episode 1)

105. “Would I Lie to You?,” Rebecca Glasscock defeats Jade (season 1, episode 4)

106. “Bad Girls,” The Princess defeats LaShauwn Beyond (season 4, episode 2)

107. “Opposites Attract,” Chad Michaels defeats Mimi Imfurst: All Stars season 1, episode 1

Chad’s performance: 5
Mimi’s performance: 3
Song choice: 4
Storyline: 5
X Factor: 0

This one just goes to show that, no matter how good every other performance of one of your songs is in Paula Abdul’s case, “Vibeology,” “Cold Hearted,” and “Straight Up” you can still see a clunker on the Drag Race stage. Between Chad Michaels’ odd posing and Mimi Imfurst’s deeply unremarkable dress reveal, this one is better left in the scrap pile of memory.

108. “Shake It Up,” April Carrión defeats Vivacious (season 6, episode 3)

109. “Applause,” Laila McQueen defeats Naysha Lopez (season 8, episode 1)

110. “Trouble,” Milan defeats Madame LaQueer (season 4, episode 4)

111. “Step It Up,” Detox defeats Katya (All Stars season 2, episode 7)

112. “No One Else on Earth,” Chad Michaels defeats Latrice Royale (season 4, episode 11)

113. “Lovergirl,” Kandy Ho defeats Mrs. Kasha Davis (season 7, episode 5)

The Bottom 10114. “Geronimo,” Kandy Ho defeats Tempest DuJour: season 7, episode 1

Kandy’s performance: 5
Tempest’s performance: 3
Song choice: 2
Storyline: 6
X Factor: 0

For whatever reason, RuPaul songs rarely make for very memorable lip syncs. (Not counting “It’s Raining Men (The Sequel),” since she was just a featured artist, the highest-placing RuPaul lip sync on our list is “Cover Girl” at 33.) The season 7 opener has its moments, from Kandy Ho’s butt bumping to Tempest DuJour’s bizarre “squiggly arms,” as Jaidynn Diore Fierce put it. But mostly, it’s a train wreck.

115. “Party in the U.S.A.,” Serena ChaCha defeats Penny Tration: season 5, episode 1

Serena’s performance: 4
Penny’s performance: 2
Song choice: 5
Storyline: 5
X Factor: 0

We will forever resent Penny Tration for this one. Not because she was particularly bad on Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” we’ve seen worse. But it’s because of her loss that we have to say Serena ChaCha has won one more lip sync than Thorgy Thor, Acid Betty, Valentina, Tammie Brown, Nina Flowers, Bianca Del Rio, Courtney Act, and Kim Chi. How dare she!

116. “Express Yourself,” Vivacious defeats Kelly Mantle: season 6, episode 1

Vivacious’ performance: 4
Kelly’s performance: 3
Song choice: 6
Storyline: 2
X Factor: 0

Fun fact: We had to rewatch this lip sync for this list, and within two days, we’ve already forgotten what happened in it. Vivacious did a lot of walking, we think? This is the worst kind of Drag Race lip sync: If you’re going to blow it, at least make it memorable! People will be talking about “Greedy,” which features a far worse Valentina performance than either Vivacious or Kelly turn out here, for far longer than they will “Express Yourself.”

117. “Love Shack,” Kimora Blac defeats Jaymes Mansfield: season 9, episode 2

Kimora’s performance: 3
Jaymes’ performance: 4
Song choice: 4
Storyline: 4
X Factor: 0

Listen, no one was great guns here, but if Ru really thinks Kimora’s performance in which she misunderstood the meaning of not just one, but several lyrics was better than Jaymes’, we’re going to have to ask that she sees an eye doctor.

118. “Mi Vida Loca,” Willam defeats Jiggly Caliente: season 4, episode 7

Willam’s performance: 4
Jiggly’s performance: 3
Song choice: 2
Storyline: 5
X Factor: 0

This was a mess! Honestly, if anyone but Jiggly had been against her, Willam would have gone home here. Her performance of this Pam Tillis country tune was corny and ill-executed in equal measure. The coin flip resonates as particularly dopey a term we’d never use to describe Willam in any other arena. The episode after this was when WIllam was disqualified, but if this lip sync was any indication, the next time she landed in the bottom, she’d have been gone no matter what.

119. “No More Lies,” Jaidynn Diore Fierce defeats Max: season 7, episode 7

Jaidynn’s performance: 5
Max’s performance: 2
Song choice: 4
Storyline: 3
X Factor: 0

Oh dear, Max. A Michel´le song was never going to be wispy, white theatre queen Max’s strong suit. She tried her best, but Jaidynn served her up on a silver platter. Not every queen can handle every song, but boy, this was a particularly disastrous match.

120. “Causing a Commotion,” Naomi Smalls defeats Acid Betty: season 8, episode 5

Naomi’s performance: 4
Betty’s performance: 4
Song choice: 3
Storyline: 2
X Factor: 0

RuPaul’s Drag Race has the weirdest taste in Madonna songs. Half the time, the picks are iconic (“Express Yourself”! “Vogue”!). The other half is stuff like “Music” and “Causing a Commotion.” In the right hands, these can be good Peppermint turned out one of the 13 perfect-scoring performances on “Music,” after all. Acid Betty, complete with pregnant belly with birds protruding out of it, and Naomi Smalls, the human embodiment of a light breeze, were not the ones to turn “Causing a Commotion” into a hit. Naomi basically just posed for 90 seconds, but when Betty attempted a pregnant death-drop, it was all over for her.

