Within the unpredictable universe of RuPaul’s Drag Race
, eccentric characters and outlandish surprises are par for the course, yet season one winner BeBe Zahara Benet stands out as an anomaly with a knack for keeping fans guessing.
Born Nea Marshall Kudi Ngwa in the West African country of Cameroon, Benet got an early taste for drag modeling in a women’s fashion show while living in Paris but didn’t get fully immersed until relocating to Minneapolis — where her first official gig was performing at a Pride block party alongside Cyndi Lauper. Citing its vibrant and supportive arts and culture scene, Benet recently told Minnesota Monthly
, “I’m glad I could start in a place like Minneapolis. I could define what BeBe Zahara Benet is all about before going out to other places.” Echoed by her chosen name, Benet infuses elements of African and French culture into performances that nod to Grace Jones, Diana Ross and Beyoncé, not to mention the tribal regalia of Broadway’s The Lion King
Since her 2009 win on what some have nicknamed the “Lost Season” of Drag Race
, Benet has emerged as a recording artist, public speaker and event producer. Returning to the small screen this year on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
, Benet got pegged as a mole for the judges after a fan’s Facebook comment blew up into a conspiracy theory. “I can see why some people believed it,” Benet told Billboard in March. “They didn’t want to believe that a queen who had already won the show was coming back into the competition. I think that fans felt threatened for the other competitors that they were rooting for.”
When frontrunner BenDeLaCreme eliminated herself from the competition, Benet (who finished in the top four) turned that plot twist into a full-blown “face crack” by refusing to disclose which contestant she’d planned to send home (“That will always be a secret, honey”). The subject of filmmaker Emily Branham’s forthcoming documentary Being BeBe
, the “savage beauty” lands in the Alamo City for two performances at Heat, courtesy of Rey Lopez Entertainment.
$10-$25, Wed, Apr. 25, 10:30pm & midnight, Heat Nightclub, 1500 N. Main Ave., (210) 386-4537, reylopezentertainment.com.
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