Honey: Hi Abby!
Abby: Hello Honey Mahogany! I have to say that I am so happy that a San Francisco queen is finally on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Congratulations!
Honey: Oh, thank you so much! It was about time.
Abby: You would think that Southern California was the only part of California that had drag queens.
Honey: I know. It’s been a puzzling phenomenon for me because we do have so much drag here in San Francisco and Northern California. Why they haven’t picked someone sooner is beyond me.
Abby: OK. The first question is a fan question. They would like to know, “Are you single?”
Honey: Are you serious?
Abby: Uh huh.
Honey: Yes. I am very single right now.
Abby: I had heard that you are from Ethiopia. Is that correct?
Honey: It is correct. Well, my family is. I was born in San Francisco so I am local. But both my parents are from Ethiopia.
Abby: Do you have brothers and sisters?
Honey: I have a younger brother. He was born here too, obviously.
Abby: What does your family think of you doing drag?
Honey: Not all of my family actually knows, even now. Some are very supportive. Most of them are not super excited about it. I think they would prefer that I did something a little more gender-normative in terms of my career choice. But I think they all still recognize that I am an adult and I can make my own decisions. I think that they believe that I am a good person and so they also trust that I would do something only if I felt like it was something that was a good or appropriate thing to do.
Abby: Do you think that because your parents are from Ethiopia that feeds in to the standoffishness about accepting your drag lifestyle?
Honey: Definitely. It doesn’t really exist in Ethiopian culture. Not just that but it is a very religious country. It’s a very Orthodox Christian, Muslim and Catholic country. Christianity was in Ethiopia before Europe so it’s highly religious anyway. I think for them it’s hard to kind of mitigate to the religious background with the whole LGBT community in general. I mean there really isn’t even a word for it in our language. It was hard for them to reconcile that once I came out. And then drag is another step. I have to say that I have asked a lot from my parents in terms of coming to understand who I am and what I do. I can’t say that I am disappointed with their reaction, you know? At the end of the day I am still their son and they still love me and they respect my decisions. So I don’t know if you can really ask for more especially considering their own upbringing and culture.
Abby: Absolutely. Where did you go to school?
Honey: When I was in grade school I went to Saint Gabriel Elementary in San Francisco. In High School I went to Saint Ignatius College Prep. Both schools are in the Sunset district which is where I basically grew up. When I went to college I went to undergraduate at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. I actually went to graduate school for my masters in social work at UC Berkeley.
Abby: I’ve got to say that I’m impressed. Did you blend in at school or did you stand out?
Honey: Well, I think I stood out more than I blended in. I was always a performer. I was always singing and dancing and doing all of those kinds of things. I was also very gregarious so I got to know a lot of people. I felt like I was one of those people that moved through social circles very easily and I always had lots of friends. So school has always been a positive experience in my life. It was an opportunity to grow and also a place where I found a support system. I never felt out of place.
Abby: I don’t hear that very often.
Honey: I was teased every once in a while. I would do musical theater and dancing. My best friends were girls so there were a lot of assumptions being made about my sexual orientation and things like that. I won’t say that it didn’t hurt especially since I was still trying to figure it out. I was able to kind of move past it and not dwell on it which is a survival mechanism. In general, even though I did go to a Catholic school, the school was very accepting and affirming for the most part.
Abby: What was a day in the life of Honey Mahogany like one year ago?
Honey: One year ago I was working as a full-time social worker 5 days a week. I commuted every day driving from where I live in Pacifica to Concord. That’s about a 50 mile drive. If I had a performance then I’d go and do that. I barely had time for sleep even back then.
Abby: You work as a social worker with the LGBT community?
Honey: Correct. I work at the Rainbow Community Center in Concord which is basically the LGBT center for all of Contra Costa County.
Abby: What is life like for you now after filming RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Honey: My life has definitely changed since RPDR. I never thought it was possible to be busier than I already was but I was wrong! I’m getting to see the gay culture, the gay clubs and the people that go there. I get to travel and see the country. This is such a wonderful opportunity and I can’t wait to get out there and meet all of the Honey Bees and all of the other fans of the show. I feel really lucky to be a part of it.
Abby: What film were you in that introduced you to doing drag?
Honey: It was a student film. A friend of mine at USC was doing a film project. I think it was his first film project. He asked me to do this role because he thought that I was the only guy he knew that would look okay as a girl. That was the first time ever.
Abby: What year was that?
Honey: I think that was 2003.
Abby: Okay so you are not in any way shape or form a newbie to drag.
Honey: No. I have been doing drag for about 5 years now. When I came back from school to San Francisco I saw all of these different types of queens doing different types of performances and that was really inspiring.
Abby: Which drag queens inspired you the most in San Francisco?
Honey: There are so many. It is hard to pick a favorite. There is Suppositori Spelling, Glamamore and Peaches Christ. That is a good list to start with. They show a variety of different types of drag. Suppositori Spelling is very punk rock, very balls out, yah know? It’s that kind of drag. I know that Peaches Christ is very much inspired by Elvira. Peaches Christ was doing Halloween shows and lots of spooky stuff for years and years. She was doing all of these horror film productions and that was her thing. She is amazing and has been so successful even before Drag Race existed. I am really inspired by her. Glamamore is a legend. She is a true thespian who makes it all seem effortless. She can do anything and is always absolutely magical.