121. “Really Don’t Care,” Pearl defeats Miss Fame: season 7, episode 9

Pearl’s performance: 1
Fame’s performance: 1
Song choice: 2
Storyline: 7
X Factor: 0

We were tempted to give this one straight zeroes, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to give Miss Fame and Pearl a lower score than Valentina (who didn’t know her words to “Greedy”) or Charlie Hides (who kind of masturbated on stage during “I Wanna Go”). Plus, as lame a choice as “Really Don’t Care” is, it did tie in with having Demi Lovato as guest judge. And the Pearl and Fame rivalry did build over the season more effectively than we remembered. Point blank: This low-energy mess is a terrible lip sync, and everyone should be ashamed. But it’s not the worst.

 

122. “Woman Up,” Cynthia Lee Fontaine ties Farrah Moan: season 9, episode 5

Cynthia’s performance: 3
Farrah’s performance: 5
Song choice: 2
Storyline: 1
X Factor: 0

Farrah Moan’s actually not bad on “Woman Up”! She’s got some moves, and she certainly acquits herself better than Cynthia Lee Fontaine does. Unfortunately, the Meghan Trainor song is a dud, and moreover, the two have absolutely zero storyline reason to be facing off against each other. Neither seemed like a viable option to go home yet, giving the lip sync no heat and indeed, Eureka O’Hara’s removal from the competition because of her injury rendered this one pointless. It’s not terrible, but it’s a waste of time.

123. “Looking for a New Love,” Delta Work defeats Mariah: season 3, episode 6

Delta’s performance: 4
Mariah’s performance: 2
Song choice: 3
Storyline: 2
X Factor: 0

We’ve arrived at the worst of the worst, and boy, is it the worst. Mariah versus Delta Work is not a pairing that anyone was clamoring to see. Delta turned in a thoroughly mediocre lip sync that, against most girls from her season, would’ve sent her packing. Mariah, on the other hand, didn’t know the damn words. (That’s right, Valentina didn’t do it first.) Add to it a song that, in the most capable hands, wouldn’t have gone far, and you have the bottom of the lip sync for your life barrel. The worst thing a lip sync can be is boring, and this one left us asleep. Thank Ru that this one is a distant memory.

Here’s What You’re Not Allowed to Be for Halloween This Year

2017 has been a monstrous, hellish nightmare to endure. The year has churned out political discourse, natural disasters, and escalating national tensions. Lately, America feels more like the beginning of an apocalyptic young adult novel than any sort of life-sustaining habitat. This Halloween, people are desperately searching for a modicum of happiness and normalcy, so let’s not spoil a perfectly innocent holiday by being disrespectful and offensive.

There are tons of ways to get creative and express oneself without referencing one of the numerous shocking and horrible events of 2017. If you’re unsure where the line is and if you’re crossing it, you might be a terrible person. So let me help you out. Here’s what you’re not allowed to be for Halloween this year.

A Tiki Torch Protester

Hey, you yeah you, frat-boy, wearing the SAE bomber and a backwards floral snapback. Leave the khakis on the clearance rack, lower the tiki torch, and walk purposefully out of Sears.

I understand you think this costume might be a silly cultural commentary on our country’s rising racial tensions, but let me stop you right there. Let’s remember that tensions are high because of police brutality in the United States, largely against unarmed black men. If that’s funny to you, go on Amazon Prime and order a soul for same-day delivery.

Kim Jong-un

You might be thinking, wouldn’t it be fun to do some sort of Kim Jong Un and Elton John “Rocket Man” mash-up? Sure, maybe. But here’s the thing: There’s no way you’re going to pull it off without being racist. So, it’s a no from me, dawg.

An NFL Kneeler

This one’s tough. If you think the NFL players who are protesting police brutality have nothing to protest or think they’re disrespecting military veterans by kneeling during the national anthem, here’s my advice: Walk away. This costume isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re a Colin Kaepernick stana Kaepernizerthen, by all means, make this costume your bitch.

Donald Trump Holding Any Sort Of Map

It’s too real to be funny. Baby loves his map.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Are you insane? Do you even know who Sheriff Joe Arpaio is or why he was convicted? This monster, who Donald Trump pardoned, opened an outdoor jail in Arizona called “Tent City” essentially a concentration camp where he held undocumented immigrants in temperatures up to 130 degrees and denied them basic human rights. He was convicted of racial profiling and criminal contempt.

And if that’s not enough for you his sheriff’s department failed to investigate hundreds of reported sex crimes, including the molestation of undocumented children and toddlers. That’s his legacy. You’re not being this shit-rat for Halloween, end of story. Now march your butt right back upstairs and think about your privilege.

Marginalized Groups Targeted By The Trump Administration

Muslim-Americans, Dreamers, transgender members of the military hard pass. Let’s remember that these are human beings with lives, families, and ambitions.

Just because you haven’t been personally affected by this draconian, kleptocratic administration (cough cough white men), doesn’t mean any of this should be taken lightly. We’re not dressing up as Planned Parenthood workers, ICE Agents, or “snowflakes.”

Still looking at you, frat-boy in the SAE jacket whose name is probably Brad.

Victims Of A National Or International Tragedy

This year, we’ve seen bombings, mass shootings, and devastating natural disasters. Here’s what we’re going to do: Remember those affected, those lost, and their families whose lives have been forever altered, and treat them with the utmost of respect.

