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South Florida's Latrice Royale
South Florida's Latrice Royale
Photo by Vh1

Drag Race Star Latrice Royale's South Florida Roots Run Deep

Of all the performers in RuPaul's Drag Race "herstory," South Florida's Latrice Royale is arguably one of the most legendary. But if not for a dare from one of her friends, the world might never have met the vivacious superstar. Although Timothy Wilcots was born in California, it was the Sunshine State that birthed Latrice Royale.

The Drag Race star performed in drag for the first time on a Halloween night. She dressed as Wanda from In Living Color at Fort Lauderdale's now-defunct nightclub the Copa. After Royale's debut, her friends persuaded her to do the club's weekly amateur show, Drag Wars, hosted by Tiffany Arieagus, for a chance to win $75 and drink tickets. "Of course I was horrible the first time around, and I did not win," Royale jokes. "I got drink tickets and a fashion citation." Determined, she returned the following week and performed Patti LaBelle's "New Attitude" in a homemade dress, a new wig, and a fresh pair of shoes. And this time, she won. "That was the beginning of the end," Royale says. "I was hooked."

Royale moved from the West Coast to South Florida in 1992 to be a part of the Alliance of Miami World Class Winter Guard but intended to stay only two years. Twenty-six years later, Royale still calls Broward County home. "I fell in love with Florida and never left," she says.

The reality star snatched hearts and wigs worldwide as a contestant on the fourth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Royale also competed in the first season of RuPaul's Drag Race: All Starsand has returned to the competition for All Stars' fourth go-round. Currently, Royale is dominating stages across the nation on A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour. Featuring Royale alongside Aja, Monét X Change, Thorgy Thor, Shea Couleé, Raja, and host Miz Cracker, the tour will make its final stop Saturday, December 29, at Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale.

But despite the international fame, the humble star has never forgotten her roots. Royale reminisces about some of her inspirations in the South Florida drag scene at the beginning of her career. "Tiffany Arieagus is a major influence in my career. I consider her my drag mom," she proudly explains. "Queens like Electra, Nikki Adams, those were the girls that were around then... We have some legends that have passed on since, but back in the day, those were the girls that were working. They were the pageant girls."

Before competing on Drag Race, Royale regularly performed at South Florida venues such as Palace Bar and the now-defunct clubs Coliseum and Sea Monster. But it was at Coliseum where Royale really found her identity as a performer. "TP Lords, Daisy Deadpetals, Erika Norell... Glitz Glamour... We were the Coliseum girls, and it was amazing what we did every week... We had dancers, always had a wardrobe budget, and that's when I really came into my own, if you will," Royale says. "That's when I realized what my niche was as a performer, 'cause I didn't fit in the pageant scene. Definitely the club-kid and circuit-party scene — that was me."

Royale credits spots such as Palace and Sea Monster for helping her rebuild her life following her release from prison in 2007 after serving a year for possession of a controlled substance. "When I got back and was rebuilding, it was the hardest time I had because I didn't have the Copa and the Coliseum — those clubs that were there when I was out... Trying to find somewhere to work was a challenge." Palace became her home bar after local drag queen Tiffany Fantasia got Royale in the door. There, she performed three nights a week until her audition for Drag Race.

Despite the wealth of talent emerging from the local drag scenes, Latrice Royale is still one of only a few South Florida contestants in Drag Race's history. Asked if she felt a responsibility to local fans to bring home the crown, she says, "Well, it's bigger than that for me. It's not even so much about the pressures of that; it's about just really not only representing myself, but really having conversations that are necessary to have."

She wants to use her platform to help shine light on issues important to her. Before the passage of Florida's Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to felons who've paid their dues, Royale took to social media to urge her Sunshine State fans to vote because she couldn't. For her, winning the crown isn't about the money or quirky catch phrases. "It's about [bringing attention to important issues] and representing for my home team and being who I am. There's a positive beacon of hope for people, and [I] want to continue my legacy of that."

South Florida is rooting for you, Latrice. Long live the queen.

Catch RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars Season 4 Fridays at 8 p.m. on VH1.

A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour. With Latrice Royale, Aja, Monét X Change, Thorgy Thor, Shea Couleé, Raja, and host Miz Cracker. 8 p.m. Saturday, December 29, at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale; parkerplayhouse.com. Tickets cost $22.36 to $53.56 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.

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