The Queen of Daytime Talk Talks to Bob the Drag Queen
Twenty years before Bob the Drag Queen won the eighth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” he would run home after school to catch The Ricki Lake Show. And today, Bob joins Ricki and Kalen to talk about the show’s significance for queer people and people of color – especially drag queens. As a certified fan of The Ricki Lake Show, Bob introduces Kalen to the Ricktionary and talks about why the show was unlike any other on TV in the 90s. Bob also shares what he wishes he saw on the show, and Ricki talks honestly about what they could have done better.
Please note, Raised By Ricki contains mature themes and may not be appropriate for all listeners.
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Ricki Lake, Bob, Kalen Allen
Ricki Lake 00:13
All right. Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Raised by Ricki. I’m Ricki Lake.
Kalen Allen 00:18
And I’m Kalen Allen.
Ricki Lake 00:19
Kalen Allen 00:20
You know what? I feel like people get on here and they hear me introduce myself. And I feel like the way that I say it is very clear that I’ve been laughing at something that you just say.
Ricki Lake 00:32
I can’t tell if you’re laughing with me or at me sometimes. But I think it’s all love. It’s all love, right?
Kalen Allen 00:37
It is all love. You are the joy every day for me.
Ricki Lake 00:43
Am I a surprise for you? Did you have any like preexisting ideas of who I was before we started this thing?
Kalen Allen 00:49
Not as like as a personality, I will say that it is very refreshing. You know, I have had a lot of jobs in this world. And the jobs that I love the most are when I get to work with people that just you know, are free and spirited and don’t care about the Hollywood of it all and are just existing.
Ricki Lake 01:07
That’s me, you look that up in the dictionary. And there’s my picture. There’s my shit either in there. Yeah. All right. You know, my dog. I just got back for I should say she dolly just got back from obedience training. She was away for four weeks.
Kalen Allen 01:21
I thought about doing that for my dogs.
Ricki Lake 01:23
I say save him. Well, save your money. Here’s the thing.
Kalen Allen 01:27
Tell me the truth.
Ricki Lake 01:29
My dog trainer, […] was fantastic. It’s look, Dolly just heard her name and she came over. See that’s progress. That’s progress.
Kalen Allen 01:37
You made it a trainer for four weeks to teach your dog how to come when she’s called.
Ricki Lake 01:42
I don’t know. She does other things, too. She heels. She walks nicely on a leash, she’ll stick. Well, the stay part is not really working with me. I have to now learn what he did. Like it’s now I have to be trained. So I haven’t had the time really since I’ve been back from my trip. And we’ve been back to work on this podcast. But my intention is to have her behave like a service dog. Like not be a service dog. But she needs to like be able to come to a restaurant and sit at my feet and not go crazy at seeing another dog or get excited about anything. Just like listen to me. And I would say after the four weeks, she’s definitely calmer. Okay, she’s definitely got like a Zen thing to her that she didn’t have before. But we still she’s poking me right now. She wants my attention. She wants my attention because I’ve been sitting in this chair for two hours and so she wants, she’s over it. She’s over my day job.
Ricki Lake 02:37
The dog’s name is Dolly.
Ricki Lake 02:39
My first dog mama passed away. bless her soul.
Kalen Allen 02:50
Now I met mama from afar, at the RuPaul show.
Ricki Lake 02:54
Oh, at the RuPaul show. Okay, I keep forgetting that you were there. Yes. So weird. And it was such a weird appearance because that crazy. What’s her name? Blac Chyna was on with me. And she was not happy about mama being on the couch next to me. I remember and I was not happy about Blac Chyna being next to my dog. You know? It was definitely, it was a weird that was a very weird appearance. I think RuPaul is like a test.
Kalen Allen 03:24
These were like the tests the like the pilot episodes, right.
Ricki Lake 03:28
And so I came in and I’m hoping because I did, I did in someone say I did a favor to do that.
Kalen Allen 03:34
Oh, okay. So now that favor needs to be returned.
Ricki Lake 03:38
I mean, some could see it that way. So I’d love for RuPaul, who was on my old show, probably two dozen times over the years. Definitely, like left her mark on my show and went on to do drag. I would love to put out the request.
Kalen Allen 03:54
What’s funny that you bring up RuPaul, because speaking of RuPaul, today’s guest is Bob The Drag Queen.
Ricki Lake 04:01
I didn’t know who Bob was until you told me a few weeks ago. But now that I’m in the know and now that I am like such a huge fan of we’re here and what they’re doing with that show and how they’re like changing these towns from like, it’s just it’s a really, really beautiful show. And I’m a huge fan. So yes, Bob. Well, do you want to you want to tell everybody that?
Kalen Allen 04:23
Yeah, yeah, let’s be a little honest. If the entire interview, Bob calls me Kalen, so when you hear it just though we are aware that he’s mispronouncing my name.