Here’s what we’re not going to do: Dress up as something disturbing in a sick attempt to be ‘clever.’ Instead, we’re going to help the victims of Puerto Rico by donating to one of these organizations, donate to those displaced by the California wildfires here, and call our senators to demand stricter gun laws here.

Dead Celebrities

Use your judgment. If you’re a big Tom Petty fanfine. But let’s collectively agree that we’re not going to be soulless, cretinous trolls who make light of a suicide. Unless you’re dressing up as the old Taylor who is dead it’s probably a no-go.

Members Of A Hate Group

If you dress up as a Nazi or a Klansmen for Halloween, then you just are a Nazi or a Klansmenplain and simple. Even if you’re dressing up as @jack, the CEO of Twitter who refuses to censor hate speech and Nazis on his literal app, and combine it with hate group symbolismI get itbut no.

Harvey Weinstein

We’re also not going to make light of #MeToo, victims of sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault, or anything that has to do with Harvey Weinstein. Seriously, unless you’re doing an all-girl squad costume as a coven of witches burning some sort of metaphorical, bearded monster this isn’t okay.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), 1 in 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. Sexual assault a widespread, systemic problem that’s jarringly pervasive in our culture.

The women who are speaking up to engender change are courageous warriors.

Trump and Putin As A Gay Couple

Guess what? Gay jokes still aren’t funny or kosher. Making a homophobic joke about Trump being “in bed” with Putin is an affront to gay men everywhere. And while we’re here, we’re also not going to joke about Mike Pence being gay. There are infinite reasons to make fun of these three literal bridge trolls, but being closeted isn’t one of them. Grow up, Brad.

And finally, Hillary Clinton.

Hasn’t she been through enough?! She is not ours to hold anymore, as she has given herself to the woods.


If you’re feeling “spooked,” short on ideas, or slighted after reading this, might I interest you in an idea that’s totally fair game? Ivanka Trump’s Punk Phase. It’s an easy, DIY costume all you need is a blonde wig and a little blush. Happy Halloween!

Lead ImagePhotography: Getty Images / Roberto Machado Noa

A Definitive Ranking of the Spice Girls

With news emerging that a Spice Girls reunion might be in the works though the jury’s out on whether Victoria Beckham will join the other four now’s a great time to reminisce back on all the memories that made us fall in love with the fab five.

Just kidding, it’s time to rank ‘em and decide who is the best. The criteria for this test are simple personality, vocal chops, style, and general iconic-ness, each scored out of a possible 10 points.

5. Emma Bunton AKA “Baby Spice”

With one of the group’s smaller voices and meeker personalities, Baby Spice (Emma Bunton) brought no shortage of pink-soaked frocks and platform shoes to the group but little else. With the other members serving vocals, personality and sass, at some point, the lollipops and mini-backpacks just don’t seem to cut it. While the rest of the girls’ aesthetics seemed like they could one day lend themselves to solo stardom, being infant-like never seemed like a marketable trait outside the confines of the group as has been proven by history.

 

Personality: 3/10
Vocal chops: 4/10
Style: 4/10
General Iconicness: 4/10
Overall score: 3.8

4. Victoria Beckham AKA “Posh Spice”

Though Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham, née Adams) served some major ~lewks~ during her Spice Girls tenure, her contributions to the groups’ songbook lacked. Nowhere was it more obvious that Beckham was often an afterthought then on the radio single for “2 Become 1,” where Geri Halliwell lost two lines of song so that listeners could hear Beckham’s solo voice. Beckham gets extra points for her performance in Spice World, which was more comically broad and engaging than most of the other girls sans Halliwell, that is.

 

Personality: 2/10
Vocal chops: 2/10
Style: 9/10
General Iconicness: 8/10
Overall Score: 5.3

3. Melanie Brown AKA “Scary Spice”

Young gays of color remember well being forced to play Scary Spice (Melanie Brown) when everyone played Spice Girls on the playground or is that just me? In retrospect, however, that turned out to not be such a bad fate. As the unstoppable personality of the Spice Girls, Brown brought the volume and spunk and was a huge reason that the group’s first song, “Wannabe,” was such a huge hit. And while Beckham brought the fashion, Brown’s looks were the epitome of personal style. Who could forget her hair cones or her trend-setting amount of leopard? While Bunton and Beckham could’ve been replaced by someone equally meek or fashionable, Brown was too unique to be replaced.

 

Personality: 8/10
Vocal chops: 6/10
Style: 9/10
General Iconicness: 7/10
Overall Score: 7.5

 

2. Melanie Chisholm AKA “Sporty Spice”

Sporty Spice has the range. Her status in the group is cemented, oddly enough, by our willingness to listen to her past the group’s expiration date. Face it, everyone: “I Turn to You” is a bop. Chisholm’s pared-down aesthetic allowed her tomboy personality and vocals to shine. You’d be lying to me and yourself if you’re telling me that you haven’t belted “Boy who thinks he CAAAAAAN” from “Too Much” in the shower. With both the vocal chops and the aesthetic cohesiveness, Chisholm was one of the Spice Girls’ boldest flavors.

