Celebrating 100 years of Jazz, Latrice Royale, the larger than life star from RuPaul’s Drag Race, is bringing the energy and rawness of the roaring twenties back to the modern age with her debut album, “Here’s To Life.” The album developed as a natural expansion to her one-woman show of the same name. In “Here’s To Life,” Latrice shares her stories of growing up gay in the gang-infested streets of Compton, California. She also reflects on time spent behind bars; and her transformation into the grand dame drag fans know and love today. “It’s really the soundtrack to my life,” she says. “The good, the bad, and the emotionally-wrecked ugly.” Latrice Royale’s “Here’s To Life” is available on Amazon now.
“Ella Fitzgerald is clearly the queen of jazz,” continues Latrice Royale from her Florida home. “I have always loved her and Della Reese and have lip-synched to quite a bit of their music. Shirley Horn and Shirley Bassey are also favorites and had a lot to do with the shaping this project.”
She also ruminates on her original arrest, when she was pulled over for expired tags with no license or insurance. In her pocket were a tiny bit of marijuana and a Klonopin pill that, to this day, she swears she was holding for a friend. They landed her in the slammer. “They called me ‘Big Chocolate’,” she remembers. “My size helped. The other prisoners didn’t mess with me. They knew who I was on the outside and gagged at my splits.” As fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race will attest, Latrice Royale’s epic splits are always a showstopper.
“The worst part of prison life was losing my mother,” she continues. “It was the most alone I ever felt.” She sings about the tragic loss in “I Need You Now,” a gospel song by Smokie Norful. “It was the hardest song to record. It really speaks to how alone I felt at that moment, grieving in isolation.”
Another of her favorite singles from the album is “I Am What I Am” from the musical La Cage aux Folles. “I’ve lived enough to justify being able to sing it and mean it, you know? So it’s fun and meaningful at the same time.” Along with her accompanist Christopher, the studio musicians, and her producer Mimi Imfurst (who also starred on RuPaul’s Drag Race), Latrice tailor-made an arrangement specifically for her style and aesthetic.
Latrice Royale began performing drag in the nineties. In 2012, on a whim, she tried out for Season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She was chosen to compete on the show and rose to the top four, alongside Sharon Needles, Chad Michaels, and Phi Phi O’Hara. When Royale was cut from the competition, Entertainment Weekly called the elimination “shocking.” Latrice Royale was later voted “Miss Congeniality” by show fans.
She has since appeared on TV’s Fashion Rocks alongside Jennifer Hudson, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars and RuPaul’s Drag U, and in the documentary film, Gays in Prison.
“I’m so excited to release my first album,” says Latrice Royale. “My hope is that fans will put this record on in the background with a glass of wine and a nice meal with a candle and a lover. It’s very casual listening that runs the gamut from the whore house to the church house, so everybody should be able to find something they enjoy.”