A longer version of this article first appeared on Yahoo Music.
As American Idol‘s Danny Noriega might say, this is almost TMTH (too much to handle). The wild Season 7 Idol, famous for his perfectly purple-streaked emo hair, skinny ties, and sassing back to Simon Cowell, has just signed up for another, very different reality competition: RuPaul’s Drag Race! And Danny is looking very different these days, too.
Since leaving Idol‘s top 16 in 2008, Danny, now age 24, has reinvented himself as the fabulous drag queen Adore Delano, performing in drag shows across Southern California and rubbing glittery shoulders with Drag Race alums like Morgan McMichaels. Danny/Adore even auditioned for Drag Race last season, narrowly missing the cut. But when Season 6 premieres in February 2014 on the Logo network, Adore Delano will finally get her closeup. (Interestingly, she will be competing against Courtney Act, a veteran of Australian Idol, so this will be a very Idolicious season.)
Lyndsanity! caught up with Danny to learn about his surprising history of teenage cross-dressing, his “punk-rock mermaid” alter ego, and life after “Idol.”
So, when did you first get into drag?
In high school I dabbled in drag. I used to compete in singing competitions, like at the Christian college by my house. And I, like, lived basically my life as a girl from 14 to 16. Right before I auditioned for “American Idol” my mom made me kinda cut my hair off, but yeah, I was wearing makeup from, like, 13 to 16, and I was like completely a girl from 14 to 16.
Were you doing that just for fun, or did you really want to transition and live life as a female?
I was always, like, ambiguous. Is that how you say it? When I was turning 16 I talked to my mom about transitioning and stuff, but that was before I went through puberty. I was a late bloomer. I guess after I saw myself looking butch I was like, “Wow, I should be buff!” So I kind of had a change of heart, and when the “American Idol” thing happened I was just, like, “OK, you’re a boy now.”
Do you think you opened doors on “Idol”? You were pretty much the first openly gay person to compete on the show.
I don’t know about opening doors. I know I wanted to push the limit farther than I was allowed to. The experience was amazing and I’m forever grateful for it, but I feel like I wasn’t allowed to go as far as I wanted to. There was just certain makeup that I wanted to wear and certain songs that I wanted to sing that I wasn’t allowed to. I really don’t want to trash-talk the show, but I just wasn’t allowed to be as out-there as I wanted to be. I was actually told to calm it down.
So what happened to you career-wise after “Idol”?
Immediately after “Idol,” I was getting pulled in so many different directions. I don’t want to bad-talk anything, but a lot of us weren’t getting a lot of opportunities that we were supposed to be getting; let’s just put it that way. I was just an 18-year-old thinking he’s on top of the world, that kind of thing, and I just kind of fell flat. I wasn’t a businessperson. I feel like this time around, given an opportunity like this, especially with something I’m so passionate about, is a blessing. I’m more aware of the industry. I’m more trying to be, like, business-oriented, or however you say it. I mean, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, I’m like a continuation school dropout, but I’m trying…