Pandora Boxx: The Man Behind The Boxx

    If one was to point to a break out star in season two of LOGO's drag queen competition reality game show Rupaul's Drag Race forget the final three it was clear from the start Pandora Boxx was head and shoulders above the competition in both talent and grace.  Her particular brand of character-driven sass wasn't particularly catty nor trashy like some of the contestants who went further in the competition (the less said about teh show's actual "winner" the better), but Pandora Boxx proved you don't have to be a bitch to prove you have talent.

    Diggin' to China was lucky enough to have a great chat with the touring drag superstar, who is back on LOGO in Rupaul's Drag U -this time teaching biological ladies how to embrace their inner drag diva for a boost in their self esteem.

DtC: So let's start in the beginning, like David Copperfield. I'm starting with the man behind the Boxx. When did you come to drag?

Pandora Boxx: I think it came to me. I was the victim of a drive by lip-glossing.

DtC: Oh, do explain!

Pandora Boxx: Ha! No I kid. I really just saw a drag show for the first time and thought it was amazing. It was like pulling off the ultimate character since I was a guy.

Michael -The man behind Pandora Boxx
DtC: You really treated your performances on Drag Race as a fully formed character, which I always appreciated. It seemed there was a clear separation between the man and Pandora, unlike say, Raven, who was just as bitchy out of a dress as in one.

When did you first start performing as Pandora Boxx? Was she your first creation?

Pandora Boxx: I think the year was 1862. It's been a long time! Pandora was definitely not my first character. I was always creating characters since I was real young. I used to make puppets and put on puppet shows for my parents. Then in the fifth grade I wrote my first play and put it on for the whole school.

DtC: Were you the neighborhood queer kid?

Pandora Boxx: I guess I was, though I didn't really know it. I knew I was different but didn't realize it was a gay thing until high school. I was a little asexual as a youngster. I also moved around a bit as a kid. In high school 95% of all my friends ended up coming out! [laughs]

DtC: How was high school for you? I mean, it's never easy for anyone, but as a queer youth, it can be particularly tricky.

Pandora Boxx: Well, I got picked on usually every day. I think I had it pretty light when I hear some horror stories. But yeah, I hated going to school because of it. Gym class was the worst. I was not only awkward, but effeminate. Not a great combo for Phys. Ed. But thankfully, I always had friends so it made it better. And I was also good in school so the teachers always liked me.

DtC: I wanted to ask you about something you mentioned on Drag Race, if that's okay. There has been a rash of queer youth suicides in the news lately, and you mentioned surviving an attempt yourself--as have I. I was wondering if we could chat about that experience and if/how it affects you today.

Pandora Boxx: I think we all have that little voice in our head that says we can't do this or we aren't good enough. RuPaul called it the saboteur. I agree with that. It's much easier to let that part of your head take over.

Pandora Boxx: As humans, we think entirely too much. Or we over think things. At least I do. I used to think I was never good enough, or [I was] ugly or horrible. It took many years to get beyond that. I'm not even all over it, either. I still feel those things, but now I'm able to push them aside. It's almost like breaking an addiction. You've got to retrain your brain. It's not easy. Everyone wants an easy way out. There isn't one. You've got to keep telling yourself that you are good enough.

DtC: I definitely can relate. I have two therapists.
photo © Adelle Charles/Sarah Adkins

Pandora Boxx: It is definitely easier now. You should never make any life-altering decisions in your teen years. Ever! Your whole body is in the turmoil of change. Life gets better after high school!

DtC: When you are a grown up you can eat cookies for breakfast and NO ONE can stop you.

Pandora Boxx: [Laughing] Yes! Though everything has consequences! You learn that, too.

DtC: Though you will regret it if you have a full-length mirror between your bedroom and bathroom. Absolutely. How does your family react to Pandora Boxx?

Pandora Boxx: It took them a bit to warm up to the idea, but now they like it. They are really proud of what I've done. My mom really likes that she gets the VIP treatment when she goes to my shows. :-)

DtC: I think it's harder for effeminate gay men than so-called "straight -acting" men, but people seem to forget it was butch lesbians and drag queens who fought back at Stonewall.

Pandora Boxx: I agree. It's sad to me that so many gay guys are looking for "straight-acting" guys. You know for straight guys it's all an act, too. If you really get a straight guy to open up, he'll tell you the whole "macho" thing is just an act and is so much effort. Why can't we all just be ourselves? I'd rather be around someone who doesn't have any pretenses than one that is "straight-acting."

