Abby: Hello Manila Luzon!
Manila: Hi Abby Normal.
Abby: How are you doing today?
Manila: I am amazing!
Abby: Why, yes, yes you are! I am excited to talk with you today.
Let’s just start at the top with what we really want to know about… Hot Couture. Congratulations on your new single!
Manila: Thank you! I’m super, super excited about it. I’m very, very proud of my work, and I’m really excited for everyone to hear it.
Abby: And we get to hear it on November 8th?
Manila: November 8th it’s available on iTunes, Amazon.com, and where ever fine mp3s are sold.
Abby: What was the evolution of Hot Couture?
Manila: My sister Rachel Merluza introduced me to Brian Kierulf and Joshua Schwartz. When I found out that they were producers I was intrigued. They’ve worked with Brittney Spears and Lady Gaga, so I’m really excited that I was able to work with such influential producers. I wanted to do something that is really, really good and fun and something that people could hear on the radio if they wanted to. I wanted something that would make people want to get up and dance and feel like they’re fabulous. I wanted it also to get stuck in their head like a really, really super repetitive Kesha song. In fact, I told them that I want my song to be like the love child of Kesha and Eiffel 65 who did the Blue song back in the early 2000s.
Abby: So will there be a follow up video?
Manila: I am, actually, currently working on the video. Right now I’m sitting in the studio of Viktor Luna from Project Runway Season 9, on Lifetime, and he is busy hacking away at some fabrics to sew me some Hot Couture to wear in my video. And I start filming that tomorrow.
Abby: Did you know Viktor Luna before he was on Project Runway?
Manila: I met him actually at a fashion show for charity called “The Tulips and Pansies Show.” I was modeling for DKNY and he was also showing at the fashion show. That’s where we met. And then he went on Project Runway and went to the top, like me!
Abby: I know! I thought both of you were going to win.
Manila: Well, I knew I wasn’t going to win because I was there. Viktor was very quiet about not letting me know. So I thought for sure he was gonna win. But, you know it’s not about winning the prize; it’s about what you do with it afterwards. And I think both of us are trying really hard to be the best at what we do. I mean drag, honey!
Abby: Have you quit your day job?
Manila: I finally had to set down my day job. It was hard because I really love my graphic design career. I will still have those skills as a graphic designer, those will never leave me. So I thought that I would ride the wave while the momentum of Drag Race is still going. I don’t know if this opportunity will ever come again so I’m trying to make the most of it.
Abby: Are you comfortable answering questions about Drag Race or are you totally burned out on that?
Manila: Oh no, no! Ask away, honey. You can ask me anything you want, except my blood type. I don’t even know what that is.
Abby: You’re the one that knocked off my girl, Delta Work.
Manila: Oh, one of the lowest points of the show for me was to send home who I consider a good friend. Delta’s one of the few people that I met on the show who I still talk with all the time and I consider family. She was the first person that I saw when I walked in the room, and there was just something about Delta that I just gravitated towards… I think it was her giant tits. We forged a really good friendship with me, Raja and Carmen. It was really, really difficult when I found out that we were both at the bottom. But sorry, I was not going home at that point so, bye girl!
Abby: I know, but I’ve always wanted to know if it was just serendipitous because on the episode of Face, Face, Face of Cakes you gave the advice “Do not leave your cakes out in the rain.” And in the next episode, you’re lip synching to “McArthur Park,” which has a very similar line in it.
Manila: I know. It’s crazy. It could have not been the most fearsome foreshadowing in the world when I said that line. You know what? That’s just the way the cards fell. I guess there is some kind of power that knows what’s gonna happen next. Hopefully that power thinks that I’m going to be selling a billion records.
Abby: That would be outstanding.
How far in advance did you know what songs you have to lip synch to?
Manila: They’d give us the song right after we’d have an elimination, so we’d have two days to learn it. They’d give us a lyric sheet as well. To my surprise, that was the song we were going to do the next day. I was happy, because I love that song anyway, and it was my pleasure to have that be my lip synch for my life. I’ve actually toured the country in that Big Bird dress doing “McArthur Park” by Donna Summer. That dress has flown all over that country. She’s been in every dark, gay bar in the entire world, honey, and it was only like a few weeks ago where I had to put it away because I don’t want to be known as the queen that only wears the yellow Big Bird dress. That’s a great excuse to make a music video so I can get all new clothes.
