“It solidified me as a voice and a global phenomenon,” Ts Madison says of her collaboration with Beyoncé. The pop icon’s seventh studio album, Renaissance, has been lauded as one of her best with fans and critics commending her homage to the Black and queer pioneers of music and ballroom. Sampling Ts Madison’s viral video Bitch I’m Black, Cozy debuted inside the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, with Madison – and producer Honey Dijon – making history in the process as the first Black trans women to chart.
“I know [Beyoncé] watched me because there are things that I’ve done, like in the words she says, ‘Dancing in the mirror, kiss my scars because I love what they made,’” Madison tells GAY TIMES. “There’s videos of me dancing, talking about myself as a trans person with scars on my body. It’s like she took her time and she understood the voice she was using, and the statement she was making in this song, and she sang about our flag. I was overwhelmed with emotions.”
Although Madison has been a staple within the LGBTQ+ community for a number of years, she’s finally been catapulted into the pop culture zeitgeist as a recurring judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, a role in the critically-acclaimed black comedy Zola and as the host of The Ts Madison Experience, which made her the first Black trans woman to star in and executive produce her own reality series.
Later this year, the trailblazer will also star alongside Billy Eichner in Bros – which makes history as the first gay romantic comedy from a major studio with an entirely LGBTQ+ principal cast – and as a rich British woman mourning the death of her bird in Gabrielle Union’s romantic comedy The Perfect Find, as well as a club owner slash drug lord (kinda) in AMC’s new series Hush.
Madison will also host Bring Back My Girls, a WOW Presents Plus series that reunites Drag Race casts who were unable to have a reunion due to COVID. Here, we speak with Madison about all of the exciting aforementioned projects, her undeniable impact on popular culture and her plans to “continue being an exceptional actress”.
Madison, I cannot contain my excitement for these Drag Race reunions…
Listen… One of the girls – what’s the skinny one? She got up to pee and never came back. Tayce! She was like, ‘I’m sorry Madison but I have to pee, give me one second.’ She got up and hit it, baby. Do you hear me? I was falling out.
You’ve made a few guest appearances on Drag Race over the past few years. What keeps bringing you back to the show?
I’m a huge staple within popular culture. If you hashtag Ts Madison on TikTok, the impressions I have are insane. I’ve donated so much to popular culture and it wouldn’t be right if I weren’t intertwined into RuPaul’s Drag Race. Lots of my sayings have been used on the show, even before I arrived, like ‘Step ya pussy up, honey.’ Everyone thinks that was a RuPaul saying, but she got that from me. There’s so many of my catchphrases and nuances of me in the show.
We’re in desperate need for a Ts Madison Rusical then, surely?
I would love that. There is so much I want to say, but I can’t give away things that are coming up that I have done with the show. But I will say this, RuPaul’s Drag Race is a worldwide phenomenon that has reshaped the way queer people are introduced into society and popular culture. Not just popular culture, but in culture, period. Like Beyoncé, Drag Race is a phenomenon. It’s important that this type of stuff continues to live and thrive, and it’s important for people like myself to contribute to popular culture just by being who they are. Like a voice memo of me or a video where I’ve said something crazy, I’ll just trend forever and ever. I wake up everyday with a celebrity lip-syncing to my voice. I’m seeing Ciara and Tommy Lee’s wife lip-syncing me. I’m like, ‘Okay, alright!’
Speaking of Beyoncé, she sampled you on Cozy. A pretty big deal, huh?
It was. As much as I go viral and I’m intertwined and contribute to the world by just being me, people still try to overlook me. For me, Beyoncé is the Michael Jackson of our time, honey. And for her to take a piece of my voice from a video that I used to combat racism and transphobia, it solidified me as a voice and a global phenomenon. Beyoncé has really been living in her Blackness, and she’s also been an ally to the girls for such a long time. For her to merge my voice on this, on this statement piece, I was blown away. The cheque was very nice!
Renaissance pays homage to the Black and queer pioneers of disco, funk and house music, as well as ballroom. What do you think the album means for LGBTQ+ recognition within the music industry?
We are here, we are queer. We did this bitch, get used to it. This speaks to all the other artists in the world that have been influenced by our culture and have said nothing about it. We have to sit back and watch the straights thrive off of our contributions and don’t give a nod to us. Beyoncé is giving this album to the people and saying, ‘These people are the reason why I’m Yoncé, and I want to celebrate these people and let you know that they are solid in this business, regardless of whether you give them recognition or not because without them, there would be no music honey.’
Please tell me you’ll be making an appearance in the Cozy video?
I don’t know! Beyoncé moves very secretly. I’ll tell you the story. Last year, I got a message from a company saying, ‘Hey Madison, we want to use your voice from Bitch I’m Black.’ I was like, ‘How much ya’ll paying me?’ I was starting to compute in my brain which artist would use my voice. I was like, ‘There are some artists who really live in their Blackness. I thought Kendrick Lamar, but he’s a straight man. ‘Well, would he?’ Rihanna ain’t put no album out. I was like, ‘Is this Beyoncé?’ Fast forward to when Break My Soul drops with Big Freedia I was like, ‘Damn, Freedia always get to work with Beyoncé.’ I said, ‘God, I would just love if [Beyoncé] used my voice on something.’ I started getting emails from this record label like, ‘Madison, it’s important that you respond, we need clearance.’ I’m like, ‘Who is this fucking with me? I don’t see any dollar signs so I ain’t responding.’ On the 27th, two days before the album, the last email came in and they said they needed clearance for song two. I was like, ‘What the fuck is song two?’ In seconds they came back with the offer and it had a lot of zeroes. I was like, ‘This is definitely Beyoncé.’ When the album dropped, I cried. It meant so much to me that my voice was used in a statement piece like Cozy. I know Beyoncé watched me because there are things that I’ve done, like in the words she says, ‘Dancing in the mirror, kiss my scars because I love what they made.’ There’s videos of me dancing, talking about myself as a trans person with scars on my body. It’s like she took her time and she understood the voice she was using, and the statement she was making in this song, and she sang about our flag. I was overwhelmed with emotions. I thank her immensely for choosing me.
