“I’m like Jessica Alba,” Danny Noriega, dressed in drag as Adore Delano, told a crowded gay club in San Francisco last weekend. “The Mexican skipped a generation.”
Adore Delano is one of the final three contestants on this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, currently airing on Logo. The rambunctious star may be self-deprecating about her Latina roots onstage, but in a phone interview Delano was proud and candid when she discussed growing up in Azusa, California, in a predominantly Mexican-American community in East L.A.
“I call my mom a veterana,” Delano said, echoing street slang given to longstanding gang members. “That’s how I grew up, bringing my gay friends to baby showers with all my tios, tatted up cholos y cholas.”
Despite the culture clash, Delano’s family has always rallied behind her choice to dress up in drag and experiment with gender bending. “Kids would throw rocks at me in school, but my uncles would just beat the s***t out of them.”
Growing up in a gang-run neighborhood gave Delano the resilience to pursue a glitter-y career as an entertainer, first as 16-year-old singing sensation Danny Noriega on American Idol.
“At the time, my mom was very protective, so she didn’t want me to go on TV as a girl,” Delano said. Despite playing a “butch” version of himself, Danny Noriega was still too flamboyant for primetime television, a common theory as to why he was eliminated early in the competition.
“Paula Abdul gave me her number after the show, but I never called her,” Delano said.
Now 24-year-old Delano is ready again for the spotlight as a fully developed character on Drag Race. Her singing talent grabbed the attention of RuPaul, her wisecracks have made her a fan favorite and her fierce stage presence have solidified her as a force to be reckoned with.
After wrapping the drag competition, Delano is still “hungry” for more opportunities to perform onstage and on screen. She will be performing in Australia and New Zealand this July. If you ever get a chance to see Delano perform live, don’t expect lip-syncing. Instead get ready for rap battles, crowd surfing, fire breathing and other rock and roll stage antics.
“Originally my mom wanted me to have a back-up plan to this crazy drag life,” she said. “Now she sees that it’s become a career for me.”
Die-hard Delano fans will be pleased to hear she’s been in the studio and will be releasing her first album later this month with the lead single, “Till Death Do Us Party.”
A talented live singer, Delano promises her new music venture will be unlike any drag album released by her Drag Star co-stars.
“It’s fun and raunchy,” she said. “Perfect for Summer and gay Pride.” Even though her musical inspiration is primarily 80s pop culture, but she does confess having a soft spot for fellow Latina music stars.
“Like every other gay Mexican boy in the world, Selena is my idol,” Delano said. She even name-dropped the late singer in an episode of Drag Race.
When prompted to talk about other current divas who might inspire her, Delano responded “I would love to impersonate Christian Aguilera, or do a duet with Shakira.” What about Jennifer Lopez? “I love J.Lo but that doesn’t mean I want to record a song with her.”
Watch the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Monday, May 19 to see if Adore Delano will win the title of America’s first Latina drag superstar.