Exclusive: Go Backstage at Kinky Boots With Todrick Hall

Special Features   Exclusive: Go Backstage at Kinky Boots With Todrick Hall
 
The latest Lola talks favorite fashion, why he chose to perform all eight shows each week, the Drag Race contestant most similar to Lola, and more. (Plus never-before-seen photos as he gets into Lola makeup.)
Todrick Hall
Todrick Hall Monica Simoes

YouTube sensation and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars judge Todrick Hall slipped out of his ruby slippers in his Straight Outta Oz tour this winter to lace up the ruby red boots of Lola, the drag queen heart of the Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots. “The thing that I’m most excited about now that I am back on Broadway is working with people who are so amazing at what they do. Everyone has to be a triple threat. They can truly sing, dance, and act, and they can do it eight times a week.”

We sat down with the multi-talented Hall—previously on Broadway in Memphis and the original production of The Color Purple—to chat about his return to the Great White Way and filling Lola’s shoes.

You are stepping into some big sparkly shoes. Did you get any words of wisdom from past Lolas?
Yes, I’m really good friends with Wayne Brady and I look up to Billy Porter as a mentor. [Billy’s] been so supportive and has really given me a lot of advice and insight about the role that Jerry Mitchell gave to him. It means so much to me, not only getting advice from them but from people like RuPaul, who has kind of in a way paved the way for roles like this to exist and be commercialized on Broadway.

Had you seen Kinky Boots before?
Yes, I saw the show a few times before I got the role. The first time I ever got to see [Billy] was his last performance, and it felt like I was at a Beyoncé concert. I got to see Wayne Brady his last week and then I got to see Alan Mingo, who was just phenomenal and made the role his own. I think I took little pieces from every single person that I watched.

Kinky Boots partially takes place in a shoe factory; name a favorite pair of shoes that you own.
I am an avid Jeremy Scott ADIDAS fan. I have a pair of shoes that have teddy bears on them that I love, but I don’t wear them that much anymore. I just think Jeremy Scott is a genius and I love everything he creates.

Are the Kinky Boots red boots hard to wear eight shows a week?
Not at all! I don’t have that much experience walking in heels, but I’ve done it in some of my videos and shows. When I got in these shoes—first of all, they trace your foot and build the shoe for your foot, your calf, everything, so you couldn’t have a better-fitting heel. They’re so strong and sturdy that I actually feel more stable in those than I do on the ground now.

What are you doing to stay healthy for eight shows a week?
I’m just drinking a lot of water and I make sure I get sleep every night; there’s no partying or extracurricular activities. I also feel like I’m learning that when I go onstage and just have fun and become Lola, as opposed to trying to be Lola, it’s a much better performance because I’m not over-analyzing everything.

You appeared in Season 9 of American Idol—if Lola were to audition for it, what do you think her audition song would be?
“I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston, because that’s what I think of every time I hear [Lola’s] “Hold Me in Your Heart.”

Of all the contestants on RuPaul's Drag Race, who do you think is most like Lola?
I think RuPaul is very much like Lola, but I would say maybe Shangela. Shangela reminds me of my Lola because I’m a little bit younger than Billy was when he did the role. When I came to see the show I was like, “I would love to play this role but I don’t think I would be right for it.” Because you imagine this backstory that Lola’s like the Mama of all of these drag queens—you know how people have a “Drag Mom” that teaches them everything they need to know about drag? You kind of get that feeling [about Lola] when you watch the show. I don’t think that I possess that mother hen quality, but I feel like Shangela is a very young drag queen that has that whole motherly quality to her. She’s so funny and she knows how to light up the room. She might not necessarily be the most glamorous drag queen, but something about her was so iconic that they brought her back on the show and she’s one of the most memorable drag queens that’s ever been on, even though she was never in the Top 3.

You call your social media followers “Toddlerz.” How did the name come about?
Because I’m a huge fan of everything that’s Disney and I love the idea of just being young forever. I thought about Peter Pan and realized I should call my fans “Toddlerz.” At first, I feel like people were like, “That’s belittling to us, like we’re children or babies!” But I think it’s just about being youthful and innocent and looking at the world through optimistic eyes—which toddlers do, they don’t want to be scared, they don’t know how to be afraid or insecure or embarrassed. They are just 100 percent themselves and that’s how I strive to be every day.

Do you have any artists you dream of collaborating with on a YouTube video or parody?
Obviously I dream of collaborating with Beyoncé every single day, but I [also] would love to collaborate with Brandy. When I was growing up, I had never seen a black princess, and I remember when “Cinderella” [the TV movie musical starring Brandy and Whitney Houston] premiered—that was the most momentous event of my entire childhood. I watched that movie so many times and I thought that the rainbow cast of it was so awesome. I would love to have a full circle moment. I think part of the reason that I have so many videos online that are princess-, Disney-, and fairytale-related are because of that movie. It was the closest thing to a Broadway show that I had ever seen; people dancing and being fairytale fictional characters but live [action]. So I would love to collaborate with her.

READ MORE: COULD TODRICK HALL’S STRAIGHT OUTTA OZ BECOME A BROADWAY MUSICAL?

Are you working on new videos while on Broadway?
I’m going to try, but my goal coming here was to really dive in and be a part of the community. I was asked if I wanted to do fewer shows or six shows a week, but to me, I don’t think you’re truly part of the community if you’re not doing eight shows a week. If the ensemble has to wreck their bodies and tumble and kick for all eight shows, then the lead should as well. So I’m going to make sure I have this 100 percent under my belt before I add anything else on.

Kinky Boots went viral with their "Just Pee" video during the height of the bathroom gender discussions. Do you have any plans to do YouTube videos as Lola?
I’ve done two already: I did a lip sync for your life video on RuPaul’s Drag Race and I have quite a few things I want to do around Christmas time. So yeah, I think we’ll definitely have some Kinky Boots videos, for sure.

Has the mood of the show changed since the recent political events?
The mood of the show has not necessarily changed but it was crazy to perform a 2 PM matinee the day we found out. I saw a lot of middle-aged women sitting in the audience crying, and so many people at the stage door said that this is the only thing that could’ve lifted their spirits in a time like this. A show of acceptance and a show that represents all people and spews love from the stage. I think the message of Kinky Boots is just “don’t judge a book by its cover.” At the end of the day, we’re all just humans. We all want to love, we all want to be loved, and we all deserve respect on this planet. You don’t have to agree with what everyone is doing, you don’t have to understand it or condone it, but I think that you should have love for every single person on this planet no matter how many differences you all have from each other. I think this show definitely embodies that.

OK, let’s do a few speed questions:
What was the last thing you googled?
Photos of Wayne Brady and I in “Kinky Boots” because I wanted to find pictures of us together.

Who was the last person you texted?
Brandon Rubendall, one of my Broadway friends.

1 AM or 1 PM?
1 AM.

Britney or Christina?
Britney.

New York or L.A.?
L.A.

What's a phrase you're guilty of using too often?
“In these streets.”

Coffee or Tea?
Tea.

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram.

In addition to performing in Kinky Boots, you can see Todrick Hall live at BroadwayCon January 27-29. Visit BroadwayCon.com for tickets and information.

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