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‘Secret Superstar Drag Race’ Q&A: Daniel Franzese on dimension 18 heels and embracing his insecurities

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Daniel Franzese took a twirl as Donna Bellissima on ‘RuPaul’s Secret Superstar Drag Race.’

Photograph: Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle and VH1

RuPaul, other than being drag royalty, is queen mom of catchphrases.

“We’re all born bare, and the remainder is drag.”

“She finished already finished had herses.”

And naturally, “If you cannot love your self, how within the hell are you gonna love someone else?” iconic.

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Actor Daniel Franzese, who carried out as Donna Bellissima on “Secret Superstar Drag Race,” took one other acquainted quote to coronary heart.

“I’ve heard Ru say one million instances that drag does not cover who you’re, it reveals who you’re. I do not assume I absolutely understood what that meant till I did it,” Franzese says. He was the fifth celeb queen to sashay away and says the expertise was a revelation.

“It made me face issues that I feel I used to be uncomfortable dealing with. I used to be at all times code-switching to be extra masculine rising up. Even after I got here out, I used to be at all times making an attempt to undertaking this picture of a masculine homosexual individual earlier than I settled into being myself. It was fascinating to be in a spot the place I may push my femininity to so far as it may go and rejoice that and see how that goes.”

Franzese spoke about embracing the spirit of drag and dealing with his insecurities.

Daniel Franzese, recognized for his function in ‘Imply Ladies,’ blossomed as Donna Bellissima on ‘RuPaul’s Secret Superstar Drag Race.’

Photograph: VH1

What prompted you to say to the “Drag Race” provide?

Are you freaking kidding? How about simply Mama Ru asking me? Actually, usually, if Mama Ru or World of Surprise give me a name, I reply the cellphone and as a substitute of claiming, “Hiya,” I simply say, “Sure.” I actually take pleasure in that complete neighborhood of individuals. They’re my Hollywood household. However this was a dream come true for me.

Had you finished drag earlier than the present?

I do comedy drag, the place I will throw on a wig or lip sync generally for sketches and issues. I’ve by no means gone full out. I’ve by no means had a heel on my foot till I did that present. That was probably the most tough a part of the present for me as a result of I truly wanted customized heels, and so they simply did not have sufficient time to make them. I used to be carrying heels that weren’t my dimension the entire time. I am a dimension 18 extensive feminine, and I wore a 16 on the present. They had been taking warmth weapons to sneakers that had been smaller that hopefully I may get into. I feel I may’ve dominated even more durable if I had sneakers that match, I will let you know that.

A shoe that does not match when you’re onstage shouldn’t be simple to cope with, I think about.

Yeah, and it introduced up plenty of my insecurities as a result of I feel that is what I used to be coping with. As an enormous dude, I’ve handled that on a regular basis. I have been in motion pictures once I was youthful the place I am carrying stuff from Walmart, and the actors behind me are in, like, Abercrombie. They actually catered to me. The folks had been superb and so gifted. However there’s solely a lot you are able to do. You may’t make a shoe seem out of nowhere. I discovered artistic methods to kind of get previous it, both not having sneakers or being in ache. I urge anybody who was a fan of Donna Bellissima to return and watch the episodes and have a look at my face and notice that I am in excruciating ache. Always.[[

Actor Daniel Franzese and his mom on the premiere of the HBO film Wanting on the Castro Theater in San Francisco on Sunday, June 26, 2015. Photograph: Amy Osborne/Particular To The Chronicle

Did performing in drag on TV assist alleviate a few of these longstanding insecurities?