Ricki Lake 04:38
You know, it was definitely what after he said it like the fifth or sixth time and like, ah, it’s like too late to correct him. Right. You know, so I just went with it. And I was kind of like, oh, you know, this was a great interview. And he of course one season eight of RuPaul drag race. He’s a big daytime talk show fan and we were so excited to talk to him. Oh, About the 90s About TV. II and some of Bob’s favorite Ricki Lake Show moments.
Kalen Allen 05:03
Right, so I’m just gonna I’m gonna go ahead you ain’t gotta act like you hear the doorbell. I’m just gonna ring it. Here we go.
Ricki Lake 05:17
Hi, Bob. Thank you for doing this. It’s great to see you. We’ve not met before, have we? It’s a pleasure. It really is.
Ricki, my mom says hi. Martha Caldwell says hi. And she really wanted me to tell you that.
Ricki Lake 05:36
That well. I appreciate it. Send my hi right back. Where is your mom?
Ricki Lake 05:42
That’s where you’re from. And she’s still in like the house you grew up in?
No, my mom’s in a brand new house. I actually just bought my mom a house.
Ricki Lake 05:48
Good for you. I did that for my parents back in the day.
She’s in a brand new home and we didn’t grow up in like when we grew up. We were like really, I moved a lot of living like Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi. I lived in three towns in Georgia, two towns in Alabama, one town in Mississippi. So I didn’t have like a childhood home that I like always came home to, and Kalen also great to see you and I want you know that I really enjoyed your Christmas thing you did last year was so great.
Oh, thank you. Well, I’m a big fan. And it’s so funny because first I’m Ricki watch we’re here, right?
Ricki Lake 06:23
I’m a new fan. I’m usually late to the game but he told me about you guys and the show and I just you know I do what Kalen says, and I’m only on the fourth episode, but the fourth episode is Farmington, New Mexico, which is where my ex-husband my beloved who passed away from bipolar and suicide five years ago. He was from Farmington. I went to Farmington and met his grandfather before he died. So yeah, what you guys do on that show what you girls do. It is so important. And I think it does tie to the Ricki Lake Show in some way about representation in these small towns and changing people showing them a new way of thinking about people that they know nothing about it. It very much resonates with me as to the work we used to do on the old show.
Kalen Allen 07:11
You know, my favorite episode, there’s a tribute to you in it actually. So we did a Selma Alabama episode in a Yuriko Hara does a Tracy Turnblad hairspray. Kind of a mash up between Penny Pendleton and Tracy Turnblad kind of like mixed together tributes my hair is very Tracy, the outfits very penny checkerboard and because we were all dressing up like we were from the 60s, and this was your […] nod to hairspray
Ricki Lake 07:46
That show is great and Angela, I’m just like also becoming like a like an obsessed fan of her on Dancing with the Stars and how I think it’s so awesome that we have a drag queen, like a legitimate contender who is so personable, so charming and adorable, and it’s just powerful to see her on Disney plus, you know?
Kalen Allen 08:07
So you grew up in the 90s?
Yes, I grew up in the 90s. Yes, I was born in the 80s and I grew up in the 90s. Yeah.
Kalen Allen 08:13
Okay. And so were you a big fan of daytime television?
First of all, do you think I just became a millennial yesterday I used to run, I’m not kidding. Run home so that I would not miss the Ricki Lake show when I tell you like sprinting like it like watching the Ricki Lake Show was such a big deal for people, I am 36 years old people my age. We like we did not want to miss this show. Everyone would talk about it at school the next day, everyone and this was some of the first time that I ever saw queer people on TV. I’m pretty sure that you had almost all of my friends. Darien Lake, RuPaul, Pandora Box, have all been on this show. You were doing it in a way that felt a lot less exploitative than some of your counterparts. I always credit you with having the first version of RuPaul’s drag race, do you remember this? […] is an opera singer who went to Juilliard, a huge staple in the New York City scene by the way, she still looks at young and beautiful. I would say Chiquitita is the first one ever RuPaul’s drag race before there wasn’t a RuPaul’s drag race.
Ricki Lake 09:53
But that for you, like what was it about the show? You say it was a different tone? Can you describe what it was like? like being a kid in Atlanta or wherever you grew up, seeing the show is different than the other ones?
You know, I think that, and I’ll say names, I think shows like Jerry Springer, and kind of what Maury became. It felt like when queer people were on the show, it was kind of like a everyone pointing right look at that thing. Look at what it is. And quite frankly, your show and Oprah’s show, it felt like we were being listened to and seen and heard. And more than just like a, as a man doesn’t have a dick. You know what I mean? It felt like a lot more than that, like, oh, let’s look at the people’s talents. And moments were more we had that. But it kind of took, I mean, I’m not an expert or historian on television and film. But it does feel like when Jerry Springer entered the chat, the whole landscape of daytime TV just changed.
