In Issue 36
Rupaul’s Drag Race winner Bebe Zahara Benet started her career as a male model on the runways of France. Yes, a male model. During a show, when some of the female models failed to appear, Bebe – or Kudi, as the male Bebe was known then – was asked to step in as a lady. Bebe Zahara Benet emerged. Two years later Kudi, er, Bebe, won the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar.”
“Winning the show was a stepping stone to take my artistry to the next level,” explains Bebe. “I’m thankful for all the opportunities that have come my way.”
Some of the opportunities have been a photo spread in Paper magazine, an L.A. Eyeworks campaign, a headlining spot on the Absolut Pride Tour and a record deal. Bebe releases her debut single, “The Sh-t,” this fall.
Tell us about your new single, “The Sh-t.”
It is a concept that producer Mark Pichiotti and I came up with to self affirm and empower people. The reality is we use this phrase a lot in our minds, I am just verbally saying it! Trust me, when you think it, your attitude changes.
Can you give us examples of celebs that are the sh-t?
There are so many. Beyonce, Diana Ross, Ru Paul, Grace Jones, Tyra Banks, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry…
Why, of course!
What makes Bebe Zahara Benet the sh-t?
Her unique sense of fashion and style. Her sexy yet savage personality, her drive and determination. Above all, though, Bebe’s the sh-t because she is genuine.
Is there a story behind the name Bebe Zahara Benet?
You know a lot of drag artists have a story behind their name choice. I don’t. When I created my persona, I was thinking of a name that fits it: something edgy, dynamic, classy. I wanted something that flowed well and was globally appealing. The name Bebe Zahara Benet came to mind.
When did you know you were so fabulous, Bebe?
I have always known it! (Laughs) Seriously, I work very hard on my artistry and I am my own worst critic. I try to surround myself and work with people who possess a unique talent, drive and positive spirit. The end result is fabulousness. You just can’t help it.
Did you expect to beat the other fabulous ladies in RuPaul’s Drag Race?
One thing I know for sure is that everyone is beatable. However, you never know what is under anyone’s belt, so I did not take anyone for granted. Through it all, I focused my energy on representing my persona the most honorable way as possible. That way, even if I did not win the race, I would still own my integrity.
Why do you feel you won?
I enjoyed the moment in every part of the race. I really believe my energy set me apart.
Did any of the other ladies on the show have “the sh-t”?
All of the ladies bring something special to the art form, so yes they are all “the sh-t.” I must tell you I was so happy when it came down to Nina and me because I knew whoever won was going to represent the title wonderfully. She is a superstar. We both just enjoyed the final moment.
Do you keep in touch with any of the ladies from the show?
We connect a lot through texting. Everyone is working hard, advancing their careers, which is a good thing for the drag industry.
How did winning the show change your life?
It confirmed that anything is possible when you believe, work hard, and do not underestimate yourself.
Will you be sad to give up your crown to the second season winner?
Sad? No, no, no. I am so excited for the next season. I will always have my crown.
That’s true. You will always be the first Drag Race winner.
Kelly Clarkson is still the original American Idol winner. I am all about focusing on getting Bebe to where she needs to go.
What’s next for you?
I am very excited about my first single release! I will be creating a tour to promote it while finishing up the full-length album. This is only the beginning. Watch me fly. Visit BebeZaharaBenet.com.