With the first two episodes of the second season of the uplifting Emmy-nominated unscripted series We’re Here now available to stream on HBO Max, certified drag icon Eureka took the time to speak with The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann about returning to the show, feeling a deeper connection with their We’re Here sisters Bob The Drag Queen, and Shangela, their appearance on American Horror Story, and that winning lip sync on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars six.
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: as you returned to We’re Here for season 2 was there anything that you wanted to do differently this time around?
Eureka: “I wanted to elevate everything I could. My goal was to bring a little bit more production value to the daughter numbers and to connect as much as I could with those daughters. I also wanted to bring a little bit more of them and their ideas into the performances. I think them being connected to the performance makes them have more fun.”
At times you really have to encourage the daughters to make decisions about what they want to look like in drag and to achieve with their performance don’t you? As with Deborah in Selma for instance.
“Someone like Deborah is so used to worrying about everyone else’s comfort and taking care of everyone around her, so I had to remind her and be like, ‘No, Mama, this is the moment where it’s about you!'”
One of the most powerful things about the show is that it creates connection and dialogue where before there was perhaps a queer elephant in the room and silence. At one point you say, ‘It’s our job as queer people to invite people of difference in and show them the kindness that we wish we would have gotten‘, which I was struck by.
“Absolutely, we’re going into these situations and we’re bringing non-queer people into our queer experience and queer environments, so we want to make them feel as at home as humanly possible in a world where we weren’t ever given that luxury in a lot of heteronormative culture. So this is a way for us to lead by example.”
Could you talk a bit about bringing in your own experiences when it comes to connecting with your drag daughters and bringing them out of their shells, particularly when it comes to gender identity, with Joey and Noah for instance this season?
“We are able to really see a vulnerable side to people when we expose ourselves and our own vulnerability. I’ve always been pretty good about being honest and open about the things I’ve been through and it helps people like Noah and Joey understand that they’re not alone, that there are other people out there like them, and not only are there other people, but mama Eureka has been through those things too. It’s a way of letting them know, ‘You’re fine, it’s okay, and we’re going to survive it together.”
With Pastor Craig in the Evansville, Indiana episode, I found that a really powerful story. You first met him in a place called Santa Claus didn’t you?
“Yes, miss thing! At Frosty’s in Santa Claus, Indiana!”
What did his willingness to really put himself on the line, potentially risking his position as a religious leader mean to you personally?
“It meant a lot because as a queer person who grew up in a religious area, Southern Baptist to be specific, I was ostracized and discriminated against more by religious people and my fear of coming out came from my relationship with those people too. So I put my whole life on the line to come out really, as far as my relationships and my friendships were concerned. I lost my best friend because his family was super religious. I was bullied by his parents. It’s crazy the things that I looked back on in that moment when I was talking with pastor Craig. I couldn’t imagine if I had someone like him in my church to let me know it was okay and how that would have changed my feelings and my perception of my own self-worth, because this idea of damnation is really built around religion and being homosexual and that’s the scariest part of coming out sometimes.”
Yes, it made me think about myself as a young person too, and just as we’re wresting with coming to terms with who we are and maybe starting to feel okay about ourselves…
“…then you go to church!”
I think someone like Craig illustrates the point that there might be many more people around like him, but who feel intimated or too scared to say that they are accepting of queer people because of how their church might react.
“That’s what it takes, someone like him to say I’m going do it anyway.”
In this season, another thing that I really enjoyed is that we get to see more of you three queens connecting.
“Yeah! I think they had more opportunities to show that because we just naturally connected more too. We’ve been through a lot this last year and a half and it brought us even closer than we were last year and I think that it shows in our interactions and in the way we work together and just in the success of the series in general. It’s come together so beautifully because of the work all three of us have done, including the crew and the producers of course. I don’t want to say they that they din’t do nothing!”
You three queens are such amazing people and performers, but the show does a really good job of allowing the drag daughters’ stories to shine through. We do get to see some full performances from you, Bob, and Shangela this season though. I thought your Wrecking Ball number was just incredible.
“Awww thank you!”
During that Wrecking Ball performance on We’re Here, as with your All Stars six lip sync with Silky, we see you go to a quite intense place. You’re channeling a lot of emotions and to me it really showcases the power of drag and the art form of it beyond the entertainment aspect and the stunning things on the outside. Can you give me an insight into going to that place with your performances and how cathartic that is?
“I appreciate you noticing that. To me drag is also therapy. I love performing emotionally and feeling that energy and portraying it to the audience because it’s real emotion, it’s art, it’s a way for us to express ourselves and not just to feel fierce and fabulous, but also to be emotional and to be vulnerable. These performances are really touching to people and it is therapeutic for me too to be honest, but also it’s storytelling, it’s how I tell stories in drag.”
“In those moments I’m using the song and the emotion to let out how I feel. Obviously with Silky on All Stars it was about my mom and that emotion. On We’re Here with Wrecking Ball some of the things I was thinking about when I was performing were me as a bigger person and as a queen having to break the barriers of society’s social norms and the idea of how I’m supposed to be versus who I am. I want to be a lyrical dancer, so I’m going to bust out of all this and lyrically dance, because I can. Even though it’s not something you would expect someone of my size do, even though the image isn’t what you would imagine, it’s still beautifully me. So it’s a case of feeling that through the performance, feeling like a creature in the world. It’s like, I’m a creature, but I came in like a Wrecking Ball, girl and I did it! So there are many emotions that come through.”
“With Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball, that song has always resonated with me in a way where it’s like, I came into this world as a wrecking ball, not necessarily to destroy things, but just to be the strongest version of me swinging into any environment. What I wanted was to bring that fantasy element too with the dragon themed costuming and these fairy nymph dancers. We live this fantasy in drag, but it’s who we are and we are fabulous. There was a lot of art processing through these performances. I’m an artist, darling!”
Was there a city this time around where you felt like you had left with the LGBTQ+ community there being more connected?
“I think we do that a little bit in every city, but especially Del Rio, Texas this season. It was such an amazing turnout, and with the mayor being involved it felt like the community itself was surprised, and thought, wow, this community is actually really huge! A lot of people came out and there was so much more support than even some of our daughters realized.”
Away from We’re Here and All Stars, we also recently saw you appear on American Horror Story. What was that experience like?
“It was amazing! It was incredible getting to work with Evan Peters and Francis Conway and Axelle Carolyn, who is this powerful female director, and I love anytime a woman is in charge of anything in the industry. I want to act and get into more of those roles, so it was exciting from that perspective. I’ve always loved American Horror Story and all the things that Ryan Murphy does as a queer content creator and the opportunities that he gives people. He gave me an opportunity that as a drag queen we normally don’t get, they could have hired anyone for that part, but he chose little old me! So it was just another amazing way for me to show up and be part of more queer art that’s out there. I’ve been pretty lucky this year, I got to show up in three things with American Horror Story, All Stars, and now We’ve Here season two, and I’m really proud of all of them.”
By James Kleinmann
We’re Here airs Mondays at 9pm ET/PT on HBO and available to stream on HBO Max. Season 2, Episode 3 in Del Rio, Texas airs on Monday October 25th 2021.