Ricki Lake 10:58
You know, you want to know the truth of that, Bob, it’s actually our fault, this our show’s fault. So Jerry Springer was on the air when we were, but his show was more like a Phil Donahue type show back then. But he wasn’t getting the numbers. So when we came on the scene, and we were doing a show for a younger audience that hadn’t been reached before in talk television, all those other shows Jerry Maury, Jenny, all of them tried to capture what we were getting this audience, this demo. So they would go lower and lower with you know, fighting and the you know, fabricating stories to try to get at the audience that we had gotten.
It was so salacious on Jerry showing, you know, I think mores like peak, like when he was really like getting what he wanted was it felt like an intentional embarrassing of black women through these paternity tests. And he would really milk you are not the father. And then you know, people chasing, I mean, just chasing these women down the hall have a run and a scream, or him bringing back the same girl to test. He really be like, we tested 87 guys, but also doing it through the guise of being like, no, we’re really trying to help you.
Ricki Lake 12:10
I have to admit we did our share of that too. And there was one storyline that I remember really well, I know, it’s a shocker, Kalen, I don’t usually remember details a lot from then. But this woman we did have this woman on. And we had three men that all said they weren’t the father and she was claiming that each of them were and we did a one by one. And in the end. They weren’t the father and they were all high fiving I mean, it was a moment of like, obviously very captivating TV. But I shudder to think about how that made her feel. And it was salacious. And it was so I do think we are not absolved of like, some responsibility of pushing the line in the envelope. You know, not unlike Maury.
Kalen Allen 12:52
But submitted herself, didn’t she?
Ricki Lake 12:54
She did. She did. But you know, like what you just said with the tone that Maury would say you are not, you know, I would do that too. I would you know, get that story in conflict going before the doorbell before the next, you know, like I definitely am implicated. But I do think you’re right, there was a different tone with my show. My show wasn’t about like, gotcha. It was more like surprise, like it was more of a positive. Overall a positive tone, you know?
Yeah. And I really love the show. And, you know, hindsight is always 2020, isn’t it? We can always go back and be like, Oh, we probably should have done this a little differently. And we were really, at a time where people were just so excited to get a crumb of representation on television. I mean, the Ricki Lake Show was my favorite one. It was just, I can’t describe how it captivated me. And I think I was young. I was a child. I was living in Phoenix City, Alabama, running home to watch the Ricki Lake Show. And I was in elementary school. I don’t know what you call it for young people. You remember thinking it was like 2118 Maybe I was in single digits, or newly in double digits. Like watching this show. There are some moments that really like stuck on my mind that just like are just ingrained in my brain forever. There was one episode where someone leaned over and whispered something to the person they were with. But then the microphones caught it. And they came back from the break and Ricki Lake was like, oh, we caught you whispering into the microphone. And we’re gonna play it and then it played it back and they were like, when she comes out don’t tell them we slept together. And then everyone was like..
Ricki Lake 14:39
That happened a handful of times we had fact checkers on you know after the Jenny Jones thing where the murder that happened that really unfortunate. But yeah, it was a secret crush thing. And it was a whole thing. But yeah, there was a murder. And so from that point on, we had a whole different set of protocols and having people on and one of the things about our show that we had I think did differentiate us was that we did focus on having real stories, real relationships, real issues. So yeah, when they when we would bust them that they wanted the free trip to New York, we’d send them home by bus, you know, we took away their plane ticket.
There was also something about having you be the host this show because with the exception of Oprah, there were something about you on the show where it was like, Ricki’s one of us, like Maury and Donahue and Sally Jessy Raphael was also was also a great show. There was something about it being like, Oh, they’re like the elite. They’re like, you know, had like skinny they all kind of look like politicians. And it was like, but this is Tracy Turnblad like when a John Waters is like freaks who’s like now with us like one of John Waters.
Ricki Lake 15:53
I prefer Muse.
Like, but like, you know, John Waters had like, the outcast, John Waters was more interested in..
Ricki Lake 16:02
The underdogs, the like, you know, marginalized underdogs. You know, yeah, the fat girl not only got the guy in hairspray and won the dance contest, she got the whole talk show too.
Yeah. So it was, even though we were all like, yeah, this Ricki Lake, there was still part of that was like, Tracy Turnblad, made it out of Baltimore and has a talk show now. And it wasn’t the same as seeing the former governor of whatever Jerry Springer used to be the governor of with a talk show. It was like one of us, one of the oddballs. One of the less fortunate now has a show and is platforming other people who might be considered the less fortunate and yeah, I agree that there was some places where you could have, you know, but hindsight will always forever be 2020. You know what I mean?
Ricki Lake 16:49
I love that. Okay, kids, we need to take a quick break, but we’re gonna be right back. Can we go back in time, and you tweeted me, I think in like, 2014 do you remember?