After I take into consideration stuff like this, I additionally take into consideration the serenity prayer. There’s only a level the place you must settle for the issues you possibly can’t change. Actually surrendering to tug, it makes you concentrate on loads. It makes you concentrate on gender dysmorphia and simply every kind of issues that individuals undergo when making an attempt to go as a girl. I am up towards individuals who seemed like ladies simply by placing a wig on. Right here I’m, 6-foot-5, gigantic, 400-pound Danny making an attempt to determine tips on how to appear like a girl. It was tough, and it introduced up plenty of insecurities. However dealing with them head on, particularly the “Sin Wagon,” episode, that was actually the place I felt probably the most free, the place I used to be identical to, “You recognize what? I do not care. The sneakers aren’t gonna match. I am nonetheless gonna dance. We’re gonna do that work.” There have been plenty of issues, costume-wise, issues that I had, however you simply preserve barreling ahead. It is actually a part of present enterprise. It is a part of queer tradition to only kind of make all of it occur with a glue stick and a prayer. I really feel like that is kind of the character of my life, anyway.

Having stated that, you had been one who actually evoked the spirit of drag. I’d absolutely count on to go to a membership and see you performing.

What an ideal praise. I actually needed to be earnest and trustworthy about it. Drag to me is not a joke. Despite the fact that I am a comic, I actually respect the artwork kind. I do know that drag queens are ambassadors and entertainers in our neighborhood. My early days of popping out of the closet and testing out the waters in homosexual golf equipment, me being a chubby individual, (was) strolling into an setting the place I feel, “Listed below are my folks,” after which rapidly my folks weren’t accepting me for a way I seemed. There was at all times a drag queen with a drink ticket and a joke and an ear and a sort snigger or one thing to incorporate you within the get together. I feel they are a very crucial a part of our neighborhood for that purpose. They assist preserve the circulation and the dynamics and the household going. It meant loads to me to deal with this with the utmost respect.

Do you do not forget that first expertise of seeing a drag queen?

It was a drag queen named Elektra, who’s nonetheless a incredible drag queen right here in Florida. Her accomplice was in a musical with me. I wasn’t figuring out as homosexual or bi or something but. I occurred to say I would by no means been to a homosexual membership, and she or he launched me to her present de ella and actually made it snug for me and confirmed me how enjoyable homosexual golf equipment will be. And by the way, her present de ella is the place I bought found for “Bully,” my first film. She had a Monday evening expertise present, and I used to be performing the evening that they had been scouting areas for “Bully.” That is how I bought my audition. It was, I suppose, future. And it was a drag queen who helped me try this. I’ve at all times thought-about drag queens showbiz colleagues. I used to be buddies with, like, Latrice Royale once we had been each in our 20s. Drag was this subversive artwork kind that I used to be discovering once I was discovering who I used to be, and now it is this enormous international phenomenon, and now I am part of the story. It is an honour.

“Italian Mother Loves You,” written by the star of the present Daniel Franzese, and Jacques Lamarre.

Photograph: Seven Angels Theater / Contributed picture

It should be surreal to look again and see that trajectory attain this level.

I play my mother on this collection of movies referred to as “Sh** Italian Mothers Say,” and now I’ve it as a full-length play referred to as “Italian Mother Loves You.” I’ve seen a lot change. Now, I tape, I tuck, I paint my very own face. I am getting higher at these issues as I am going alongside. I’ve a manner higher understanding of tips on how to construct the physique of a personality. I realized a lot on the present.

Will we see Donna Bellissima once more someplace, a celebration, a membership?

If someone desires to ebook Donna, I’d find it irresistible. Engaged on this Italian mother character, there’s plenty of Donna in that. I’ve taken every thing I’ve realized on this journey, which is loads, and I’ve made it relevant to my different drag character.




  • joey struggle

    Joey Guerra is the music critic for the Houston Chronicle. He additionally covers numerous facets of popular culture. He has reviewed tons of of live shows and interviewed tons of of celebrities, from Justin Bieber to Dolly Parton to Beyonce. He is appeared as an everyday correspondent on Fox26 and was head decide and director of the Satisfaction Famous person singing competitors for a decade. He has been named journalist of the 12 months a number of instances by each OutSmart Journal and the FACE Awards. He additionally covers numerous facets of popular culture, together with the native drag scene and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

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