Last week I was lucky enough to have a chance to chat with my favorite former RuPaul's Drag Race and All Stars Drag Race contestant, Pandora Boxx. Here is Part II. If you missed Part I, check it out first.
Jim: Okay, enough about Drag Race. I want to move on to some of your history. How did you get into drag?
Pandora: I've always been into theater my whole life, and then I saw a drag show for the first time - and didn't even know it was something you could do or did. And I was like, "Oh my God. What are these people doing? They are up there lip-syncing to these songs - this is what I do in my bedroom." It thought it was amazing and thought "I wanna do this."
It really was just a hobby almost. We just had so much fun. We would just get into drag and go out to clubs. There wasn't even a show - it's just like Halloween whenever you want.
So I loved it, and it just kinda took off, and I started doing shows more and more and more. It was an unexpected and unplanned career.
Jim: How old were you when you got started?
Pandora: I was 19.
Jim: Were you always Pandora Boxx?
Pandora: I was always Pandora Boxx from the beginning. I think maybe my first performance I might have just been Pandora because I was toying with the idea of having a last name or not - did I want to be like Madonna? I knew I wanted to do Pandora because it has the same number of letter as Madonna and they both end in "a."
(More including a NSFW video after the break)
Jim: Have you seen a shift in drag since you first started? Would you say that it is more mainstream?
Pandora: Oh yeah - totally. Drag, like a lot of things in life, is kinda like a roller coaster - it has been popular, then falls away, then popular, then falls away.
And then with Drag Race it's a whole different ballgame. It really has taken drag to a different level than it has even been before. Now there are so many drag queens that are known because of Drag Race. And I think it has helped not only queens that have been on the show, but it has helped drag in general because it has really made people more interested in it. They want to see it. They want to go to shows. They want to see and support their local queens.
Jim: Do you think part of that has to do with the overall shift towards LGBT rights in general?
Pandora: Oh yeah - definitely. Because there is a high shift in acceptance of the LGBT community now. There is still a long way to go, but it has really come so far. Even to be able to have a show like Drag Race on television is a major accomplishment. Ten years ago - fifteen years ago - that show would not be on the air.
Jim: Before Pres. Obama came out in support of marriage equality, Vice Pres. Joe Biden opened things up in an interview where he sited show's like Will & Grace as a cause of the shift in social acceptance. You seem to agree with that? How does it feel to be part of that?
Pandora: Drag Race itself has been amazing just in the fact that it has been on the air and what it has done for my career, but when we are traveling and doing shows, we can loose site of the fact - that it is a historic show, and there has been no show like it ever before. It has really opened up our lives, and younger gay kids can watch the show and identify with people, and they can see themselves in somebody.
I know how powerful it was for me as a kid - I mean I didn't see a lot of gay people on television at all - but when I did see something I identified with, I said "Oh! I'm like that and that person." Your teenage years are a struggle for everyone. Your bodies are going through all these changes, and you are emotional - and the thing you do not realize as a teenager is that everyone is going through that - it is just that some are able to cope with it and hide it better.
It really is amazing, and I feel honored to be a part of this legacy. I look forward to the day we are just "that entertainer" not "that gay entertainer. That's when we have reached what we really need to reach. And it's getting there. There have been quiet a few actors and actresses that have come out, and it hasn't really seemed to affect their careers - they are not labeled as that gay actor. It really has come a long way.
Jim: As you said, growing up you had very few gay role models on TV. Who were your role models - entertainers or not?
Pandora: I did have a lot of entertainer role models because I knew from age five that I wanted to be an actor. I admired strong women and comedic women - which was probably an indication of what my life was to become.
Certainly Madonna was an big influence on me because I was really painfully shy and here was this women that did whatever she wanted it seems like. And she had control over her life, and was just out there - so bold and brave. I was just amazed by her. I wanted to be like that - able to say what I want to say and do what I want to do.
And other comedic actresses like Carol Burnett and Lily Tomlin and Goldie Hawn. I was just fascinated with pop culture, and I think all of those have played a part in making the character that is Pandora.
Jim: What would you say to those kids that now look at you as a role model?
Pandora: I would just say my advice is that whatever you are going through, stay strong and believe in yourself. If you love yourself, everything else falls into place. And nobody's life is perfect - so don't ever think that it's perfect for anyone else.
Jim: Awesome. So now I wanted to end with some of your recent work.
Last month you released your newest single and video "Nice Car! (Shame About Your Penis)" - was it insipired by actual events?
Pandora: Umm - no it's not. I actually met this young song-writer and singer in San Francisco and we talked about working together. She played me a demo - I really thought it was great so we talked about writing a song. I said I wanted something Ke$ha-ish - and she came back with this song "Nice Car! (Shame About Your Penis)" that she had been working on, and we went back and forth writing it. It speaks to the consumerism that is like this "I've got this, I've got that" - the douche bags. I dedicated the song to Mitt Romney because I think he is the king of the douche bags.
Jim: Ha! I have to agree.
I also recently saw you in an Andrew Christian ad - how was that experience? [Video NSFW].
Pandora: That was really great. Andrew Christian, the company, and Brad Hammer who works for Andrew Christian has been really super supportive of me and big fans, so we had talked about working together and doing a video together for quite awhile. It had just never worked out because of my schedule - but this one did.
They were like, "You are gonna play a nun." I'm like, "Okay." I am obsessed with American Horror Story right now, so I channelled some Jessica Lang - but in a glue sniffing gay way.
Jim: Was that your first time as a nun?
Pandora: Oddly enough, no it's not. I am fascinated with nun. I don't know what it is - I just think they are fascinating. So I had a sketch comedy show that is on YouTube still, and we did a skit called "Nun of That." We weren't really sure of the purpose of it - we were just a nun talk show/makeover show. We made over prostitutes into church ladies.
Jim: I will have to check that out. Back to Andrew Christian. I was going to ask, what works better, Elmers or Poppers?
Pandora: [Laugh] Poppers. You aren't going to get very high from Elmers.
Jim: What else do you have planned for the future?
Pandora: Well I worked on a short film called X Confident and that's coming out in January. I'm working on some more songs, but they are all in the talking phase. I'm working on a stand-up comedy show that's called "Lick This Boxx" with different characters and music. So I have a lot of stuff in the works.
It is also kinda that point where I'm going, "Okay - what's next?" Not reevaluating my career - it's just one of those points where you want to refresh things and try different things.
Jim: I look forward to seeing where you take it.
Thanks you again for taking the time to talk to me. I hope to catch you live if you make a trip back through DC.
Pandora: Thank you. I am off to catch American Horror Story.
(Photo Credit: Nick Lovell courtesy of Pandora Boxx)