I do remember. I think I said something then that I would never say now. I got me learning a lot about things. I think I tweeted out and again, I want to reiterate that this is not something I would say today. I’ll say it because it’s something I want to I want to apologize to people for saying what I tweeted out I think it was it Ricki Lake is my spirit animal. Which I would never say today because I’m not indigenous. I don’t have a spirit animal. What I should have said was I am very inspired by Ricki Lake. I think a lot of times people say spirit animal when they really mean is I’m inspired by and typically speaking, if you’re not indigenous, you don’t have a spirit animal.
Ricki Lake 17:51
I know I used to use that phrase up until today and I will no longer, thank you.
It’s something I had to learn I learned in Farmington when I when I met a lot of indigenous people, you know, things that we say like, you sit down and you say stuff like oh blah, blah, blah, a powwow? And it’s like you’re not having a powwow you’re actually not having a powwow. What you’re doing is you’re just talking to people. Or you say, Betty White’s my spirit animal. She’s not your spirit animal. You like Betty White.
Kalen Allen 18:19
Yeah. Now question. So when it came to you binding interest in drag was the Ricki Lake Show your first representation of that? Is that where you first saw it?
No. I first saw drag on, on probably […] you know, I also have a gay uncle, who, you know is from Atlanta, Georgia. And my mom used to own a drag bar when I was younger. I already had like a few toes dipped in the drag pool before I saw them on Ricki Lake. So I you know, I already had a little bit of experience with drag and Ricki Lake was just kind of amplifying that for me.
Ricki Lake 18:53
Do you know peaches Christ? Oh my god when you send my love. She is a drag performer that creates these amazing she, reenacts movies home movies. I know her from doing I think serial mom, I was a guest and then I think another one of John’s film would be hairspray. Because yeah, Kalen has this idea that we’ve been talking about together.
Kalen Allen 19:21
What I want to do is you know, like Jimmy Kimmel has been doing like those live in front of a studio audiences right. So I really want to do like a one night only Anniversary Special of the Ricki Lake Show to where we completely recreate the show and have guest on and have like this one night only just blast to the past and then from there, then do other talk shows that existed and really just had those moments in nostalgia.
Now. That sounds amazing. I mean, I wouldn’t be there mostly for Ricki and Sally Jesse.
Ricki Lake 19:58
You don’t want to have Geraldo Come back and throw a chair or anything. No?
It was always like getting in like, like he was in the fight. I was like, yeah, I was like, What is he? Is he like a brawler? Like, how was he in the fight?
Ricki Lake 20:13
He was willing to sacrifice his safety for ratings.
Kalen Allen 20:19
Get his nose broken one time.
Ricki Lake 20:21
Yeah, the char.
Kalen Allen 20:24
Now you talk about clearly you love 90s media culture like you. You were really into the 90s What were your favorite things on TV? What were the things that you were watching?
In the 90s, I was watching The Simpsons, we were all watching The Simpsons. It was so huge. I mean, like, I know that like, Rick and Morty and Family Guy are very subversive now. And the Simpsons seems so tame, compared to the shows and South Park. But back in the day, the Simpsons was really wild. I was also a child bear in mind. I was born in 86′. So when the 90s started, I was four years old. When that ended. I was 14 years old.
Ricki Lake 21:00
And you were born when I graduated high school. Yes, I graduated high school in 86′.
I was very, very young. So I was only watching were two I was watching the Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, but I was also watching The Simpsons, Bart Simpson was a cultural icon like, I can’t express to you how big Bart Simpson was when I was a child. And I was also addicted to these talk shows. I was watching Jerry Springer. Ricki Lake, Maury Povich, Jenny Jones, so thing is when I when I was a kid, Jenny Jones would replay in the mornings. There was so many times in middle school when I was late for school, because I was trying to watch Jenny Jones, because it ended right when school started. But I was just sitting there like watching Jenny Jones, because after school, I was watching Ricki Lake. There was no TiVo. You can just go in and watch stuff. You had to actually watch it when it was on TV. This is where your kids don’t understand, when it was available. That’s why we were running. We were like sprinting home to watch Ricki Lake and talk about and find out what’s gonna end up in the Ricktionary. Find out who’s going to be at the doorbell, whose Ricki Lake is gonna catch. And Ricki Lake you did these really, like teasers that were like, you have to like find out on Ricki Lake and it was like I gotta find out. I know because it was just so like, it was really good at like getting like making you want to watch the show.
Kalen Allen 22:28
But what’s a Ricktionary. We’ve never talked about a Ricktionary, Ricki.
How do you not know what the Ricktionary is?
Kalen Allen 22:36
We had never talked about Ricktionary.
Ricki Lake 22:39
It was like a thing we did. We came up with words that weren’t real words that were used on our show regularly.
