In Praise of Michelle Visage

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For the penultimate installment of filmmixtape’s 8 Days of Drag Race, it’s time to share some love for the queen’s biggest champion: Michelle Visage.

The show may be in RuPaul’s namesake, but Drag Race‘s signature judge is almost its cohost. Though she joined the show in season three (replacing Merle Ginsberg), Michelle Visage was always meant to be an integral part of the show. As Ru prefers more subdued promotional responsibilities, Visage has quickly become somewhat of a spokeswoman for the show on the road and the nurturing coach to the queens dealing with their newfound notoriety.

While Ru’s presence is always the flawless facade we crave from our divas, Michelle finds the sweet balance between the fun drag kiki and the blunt honest realness we demand from a best friend. It’s easier to connect to her ruthless, but heartfelt honesty; she deeply wants each of the queens to succeed, but will put up with no shit in the process.

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More love for the Jersey girl, after the jump…

Michelle isn’t just playing mother hen or a reverse version of the gay best friend trope, but she’s also an authentically versed study on drag culture. She doesn’t just know her history, but she comes from it. Don’t forget that she met her future best friend RuPaul back in the New York City ball scene (Michelle’s category was reportedly always Face). Her days of opening for Milli Vanilli with The S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M. (“Stop relying on that Bodyguard soundtrack”) may provide for Drag Race punchlines, but only further highlight that she knows what she’s talking about.

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But she knows it’s not just your knowledge of history that sets you up for success, but how you present yourself. She’s not just helping the queens find their footing in their character after the show, but she’s leading by example while on it by being her full self. She may come from real, but Michelle knows how to turn that realness into a character, a package that we’re all going to consume and fall in love with. Every joke, gesture of love or shade may come from the heart, but it’s another piece that shows us who she is.

Her personality has evolved over her seasons as she’s taken over her rightful thrown. More and more, she’s become aware of what parts of herself best suit the competing queens to ensure their growth. Some complained her harshness in season seven was meant to replace the departed Santino Rice, but I see her reacting to a group that would most benefit from relentless tough love.

Basically, Michelle is every bit as much good television as any of the queens in the show’s past. She even gives good gif with the rest of them.

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Her tongue may be acid, but she takes the jokes lobbed at her like the best of them Michelle is always in on the joke, especially gleeful when they come from bestie RuPaul.

But Michelle is a lover, not a fighter. It’s not just the love for her friend and care for his legacy that shines through, but her compassion for each of the queens no matter how busted, immature, or misguided. This kind of love makes it a little odd that Ru is the one the queens bestow with “Mother”, for Michelle is the one ready for richer connection to them all.

It may be Ru’s race, but it’s Michelle Visage’s party.

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ICYMI Previous 8 Days of Drag Race Posts:

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