PHOTOGRAPHY CARLOS SANTOLALLA
TEXT JOHN TUITE
ADORE DELANO MAY NOT HAVE WON RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE SEASON 6, BUT SHE SURE WON US OVER. WITH A NEW MUSIC VIDEO FOR HER SINGLE, “I ADORE U,” FROM THE DEBUT ALBUM TILL DEATH DO US PARTY, DANNY NORIEGA’S DRAG IS BREAKING NEW GROUND—AND SHE’LL BREAK YOUR HEART IF YOU LET HER
What has Adore Delano’s fame been like for Danny Noriega?
DANNY NORIEGA AKA ADORE DELANO It’s kind of a mindfuck, really, when you gain a following as a drag queen but were already known as a boy. Nobody knows what to do… “Do I call you Adore? do I call you Danny?” I really don’t care. Whatever makes people most comfortable. At this point in my life I feel like Adore has changed from a character to an extension of who I am.
How long have you been doing drag?
DN High school. I used to compete in singing competitions at this Christian college and they wouldn’t even know I was a boy. I’d go and I’d beat all the girls, and when I’d give them my student ID they’d be like “You’re a man?”
What made you get into character?
DN I started doing makeup by myself when I was 14. I was just naturally fascinated by it because it can transform your whole identity. I mean I think it can make you different on the inside, too. Like I always say Adore is my superhero––there’s so much she can do that I wouldn’t necessarily try as a boy.
With Adore you get to build a personality from scratch.
DN My inspirations are basically tragic beauties, I feel. People who were misunderstood in the industry. The reason I connected with Anna Nicole [Smith] so much is she kinda pissed on the scene. She was known as a dumb country bumpkin but she still made a name for herself. And even if it was a name other people wouldn’t want, she owned it. But generally I do identify with people who are misunderstood, and I think that’s a natural thing for how I grew up. I really do love Freddy Mercury, he’s one of my favorite people who ever lived. I love Miss Piggy and Elvira––I was most obsessed with them when I was a kid.
DN I loved Amy Winehouse, to name someone who’s actually recent. She’s an icon to me. She did everything what music legends used to do that we missed, a lot of what the industry lost. Even down to the look, she had a package that she really owned. As much hate as she gets, I respect Lady Gaga. And I really love Courtney Love. Even to this day she’s so misunderstood.
I saw you just performed with Britney in Vegas. Talk about iconic!
DN Yeah! That was like my idol as a kid! I was so nervous to meet her because I know she can be nervous with fans but she was actually really relaxed and sweet.
So what’s the album like?
DN The album’s like my Blue Ivy, it’s my baby. I knew I wanted to do an album, but I didn’t want it to be a drag queen album. I cowrote the whole album with Ashley Levy and it all ended up being really personal, like about my life. It’s really like, real music, even down to the pussy-popping tracks. I wanted it all to be connected to who I am and to have a real message.
What’s the sound like?
DN It’s like grimy pop, a little hip-hop, kinda dancey. I’m really proud of how it turned out because I never considered myself a songwriter, but I feel like I turned out a solid album that’ll give the kids what they want.
Your voice is amazing, period, and I wouldn’t ever think of your music in a drag context.
DN Hearing shit like that is really refreshing because there was a while after American Idol when I was like, pretty depressed because I wasn’t doing anything. I’d play gigs here and there, but mostly I was just making Youtube videos, and that’s how I paid my bills.
So how could you afford to start buying women’s clothes? Sometimes the hardest part of doing drag is keeping up two separate wardrobes.
DN But I buy everything I perform in at thrift stores. And I haven’t shopped for myself in years. Everything is for Adore. It kinda just takes over.
What are your dreams for the future?
DN I just wanna get fucking signed! It’s gonna be hard though––regardless of how our culture is moving in the right direction it’s still a gamble to sign a drag queen. My life would be so much easier if people could hear with their ears and not with their eyes.
Watch the video for “I Adore You” above, and click through the slideshow for an exclusive online editorial, starring the one and only Adore Delano.