Chad Michaels has spent two decades as a celebrity impersonator, most notably transforming into the spitting image of Cher for crowds around the world.
Last fall he edged his way to the top of the reality TV show
RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars to win first place, $100,000 and become the first inductee into the Drag Queen Hall of Fame.
Michaels is slated to perform at the grand finale of the Mr. Gay Canada contest and fashion show in Whistler Feb. 7. Pique caught up with him via e mail to talk about Cher, his time on TV and his upcoming performance.
Pique: Your depiction of Cher has been called near perfect. When were you first drawn to her and why?
Chad Michaels: I'm a child of the '70s, so Cher is hardwired in my subconscious, always on the TV when I was growing up. I started impersonating Cher in an attempt to land a spot in the cast of the southern California Dreamgirls Revue (the long running female impersonation show). Character impersonations were required to work in the show, so my drag mother Hunter helped me get started with makeup and the rest is history! It has been a 20-year roller coaster ride and it's getting harder and harder to keep up with Cher as she gets fiercer and fiercer every decade!
Pique: How has the way you portray her changed over the years? Does that connection deepen or do you ever get tired of it?
CD: My work as Cher has definitely evolved over the years. Obviously time is a good teacher. I have experimented with make up, hairstyles, and Cher's different looks over the years to perfect my impersonation. On stage is where an impersonator really hones their skills, so that is where I have been a great majority of my time. One has to get comfortable with their character and be able to portray them accurately to an audience. I feel my connection to my character is very strong. I think Cher is an amazing entertainer and person and liking who you impersonate is really important.
Pique: What was your experience on RuPaul's Drag Race like?
CD: RPDR has been a life changing experience for me. Competing on the show has opened many doors and I'm having the time of my life! The show was fun, stressful and so rewarding. I have had the opportunity to entertain all over the country and affect people's lives in a really positive way. Becoming a role model and a representative of the RPDR is something I take seriously. I am forever grateful to RuPaul for breaking off a piece of his fame for all of us!
Pique: What was your reaction when you won?
Michaels: Winning RPDR All Stars is something I'm very proud of and I was on blown away when I found out! It was a dream to win All Stars and to compete with the legends of RPDR was an honour... and really fun to beat their asses! Love you girls!
Pique: What did the show do for the art of drag performance?
CD: RPDR has truly elevated the art of drag performance. It has not only made the art of drag completely mainstream, but put a face, heart and soul to the artists who have for so long been a mystery to many people. A gap has been bridged and people want more.
Pique: What will you perform in Whistler?
CD: I will of course be bringing Cher with me to Whistler. If I don't, I will probably be booed out of Canada! She is expected and I want to give the people what they want! I will also be doing a special performance with some of the other artists participating in the festivities and doing a meet and greet with fans!