Abby: What made you finally apply to RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Honey: That is a good question. I think that I just basically made a decision this year to see if I could make it in the entertainment industry. There is no more waiting. I took a leap of faith and submitted auditions to America’s Got Talent, X-Factor and RuPaul’s Drag Race. Within a couple of weeks of making that decision I was getting contacted by producers to audition. So it was just this universal harmony of me wanting to do something and then the opportunities presented themselves. I got air time on both X-Factor and America’s Got Talent. When I actually made it on to RuPaul’s Drag Race it was kind of, well hello, this is what you are supposed to be doing.
Abby: Were you there as Alpha or in drag as Honey Mahogany?
Honey: I was in drag.
Abby: So do you think you impressed RuPaul?
Honey: I hope so. She definitely said a few things to me on the runway some of which have aired and some of which haven’t aired. It showed me that she was really paying attention to what I was doing. When you eventually see me in front of the judges I think you will get to hear a little more of what she thinks. I am looking forward to hearing what they said when we were off stage about me.
Abby: So you have not seen the episodes before we do?
Honey: Oh no! No, no, no, no! I’m seeing them for the first time when they are premiering on Monday’s.
Abby: Okay. So it comes as a surprise to you too?
Honey: Oh yeah, totally. What surprises me most is what they actually show because there is so much that happens outside of that. You know what I mean?
Abby: Yes I do. I worked in Hollywood for years. I know that you can’t talk about your time on Drag Race yet. You always seem so kind and patient. Do you ever explode?
Honey: I have to say it takes a lot to really piss me off or make me explode. In general, I am a pretty patient and stable person. I function well under pressure and I generally make it a point to think about things before I act. I also try to treat others kindly. That is how I was raised, and that is how I would like to be treated. I will say that like everybody else, I do have my moments where I snap, or where I am pushed over the edge. It’s rare, but it does happen. When it does, they really deserve it.
Abby: I don’t doubt it. From previous seasons which drag queens did you want to win?
Honey: The one that stands out in my mind is, I really, really love Jujubee. I wanted her to win her season. I also have a huge soft spot for Latrice Royal. I’m not saying any of the previous winners didn’t deserve to win, those are my favorite girls
Abby: How about seasons 1 and 3?
Honey: I think I was rooting for Bebe the whole time for season 1. Season 3 was the season that Raja won and I was rooting for Raja that year.
Abby: And how about All Stars? Were you going for Latrice?
Honey: I wanted Jujubee to win.
Abby: I know that you have a new song out called “It’s Honey.”
Honey: Yes. Let’s talk about my song. That’s exciting! I guess it’s my theme song. I wrote it myself and I produced it with my friend Erik Ian Walker here in San Francisco. It’s so funny the way the song really developed because I’m totally influenced by the 60s, 70s, old school R&B and funk. I was writing this funky tune and it was really cute but we needed it to be a little bit spicier. I think I channeled a little of Donna Summer’s Love to Love You Baby and did a little moaning and groaning. It started with breathing and some panting in the background. I was like, “That works really well!” Then it went in this other direction. When I wrote the lyrics for the song I did mean them to be playful and be suggestive. It really wasn’t meant to be a totally suggestive song. Once we started recording it, it just got a life of its own. What’s really funny about it is that my drag has never been very sexy in the past. I don’t even think of myself in those terms. I am finding it really hard in doing drag to veer away from that now. It feels like the path of least resistance or it’s striking a chord within the universe or within myself. When I do turn up the sex appeal of Honey Mahogany there tends to be resonance.
Abby: Oh girl, I was at the LA premier. When you were up on stage the fewer clothes you had on the more the cameras came out!
Honey: I know! It was crazy! It was funny because I had never done anything like that before. I had never gotten, I was basically completely naked on stage wasn’t I?
Honey: I had pasties on. I was legal. I was legal! Going back to the song, “It’s Honey.” I finished filming the video recently. I am just excited for the world to get to see it.
Abby: I am too. So here is the link to the video, “It’s Honey. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2oqWSoffn-g
Honey: I am so thankful that Drag Race has provided me with the opportunity to do that.
Abby: I am looking forward to the cruise you have coming up later this year.
Honey: I am going to be on the Drag Stars At Sea cruise which is happening at the end of November. There is plenty of time to plan ahead and save those pennies and coins and book a room. And what’s great is you get to book your trip with your favorite queen and that gives you special access to them. There is a cocktail hour and a special dinner that you get to spend with that queen. Even though you sign up with a particular queen that doesn’t mean that you can’t see any of the other queens because they are all over the ship. There are all of these shows and all of these things that are happening. So it’s super, super exciting. I’m so looking forward to it! I can’t wait! I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Abby: Honey I am looking forward to seeing you on the cruise and on Monday nights on RuPaul’s Drag Race on Logo TV.
Honey: Thank you Abby it was an absolute pleasure!
Abby: Thank you Honey. See you Monday!
Honey: Alright. See you Monday Baby!
For more on Honey Mahogany go to: https://www.facebook.com/honeymahogany?ref=ts&fref=ts