"Bodybuilder Barbie" Kameron Michaels continually walks the line between strength and beauty.
His real name is Dane Young and he joined the tenth season of the hit TV show RuPaul's Drag Race hailing from the Nashville. His social-media following was massive even before being on television; however, it continues to grow with Instagram, currently hitting almost 400,000 followers.
Michaels races to Roscoe's Tavern with fellow cast member Miss Cracker by her side for a viewing party on May 31, and a performance on June 1.
Windy City Times: You are originally from Ohio?
Kameron Michaels: I was born in Massillon, Ohio, then moved away from the north when I was about five years old. I grew up in Nashville.
WCT: You began your drag career in Nashville?
KM: Yes. I started doing drag my senior year in high school. I was going to the gay bars in the big city. I am from a smaller town in middle Tennessee. I was doing drag on the weekends.
WCT: You have performed at the gay bar Play in the past?
KM: Yes, I was a part- time drag queen. I was a full-time hairstylist and doing drag on the side here and there. I worked at Play once or twice last year.
I was part of the cast there on an amateur show called Glam Squad every Sunday night for a year. Hair then took over my life and I had to give drag up for my hair career.
WCT: How did your social media grow so much?
KM: Well, I still liked to drag, but didn't have time to work art the bars. I delved into doing more makeup and my art. I started on social media to use that as an outlet to get my drag out to the world. It blew up for me.
WCT: Do you every worry about bulking up too much at the gym and not be as feminine?
KM: Too big is not an option for me now, considering that I haven't been to the gym in two weeks. I don't have the time for my lifting schedule. I used to lift six days a week. So now, that's not a worry at all [laughs]!
WCT: Being a muscle queen is a niche for you though, isn't it?
KM: Yes, it is a niche for me. I have to figure out how to keep the body a little bit, because it is kind of my thing. I will, but I am just so busy and have to find the balance.
WCT: Is the name "Kameron" an homage to the Kardashians?
KM: No, not at all. When I chose my name I wanted something androgynous. I wanted a boyish girl name. It's just a random name.
WCT: Where did the last name come from?
KM: There were no other Michaels in Nashville at the time. Many drag names come from the family last name, but I didn't have a drag family. I wanted to differentiate myself from everyone. I had heard Micheals from somewhere in the drag universe. I don't know it was Chad Michaels or somewhere else, but I thought it fit with my first name really well.
WCT: Was it difficult to get cast on RuPaul's Drag Race?
KM: I sent in one audition tape a couple of years ago. I sent it in on the deadline and don't think they even saw it. So unless they got that tape, this was my first year auditioning.
WCT: How did it feel winning the Cher challenge?
KM: I don't know if they showed it a lot, but the other girls were clapping for me when Ru announced I was the winner because the girls know how hard I worked the entire competition and how close I was to winning several challenges by the time it came for me to win a challenge.
WCT: What has surprised you the most about RuPaul's Drag Race?
KM: The attention for me has surprised me. Going back and watching the show, I don't really have many confessionals and not on the air a lot of episodes. So I am surprised about the attention because I am so reserved and shy on the show, which is not how I am in real life. It is definitely my character on the show. I am happy with the amount of attention my character gets though.
WCT: What's a fun fact about you that you haven't talked about before on Drag Race?
KM: I have touched on the video-game thing on the show, but people are learning about it in my outside life. I am such a homebody and a video game player, which I don't have a lot of time for. I am a huge nerd outside of being a drag queen. I don't think a lot of people know that, but they are starting to learn that about me.
WCT: Why not develop your own drag game?
KM: That would be amazing. I actually talked to someone about doing an app before the show came out. Apparently it is ridiculously expensive upwards of $30,000 just to make a simple app. Maybe not right now, but maybe something in the future.
WCT: I saw a variety of merchandise on your website. Do you always think outside of the box for those items?
KM: Yeah, and people love that. "Bodybuilder Barbie" is a nickname for me, but doesn't exactly fit my drag aesthetic. Fantasy characters are more Kameron's aesthetic. I love that I inspire a lot of people. I want that to always be a part of my drag career.
WCT: Do you have a favorite tattoo?
KM: My whole left arm. It is Jurassic Park and Aliens. When I finish out my left arm it will be all movies and video games from my childhood.
WCT: There's a new Jurassic Park movie coming out.
KM: Yes, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom comes out in one month. I can't wait. Whatever gig I have that week I will try to work around or cancel it so I can go see the movie.
WCT: How was your relationship with Chicago's The Vixen?
KM: The Vixen and I had a lot of conversations outside of the cameras. She was always very lovely to me, very warm, and welcoming.
The only tiff we had on the show was when I spoke up when she mentioned that everyone said Eureka was overbearing. I didn't say that. It wasn't really a tiff, I just wanted to speak up and say that wasn't something I said.
We had a very good conversation at Drag Con recently. I have never had a problem with her honestly.
WCT: Is drag about money these days?
KM: It's not about the money. It's about the love of drag in general. Money is nice. Yes we need money to create the things that we want to do for the fans, for the show, and for our careers, but it is not necessarily about the money.
Can you create more with money? Absolutely. That is with everything in life.
I never do it for the money. I am an entertainer and need to entertain to live. Money is not a thing for me.
WCT: What are your plans for Roscoe's?
KM: I am there with Cracker. I actually do some comedy numbers. I haven't done any of them since the show has been released. I might pull out one of my old comedy numbers, because Cracker does comedy. I would love to show I do that as well. I think that would be a great weekend to pull that out.
I am going to start touring with a Cher number this week, which I think is fitting for me.
I pick four songs for one week of travel and then rotate them.
WCT: Your Cher picture on Instagram was amazing.
KM: Thank you. I did that the day before I left DragCon. I realized I didn't have a Cher picture to post and didn't know how big a deal it would be. I painted the day before I packed and posted it.
WCT: What are you doing the rest of the year?
KM: I am on tour across the United States for a 30 city tour and I know we are going overseas as well.
I have been recording some music, but that is on the back burner right now. I may revisit that later. I don't know when that's coming out. We might use what we have done or write some new stuff.
WCT: Many of your fans have crushes on you. Are you single?
KM: I am perpetually single. A running joke in Nashville is, "If Kameron Michaels isn't doing drag, it's because she is in a relationship."
I got dumped last year and decided to revisit drag. I was giving up my passion for these relationships. I couldn't do both so I just chose one.
I sent in my audition tape and here I am. Being single and concentrating on my drag career has gotten me to this point. I think I need to stick with that for a while.
I'm not interested in a relationship right now, but I am not opposed. If it happens then it happens. I am not seeking it out though.
Roscoe's Tavern is at 3356 N. Halsted St., and Michael's performances start at 10 p.m. See the calendar at roscoes.com/ for more information.