DtC: Does drag affect your dating life?

Pandora Boxx: Drag has definitely affected my dating life in the past. I've been with the same guy for about four and half years now so it doesn't affect it now. He doesn't care about drag. He loves me for me.

DtC: I was teaching a contemporary art class and a student did this amazing piece about her eating disorder, then broke down in class crying. One of the straight macho boys immediately started confessing his own eating disorder and work- out issues trying to look a certain part.

Pandora Boxx: There are so many of us in "drag." It just comes in different forms.

DtC: Four and a half years -that's great to hear. I've been with my man seven years now and it's definitely reassuring to have that base of support. How was being away from each other while shooting the show? And now with your travels it seems you are everywhere. Actually, where are you now?

Pandora Boxx: I’m at home right now. I had four days "off." I say "off" because I still have work today. Pandora has pretty much become her own company now. It's tough on a relationship. But we make it work. He knows it's something I've always wanted and that the end result will benefit us both.

DtC: Absolutely. Do you ever disagree with Pandora?

Pandora Boxx: Only when she's had a few drinks!

DtC: So what was life like before Drag Race?

Pandora Boxx: I had been performing for quite awhile and I had a great local drag career. It was just getting stale. I needed to have something change or I was going to quit.

DtC: No, you can not quit! Carol Channing must live on!
(Side note: my husband is in the room re-decorating a Lady Gaga t-shirt because he didn't like her outfit on it-he's turning her into wonder woman because she didn't take it "far enough." There are appliqués involved.)

Pandora Boxx: Tell your husband that is the gayest thing I've ever heard of! [laughing]!

DtC: Oh, I know! He's usually the butch one of us. It's very odd here today. So what was your day job?

Pandora Boxx: I was working at a local television station doing video editing and photography. I worked on local commercials and promos. I have my BA in Communications, but I quit because Pandora has taken over! I do a sketch comedy show called The Gay (means happy) Show! It's on YouTube:

DtC: Do you feel being ever so slightly older than the contestants on Drag Race was a disconnect with them? You seemed to understand the assignment better than some of the others, in my opinion.

Pandora Boxx: Yes, let's go with SLIGHTLY older. [laughs]
I did feel a bit of disconnect with some of them, especially at first. I felt like I was the only one paying attention sometimes. There were definitely some ladies on the show who were more mature than others.

DtC: Well, the Carol Channing, for example, on the game show was really understanding the nature of that task.

Pandora Boxx: Well, that task wasn't hard to understand. Ru said, "Make it FUNNY!"

DtC: Speaking of, how is the legendary RuPaul? I saw her perform years ago in Savannah when I was in college with the Lady Chablis.

Pandora Boxx: RuPaul is amazing! I never saw him be anything else but nice, gracious and really funny. I adore him.

DtC: You have a great grasp of camp and comedy performance (as a good queen should). Was it just editing or were the judges harder on you than the others who were perhaps a bit more "real girl?"

Pandora Boxx: No, I really felt like they were harder on me for whatever reason. I felt like maybe I should have just come in saying I didn't know how to sew or didn't know how to do anything and maybe they would have been nicer.

DtC: In my house, we pegged you as the clear winner from episode one on. I may have thrown a BIT of a temper tantrum when you left. But now you're back with Rupaul's Drag U! Which, I might say, I love that to Rupaul's left in every episode is your photo. (Suck it Tyra!)

Pandora Boxx: Thankfully quite a few people threw tantrums! Even Entertainment Weekly was pissed! They put me on their Bullseye Chart naming me their "America's Next Drag Superstar!" [laughs] I want to kiss the art director on the mouth for putting my picture there!

DtC: It makes me happy! So you are on a tour of the US it seems. How is that going?

Pandora Boxx: I am! It didn't start out as one, but it is one. It's fabulous! Every place I've been, the audiences have been amazing. Now if I had really planned it out as a tour, I would have scheduled it a bit better. But you got to ride the wave when it comes! I'm enjoying it.

DtC: What's you plans for Pandora Boxx? What's next?

Pandora Boxx: I wrote a play that was a hit here in Rochester and I am talking with a producer in NYC to hopefully bring it there. So fingers crossed. I also just hosted One Night Stand Up: Dragtastic NYC that will air on Logo in January.

DtC: NICE! Pandora needs her own variety show on Logo. Just sayin'...

Pandora Boxx: I would love that!

DtC: What advice do you have for young people starting out?

Pandora Boxx: Run!

