An interview with Violet Chachki
Since winning season seven of RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR), Violet Chachki has been a busy girl. Besides all of her traveling — she’s coming to Nashville on August 7 — she has also released her first album, Gagged. In advance of her visit, Chachki agreed to talk with O&AN, giving us the chance to talk with this “one of a time collectable” about RPDR, life after the show, and Gagged, which features five dynamic club tracks that make you want to get up and dance. Violet shared with us some of the influences for not only the album, but also her life in drag, her name, her unique style and how it’s been for her in the LGBT community.
I, of course, opened with a hard-hitting question: “Did you know you were going to win early on like we did?”
Chachki laughed and humbly replied, “No, it was a really close call. And is there proof that you said that?” Fortunately, there is.
“Confidence,” Violet said, “is probably one of the biggest things you can take away from the show. If you want something, you are going to have to get out and do it. You called it from the second episode, and that’s what I wanted. When performing, you have to be yourself, want it and just go for it.”
Violet clearly had the confidence. She rose to stardom and won RPDR after only three years in the business. So what are her inspirations? Her name, a Yiddish word for trinkets, comes from her love of collecting. “I actually collect chachkis,” she said. “Different Avon bottles, perfumes, clown figurines and different types of random bric-a-brac kind of things. Now that I’m trying to move, I’m less of a hoarder. I at least used to be a hoarder. I’ve toned down to my favorite chachkis on display, as I used to feel like a crazy cat lady. I collect all types of stuff, and my house is overflowing with all types of crap.”
Even before the show, Violet said, “RuPual was very big influence to be on the show as she has really capitalized on drag world market and it’s really inspiring to see someone as hard-working as she is.”
And like many other queens who auditioned for the show, it was a kind of do-or-die test for her future career. “I auditioned last season. I remember I had gotten back from a trip from New York. I remember thinking, ‘If I don’t get on the show, I’m just going to move to New York and that’s going to be that’. So I started planning my life and then I got on the show and I moved to New York. I really wanted it. I really wanted to be on the show and I was determined to get on and move. It was very gratifying to set a goal and accomplish it. It was very amazing.”
Winning the title has brought on a lot more attention Violet’s way. “I’ve received a lot of feedback,” she shared. On the positive side, many people look up to her and give praise. “I try not to dwell on the negative, as it’s toxic. This season particularly, the fans have been out of hand, in my opinion. They can be really rude and hateful.”
This comes with being a celebrity, of course. Violet continued, “People see the show and they see the fantasy of it. They forget that we are gay boys in dresses trying to do art. They can be really degrading and hurtful. They get caught up in the show and forget how to separate realty from realty TV. It’s very frustrating and part of me wants to snap on people and tell them off. People don’t have an idea to how hard we work.”
She tries to not engage the out-of-hand fandom on social media. “They feel entitled, as if they own us. It’s getting ridiculous,” she shared. “I want to respond sometimes, but I just remind myself, ‘continue doing your art’. We are hustling so hard. It’s not easy.”
Being on the show brings advantage, but it also puts you in a box, it turns out. “Drag isn’t taken seriously in the mainstream world,” she told us. “We are just the RuPaul girls. It’s hard to shed the title of a RuPaul girl and get the individuality. As a drag queen, you don’t get taken seriously and people won’t give you the time of day. It’s tough when your own queer community is hating on you. It would be awesome to have someone inside and outside of the gay community that is uplifting and pushing us to be successful and push the gay agenda. You come home from a hard day’s work and you have all these haters on Instagram and Twitter. It’s a shame that people will get hateful in their own community.”
It’s not all negative, of course. Unfortunately, when it comes to the positive feedback, Violet doesn’t get much of a chance to read it, as she doesn’t care to sift through all of the negative. She doesn’t feel she deserves that.
Chachki is very excited about her new album, but one song, in particular, is her favorite. “I think I like Bettie best,” she said, “because I loved the way the video turned out. I got to work with Tommy Lee on that particular song. It was gratifying to have Tommy Lee work on one of your tracks. I like the visual that goes along with the music, and it’s one of the coolest songs of the LP. It was like one of my babies.”
Clowns, she said, were one of her inspirations for Gagged. She explained, “I love clowns. If you think about it, clowns only have one outfit and one look. I’m a very visual person, and I feel like a clown half the time. Back then, it was kind of the only visual people had for entertainment.”
The latest video that was released was for her single, “Vanguard,” has a very strong message, along with an amazing display of Violet’s background in aerial silks. The video shows Violet doing something as simple as ordering food at a fast-food restaurant, only to get bullied by three transphobic men. Not only does she, but the entire restaurant rise above the hate. Truly inspiring.
Though one might question the realism of a queen like Chachki eating in a fast-food restaurant, she laughingly assured, “I eat all the time. There are actually pictures of me eating. Not necessarily fast food.”
And the inspiration for the video was soberingly real. “It is actually based on a real life experience that happened to me in Australia. I was in a McDonald’s eating fries at three in the morning … so I guess I have eaten fast food. There were some locals that were trying to fight me while in drag. I was ready to beat their asses, but my friend shoved me out of the restaurant before it could get physical.”
After I mentioned how inspiring it was to see the characters in the video coming to the aid of a drag queen, Chachki discussed how the times have changed and things are improving. “It goes along with the times,” she shared. “I think it is a great time to be a gay person, a drag queen, a transwoman and a queer person in general. There is a lot of strength in numbers, and I definitely wanted to show that. That’s what “Vanguard” means—it’s like a military force and there is a lot of support out there.”
Chachki’s Gagged is available now on iTunes and all major online retailers. For more information, visit Instagram.com/violetchachki, Twitter.com/violetchachki and Facebook.com/violetchachki. In addition to the album, you can find more of Violet’s products for sale at shop.VioletChachki.com, where she sells playtime products with an adult twist, including her signature jawbreaker candy ball gag!