Today, the 40-year-old is riding the wave of his television stardom, performing high-energy drag shows at clubs across the country, including a gig Saturday at Spiral Video and Dance Bar.
“People don’t expect the things they see from me because I’m such a large-framed being,” Royale said. “They don’t expect the high kicks and dancing, the big energy and splits. They don’t expect me to move the way I do on stage. There’s an emotion behind it, the costuming. It’s a journey, it’s a trip. It’s a lot to take in."
While his stint on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” — a reality TV show seeking out America’s next drag star — may be over, Royale said he might be back on the small screen soon.
“I’m working on some projects, trying to get some things in the works to get my own show,” he said. “I love television — you can reach so many more people at once.”
Royale’s upbringing wasn’t as flashy and glam as his stardom. “It was pretty much the ghetto,” he said. “My mom was hardworking, a single parent. But we made it through. I was born in ’72 — in the ‘80s, Compton got really bad with the gangs, of course.”
Back in those days, Royale didn’t feel comfortable discussing his homosexuality or his desire to hit the drag stage. “That took a long time,” he said. Royale started doing drag with a dance group called Alliance from Miami after he moved to Florida at age 20. His first gig was at the Copacabana in Fort Lauderdale. Over time, he would go on to teach aspiring drag queens.
After a couple of decades, Royale’s hard work in the drag scene paid off when it landed him on the World Series of drag competitions — a spot on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in the show’s fourth season. Since then, he said, “It’s been crazy!”
While being a plus-sized performer isn’t a limiting factor, Royale recalls the struggles he’s dealt with over the years.
“It does make a difference, only because the plus-sized queen has to work extra hard,” he said. “You have to work harder to bring it — because if you’re sloppy and you’re big, that’s what they expect. But that’s not the image plus-sized (performers) should have. We are glamorous, beautiful and sexy.”
One thing that often comes with reality TV stardom is being at the mercy of the editors. Royale said his maternal nature portrayed on the show doesn’t reflect what audiences experience at his gigs.
“Watching ‘RuPaul,’ you’d think I was a mother figure and I sit at home and bake cookies all day,” he said. “We work really hard at the clubs. We like to entertain so we have to bring it. I don’t think ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ showcases the true palette of all the girls.”