For the past few months, the highlight of my Mondays has been getting to go down to Rich’s Houston and witnessing Dessie’s Drag Race, a competition where up-and-coming drag queens (and kings!) in Houston get to perform and establish themselves as entertainers. Currently on its fourteenth installment, I’d initially heard of the race through my coworker, who took a leap and decided to compete in the production’s thirteenth season. I had only planned on going to the premiere to show my support, but I went the next week. Then the next. Soon, going to Dessie’s Drag Race became a weekly routine — and much like its counterpart, RuPaul’s Drag Race, I found myself getting invested and developed favorites — eager to see how they’d do week to week in their performances as they faced a panel of recurring judges (most often, entertainers Kara Dion, Kofi, Tatiana Mala-Niña, and Blackberri) afterward.
Of course, one of the key ingredients to any great show is a great host — enter Dessie Love-Blake. With an extensive resume that ranges from being the winner of Miss Gay Texas America (2014) to Outsmart Magazine’s Most Divine (2016) — along with recently gracing the cover of Montrose Star’s June issue — the seasoned, perpetually-booked entertainer exudes class, professionalism and a quick wit week to week.
Dessie Love-Blake recently took time out of her schedule to have an interview with Free Press Houston:
Free Press Houston: You seem like you’re incredibly busy! You do Dessie’s Drag Race every week at Rich’s, perform at Hamburger Mary’s, direct a show at Rumors’ Beach Bar — whenever you do have free time, what is it that you like to do?
Dessie Love-Blake: Absolutely nothing. [Laughs] I enjoy being at home with family. Clay, my husband, has a son that lives with us. We just like to relax and play games, card games. Just do nothing. I don’t like to be on the phone, just not even think about that kind of stuff!
FPH: Any TV shows that you’d recommend?
Dessie: Our favorite one for the summer is Big Brother!
FPH: For anybody that doesn’t know what Dessie’s Drag Race is, what can you tell us about it?
Dessie: Dessie’s Drag Race is basically a drag competition for newer entertainers, it’s a way for them to get exposure and be seen. Usually if they make it to the finale or the semi finals, they’ve been seen every week for nine or ten weeks — a lot of show directors come to the show and they start getting bookings at other places. It’s a way for you to experience different types of drag every week, and it’s a way for the contestants to build their repertoire and their resume, so they can be seen and start a career in the drag business.
FPH: For you, what’s your favorite part about hosting this entire thing?
Dessie: My favorite part about hosting the show is I never know what’s going to happen. When the show first started it was at DJ’s, and it was probably ten people in the audience — it was fun, but it was just kind of silly. As the show continued to grow, especially when we moved to Rich’s, they really started doing over the top productions, bigger things, and really pushing the envelope. So I think what I enjoy the most is that I get to present a show that I basically am not responsible for putting together — as far as what they’re doing — but we
get to present a show that is so unique and so different. And we get to be surprised — because even I have no idea what they’re going to bring from week to week. I think that’s my favorite part, the surprise of what kind of production they’re going to put together.
FPH: The cool thing is that there are people with varying experience who take part in the show. You have some people — their first time on that stage is the first time they’ve done drag at all. You have some people who have done it a few times, or maybe some who are a little bit more experienced. For somebody that’s thinking about trying their hand at it, or they’ve never done drag before, what would be your biggest advice for them?
Dessie: If they’ve never done drag before, my advice would be to start on an amateur show — So You Think You Can Drag, Kofi hosts that at JR’s. I think there’s one at Hamburger Mary’s. Just try an amateur show and make sure that you really want to be on stage. A lot of entertainers find out when they start doing this that they enjoy putting on make up and they enjoy being pretty, and they enjoy taking pictures for social media, but when they get into the actual entertainment side, the entertainment side of it is not really for them. Not everybody has that spark, not everybody is able to command that audience — so I’d say practice. Make sure you do amateur shows and practice. When you feel like you’re ready to entertain, it doesn’t matter what your level of make-up or costuming is, because you’re gonna grow in the drag race and we’re gonna teach you those things. But as long as you feel comfortable on stage, then go ahead and give the drag race a try.
FPH: All Stars 3 is happening next, and there’s going to be a lot of sickening queens. Who do you think is the one to beat right off the bat?
Dessie: I don’t even know that I could give you a name! There’s so many of them that are good and made it to the top 3 in their seasons. After the first two or three weeks, it’s going to be a bloodbath. It’s going to be hard to send people home. But because it’s all stars, we have a few tricks up our sleeves, and we’re going to change the whole format of how we send people home and how the show is going to work — at least for the first several weeks. It’ll be interesting to see.
FPH: Will we be seeing them lip-sync for their legacy and eliminate each other?
Dessie: Possibly. [Laughs] I will give you this — this is something I haven’t told anybody — the queens who lip-sync for their lives (and that may be sent home), may not necessarily be the bottom two queens. That’s all I’m going to say!
FPH: Two hours at the galleria with Blackberri, or a week stranded on an island with Kara Dion. Which do you take, and why?
Dessie: I would always take the week with Kara Dion. She’s my best friend, we’ve spent so much time together — even outside of drag. We take a lot of trips, we go to casinos, we do a lot of things, so that’s hands down an easy question for me.
Dessie’s Drag Race can currently be seen at Rich’s Houston on Mondays at 11 p.m. — though starting Aug. 5, for the upcoming All Stars 3 season, the time will be moved to Sundays at 8 p.m. 18 & up are welcome with a valid ID, and naturally, 21 and up to drink — with no cover charge