So someone introduced like a new piece of slang to Ricki Lake and she was like, wait, like, I’ve never heard anyone say this and then they would add it to the reactionary. It was like probably the most emotionally manipulative show on TV but it was so hard to not watch it was called forgive or forget. And Mother Love was the host of the show.
Ricki Lake 23:10
Oh, right. And why was that show manipulative.
Because what would happen is like I would come on and be like Kalen, I broke your heart and I’m here to tell you that I apologize for everything I did. I know you spend like the whole first segment like a you know shoulder in three parts, right three acts. The whole first step is me begging Kalen to take me back, announcing everything I’ve ever done wrong. And then the second part of the show was they there’s a door, and there’s this big build up this big build up, and then they open the door to see if Kalen is on the other side. If Kalen is on the other side, he forgives me. And they come through and then we would like talk it out and we would hug and we probably kiss and we’d be like, you’re taking you back I love you so much. Or sometimes the door open to be no one there and Kalen would forgive me. And then the person in the chair would just break down they would lose they were just like; they’d be like Kalen is not doesn’t forgive me and Kalen was in the video being like, listen, Bob, I actually don’t forgive you. You were so mean to me. And I know you say you’ve changed but I don’t believe that you’ve changed and you would just watch people just get completely destroyed on this show.
Kalen Allen 24:24
Did you know that this was at the end hosted by Robin Givens? Robin Givens hosted it. I guess in 2000.
Her name was Mother Love. I think she goes by mother love to this day still, I don’t know where mother love even is. I used to really love that show because it was just like, honestly, there was something interesting. There was something really gratifying about even seeing someone get forgiven or get completely destroyed on TV.
Ricki Lake 24:52
Like there’s a payoff no matter what.
And I just went through a breakup recently. And I’m trying to imagine going through a breakup on TV.
Ricki Lake 25:03
And it wasn’t just television. You know, Bob, think of the 90s that, you know, there was nothing really else to watch. Like you were everyone was watching that show. You know, and then talking about it at, you know, the water fountain next day at school.
Not only that, but in front of an audience like, have you ever gone through a breakup before? Imagine going through a breakup and then your ex makes a point. And the crowd goes, oh, you know? Imagine you’re like you say something in the Crowd boos you or cheers for you. Imagine how fueling that can be in a relationship in a fight with your partner that you’re having on television in front of everyone? Oh, it must.
Ricki Lake 25:48
I mean, yes, it sounds huge. But it also sounds like compared to today, and the level of humiliation that goes on in our world with technology and social media now, people are cancelled left and right, right? It’s like, it just feels like it’s amplified.
It’s probably less intense to have an audience go through and people at home just talking about the water cooler than today. You ever see them? The comments and the comments go on forever and ever. Like back in the day. If you didn’t catch Ricki Lake when it happened, it was gone. It has now vanished.
Ricki Lake 26:18
You just can’t even find it on YouTube.
I don’t even know there are […] if y’all had […] back then. But it was like once it is gone. It is literally gone today. Maybe it is on the internet and it lasts forever. People are commenting on it still. 20 years later.
Ricki Lake 26:35
All right, let’s take a break. We’ll be right back. If you could recreate or do something like the Ricki Lake show that we didn’t do, what did we not cover back then that you’d like to have seen?
Well, I think I think that that maybe the nuance of, you know, trans identities, like people weren’t really talking about it much back then they were kind of talking about it, because drag artists and trans people have a lot of crossover because there are some people who are trans who do drag and some people who do drag who are not trans. And then you have this crossover, the middle where there are people who like peppermint, like Candice Kane, like playing Monroe, who do drag and are trans as well. Courtney Act. Anyone who puts on a wig in this world. I know them.
Ricki Lake 27:38
I know. I love Courtney. I just did a job with Courtney.
[…] Ricky Lake. It’s gonna happen because it would be just such a I mean, the millennial enemy like these fucking Gen Z’s no shade calm, but y’all don’t get how iconic Ricki Lake is.
Kalen Allen 27:58
Ricki doesn’t understand how iconic she is. I think the only person on this call other than you that knows how iconic Ricki Lake is me.