Personality: 7/10
Vocal chops: 10/10
Style: 6/10
General Iconicness: 8/10
Overall Score: 7.7

 

1. Geri Halliwell AKA “Ginger Spice”

There’s only one argument to make when it comes to why Halliwell is the group’s most iconic member: the group fell apart without her. That’s not a knock to the group itself, but rather telling of the fans’ reaction to a girl group recipe sans Halliwell’s particular tang. Though she wasn’t the strongest vocalist or best dancer, Halliwell often just felt like the group’s de facto leader. In Spice World, she was branded as the smart, outspoken feminist. Her slogan, “Girl Power!” might as well have been the group’s unofficial slogan. With her tight outfits and look-at-me red hair, she served the drama that every gay man craved in an icon. All hail Ginger.

 

Personality: 9/10
Vocal chops: 7/10
Style: 8/10
General Iconicness: 9/10
Overall Score: 8.3

Daniel Newman Bares All About Coming Out, Hollywood’s Homophobia & Joining ‘The Walking Dead’

Pop culture geekdom was recently blessed with the return of one of TV’s most addictive shows. The Walking Dead is back for season eight, and fans already fully invested.

Gay fans in particular are tuning in, partially for the drama and social commentary, but also because of Daniel Newman. The fresh face in this post-apocalyptic universe is that of a soldier in the recently-revealed Kingdom. As well as being a swoon-worthy addition to the cast, Newman came out this year to a vast, supportive fan base.

In the months since, he’s used his platform to draw attention to a number of issues, particularly bullying. Now, he’s using more than his name for the cause. He bares all for the cover of the Red Hot Exposed calendar, a project that does away with the notion that redheaded men aren’t sexy.

We recently caught up with Newman ahead of the new season of The Walking Dead about coming out and stripping down.

How have things been going since you officially came out to the public?

It’s been pretty mind-boggling. It’s been beyond my wildest dreams. You kind of live your life going through all the things we go through as a community, and you have all these fears and worries about what’s going to happen. The world has just changed so much.

We have such a powerful family and community, all of our forefathers who fought and died for this world we’re living in right now. So, I’ve got nothing but love from people all over the world, reaching out.

It’s funny, as soon as you become your authentic self, all these doors open up that you never imagined were even there because no one was really even aware of who you were and what you were all about.

Have you faced any homophobia in Hollywood with the casting process?

Oh yea, enormously. I came out to my agents years ago, my agents and managers. Several of them were like, “You’ll never be a leading man if you come out publicly. There’s never been a leading man that’s done drama and done action movies and the big Hollywood box office films.” They’re like, “That’s never gonna change. If you want to, that’s up to you, but it will kill your career.”

So, it was always kind of a blend of feeling like it’s nobody’s business and I’ll keep my private life private. But then that’s in your head. You’ve worked for this career for so long, and it’s always this angel and devil sitting on your shoulder, wondering should I be honest and just be myself and take that giant risk or should I just keep my private life private and it’s nobody’s business?

But I’ve had that in the back of my head my entire career, and once I talked to the team, that was kind of their advice for years.

You’ve been using your platform to draw attention to some of the issues that are important to you. Tell me about this calendar you did that takes a stand against bullying.

We did a body calendar. That was really fun. I love that it kind of highlights redheads, redhead celebrities. That’s another form of bullying and prejudice, aside from being LGBTQ. Growing up in the south, I got beat up a lot. I definitely felt like I was less than, like I wasn’t attractive. So I was really honored that they put me on the cover.

What’s it been like joining the cast of Walking Dead that’s been going so strong for seven seasons now?

It’s been life-changing. It’s been really mind-boggling. You join a show that’s like the number-one show on earth, and there are like people from every country that are just so devoted to it and just love it. And the core of the show is just about unity, it’s about diversity, it’s about survival and people coming together.

The show is every ethnicity and sexuality. The show is pretty amazing.

 

You can learn more about the ‘Red Hot 100’ calendar here and follow Daniel on his fiery Instagramhere.

Do I Need The Perfect Body To Find A Man?

In this week’s Hola Papi!, the advice column by writer, Twitterer, and prolific Grindr user John Paul Brammer, a reader writes in asking for help with the fact that he keeps losing weight, but men keep expressing dissatisfaction.

And while we all have a body type we find most sexy, his question helps our dear columnist launch into a larger discussion on body image and love for queer people everywhere.

If you want his advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start out your letter with Hola Papi!

___

Hola Papi!

I live in Germany, I’m 28, and I’m tall and chubby. In January this year, I started to work out, change my eating habits, and lose weight so that I could feel better about myself and be healthier. I already lost a big chunk of the pounds I wanted to lose, and a while ago when I hit my intermediate goal, I pulled myself up by my wig straps and got back into the game of dating.

But here’s the thing: Every single guy I went on a date with, no matter if he was big or thin or muscular, told me to either lose or gain more weight, and that we can’t date until I did so.

Here’s my question: What the F am I supposed to do? I really would like to have a new boyfriend. As I said I’m 28 now, but feel like I’ll never find one, and I really don’t know how to handle this shit anymore. I get that we’re all shallow c u next Tuesdays, but come on.

Greetz,

Body Issues

Guten Tag, Body! It’s always a treat when I get to go international in these columns. It gives me the illusion of being abroad, despite having not left my home in weeks. But it’s okay. There are stray cats who keep me company from outside my window. I have named them all. They have distinct personalities. They think I am their mother.

Anyway, I don’t know what has changed since I last set foot in your country, but scheisse! (I will stop now, I promise) Since when do people ask you to lose or gain weight on the first date?

