Carmen Adore has had quite the rollercoaster ride through the entertainment world: from doing drag, to not doing drag, to starting the process of transitioning, to realizing that becoming a woman wasn’t being true to herself. Lucky for all of us, Carmen’s now back to performing and, speaking of tumultuous rides, she even travels all the way to Virginia once a month to do shows alongside her bosom buddy, Champagne Bordeaux.
Locally, you can catch Carmen working stages all over Wilton Manors in drag and, if you have a sharp eye, even out of it. (She works at Georgie’s Alibi — sshhhhhhhhh! — as a boy.) It was a pleasure to sit down with Carmen for this exclusive.
What’s the first drag show you saw?
I honestly can’t remember the first one, but it would have been in a popular Latin club in Miami when I was about 16 years old.
Tell me about the experience.
I had a friend whose mother was dating one of the doormen, so we got to sneak in. I’ll never forget that experience. I was sneaking out of the house late at night — I’m not even sure my mom knows, but she will now! I don’t remember who was performing, but I was just thrilled to be around a crowd of people just like me.
When did you decide you wanted to do drag?
When I first moved to Wilton Manors, around 2006, I had a group of friends, and we all lived in the same house like a fraternity. I was only 19, so they would have to get me in drag when we went out to the bars so I wouldn’t get ID’d by security.
When did you realize it would be a profession?
After a while sneaking into the bars, people just assumed I was one of the performers. I thought it would be fun to give it a shot.
The first person to take a chance on me, and include me in her show, was Misty Eyez when she had her Trannie Palace show in Steel Nightclub [in Fort Lauderdale, now closed]. She had no idea I was underage. When I actually turned 21, no one believed me!
Who’s your drag mother?
I have two: Noel Leon and Misty Eyez. Both have taught me so much: how to do my makeup, how to present myself. I’m so humbled by them.
Besides Noel and Misty, who’s your favorite queen?
My favorite queen, on stage and off, is Champagne Bordeaux. Apart from being a legendary performer, her energy on stage just makes me smile. Off stage she’s been a really close, amazing friend.
What’s your favorite number to perform and why?
That’s a really tough question because I love to do all kinds of genres. Lately my favorite number to perform is my Fergalicious Mix. In the middle of the number, I cut into Maya Rudolph’s impersonation [on Saturday Night Live] of Fergie singing the national anthem. I get to make silly faces and have the audience laugh. I spent a lot of time listening to that version of the national anthem — just so I would be able to lip-sync it without laughing myself!
What’s the best thing that’s happened to you in drag?
This is going to sound real vain, but I’m going to say it anyways: The best thing was seeing myself on TV at the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 reunion.
I was only going to the reunion to have fun. I dressed up without even thinking I might get any kind of attention. But being there was such an experience! And then coming back home and having the reunion shown on national television was amazing. All these people texted me to say they just saw me on TV. I felt like a miniature celebrity, and I was living for it.
What differentiates you from other queens?
I’m not scared to try new things and push my drag in different directions in order to find the best version of myself.
Also, I make a lot of my looks myself: doing my own makeup, hair, and outfits. At the beginning it was not the best. But I have definitely grown, having done drag for 10 years.
What does the future hold?
Who really knows? I’m just taking everything day by day, focusing on my brand, #StyledByCarlos, and creating new and unique looks for all of your favorite local drag queens.
I am also creating shows at Alibi, like my newest one: Next Drag Superstar, which premieres June 20 and will continue on the third Wednesday of each month.
I continue to enjoy my craft. Without it, I think life would be pretty boring. Drag for me isn’t about competition or being better than the next person; it’s about being a family and sharing our arts and talent with the audience.