They call her The Body. Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, Fantasia Royale Gaga is a showgirl of the first order. The entertainer, drag performer and newly-minted television star is known for stopping traffic on Ocean Drive in South Beach by stomping up and down the sidewalk outside her home bar—the iconic Palace Bar—in nothing more than pasties and heels.
Over the years Palace Bar has hosted everyone from Madonna to Princess Diana, but the legendary gay hotspot now has its very own superstar on its hands. After weeks of steamy challenges, OutTV’s Hot Haus has named Fantasia Royale the Next Queer Sex Symbol (the full series is available to stream on OUTtv.com).
Royale charmed fans of the show, which champions queers, sex workers and outsiders, from her very first moment on screen, when she announced herself as the president of the “Big Titty Committee.” The entertainer stunned—and turned on—audiences and judges with her bombastic performances, but she also showed her vulnerable side, speaking candidly about sex work, addiction and queerphobic experiences growing up in the church.
Xtra caught up with Royale between gigs following her big win to chat about her drag career, the magic of queer nightlife and what it means for a Black trans woman to be named the Next Queer Sex Symbol.
First off, where is The Body?
The Body is everywhere! Right now, The Body is in Denver, but The Body is everywhere and I’ll be coming to a city near you soon!
Can you explain your catchphrase and how you came to be known as “The Body”?
When I got the opportunity to move to Miami and work at Palace Bar, I created my own brand. As I created my brand and time progressed, I started getting more enhancements, like my boobs. I started off calling myself The Body, then when I started doing merch I connected with this woman, Eve, and we came up with “Where Is The Body?” It’s like Carmen Sandiego, “Where Is Carmen Sandiego?” We came up with “Where Is The Body?” It’s everywhere, because I travel everywhere!
Do you mean Eve 6000 from season two of Canada’s Drag Race?
Yes! Eve 6000. I’ve known her for a few years now and she does a lot of my artwork. We came up with my catchphrase together. She’s amazing.
Why did you decide to apply to Hot Haus?
When I heard there was a queer reality show competition, I said, “You know what? That’s very you, you should do it.” I was so nervous when I auditioned. I was like, “Oh chile, they ain’t going to pick me, I’m a showgirl.”
But I was intrigued with the title and being The Next Queer Sex Symbol. That’s me! I’m already a sex symbol—I just needed to get the title. And look, I came out on top!
What does it mean for the queer community that a fabulous Black trans woman won the title of The Next Queer Sex Symbol?
Often when you hear of Black trans women, you hear about killings and them being mistreated, not being given equal opportunities. For me to be a Black trans woman being seen in such a positive light, and on top of that having this title, it means so much to me. A lot of my trans friends didn’t make it. Here I am, a 34-year-old Black trans woman making it in society and being seen in such a positive light. I’ve had so many people that are not even Black—girls, boys, trans, non-binary, everybody—sending me beautiful messages and thanking me for being me. It’s absolutely amazing.
You work at the legendary Palace Bar in South Beach. What do fans get at a Fantasia Royale Gaga show?
When people come to Palace Bar, they come to see a drag show, they see all the drag queens come out and then BOOM! Fantasia comes out. Everyone is watching, they’re like, “Oh, she’s pretty.” When I do the reveal [and take off my cover up] the faces are priceless—everybody’s mouths drop and they go crazy. I snatch their hair off, I show a lot of body, I like to pour water all over myself.
For me, it’s about seeing the faces, the reactions of the people. That’s what gives me the thrill on the inside.
Palace Bar has hosted everyone from Elton John to Gianni Versace. Have you had any fun celeb encounters at the bar?
I’ve met NeNe Leakes. I was featured on Jersey Shore, they came and did a segment. I’ve met Billy Porter, he was just at Palace Bar a few weeks ago. AOC [Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] was at Palace Bar a few weeks ago. Celebrities come out of the blue. We all have a good time, and I must say they’re all so sweet. You can go up to them, hug them, speak to them and take pictures. They come there and have a good time. When the celebrities come, that’s when we know the green light is on to turn it out even more.
You’ve been named Miss Club Jade, Miss Metro, Miss Forever Bad, Miss Alibi. How many titles do you have?!
Oh my goodness, let’s see. I’d say I have, like, maybe over 25 titles. I used to do a lot of pageants. I’ve lost a lot of them and I’ve won a lot of them. I just won Miss Alibi, that was the last title I won. It was a Pride pageant I did and I work at Alibi every Friday, we have a sex-positive show I do there.
How did your drag background help you on Hot Haus?
I was already used to entertaining people, I was used to the stage. It helped me because I was used to being in competitions and performing and being around different queer people. For me, it was about going in there and executing everything.
You grew up in the church. You had an emotional moment on the show when you talked about your church trying to pray the gay away from you. What’s your relationship with religion now?
You know, now that I’ve gotten older, I have my own personal relationship with God. I’m not into the church anymore, I feel like the church is just a building. Now that I’m older, I don’t have to go to church, but I have my own relationship with God and my thoughts and opinions about religion.
I know God loves me and I know I’m going to make it into heaven. I don’t believe in all the stuff they tried to instill into me when I was younger in the church. Most of those people are hypocrites; they live double standard lives. Once I stepped away from the church, I gained my own knowledge and relationship with God.
Queer nightlife helped you through some dark times. How did it provide a safe haven for you when you were struggling?
The times when I was feeling down, the times when I was feeling lost, the times I was feeling like I had nobody, I had the queer community. Literally: I’ve been rejected by my family, I’ve been rejected by this place and that place. To go into a queer setting and be amongst people who love you for who you are, that aren’t judging you or telling you this is wrong or that is wrong. Being in that space—it was life changing. It gave me comfort to know I could go into a space and be who I wanted to be without being judged or feeling like I was doing something wrong or not good enough.
If I didn’t have the queer community, if I didn’t have queer space, honestly I don’t know where I’d be in life today.
You revealed on the show you’ve been exploring kink. What advice do you have for queers looking to lean into their kinky sides?
Honestly, the advice I’d give is: you never know what you’re into until you try it. There were so many different kinks I was like, ‘I’d never do that,’ but now that I’ve gotten older and I’ve explored and experienced more things in life, I’m doing those things I said I wouldn’t do. For me, it’s about exploring and owning what you like.
How have you spent your prize money? Any fun splurges?
I did a trip or two and I bought myself some nice things. And I saved the rest!
What’s next for your career now that you’re an international sex symbol?
Reality television put a spark in me. I want to audition for more reality television shows. I want to continue to use this platform to educate, advocate and bring awareness to different issues.