That’s the easy part of your problem: If someone says they don’t want to see you until you’ve changed your body, then they don’t deserve to see you at all. They don’t deserve to see anyone for that matter. They should be put in time out from seeing people until they stop that. They are rude and should be punished.

But now comes the hard part we have to reckon with: It’s not so easy to dismiss body issues in the gay community. They are all over the place, and they influence pretty much everything.

If I were more of a hack, I would tell you it all comes down to self-love, or that you just need to be confident. Perhaps I would hit you over the head with a platitude, something like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

But for now, screw that. As a body dysmorphic and a sufferer of an eating disorder, I know what it’s like to navigate gay spaces in both a thin and a husky body (though, certainly, I haven’t experienced it all!) and I know what it’s like to feel less-than because of my looks. And, Body, it does not feel good!

You and I are not alone in that sentiment. Did you know that gay men are way more likely than straight men to develop eating disorders? Did you know that gay men are also more likely to report feeling inadequate about their bodies? Something is going on here, and it seems we’re struggling to address it as a community.

Body, I swear, sometimes being a gay man feels like a competition. It’s like we’re constantly comparing ourselves to the next guy: how many people we’ve hooked up with, how many likes we got on our selfies, how many hot friends we can recruit into our squad. If you get caught up in that mindset, it can make you feel constantly inadequate. It can make you feel like you’ll never be enough.

But the thing is, you are enough. And not every gay man is going to make you feel like you need to gain or lose something before you’re worth it. I don’t just mean in the context of potential boyfriends, either. I mean the guys you surround yourself with, even the ones you don’t talk to.

Think about this: If you actually followed through with one of these assholes and lost the weight they asked you to, do you really think they’d hold up their end of the bargain and start dating you? And if they did, wouldn’t that be even more of a nightmare? You’d be with a guy who only valued you because you changed yourself to accommodate him. Doesn’t sound healthy! Some red flags are going up here!

The same principle applies to the people you associate with, the bars you go to, and the company you keep. It can take a lot of willpower, and it’s not always going to be pleasant, but if you can figure out how to stop seeking the approval of people who absolutely don’t have your best interests in mind, you will be a whole lot better off.

Meanwhile, try seeking out spaces where a wider variety of body types are affirmed. Find some friends you can openly speak to about your struggles with your body. Mental health and body anxiety are taboo topics to some folks, but keeping quiet about it is partly why we’re in such a bad place with eating disorders as a community.

And while it might sound a bit cheesy, I wanted to finish up by giving you a secret weapon. It’s a little something I tell myself that genuinely helps me whenever I start to fall into the trap of comparing myself to others or feeling like I hate my body.

I think about something I like about myself. Maybe it’s my intelligence, or maybe it’s that I care about my friends, or maybe it’s that dogs seem to want my company. Then I think about how that trait that I like, whatever it is, is a part of me. It’s a tangible, physical part of me, no less real than my arms or my stomach or my eyes.

I don’t need to separate myself into “good” and “bad” parts. I am a complete whole, and my body, even if someone judges it just by looking at it, is good enough to contain and conduct all these wonderful things I like about myself. So how bad can it be, really? Not bad at all.

Houston Offers Inclusive Health Care to Trans City Employees Despite Failure of Nondiscrimination Law

Houston affirmed support for trans city employees even despite the repeal of its LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance.

 

Texas’ largest city confirmed that it will be “offering comprehensive trans-inclusive health benefits to municipal employees,” according to the LGBTQ publication OutSmart magazine. Alan Bernstein, communications director for the city of Houston, claimed the move is intended to bring the local government in compliance with the Affordable Care Care (ACA), often referred to as Obamacare.

 

LGBTQ advocates say the decision is a major show of support for the city’s queer and trans community following the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) three years ago.

 

“As far as City employees go, no one’s health is being excluded,” Lou Weaver, transgender programs coordinator at Equality Texas, told OutSmart.

 

“This is a message that shows that the City of Houston is going to do everything that it can to take care of its trans employees,” he added. “Whether these employees are current or future, they now know that the city sees them.”

 

HERO extended the rights of equal access in all public accommodation based on 15 identity categories, including disability, military status, pregnancy, and gender identity. When HERO was voted down by a 61-to-39 margin in November 2015, it removed groundbreaking protections for people with disabilities, veterans, pregnant women, and transgender people enacted just 19 months earlier.

 

The ordinance was defeated after conservatives with the anti-LGBTQ campaign for Houston branded trans people as dangerous predators.

 

A 30-second TV spot released by the campaign warned that “registered sex offenders” or “any man, any time claiming to be a woman” could enter a public restroom and prey on women and children. In the commercial, an unseen boogeyman chases a little girl dressed in a Catholic school uniform into the bathroom and corners her.

 

The bigotry and vitriol unleashed by right-wingers three years ago is why Weaver believes the city’s trans-inclusive healthcare plan is a “huge win in Houston and in Texas.”

 

Currently, just two other cities in Texas Austin and Dallas offer healthcare to employees that recognizes each of their unique needs. These plans may include coverage for hormone therapy, gender confirmation surgery, or any care related to an individual’s transition.

 

These costs can be extremely expensive out of pocket. Transitioning costs an average of $20,000 over a two-year period a burdensome weight for a community that faces disproportionate levels of poverty.

 

But it remains to be seen if Houston’s trans-inclusive health care plan will become entangled in an ongoing debate about spousal benefits for LGBTQ city employees. In December, the Supreme Court declined to take up Pidgeon v. Turner, in which accountant Larry Hicks and religious leader Jack Pidgeon claim that taxpayers shouldn’t have to co-sign same-sex marriages.

