All hail the queen!
After weeks of competition – not to mention countless wigs, sparkling outfits and especially oddly colored contact lenses – Sharon Needles was crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Sharon, from Pittsburgh’s underground drag community, beat out polished veteran performer Chad Michaels and a feisty young showgirl named Phi Phi O’Hara on Monday’s episode. The queens from the Logo show’s fourth season were at a party at XL nightclub in New York City to watch the show and celebrate Sharon’s big win, which includes a $100,000 prize.
Sharon, 30, spoke with PEOPLE about being raised by television on a farm in Iowa, what it means to be a “sex clown” and creeping out of the Steel City’s nightlife and into the national spotlight.
How has your life changed since the show first aired?
I’ve become quite the cult figure. I never expected to be a role model. I never wanted to be a role model … but I’m taking the responsibility really seriously. It’s such a pleasure to speak to young kids that are going through [the kind of bullying] I went through when I was younger.
What’s your message as a role model?
I let my art speak for itself … I don’t like to be too preachy. I’m not here to be the new Lady Gaga. But if people find a message of just being yourself and being outrageous and being ridiculous through my art, well then [that’s great].
Who are your biggest influences?
All I wanted to be was Peggy Bundy and Elvira and Rhonda Shear and Madonna. I love these over-painted, exaggerated women on television. Television is my biggest inspiration. Growing up on a small farm in Iowa, we had nothing. TV was definitely my path to pop culture.
What do you hope happens next for Sharon Needles?
I’ve always been an underground, outside artist and fame has a way of diluting [art], turning my R-rated shtick into a PG-13 cartoon, and my biggest worry is that success forces you to watch your mouth and worry about sponsors and that’s never been what my art has been about.
Have you always been spooky and outrageous when it comes to drag?
[Drag queens are] the celebrities of every city. We’re the icons of the gay community and I think we should be outrageous. We’re just sex clowns. … My look isn’t always dark but I knew I had a chance to brand myself on the show, so I definitely wanted to have a focus and a formula and a signature to what I was doing.