Pandora Boxx...Thinking Out of the Boxx
Drag queens have been part of nightlife culture for as long as anyone can remember. Initially, a token presence of the gentlemen's cabarets of a once subversive gay culture of the Roaring Twenties and into the late 1940s, they rebelled during the pivotal moment called Stonewall and helped launch the modern LGBT equality movement. By the 1980s and 1990s, drag became a cult with the underground balls that burned the New York City scene, as so evocatively captured in the documentary "Paris Is Burning."
In short, drag has given us legends-none more legendary than the "Supermodel of the World" herself, RuPaul. Her inspired race to stardom has given rise to an entire new generation of club kids, drag artists and gender personalities under the glare of the disco ball.
A product of the club scene, RuPaul emerged with a fearless bohemian flair from the dance floor and art worlds of Atlanta to NYC's Village before evolving into the early 90s Glamazon that would yield a No. 1 dance-club hit with her now signature track, "Supermodel." Sylvester, the original disco diva, told us to feel "mighty real," but it was RuPaul who took things to a new level, epitomized by her mantra: "You better work!"
With those three simple words, RuPaul Andre Charles gave lease to a legion of imitators and followers, and it wouldn't be long before the once understated drag culture would emerge from the spotlight of the obscure to the center stage of the mainstream.
With the advent popularity of reality competition series, the cunning, creative minds at production house World of Wonder approached their longtime friend RuPaul with a kernel of an idea: think "Project Runway" on a Saturday-night budget. The result became a television phenomenon - "RuPaul's Drag Race."
Playing the "Game"
While none of the contestants over the show’s five seasons have come remotely close to eclipsing the fame of RuPaul (who could?), most have risen to celebrity status in the LGBT community, able to pack a club with an appearance.
Among the queens who never failed to make an impression during her race for the crown is Season 2’s Pandora Boxx, who continues as one of the faculty on the "Drag Race" spinoff "RuPaul’s Drag U. The over-the-top fashion plate won fans hand over fist with her comedic skill and unforgettable take on Carol Channing during her season’s parody of the 70s game show "Match Game," appropriately retitled "Snatch Game" on "Drag Race."
"It’s just all a whirlwind, and I’m really thankful for it," says Pandora Boxx, whose naughty-and-nice comedy revue-charmingly named "Lick This Boxx"-has had the talented personality making headlining stops in venues all over the country. She also teamed up with veteran drag legend Sherry Vine for a limited-run holiday show, A Very Cougar Christmas, which played to sold-out crowds in New York City’s Laurie Beechman Theatre. "Any excuse to work with Sherry Vine-we met and felt like we’d known each other for a very long time." The two prove a double dose of filthy pleasure when teamed up.
Hailing from Rochester, New York, Pandora Boxx had dominated the local comedy/cabaret scene before deciding to throw her wig into the ring and compete on "Drag Race." "I knew I needed to do something, or move to a new city, but I knew that would mean starting over. I was at that crossroads, just like Britney Spears was in that movie. What was I going to do?" Knowing that moving into a new market would put her at the bottom of a competitive pecking order of bitingly territorial personalities, PB took her chances on the then little-known show. "’Drag Race’ happened and really propelled me. It gave me that platform that I was looking for."
Out of the Boxx
Making the cut for the Season 2 cast, Pandora Boxx immediately took to establishing herself not only as one of the season’s most congenial competitors-she was also a stand-out comic presence. "They sure do like to beat that down out of you on the show," she admits. "But I took the opportunity and ran with it."
And if there hadn’t been a Pandora Boxx on "Drag Race," audiences would never have been exposed to Season 5’s winner, Jinkx Monsoon, who came in like a storm, all but knocking the competing showgirls off their pedestals.
Proving herself a leading favorite in Season 2, Pandora Boxx made it close to the finals before finally finding a niche beyond lip-synching for her life. "I’ve worked really hard these past four years-you can’t sit and wait for things to happen." She adds, "When a lot of the ’campy queens,’ the ones that don’t fit into the normal pageant world, come up to me and tell me I’ve been an inspiration to them, that to me is amazing. I’m very flattered, but I’m just me."
Looking at the career in comedy that Pandora Boxx has made for herself, it’s clear that fans like what they see. She, along with some of the previous seasons’ cast of all-stars, wrapped a summer touring on the "Drag Stars at Sea" cruise. As "Drag Race" enters into Season 6, one of PB’s fellow Rochester drag locals, Darienne Lake ("She’s one of my best friends"), will be testing her mettle against a very impressive cast of competitors.
Always playing for laughs and having attained a seminal amount of success as Pandora Boxx, does PB have any regrets that her brilliance has been built on a house of wig boxes from an art form intimately attached to gay nightlife? "She’s taken over my life, that bitch!" Pandora Boxx exclaims about her famous alter ego. "But it’s always what I wanted to do, and sometimes you may not have a choice in the direction that life takes you-but I’m just thankful that I’ve had the opportunity and it’s a lot of fun!"
You can follow the queens at logotv.com in preparation for the upcoming season of "RuPaul’s Drag Race" and visit Pandora Boxx’s official website, pandoraboxx.com.