 

That case has now been remanded to the lower courts, where it will be settled in the coming months. Any decision against LGBTQ couples could affect trans workers, depending on the scope of the ruling.

 

Studies have shown, though, that taxpayers have little to worry about when it comes to ensuring trans people have access to medical coverage. When San Francisco became the first municipality to offer inclusive care to transgender employees, the additional cost was so low that it disbanded the extremely minimal surcharge added to municipal health plans.

 

“[D]espite actuarial fears of over-utilization and a potentially expensive benefit, the Transgender Health Benefit Program has proven to be appropriately accessed and undeniably more affordable than other, often routinely covered, procedures,” noted its Human Rights Commission.

 

In the case of Houston, those costs are equally likely to be low considering how few transgender people will be affected.

 

The City of Houston has an estimated 23,000 employees. Although the number of individuals who are trans is not known, a 2016 survey from The Williams Institute found that Texas has the second-highest transgender population in the U.S., with around 125,350 adults in the state (or .66 percent) identifying as trans or gender nonconforming.

 

If the rate of trans people employed by city government is equal to the overall population, that comes out to around 150 people.

 

Image via Getty

LGBTQ Groups Call For ICE To Release All Trans Detainees After Trans Woman Dies In Custody

When U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a death notice on Roxana Hernández, the agency was sure to list off her many transgressions. In 33 years, ICE says the transgender woman illegally entered the U.S. four times. She was convicted of theft, as well as “lewd, immoral, indecent conduct and prostitution” her notice reads.

The statement is less clear, however,on the agency’s role in her untimely death while in custody May 25.

How did a Honduran asylum-seeker die of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV? Will the LGBTQ community count her among this year’s transgender homicide victims?

“Paired with the abuse we know transgender people regularly suffer in ICE detention, the death of Ms. Hernández sends the message that transgender people are disposable and do not deserve dignity, safety or even life,” said Isa Noyola, deputy director at Transgender Law Center (TLC), in a blistering statement released jointly by the organization, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement and Organización Latina de Trans en Texas.

The statement goes on to note that many detainees are kept in freezing holding cells.

According to ICE, Hernández entered ICE custody May 13 in San Diego. She was transferred to El Paso and then Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico, where she was housed in the transgender unit.

On May 17, she was admitted to Cibola General Hospital with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and HIV complications. She died of cardiac arrest on May 25, according to ICE.

“Consistent with the agency’s protocols, the appropriate state health and local law enforcement agencies have been notified about this death, as have the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility,” said ICE in the statement.

The agency says Hernández is the sixth detainee in its charge to die this year.

A spokesperson for ICE did not respond to a request to comment beyond the statement released on its website.

LGBTQ advocates have excoriated ICE for what they say is a pattern of abuse against transgender detainees.

“We have been demanding the release of our trans communities detained in ICE detention centers because of rampant physical and brutal treatment from guards and other detainees,” said Jorge Gutiérrez, executive director of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement.

Hernández’s story has a familiar ring for many.

Bamby Salcedo, President of [email protected] Coalition, noted the parallels between Hernández’s death and that of Victoria Arellano, a 23-year-old trans woman from Mexico who similarly died in ICE custody in 2007 due to AIDS-related complications.

“People do not die from AIDS complications [nowadays],” Salcedo wrote on her Facebook page. “People die because of denial of treatment and the institutional red tape that has been set up for us to not be able to receive the help and support that we need in order to save our lives.”

Salcedo and others will hold a vigil in honor of Hernández Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

The event description alleges that Hernández was “murdered by ICE detention.”

LGBTQ rights groups called for ICE to release all trans detainees and for the agency to be dismantled altogether.

“ICE has shown time and again it is incapable of protecting transgender women in detention, said Flor Bermudez, legal director at TLC. “Transgender people should not be detained by ICE at all.”

‘Roseanne’ Should Have Been Cancelled Over Its Star’s Transphobic Tweets — But It Wasn’t

Roseanne was abruptly cancelled on Tuesday following backlash to its star’s racist tweets, but it never should have been on the air to begin with.

Roseanne Barr, the actress and comedienne who plays the titular Roseanne Conner in the rebooted ABC sitcom, took aim this week at former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, comparing her to a monkey. Barr claimed Jarretta black woman who was born in Shiraz, Iran to American parentslooks like what would happen if the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes [sic] had a baby.”

ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey swiftly responded by saying that the comments are “abhorrent, repugnant, and inconsistent with our values,” signaling that it led to the network’s decision to pull the plug on her program.

Although the show’s abrupt cancellation may have come as a surprise given the show’s high ratings, the bottom had been falling out on Roseanne for weeks. Its season finale hit a series low after plummeting 26 percent in viewership after returning from a month-long hiatus. Showrunner Whitney Cummings parted ways with the reboot, while staff writer Wanda Sykes announced her departure following Barr’s racist tweets.

Meanwhile, four staff writers who worked on the original sitcomwhich ran from 1988 to 1997told BuzzFeed that Roseanne Conner no longer resembles the character they once knew, someone who wouldn’t have had a problem with a Muslim neighbor or voted for Donald Trump.

Barr’s president of choice may be able to survive constant scandals and a revolving door of advisors, but his biggest fan was not. In the Twitter era, there is such a thing as bad publicity.

