Drag Queen Sharon Needles originally found fame on the TV series RuPaul’s Drag Race but since then has eclipsed the show and gone on to carve out a successful music career – ending up sandwiched between Josh Groban and Justin Bieber in the charts.
Filmmaker and photographer Paul Brickman recognised the eccentric genius in Sharon and captured it in the documentary Sharon Needles: Parental Guidance Suggested, which he exclusively debuts on Hunger TV here.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THE DOCUMENTARY?
I have a great affinity for Drag Queens …
There’s a significant amount of courage required to participate in a performance art classified as so ‘taboo’ to a large group (outside of the gay community) who don’t understand it. These aren’t simple men of the homosexual persuasion who strap on a little black dress and a matching pair of pumps only because they’re unable to exercise what society deems is the acceptable definition of what makes a ‘man’. They’re not just costumed clowns who lack a genuine talent like the biological female triple-threat next to them. Drag is one the few remaining forms of creative expression that can almost guarantee a strong reaction from its audience.
As an artist, the response from spectators to our presentation is arguably the most valuable asset of all. The stronger they react, the more affective your proclamation has become. To make a statement however, no matter how controversial, requires risk. There’s a great mixture of excitement and fear that goes into what creates the ‘awe’ of a provocative character. I was eager to show one who had taken steps towards making such an anomaly, and had become wildly successful because of it. There’s no surprise that I would eventually discover and grow an unhealthy obsession with the astounding Sharon Needles …
I had been fortunate to be invited by M. Sharkey Productions (who were filming Sharon’s first music video: ‘This Club is a Haunted House’) to get footage behind the scenes as well as have the opportunity to film interviews with Sharon as well as those closest to her on both personal and professional levels. I was keen on creating a film that would not only give insight to the daily life of a professional Drag Queen; but could also serve as a Valentine to Sharon’s most devoted fans; and hopefully inspire them to work hard at progressing in any creative outlet that comes most natural to them; no matter how unusual.
The imagination is dying. Sharon has shown to be a leading advocate in keeping innovative art alive: I felt a responsibility to show that to people.
WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF SHARON BEFORE YOU STARTED FILMING AND HOW DID THEY CHANGE THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS?
I was first introduced to Sharon Needles through the ever-growing popular RuPaul’s Drag Race. Secretly, I was always a fan of RuPaul throughout my formative years. When kids at school would tease me for an effeminate personality, I was coined the nick name RuPaul primarily to work in conjunction to my first name: Paul (shockingly clever, right?). Those kids wanted me to be offended: I was consistently flattered.
Sharon to me was portrayed on the show as the ‘outsider of the group of outsiders’. She was a gay man who practiced Drag like the rest of the contestants on the show: however would be ostracized by the other talents, from their commentary on what would become her known ‘Spooky’ Drag. The eccentric concept was an unfamiliar one that no other current Queen on the series had ever really witnessed or exercised into their own acts. I fell in love.
Continuing to follow Sharon’s story and learn more about her, I found we had common interests in the same icons we grew up idolizing. We shared knowledge that no other gay man amongst our generation would know from the schools of Rock ‘n Roll. It was a small, secret club neither one of us were aware we were members of. I’d officially become a loyal admirer.
Getting the opportunity to work with Sharon was a thrill. I had discovered in working on the film that Sharon was thorough in dictating how what she imagined could come to fruition. She’s astute and very steady on the concept of who Sharon Needles is, and so far has never betrayed it. She’s verbally quick and coherent. I was ultimately delighted to find the man behind the curtain, who invented this ‘Beautiful, Spooky, and Stupid’ girl to be immensely bright, and skillful in the continuation of building a marvel.
ANY DIFFICULT MOMENTS DURING FILMING?
Only one, and all I can say is it’s taught me to never wear flat-soled shoes to a Blood Orgy…too slippery.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
On May 3 I open my first solo photo exhibition titled ‘Paul Brickman’s Like a Lamb to the Slaughter’ at the A La Barak Gallery in the South of France. The series of photographs pays a small homage to one of NYC’s Club Kid Superstars: Clara the Funky Chicken, while simultaneously commenting on young America’s profound addiction to fame and money, and ultimately succumbing to the sacrifice of ones identity, turning them each metaphorically into a member of a herd of sheep. And after that, world domination!