Abby: Did you or Sahara Davenport come up with the idea of wearing hats with each other’s names on them during the show?
Manila: In season 2 my boyfriend was on the show, and I had actually made that hat for myself. I had it made in SoHo from a street vendor and it was really cute. I gave it to him to wear so that he could kind of remember me. He had to start wearing hats halfway through the season because his hair was getting too long for his liking. He would wear my hat that had Manila written on it. So when I went on, I was like, “I’m gonna make myself a Sahara hat; it will be a little bit of a tie in with the season before.”
Abby: Now you two are the power drag couple.
Manila: Yes, honey, we are. We are the power lesbian drag couple. It’s funny. I was on some website of the hundred most powerful lesbians. We’re not even really lesbians but I think we were number 68… Just short of 69, honey!
Abby: How did you feel about posing nude?
Manila: I prefer not to be naked in front of people and showing that to the entire world. One of the reasons that I’m a drag queen is so that I can just throw on a lot of clothes. I don’t have to be naked. But when we got that challenge, I was not going to let that deter me from winning or proceeding to the next thing. And I was not going to make an issue out of it, because the second you say that I have body issues, the producers swoop in, and that’s all they can talk about. So I just went up there, got naked, took my shot. If you watch the show, they just breezed right past me. My shot was pretty good. I don’t look nearly as disgusting as I think I do in my head. That’s the trick to reality TV.
Abby: In the final episode, when you had lunch with RuPaul, you said that you wanted to make your father proud.
Manila: I do know that I make my father proud. It’s just still very difficult, our dialog about my homosexuality and definitely about my drag. It’s changed a little bit since the show because he’s seen a little reaction from the American audience to me as a drag queen. It’s actually helped the relationship significantly. I brought my father to a mall in Delaware and everyone knew who I was. Wherever we were walking, people would ask to take pictures. This was the first time that my father was actually seeing people have random reactions to me in the middle of an everyday mall. It really helped to change his perspective of what I’m doing with my drag career because he’s like, “Oh!” I think he just wants me to be successful. I did go to college and I did get a degree, and I’ve been successful at it. I think that he just gets worried that I’m not going to have health insurance, or be starving and eating out of garbage cans. After, he kind of realized that this is actually a business. It kind of changed his mind, and he’s been very supportive, I have to say. More than I ever expected from him. So I’m happy to report back that although he’s not kiki-ing with me about rhinestone shoes and lip gloss, he’s definitely proud of me. I couldn’t ask for better parents. I mean, unless I had richer parents because I could use a little bit more fur in my wardrobe!
Abby: So your sister Rachel AKA Lark St. Laurent went to RuPaul’s Drag U to spend time with you during your busy schedule. Have you been able to spend any time with her since Drag U?
Manila: I see her a lot more frequently. I think that once she was able to go on Drag U with me, and was able to see the behind-the-scenes, like how many hours it takes, she understood how exhausting it really is. It was fun for me to share my experience with her that way. And after being on the show, she knows all kinds of aspects of what I do.
Now, she works at a bank. I hope she doesn’t expect me to come to work with her, see what she does all day, because I can pretty much guarantee you that I would be bored out of my mind!
Abby: She did an outstanding job on the show. Again, I thought she was going to win.
Manila: Me too, but that’s not how the dice rolls, honey. It was funny that her lip synch was also to another Donna Summers song, “Hot Stuff.”
Abby: And she pulled off the “Manila Eyes.”
Manila: Mmhmmm. I told her you’d better go cross eyed and go crazy, because you’re my sister. She did exactly what I told her. She’s very, very talented.
Abby: Don’t you have a couple of commercials coming up?
Manila: I filmed a public service announcement with Giliad about HIV/AIDS awareness. I filmed that earlier this year with Delta Work, Carmen Carrera, Shangela and Alexis Mateo. That turned out to be a beautiful commercial. I’m going to be soon filming my Absolut Vodka commercial.
Abby: And what will you be wearing for that?
Manila: I have no idea. I’m sure it’s going to be something fierce, something Hot Couture. There’s no going back, honey. There’s no more ‘Forever 21’ in my wardrobe.
Abby: I expect a lot from the person who made it fashionable to sit on sushi.
Manila: Werk! It’s the most comfortable lounge chair I own.
Abby: Thank you Manila for joining me today. This Fanila is off to listen to “Hot Couture.”