But while racism may have finally tanked the leaky ship that was Roseanne, it’s alarming what that boat was able to withstand. INTO reported in April that Barr had a long history of attacking transgender people on Twitter, but those tweets did not lead to action on the part of ABC. On March 30, the alphabet network announced that the reboot would be picked up for a second season.

Let’s briefly examine what ABC did not find “abhorrent, repugnant, and inconsistent with [its] values.”

In a 2012 tweetstorm, Barr claimed that Colleen Francis, a transgender woman at Evergreen State College, should not be allowed to use the locker room that corresponds with her gender identity. Francis claimed that she was discriminated against when a woman called the police on her for using the university’s sauna.

“If she has a penis, she’s not allowed in,” she stated in a series of tweets (which have been edited for punctuation and clarity). “I’m sorry, but a dick means you’re a man to me. Maybe I’m old and out of it, but I can’t go there, sorry.

“Women do not want your penises forced in their faces or in our private bathrooms,” Barr continued. “Respect that fact.”

The comedienne’s show has been hailed as a trailblazer for LGBTQ representation on television, which has led many to defend the comments as not representative of her opinions on queer and trans people. Roseanne featured one of the first same-sex kisses on primetime (between Barr and guest star Mariel Hemingway), as well as the first gay wedding featuring a recurring character (Martin Mull).

But these groundbreaking depictions of LGBTQ life didn’t stop her from tweeting memes spreading transphobic propagandalike the debunked myth that transgender people prey on women and children in public bathrooms.

Meanwhile, her 2011 book Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm mocks trans women as men masquerading as female.

“You haven’t lived until you have seen a huge guy with boobs talking about female hormones and deciding to keep his penis, and how that was a feminist issue,” Barr writes about infighting in the LGBTQ community between butch lesbians and transgender people.

These comments garnered significant attention. They were also picked up by outlets like The Advocate, GayRVA, them, Marie Claire, TransGriot, TransAdvocate, Good Housekeeping, The Establishment, and Raw Story. In Slate, writer Brynn Tannehill argued that even the supposed pro-LGBTQ elements of the showincluding a gender nonconforming kid whose presence appeared to counterbalance her alarming personal viewsactually undermine trans identities.

But even despite trans people saying that Barr’s comments and her show hurt them, she was not forced to apologize. Staff writers did not quit over her tweets being unearthed. Everyone quickly moved on to the next controversy.

The little attention, respect, or care paid to the dignity of trans people is all the more relevant given that the fifth season of Arrested Developmentstarring accused predator Jeffrey Tambordebuted on Netflix the very same day that Roseanne was finally axed by ABC.

Tambor has been accused of sexual misconduct by three trans women. Van Barnes, his former assistant, says that he repeatedly made sexual advances toward her, claimed she could further her career by bedding him, and watched her while she slept. Trace Lysette, who co-starred on Amazon’s Transparent, alleges that he rubbed his genitalia on her during a scene they filmed togetherpinning her so she couldn’t move.

Lastly, Rain Valdezwho guest-starred in the show’s fourth seasonclaims he repeatedly kissed her on the lips without her consent.

When these allegations came out, Tambor was fired from Transparent, but he was not disciplined by Arrested Development in any way. Not only did Netflix executives speak out to vouch for his professionalism on set (as if his social graces were the issue), several co-stars came to his defense: namely Will Arnett, David Cross, Tony Hale, and Jason Bateman.

In fact, Bateman said that he would leave the show if Tambor were removed. “I won’t do it without you,” Bateman told him during a sitdown with the New York Times. “I can tell you that.”

That interview sparked national controversy, but not because Bateman and his male castmates refused to condemn the sexual assault of three transgender women. People got upset with the 49-year-old actorwho plays Michael Bluth on the long-running cult comedyfor belittling an incident in which Tambor harassed co-star Jessica Walter on set.

Walter, the woman behind the beloved boozy Bluth matriarch Lucille, claims that Tambor screamed at her while filming a scene. Bateman dismissed the altercation as the cost of show business, which he calls a “breeding ground for atypical behavior.”

“What we do for a living is not normal, and therefore the process is not normal sometimes, and to expect it to be normal is to not understand what happens on set,” the actor said. “Again, not to excuse it… but to be surprised by people having a wobbly route to their goal, their processit’s very rarely predictable.”

Within hours of the Times interview’s publication, Bateman was forced to walk back his comments on Twitter.

“I’m incredibly embarrassed and deeply sorry to have done that to Jessica,” he said in a series of tweets. “This is a big learning moment for me. I shouldn’t have tried so hard to mansplain, or fix a fight, or make everything okay. I should’ve focused more on what the most important part of it all isthere’s never any excuse for abuse, in any form, from any gender.”

Although Bateman added that the “the victim’s voice needs to be heard and respected,” it’s notable who his mea culpa leaves out: the trans women this discussion was actually about. He didn’t even say their names. It’s doubtful he knows them.

If you think this is a harsh assessment, note that the phrase “victim’s” is singular, not plural.

Barnes, Lysette, and Valdez were summarily erased from their own quest for justice within the span of a couple hours. Comparing search traffic in Google Trends, interest in Jessica Walter spiked at a perfect 100 the day that the public listened to her break down in tears recalling a shocking and brutal act of verbal harassment.

Conversely, not a single one of Tambor’s trans accusers garnered more than a score of 3 on Google’s metrics since they first came forward. Her harassment eclipsed their right to their own bodies.

