Sharon Needles, Phoenix Place Hotel and Suites, 7/21/12

Sharon Needles The Phoenix Place Hotel & Suites Saturday, July 21, 2012

"If you're sick of the Republican, Democratic, or Independent parties, vote for the 'Wig party'..."

Sharon Needles, the most recent winner of RuPaul's Drag Race, is well-known for being the voice of underdogs. Growing up in a small town near Des Moines, Iowa, wasn't exactly easy for the pretty blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy named Aaron Coady, who happened to love dramatic make-up.

On the stage in the hotel conference room, he's all made-up, with several layers of foundations, eye shadows, and blushes to give his face the perfect corpse-like contour. He belts an impassioned speech about keeping the Bible, a book he just tore up on stage during a dynamic rendition of Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People," out of the law.

He then announces his bid for president in 2012 and the room full of extraordinarily devoted fans roars in approval.

That's the moment the "Sharon Needles for President" campaign began, and, a few hours later, back in his hotel room, he begins strategizing campaign merchandise with his tour manager. It seems immediately that this is going to be national news, at least in the drag community.

Before the show, Sharon was late. How late was he? Sharon was so late he missed the first show. With one hour to get ready due to travel delays from the "ha-boobs", Sharon gladly speaks his mind about anything and everything, even when it's not nice to hear. It's obvious, without the aid of costuming, when he's Aaron and when he's Sharon. Aaron smiles, Sharon tries not to as much as possible, though every fan he met put a smile to his face.

After winning Drag Race, a show he thought no one watched because it was on the Logo network, he found himself with a voice that held weight to thousands of adoring fans and constant overwhelming comparisons.

"It's daunting. I'm not like anyone else really," he says, while applying a generous coat of lip liner pre-show. "I think my fans see in me whatever they needed."

In front of the audience, Sharon explains the character is a vehicle for freedom, self-expression, and pride--the power and the eventual win came from the fact that everyone felt a stake in Sharon Needles.

Sharon performs "open mic" (actually singing) for his first number. He sings about his new home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in a Dr. Frank-N-Furter a la Rocky Horror Picture Show style (think "Sweet Transvestite").

His love for music goes beyond the standard lip sync dance routine--he wants to make music. In fact, he's going to be releasing an album soon, which he says is "poppy as hell," but promises the lyrical content will deliver on songs such as "Dead Girls Don't Say No."

His spooky, sexy style is something you don't see much in the hyper-glamorized world of drag queens, but he says that set him apart from past Drag Race winners and his competition. His mother, Joan Coady, is there in a Peggy Bundy-esque get-up and she calls his make-up "ghosty." He calls her a witch, lovingly.

As he changes into his third and final costume for the meet and greet, which lasted from 1 a.m. until 3 a.m., his teary-eyed mother recounts the night he won Drag Race. She's beaming with motherly pride as Sharon rushes around the room wearing tights to hold in his foam butt and a cleverly tailored "fat girl bra" holding two black socks with large silicone inserts. He laments over the state of his orange wig--a wig his husband made him.

"[My character] can be a little messy. She just crawled out of the grave for Christ's sake," he says of his new character, who he says looks like a dead Jessica Rabbit, a character he's always aspired to look like.

It's easy to see why Sharon's fans are so rabidly obsessed and pushed so intently for his win. His charisma, confidence and kindness -- but not sweetness -- can give anyone chills. Slightly spooky but super passionate, he knows what he's talking about and knows how to get a crowd riled. He's one of those rare nouveau riche who actually didn't let the fame get to his head. He stayed until every fan got a photo and autograph, though he had to be at the airport by 4 a.m. With drive like that, maybe Sharon Needles will be president in 2012. We know who we're voting for, at least.

Critic's Notebook Last Night: Sharon Needles at Phoenix Place Hotel & Suites

The Crowd: Drag queens, scenesters, weirdos, and outsiders of any kind.

Personal Bias: This was my very first drag show.

Random Notebook Dump: Needles hands his mother a jello shot and asks, "Can you finger this for me?" He proceeds to let out a long, suggestively devious chuckle.

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Heather Hoch is a music, food, and arts writer based in Tucson. She enjoys soup, scotch, Electric Light Orchestra, and walking her dog, Frodo.
Contact: Heather Hoch