DtC: That's always good advice.

Pandora Boxx: [Laughing] No, honestly just be true to yourself and your art. If you are, you will be successful.
And always be honest with yourself.

DtC: So how does one find love?

Pandora Boxx: Don't look so hard! Be open to the possibility and you will find it. That goes for a lot of things.

DtC: Monkeys versus Robots?

Pandora Boxx: Is that a SyFy Channel Movie?

- Do you know that Debbie Gibson and Tiffany are starring in a SyFy Movie together?

DtC: No, I believe they are natural enemies. We must choose sides? OMG, yes! I'm obsessed with creature features. If a giant monster is involved I'm there.

Pandora Boxx: Mega Python vs. Gatoroid! I can't wait!

DtC:I love that you know that!

Pandora Boxx: I'm a scifi geek. Don't think either will win in Monkeys vs. Robots. They will mate and their children will lead them to peace.

DtC: Awww. A romantic! So a sci-fi geek, a drag superstar, what other secrets are behind Pandora Boxx?

Pandora Boxx: [Laughs] There are many secrets in this Boxx.

DtC: What are you reading these days? IF YOU SAY YOU DON'T READ I WILL JUDGE YOU!

Pandora Boxx: I do read!

DtC: John Waters says you should never fuck anyone if they don't have books in their home. I stand by this rule. US Weekly doesn't count.

Pandora Boxx: I've kind of started a few different things and haven't finished any of them. I'm reading: Wicked, Hannibal Rising and The Wizard of Oz. What a combo, huh?

DtC: That's great! Wicked is amazing; I really like Gregory Maguire a lot.
Pandora Boxx: Yeah, it's definitely an interesting book. It's hard to set down and come back to and remember exactly what the hell is going on.

DtC: Yes, and its sequels are like that as well.

Pandora Boxx: I haven't read Wizard of Oz before, so I wanted to read it. And it's free on the Classic Books App on iPhone!
There really is an app for everything, isn't there? Well, there is no "do my dishes" app...yet.

DtC: It's nice to read Wizard of Oz as it's so NOT the Judy Garland film. What's the last film you saw?

Pandora Boxx:: At home, I think it was Soapdish. Love that, but I've seen it before. I also just watched Train. It's a horror movie. It was pretty good. In the theater, I think it was Sex and the City 2.

Pandora Boxx: I want to see the new Resident Evil movie!

DtC: I'm a horror junkie. Sex in the City was kind of a horror movie to me.

Pandora Boxx: I love horror movies! I loved Sex and the City! It was total fluff and I don't care.
I would watch those ladies clean a toilet.

DtC: I went because I have an unapologetic crush on Steve.

Pandora Boxx:: My bf Ian HATES horror movies.

DtC: Really? How does that work out, then? Must you watch them alone?

Pandora Boxx: Yep. He won't watch them. He doesn't like being stressed or scared by movies. Though he loves roller coasters, but he says the pay off is better on amusement park rides. I do watch them alone or find someone to go with me.

DtC: That would be tough for me.
Pandora Boxx: Yeah, I watched one the other night and then couldn't sleep because I was alone in the house. [laughs]. My assistant likes horror movies, so now I just make him watch.

DtC: Oh, assistant! I soo need one. Is he the Renata to your Barbra?
Pandora Boxx: It definitely helps me out A LOT to have one. People in Allentown. Nicknamed him Emily... like from The Devil Wears Prada. Ha!

DtC: Do you keep in touch with the other performers from Drag Race--is that a contractual thing or are you actually friends? Be honest.

Pandora Boxx: [Laughs] We are definitely not under contract to talk to each other, and yes, I do keep in contact with most of them.

DtC: Is Pandora now a full time gig?

Pandora Boxx:: Yes, it sure is.

DtC: I want to thank you so much for doing this slightly rambling interview!

Pandora Boxx:You are welcome! It was great! Take care!

DtC: Thanks. Have a good one!


Anonymous said...

Great interview! Even better answers to the questions! Why am I using so many exclamation points!?!

Great job Pandora.

Nick said...

I was a Fandora from the first episode of Drag Race 2, and mercy me, I was SO PISSED that my friends didn't want to drive down to Orlando to see her when she performed there.

Now I just watch her on Youtube... it's just not the same.

Anonymous said...

HUGE Fandora right here! I met Pandora in person this past summer, and in two weeks I'm gonna see her again! I love that Pandy is a sci-fi geek and a horror movie buff, cuz that's what I am too. :)