Every single one of these women should be listened to. Walter’s story is a reminder of the rampant abuse to which Hollywood actresses are subjected by toxic menwhether it’s David O. Russell bullying Amy Adams on the set of American Hustle, the stars of Blue Is the Warmest Color being forced to film sex scenes for hours on end, or Marlon Brando assaulting costar Maria Schneider while filming Last Tango in Paris.

This behavior has been normalized and legitimized for decades by an industry that views women as replaceable. If one actress is unwilling to be mistreated, another will be waiting to take her place.

But too often abuses perpetrated against transgender people are immediately brushed asidenever given equal space in the cultural conversation or afforded the gravity that makes these allegations actionable. When society doesn’t view transgender women on the same level as cisgender women, what happens to these individuals sadly doesn’t matter as much.

This is why two dozen trans peopleprimarily women of colorcontinue to be murdered every year in the United States with little national outcry. Their lives aren’t treated with the same weight, and thus, neither are their deaths.

Taking violence, harassment, and abuse perpetrated against trans survivors seriously begins with giving victims exactly what the people harmed by Barr and Tambor have been denied: accountability. The public must allow transgender people the platform to have their voices heard, their identities affirmed, their truths validated, and their lives made visible. They should be leading #MeToo, not marginalized by it.

Until we as a culture create space for trans people, we can’t expect that those who abuse them will ever face the consequences they deserve.

Images via Twitter

This Deleted Scene From ‘Love, Simon’ Depicts The Euphoria of Going to Your First Gay Bar

The landmark gay high school rom-com Love, Simon swept viewers off their feet after its release in March. Two months later, Twentieth Century Fox released a deleted scene from the film, in which the titular star attends his first gay nightclub. The scene is nerve-wracking, thrilling, and ultimately moving which is exactly what it’s like to go to a gay bar for the first time.

Gay men are afforded bountiful opportunities to thrive in queer spaces. In most major cities, and even some of the more welcoming suburbs, it’s easy to find a gay bar or nightclub to blow off some steam with your fellow gays. But for queer women, lesbian spaces come few and far between. As a result, female queerness is less normalized in many respects, because it’s not as conspicuous in everyday or every night culture. Even LGBTQ hubs like Los Angeles and San Francisco have mourned the loss of numerous dyke bars and safe spaces for queer women, and it’s not getting any better. And with no spaces to be out and proud without feeling othered, it can elongate queer women’s coming out process or at least, it did for me.

Regardless, there’s a commonality in rainbow-flooded queer spaces, because gay bars bleed togetherness and acceptance. When I watch the deleted scene from Love, Simon, I feel shivers down my spine reminiscentof the first time I set foot in a gay bar good shivers, goosebumps, heart palpitations and all because this scene doesn’t just depict a fun-loving first encounter with queerness. It also shows the importance of one’s first eye contact with unconditional acceptance and community, and that combination is vital to every queer person’s coming out experience.

I didn’t realize I was gay until my early 20s, and it wasn’t until I started hanging around other queer women that my own sexuality became starkly clear, which I think is a common experience the more queerness you surround yourself with, the more normal it feels, and the easier it is to embrace those parts of yourself. Before my first gay safe space, I had minor confrontations with my lesbianism a same-sex crush, coming out to my best friend, admitting to my queer friends that I was questioning but it wasn’t until my first Pride that it came gushing out of me like Kilauea lava.

In the deleted scene from Love, Simon, the titular character (played by Nick Robinson) can be seen anxiously dipping his toes in the water, afraid to admit any man at the club is checking him out, or that he enjoys the attention. That is until a gay man, played by out gay actor Colton Haynes, approaches and asks him to dance.

Simon’s friend physically shoves him away, forcing him to dive deeper into his gay experience, knowing that the plunge isn’t just important, it’s necessary for the character’s road to self-acceptance.

I remember that feeling so vividly, going to Dyke Day (the famed women-loving-women picnic in Los Angeles), flinching at any lingering glance or arm-brush with another woman, even though I so badly wanted to engage. It took some warming up, but later that night, everything changed for me.

Gay people flooded the streets during that Pride, proudly donning rainbow flags, speedo thongs, drag, and other gay-adjacent paraphernalia. Forgive my triteness, but I had never felt so free to be me. And later that night, when I subsequently attended the Pride concert and gay clubs of West Hollywood, I felt truly free, accepted, and part of a community for the first time. That freedom is echoed in Simon’s eyes in the clip, when he finally drags himself on to the dance floor and lets loose, surrounded by people who are just like him. Via the million-watt smile and creased eyes, it’s clear Simon is fully embracing himself and his sexuality for the very first time, just like I did three years ago, and it feels like ecstasy.

Queer spaces are essential to one’s coming out experience, but also in remaining out and liberated. These days, I look forward to Pride every summer, because it’s the one time per year that I can be fully drowned in queer women, seeking a common goal of togetherness, and that warmth is totally overwhelming.

It’s my hope that every LGBTQ person, whether a teenager like Simon, a twenty-something like myself, or a baby gay of any age, gender, sexuality or gender identity, can be afforded the experience of attending a gay bar. Even if you’re not totally into the culture of pounding G’s and grinding in sweat-stained tank-tops, I promise there’s a level of self-acceptance that can only be unlocked by pumping your fist to Ariana Grande’s “Break Free,” submerged in a sea of your own tribe.

As of today, Love, Simon is available digitally and will be released on DVD June 12th.