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BWW Interview: How Rosé Sashayed from Musical Theatre to RuPaul's Drag Race

Season 13's triple threat queen tells us all about her life onstage.

BWW Interview: How Rosé Sashayed from Musical Theatre to RuPaul's Drag Race

Cancel your plans to troll on her crusade. Rosé has arrived on RuPaul's Drag Race and nobody's gonna rain on this theatre queen's parade! The New York City-based drag star has already proven herself the triple-threat of Season 13, showing off her vocal prowess, quick wit, and command of the stage week after week. Will she snatch the crown and the title of 'America's Next Drag Superstar'?

Before the queens flex their acting muscles on tonight's highly-anticipated Snatch Game episode, we're checking in with Rosé to hear all about how she got her start in theatre, which roles she'd love to play onstage, and more!

Were you creative as a kid? When did performing become a part of your life?

I'm the eldest of three kids and my parents have always been very supportive of me figuring out what it was that I was good at. I had my hand at so many activities as a kid, but I was always drawn to the more artistic stuff, especially when it came to performing.

When I was still living in Scotland, I remember being six years old and it was time for the big Christmas concert at school. We had to audition for a solo in "Deck the Halls" and I really wanted that solo. So I auditioned and I got it! I remember when I eventually sang it on stage, it changed everything, because of course everyone was like, "Who is this boy soprano and what year is he gonna be on Drag Race?" [Laughs] It wasn't for a few years later that I got into acting and dance.

Did you see a lot of theatre as a kid?

Yes, in the UK they do panto- and my mom would always be in the ensemble of those shows. I remember going to see her as a kid all the time. I really loved that. I remember she would always have wigs and lavish costumes. That exposed me to that world at a young age.

When did it really click that you knew that you needed to perform?

I think I was in 6th grade. When I was in middle school in Texas, you were thrust into an elective- choir, band, orchestra... I really wanted to be in band and I ended up playing the clarinet for a year. Then there was a school talent show and I sang "My Everything" by 98 Degrees and it was really good! The choir teacher, who now is one of my lifelong friends, came up to me and said, "Hey, you're not supposed to play the clarinet. You need to be in choir with me next year." That changed everything, because she put me on my path and cast in in my first musical role the next year.

I read that you got your BFA from Wichita State University?

Yes- the program there was really amazing, very diverse. I had the opportunity there to kinda do whatever I wanted... They had a really fantastic opera program, which was actually what I initially wanted to study. And their musical theatre department was also great. And they also had this whole school of modern dance and mime. So I was able to dip my toe into several different pools. I think that's when I realized that I really loved the theatre. I really found my way in college and by the end I was a little Broadway machine.

I would guess that you got to be in a lot of shows in those years...

Oh yeah, a bunch. Lippa's The Wild Party, Carnival, She Loves Me. I was in a production of Altar Boyz that Billy Porter directed right before Kinky Boots!

That's amazing!

Yeah, I was there for Billy's last gig before he became a superstar.

Was moving to New York after college always the dream?

Honestly, I've always had a bit of a 'I don't want to do what everyone else is doing' quality. At this point, I think it's served me. But back then, I was like, "I don't wanna go there, I wanna go to London and pursue the West End." I thought that would be a really fun risk. But at the time, we were still Green Card holders and about to become US citizens and my dad stepped in and said, 'This is about to happen and if you're not in the country, that's not gonna fly."

But of course I ended up coming to New York, which ended up being the best decision ever. I never want to leave.

At want point in those years did your passion shift to drag?

I started working regionally pretty quickly, but I wasn't booking work in New York yet, which is of course pretty common when you first get here. But one thing led to another and I started booking more work arranging vocals and harmonies or as a backup singer. Then I got a job as a singer and arranger on a cruise ship contract. When I came back from that, I wasn't quite sure what I should be doing. I think that as artists, we all go through that moment. I just didn't feel inspired to go out and audition and I wanted to explore another avenue. That avenue was drag and thank goodness I did that, because everything started making much more sense in my life!

Do you think that being in New York and exposed to so much culture every day has made you a better performer?

Definitely. I think that one thing that it has really helped with is knowing what not to do. I think that people get in trouble because drag is so free-reign. You create your own material, you're costuming yourself... there's lots of poor choices that can be made if you aren't informed. Being in New York you are definitely informed every day of who you are and who you are not.

Do you get to see a lot of theatre normally?

Oh my god, yes! When I started drag I was doing this big competition in the basement of a hotel in Chelsea. I remember that it would start at like 11pm and I would choreograph these numbers and have my friends, who were on Broadway, run down after their show and be my backup dancers! [Laughs]

So yeah, before Broadway shut down I was going to see shows all the time because I have so many friends who are very active in the Broadway community. And to be honest- theatre people really come out to see drag shows. I still keep in touch which so many people who I used to work with when I was younger.

Are there any theatrical divas that inspire your drag today?

When I was in college I would come to New York every spring break. The year that Next to Normal opened I came and saw it two or three times that week. I fell in love with Alice Ripley. She got me good. I think it's one thing to be really talented, but I've always loved and related to women who are fabulous, but imperfect. Like Barbra Streisand became so famous because of her imperfections. I also love Elaine Stritch. Her documentary, Shoot Me, I've probably seen 40 times.

With the Rusical challenge last week, I'm sure it must have been wildly satisfying watching it back and seeing how amazing you did...

Thank you! Watching yourself back on reality TV, when the cameras are catching emotions that are happening in realtime... it can sometimes be very surprising. But with the Rusical, it was lovely to watch it back and see it take shape, but I think that as a performer who has been in front of the mirror for years, I knew what I did. But yeah, it was gratifying to actually see it. I had a really fun time.

You're already so brilliantly integrated your other passions into your drag, with your music and live vocal performance. Do you think more of that is where the road ahead leads?

I've just recently been realizing that because of what I'm not afforded right now, in terms of stage time and live audiences, that that is where I belong. I belong onstage and I don't ever want that to change. I think performance will always be at the core of my drag. I love being on the mic and making people laugh- that's like therapy for me. But more recently I've been working on original music. I've been working really hard in the studio and I'm planning to release that in the near future. I'm actually writing my own stuff for the first time ever. I want to delve into music until we can be in front of people and tour. This is is my digital way of performing for now, until I can deliver my artwork to the fanbase in person.

And if Broadway came calling, would you answer?

In a heartbeat! I did not leave theatre behind! I would absolutely love to return to theatre and especially on Broadway! I have dream roles that drag informs at the age I am now. I would love to play Hedwig, Frankenfurter, Berger in Hair but as an undercover drag queen! My Broadway candle was not extinguished.

Check out RuPaul's Drag Race tonight as Rosé and eight other fabulous queens show off their acting/improv chops in the Season 13 edition of Snatch Game! Who will they portray? Tune in to VH1 at 8PM ET/PT to find out!

Want to learn more about the theatre queens of RuPaul's Drag Race Season 13? Read our interviews with Olivia Lux and Tina Burner.

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From This Author Nicole Rosky