Laila McQueen is the stage name of Gloucester artist Tyler Devlin, who will soon compete in the eighth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” featuring judges Marc Jacobs, David and Amy Sedaris, Debbie Harry, the inescapable Gigi Hadid, and many others. The new season premieres March 7 on Logo.
At just 22, McQueen has more than five years of experience in drag performance under her belt. She wasted no time doing her first official gig the day after she turned 18. Unlike most queens, she doesn’t describe herself as a dancer, but rather a thematic performer who incorporates elements of movies and characters she loves and thinks an audience will respond to.
Said McQueen: “I really like to be captivating with the audience and work off them.”
Q. How did you get your start in drag?
A. In high school I was like an ugly cross dresser and not really a drag queen. I would go out to house parties though and people would be like “yas!” because they’re drunk and don’t care that I look bad. I started senior year and did all of my art projects with drag. I didn’t get the [expletive] kicked out of me so that’s good I guess.
Q. What’s it like being a drag queen in Gloucester?
A. Odd. It’s weird. It’s even weirder because one of my first and main gigs was in Gloucester. It was actually pretty lucrative, too. It was at the Madfish Grille.
Q. How did your family react to your getting on the show?
A. Everyone’s very excited for me. Now that the cast is released, everyone is going bonkers. No one really gets what comes from the show though, they don’t understand the opportunities and possibilities that come after being on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” They’re just like, “That’s amazing, I’ll see someone I know on TV!” My parents are still confused as to why I’m going all around for these premiere parties.
Q. How would you compare being on the show to being in the local drag scenes?
A. I mean, drag queens are drag queens. They’re all pretty cutthroat. It’s two totally different worlds though. At home I can feel like a rich white lady and put on a bathrobe and have a drink before I have to go out, but on the show there’s all this running around and pressure, but that goes without saying.
Q. How much have you blown up on social media since the announcement came that you would be on this season?
A. A lot. The night they announced the cast I thought my phone was going to just give up. This fan base is crazy. They had the entire cast picked out already and were keeping tabs on girls like Bob the Drag Queen and Acid Betty and Thorgy Thor. So they were all building their presences during that sort of latency period. They had no clue I would be on though. I went from 500 Twitter followers to 5,000, and 2,200 Instagram followers to 14,900. I expected there to be so many mean comments to come from all of that, but they’re all so nice. Everyone is being so positive and supportive. It’s surreal.
Q. How would you describe who you are as a drag queen?
A. I’m an idiot, I’m such an idiot. I just like to have fun and for other people to have fun, too. I started doing drag from a negative place to replace those feelings. I’ve always wanted to be a rock star and this is my way to express that, and I’m an artist above all else. Drag gave me an extension to capture those dreams you didn’t think would happen, and I’ve gotten a lot of things I never thought I’d be able to.John Paul Stapleton can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnP_Stapleton.