Bebe Zahara Benet may have snagged the crown on the first season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” but she is back in the game once more, competing as the surprise tenth queen on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3” (airing Thursday night on VH1). Bebe has gone one to musical success and helped pave the way for winners and contestants alike that have come after her. I sat down for a talk with Bebe to talk about revisiting her “Drag Race” journey close to a decade later, what it was like working with an entirely new set of ladies, and what inspires her to keep giving us the best “Cameroon” she can!
After snagging the crown on the the first season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” what made you want to go back into the lion’s den of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3”?
Well the opportunity really just presented itself. I had to really, really take some time and do some soul searching to see if it was something that I really wanted to do. What I came to terms with though, was that this was another platform that the universe was presenting to me and giving to me. It was ten years ago since I won the first season of “Drag Race”. My aesthetic has changed, I have evolved, and I have a point of view that those of the newer generation may not get to see as much. I now have an opportunity to go in and reintroduce myself and maybe shed some light on a different style of drag. It was also an opportunity to not only show how I have evolved, but to go in and learn some new tricks from the newer generation, which would also help me grow. It just made sense to go in and do it again.
What was it like going in and revealing yourself to the ladies? The gag was beyond real!
Oh honey, the gag was REAL! Very real baby. I truly think no one saw it coming. There had been rumors flying, things like an “All Winners” circle, things like that. I think for these girls to see a winner come through, it was definitely a shock. “Another day another slay” right?
When you walked in initially, is there anyone that you immediately looked at and said “Oh she is gonna be trouble”!
To be honest, no. I really don’t go into a situation like that to see who the troublemaker will be or who the competition is going to be. I went in knowing that I had to put my best foot forward and to make sure that my body of work was well represented. I wanted to be able to be proud of what that is. I find that everything else really just turns into a distraction at the end of the day, and it distracts from what the main purpose is.
You performed original music as your talent during the first episode’s talent show, and it was music that the newer viewers, as well as the newer queens may not have heard. Was that at all intimidating?
Actually no it wasn’t. I was actually the first one from “RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise to put out original music. It has been so great to see other queens put out their own music with their own voice as well. I am so happy that it is happening now. As for the talent show, it was very important for me to use that as a platform to showcase what I do.
Many people don’t know that I am very heavy into music. I write my own songs, I create my own melodies as well as a lot of my harmonies. I teach a lot of music, and I have a vast knowledge of music. I also have my own band and I perform live all of the time. I just felt like it was a platform for me to show myself and to show the beauty in my cultural drag. I am so happy that both the OG fans and the newer ones are loving it.
You got to walk into a much different workroom this time around. What was it like walking into the “Drag Race” workroom now and what has changed?
Well, you can say now that everything is larger than life. The workroom is much bigger and more spacious; everything is much bigger now. That was very interesting to see. I don’t think the experience has changed in terms of being a competition though. I have heard people say that I had it easier in Season One, but I think it was exactly the opposite. I had it tougher because there wasn’t a blueprint for Season One. Everything was just happening as it happened and you really had to be on your p’s and q’s.
Now there is a formula, you have “Snatch Game” and other challenges every season so you can be more prepared. It was great to go through the adventure, there are certain challenges we didn’t have during my season. We didn’t have “Snatch Game”, we didn’t have “The Library Is Open”, things like that. I was so excited that I got to do these different kinds of challenges!
Speaking of Season One, we are going to play a game called #FastAndLoose. I’ll mention a Season One sister of yours and you give me the first thought that comes to your mind about them.
-Shannel ….Larger than life.
-Victoria “Porkchop” Parker-Talented
Speaking of, do you keep in touch with your Season One sisters?
I do! It’s difficult because we are all so busy though. Everyone is doing their own thing, but when we get to see each other it is like old times. The girl I talk to the most is Nina Flowers, I am very close with her. Everybody else, when we see each other we get to play catch up, but it’s not nearly as frequent as I would like.
The world has become so politically charged, and coming from Cameroon in Central Africa, politics for you definitely would hit close to home. Is it hard staying positive and entertaining the masses when the world around us can seem so heavy?
This may sound like a pageant answer, but its’s Iike what Mama Ru always says about loving yourself. Whether you are an immigrant, a foreigner, an American or whatever, its about you being a human being and a person and having love for yourself. If you have love for you, you can generate that love for others.
Thats just how I do things; I have love for myself. Inside of society or a place where there is tension, be it from being a foreigner or otherwise, I love me-and I am going to make sure that the love I have from me, I am going to give you some. Because apparently you need it. (laughs). You have to keep yourself positive. There is no way you are going to be able to go out there and navigate the world without surrounding yourself with positivity; that is how I get through everything. It does not mean it’s aways going to happen. You have to train yourself and say “I love me some me” or “Another day another slay” and go on about your day.
What inspires you to keep being the best Bebe and the fiercest queen on a daily basis?
What inspires me is that I always remind myself that the gifts that I have been given have not been given to me for me. My gifts are for others. They are for me to share with other people. That is my purpose as a human being and as an artist. If I know that they don’t belong to me and that they belong to others, I will do my best to give those gifts to people That is my motto; that is how I am able to keep delivering what I deliver. I think I am gifting everyone; these gifts are supposed to be for you.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3” airs Thursday night on VH1 (check local listings)