Yeah, you’re probably right. And you got to see that the way that they Ricki Lake affects people who are my age, the 32 to 40 year olds. You know, I remember like, I will never forget this day, I went to Walmart, I bought these rings, these Disney ring that like Mickey Mouse and like Donald Duck, and like, all that goofy, and every one of these rings, and I remember being like, I am going to wear these rings to school. They’re so cool. And I wore the rings, and everyone was like, that is so gay. That is the gayest thing I have ever seen in my life. And I was so embarrassed. I remember thinking myself, it’s gonna be really amazing. So I turned the rings around, all you can see was a band because I still wanted to wear my rings. Like I wanted to wear the rings. And I didn’t I remember being on the bus, like on the way to school being like, hey, everyone, like talking with my hands. And the guy was like, that’s so gay. So I turned the rings around so the all you can see was the bands. But I can still look at the characters and I saw my hands like this. And then I went home that day. And I saw someone on Ricki Lake be maybe like a drag queen or someone being like, unapologetically gay. Being themselves. It might have been RuPaul it might have been, you’re too fat to be a drag queen, who fucking knows what episode it was gonna mean. But I saw these people on the show, wearing way more than just some Disney rings. You know what I mean? And I was like, wow, Ricki Lake’s, like creating a space for these people to be themselves and to like, stand up to people in the audience who are trying to like you know, shame them or read them down. And I just have I have so many memories like that. You know what I mean? And then of course, being a theater queen and growing up with like hairspray and in cry baby. And you know, and being a John Waters fan.
Ricki Lake 29:53
I know. But I mean, he’s just the amount of work that he puts out and you know, he just had a book come out that is going to be a movie. He hasn’t made a film I’m in over 20 years and he’s just got greenlit. Hoping that I can be in it hoping, there’ll be a little part for me. Fingers crossed.
How does it feel being like, literally the original Tracy Turnblad event seeing hairspray become this insane thing. Because I mean, I know he didn’t he didn’t direct hairspray but it is his thing you know what I mean? You were in the hairspray which is it was so for those of us who are like my age to see you pop up was like.
Ricki Lake 30:28
Which one? In the remake movie or the remake live show or that? I mean, there’s like been so many different iterations. The John Travolta movie and I’m in the back with Scott Whitman and Mark Yeah, I mean, the hardest thing for me to kind of swallow was the Broadway when the Broadway number, you know, happened because I really want to I’m a singer, I studied singing when I was a kid. So I really wanted an opportunity to play the part and he you know, I said, John, you know, what do you think I, you know, can I get it on? Can I audition at least and he’s like, you’re, you’re, you’re too old and you’re not fat anymore. You know? And that was his response and in that tone, okay, so I had to basically accept the fact that you know, I was Marissa who went on to win my Tony as they say I’m kidding. I get it. I made peace with it. I have. But she’s only five years younger than me. And she you know, anyway, she did an amazing job.
Marissa […]. She’s 49 years old.
Ricki Lake 31:21
I just turned 54 last week or two weeks ago. Anyway, I’m over it. I’m over it. But that was a very hard thing for me to not only show up, which of course I did at the opening with John and it was a huge celebration. But also they were on my show we had you know them come on and sing. Good morning, Baltimore on my set at my show. And so there was a part of me that’s just like, it’s bittersweet. It’s like, of course, is incredible that this iconic character and role model lives on. But it was also like a little bit of it was like moving on without me, you know?
I actually mentioned you at the talkback I did strings on Broadway. Because I was saying that, while I mentioned the character that you originated, I was saying because you know, in Strange Loop, the character of Usher is like a fat, black gay guy, who’s a lead role in a show. And I was like, this is our Tracy Turnblad. Like, this is the only role for a fat queer body to be a lead not like some sidekick or somebody. So like, I imagine it is tough. Being born too soon and starting too late, as they say in, in gypsy, you know, because obviously, by the time Nikki Blonsky, played Tracy Turnblad, there was no way you’re gonna play a high school kid. But imagine if you could have had this opportunity at this time.
Ricki Lake 32:41
I would have been terrible. I would have been honestly, like, yeah, I wouldn’t, I would never have been as good as Marissa, she made it something that was totally her own. She’s a dear friend of mine. You know, it’s all good. Like, but it was definitely like, you know, it’s when you hit your peak? Well, I don’t know what has been the peak in my career, whether it’s Tracy Turnblad, or whether it’s this talk show. But like, for me, I’ve really reinvented myself over the years, I’ve managed to get a surprise people and I make documentary films now. And I did dancing with a second I do a lot of things to try to change it up. But I think it would have been harder if that was like my heyday, if my big hit was hairspray and someone else went on to like, carry the torch and I was left behind that it would have been a different thing. But I was on to other things.
I feel like for me for where I am in my life at my age. The Ricki Lake Show was like this huge moment for me, as a young queer person, you know, watching this exciting bit of television. Please tell me if I’m wrong, but did you document your like at home birth? And I remember we were talking about document you’re at home, bro. Which, which a lot what you probably heard a lot of people to, like, you know, do things like this. And I was like, Ricki Lake has really done it again, like, she’s really never done. Ricki Laking. Like, she really paved the way for someone to try something new.
Ricki Lake 34:03
Thank you for saying that. Because that really is something I’ve just loved about having this, this platform or this persona, whatever. I feel like I’ve wanted to use it for things that are important to me. And then I you know, I shaved my head two and a half years ago to like, come out about my hair loss, which again, it wasn’t about like, hey, look at me now. But it was definitely like a very major left turn. You know, I just it was not something that I expected to be talking about.
Kalen Allen 34:30
Now, talking about your work, because we do want to talk about here a little bit because I know that in an episode in Selma, that you took a moment to really thank the Black women of the civil rights movement. And it was a really beautiful episode and we really want to know, like, what that meant to you and how you take the legacy of so many people that have come before you and implement that into your artistry.
Well as a Black person I, as a Black queer person, I oftentimes have some fear that older Black people are going to shun me based on religious beliefs or based on their ideas of what manhood is, you know, I still shudder anytime anyone talks about what it means to be a man. I just like, it just makes me want to jump out of my skin. Even as a kid, my mom would say, if you’re going to be a man, and I’d always be like, why don’t we focus on me just being an adult? Why does it have to be based in this gender norms? Or to be based in? Why do I have to have a different set of rules than my cousin Amanda? Because I was born with a penis. You know what I mean? And it was weird to watch that come out of my mom’s mouth because my mom was this woman who subverted all gender rules. Like my mom raised me, my brother by herself, my mom owned a drag bar, my mom was queer. Like, it was so weird to watch someone play into gender norms, who subverted all of the gender roles herself. Because what we’re taught, so you know, these older black women who were very Christian, and I was afraid they’re going to be judging me. And I judge them based on that. So when they validated me, and when they told me that I was valid, and that it was okay, and that my identity was real. It broke me down, I just started crying. And I would also was carrying, you know, the generational trauma and the survivor’s guilt, of reaping all the benefits of everything they’d done. I mean, one of these women was literally like, beaten unconscious, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and literally hearing her tell the story. And I was like, because you endure that I was able to walk in front of Edmund Pettus Bridge in full drag, because you did that. I’m willing, I’m able to navigate the world. It is not lost on me, that I am my ancestors, wildest dreams. It is not lost on me that I had ancestors who weren’t even allowed to read this notebook. And here I am able to read, able to go to school, able to have a platform able to speak my mind, because people before me could not. It’s all just because I was born now and not back then. Right? That’s the only reason because I was born now. And not then it really started to heavily affect me when you consider that black people in America. No one on this call will live long enough for Black people to have not been enslaved as they were in slaves. Slavery ended, like what 100 And like, maybe 60 years ago, but it lasted for 400 years. So in theory, until we get another 240 years down the road, we won’t even be able to even an out. You know, they’ll try to tell you what so long ago, it wasn’t that long ago. It was Queen Elizabeth and a half ago. Like it wasn’t that long ago. It was two old people.
Ricki Lake 37:53
You’re doing the show we’re here, which is just such an amazing, it’s amazing. You’d go into these drop into these towns and you just change it. Do you ever feel worried for your safety is to ever go and cross a line in your opinion?
I felt worried a few times I felt I felt nervous. And in some Alabama, some Alabama is a pretty dangerous town. Statistically speaking. And you know, when I was there, we were gonna shoot a scene in the project at one of the churches Dr. Martin King spoke at, and it looks like the projects I grew up in. And I was in the car in full drag, and I looked at the producer and I was like, I can’t get out of the car. Like my body. I’m so triggered by being here. Because this looks like where I grew up. This looks like where I was bullied. This looks like where I’ve experienced so much trauma for being a queer person that I was like, I literally, I can’t get out of the car. I cannot film this scene here. And then we also went to Texas. And in Texas, we were in Granbury, Texas, and that was probably the most disdain we’ve ever experienced at a time when they did not want us if we were getting […] people were telling where we live, When your […[ when someone basically says where you’re staying. So if someone drops your address and your phone number Ricki Lake on the comments, you’re getting […]. So we got […] someone on Facebook posted where we were staying. And we were getting threats of gun violence threats of like people coming to beat us up. People were saying stuff like, I’m not saying they should be shot, but I wouldn’t be mad if someone did or someone would call up a coffee shop. We’re gonna go to and say all I’m saying if you all have those drag queens there, I’ll be there too. And I carry. So that’s all I’m saying. Stuff like that.
Kalen Allen 39:38
How did you handle that? How did you handle that mentally with having to know that you had to do your job?
Well, we had beefed up security. We had never had to have that much security like we had armed security walking around with us and I was like I shouldn’t have to walk around with armed security to feel safe. But I also felt like I still need to do my job like I’m here because not everyone in this town feels the same way. There are people here who want me in this town, there are people who need us in this town, who got so giddy and excited at the notion of having us. So we have to stay. You know, whenever we do interviews about the town, I kept being like, fuck this town I hate this fucking town was like when I step back and think about it, I was like, I’m so grateful that I was able to stick it out and actually do what I did in these towns, but it was, but it was it was very scary.
Ricki Lake 40:24
What about like the fan base with like, RuPaul’s drag race and stuff? I mean, it’s definitely there’s negative backlash too, right?
Kalen Allen 40:31
I get the question that you’re asking Ricki. Because I know that there’s always been backlash when it came to Black drag performers on drag race, but would you consider to say that you are one of the ones that are actually probably more liked from the show?
I was the first Black drag race girl to reach a million followers on Instagram. And I definitely have it a lot easier than some of my Black drag counterparts, but still working, you know, twice as hard to get half the pay recognition, even where I am, you gotta mean like, it’s this notion that when you’re when you’re black, you have to be a fucking superhero, like a fucking superhero.
Kalen Allen 41:15
And we could talk all day about it.
To get half of the recognition that other people get when they are doing like the same thing that we’re doing. But I also had to use my platform to platform other black queer artists like I’ve been obsessed with this musician, Ocean Kelly, that I tell everyone about Ocean Kelly is the future of Black queer Music With Ocean Kelly is one day going to be at the Grammys, like rapping and like, you know, getting some coins that way. I really, really believe that in my heart of hearts. And you know, collaborating with other black artists, and making sure that we get our names out there in the world and making that’s why credit Black queer townhall with Peppermint. It started in 2020 as a three day virtual event. We’re hoping to one day be able to actually do it live and in person, where we get to uplift Black queer voices, and tell stories and have conversations in the public eye.
Ricki Lake 42:05
That’s amazing. What else do you have coming up? Is there anything else do you want us to know about?
Yeah, you know, I have a song coming out November 4th, which I’m very excited about. Can I tell you all this is honestly legit. One of the best things I think I’ve ever done in my career. I am very proud of this. I was able to I was lucky enough to, you know, kind of form a relationship with two really brilliant icons, you know, Madonna and Whoopi Goldberg. And I’m like, Madonna, you like me. And I sent her my video and she was like; This is really great. And I was like Madonna telling me that my video is great. It’s like, could you imagine? It’d be like if you had a talk show and Ricki Lake was like..
Ricki Lake 42:48
Or when Beyonce tells you that they’re fan yours, and they love what you’re doing.
Imagine being like Beyonce. Like once you realize that someone that you admire knows you exist. And they like what you’re doing. You’re like, this is crazy. I don’t know if I’m following you on Instagram or not, but I’m about to be following both of you.
Ricki Lake 43:10
Oh, wait, do you know about Twitter when I tried to follow you on Twitter when Kalen was talking about you?
Kalen Allen 43:15
Yeah, let me tell you so I said okay, so go follow Bob the drag queen. I said, just go search Bob the drag queen. And she says, oh, is this the person and she puts it and guess who it was? It was BOB. The rapper. Mind she had already seen were here. I was like that. Did that look like Bob the drag queen.
Ricki Lake 43:49
Okay, Bob, it’s safe to say I love you.
Kalen Allen 43:52
I love you, too.
Ricki Lake 43:53
I loved you. Hello. Thank you so much for the work you do and for being such a beautiful light. Ah, I love Bob. I really enjoyed that. He’s so smart. And he’s so like, intense, but like has such a warmth about him. And they’re doing such great things. I just really admire the stake he’s claiming in the world. You know?
Kalen Allen 44:23
You know, I really appreciate people that have been our RuPaul drag race and found bigger purpose outside of it, you know, is it kind of reminds me of how I took the opportunity to Ellen and built a career out of it. You know, what I mean? Is the fact that Bob is doing sibling rivalry with Monet exchange is moderating conversations is working in mainstream media is now on we’re here. You know, it’s not easy. It’s not easy, especially for queer people of color to be able to make it in this industry. So I applaud just that tenacity and that drive and addition to become more than what people know you.
Ricki Lake 45:03
Absolutely making divine proud, you know, particularly in this political climate, too. I think the work he’s doing is that much more important, you know? So this was a pleasure. Thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate all of you and please, if you like what you’re hearing from us/
Kalen Allen 45:18
Please like review, subscribe. The big three.
We love it. We love the feedback. And thank you so much. We hope you’ll be listening next time. Thanks for joining. One last thing, there’s even more Raise By Ricki with Lemonada Premium. We do our premium episodes AMA style where you get to ask me anything. And earlier this week you asked me what was the moment I actually felt famous and it was so fun to answer that and remember that night. Now if you want to find out what my answer was, you should subscribe to Lemonada Premium right now in Apple podcasts. Raised by Ricki with Ricki Lake and Kalen Allen is a Lemonada Media Original. This show is produced by Claire Jones and Nancy Rosenbaum. Our associate producer is Tiffany Buoy. Our senior director of new content is Rachel Neill, VP of weekly production is Steve Nelson and our executive producers Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer and DeRay McKesson, and the show is mixed by Johnny Vince Evans. Music is written and produced by Jellybean Benitez, Jason Peralta and Jay Coos for Jelly Bean Productions.