Let’s talk about The Ts Madison Experience. You made herstory as the first-ever Black trans woman to star and executive produce a reality TV series. What does this personally mean to you?
It means that I’m a very important figure in the world. I have come to a place of understanding that my purpose here is to unify, educate and love. I feel like I’m growing into RuPaul status. Let me tell you something, mother has been around for years. She has such an impact and links to the things in our community. I’m slowly forming my link there in the chain. It means so much that I’m not just here for myself. I’m here for the betterment of the world.
With this series, Drag Race and Beyoncé, it feels like 2022 is the year of Ts Madison. You’re also starring in Billy Eichner’s Bros, which makes history as the first gay romantic comedy from a major studio with an entirely LGBTQ+ principal cast. How did your involvement in the film come about?
Billy Eichner is a fan of Drag Race and was like, ‘I want her in the film.’ I read for the role of every person in the boardroom, and I finally landed the part of Angela. I didn’t even know that it was going to be that huge of a deal. Let me ask God when I’m on the phone with you. God, why do you always tease me? God truly teases me because I didn’t even know that it was going to be that huge of a deal. This is a moment for our culture, for our history. It solidified my purpose here. Then Beyoncé came, so boom. What’s next God? I’m ready! You can keep me working, God. I have a secular past and I don’t shy away from it. For me to sit amongst people who are skilled actors and have major movies and TV under their belt… I just have Zola. To sit amongst them and everyone is like, ‘I’ve always wanted to meet you!’ It made me feel like I have a purpose. You go through life having things in your past. You did what you had to do in order to survive. Then you hear naysayers and haters talking about how you’ll never be on the level of this or that. There’s nothing that anyone can say now that will make me doubt my God.
What can you tell me about Angela and how she fits into the story?
Angela is a Black trans woman, honey, who is comfortable in her skin. She’s smart. She’s witty. She talks with her eyes and her face. She’s a spunky character and basically Ts Madison as a board member. I’m funny, even when I’m silent!
In your opinion, what does Bros say about modern day LGBTQ+ culture?
Bros is speaking to the straights; we are here, we are queer honey. We have love stories and we look out for our own. What I like about the movie was that they made sure to cast every person in the film of the LGBTQIA realm, even playing the straight roles. That is important because Hollywood creates stories using cis-het people. That’s like me living in America and talking to you about Essex.
I would trust you with that any day, actually. So we need to discuss The Perfect Find, your upcoming rom-com with Gabrielle Union…
My character’s name is Greta. There’s some type of way that I adopted an English accent. I don’t know if it’s all the way in English or British or Australian. Honey, I adopted this accent that I tried to use of an older woman who has lots of money, but she’s in deep grief because her bird has died.
Her bird has passed on to the afterlife. Oh god, the way that bird died… You guys are really going to hoot and holler because it’s so funny. But for me, it’s the accent that I adopted and I got a standing ovation when I wrapped. [Starts speaking in a British accent.]
I’m so overwhelmed by Greta.
How was my accent?
I’m sold! Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA…
I hope so! I absorbed the accent from watching all of the Tudor dynasty movies and Becoming Elizabeth. I’m obsessed with it. I think that I’m an English girl by some way, but I don’t know how. Maybe I met an Englisman in an earlier life before this one?
Do you have any more roles in the pipeline that you can discuss?
Yes, I’m on an AMC series called Hush and I play, not a drug lord, but I’m a club owner. I’ve sold drugs. Kinda just the life I’ve lived before!
So let me get this straight: you’re going to play a board executive, a British lady mourning her bird and a drug lord? The versatility! Meryl who?
Right?! Like Meryl girl, you don’t want none of this. None of this! Girl, you need to go back to school and learn how to act better than what you doing, girl. Each one is different. Listen, in Zola I was in the strip club praying over the strippers. Now that role right there, that was definitely all me. I was actually playing myself. But these other roles… I love being the main character but for some movies, I like being that part where people are like, ‘That shit was funny. That’s my favourite part.’ There’s a movie with Bill Murray and Geena Davis called Quick Change. They were bank robbers and there’s this scene where they were walking to the Los Angeles airport and there was this old woman selling flowers in the back alley. She screams, ‘FLORES! FLORES! FLORES!’ Lemme tell you something, I laid on the floor dying laughing at her in the middle of the dark alley screaming ‘FLORES!’ Girl, what is you doing? Why are you in the alley screaming Flores?
If we’re ever in the same room, I’ll alert you to my presence by shouting ‘FLORES!’
Like I rightfully stated earlier, this has been the year of Ts Madison. How are you feeling at this current moment in time?
Now you get my other side. It makes me long for companionship, and it’s just not working out. The more that my star excels and the more that I grow as a person in business and work, the more I’m longing for a partner. I want to know if my trajectory is still going to be this. I’m doing the work, but what is it going to be like for me in my personal life? I was dating someone and I’m not going to speak ill of them – I promised that I wouldn’t – but they were not for me. As happy as I should’ve been this entire year, I was rocky. I dealt with a little bit of heartbreak. And then there’s these voices of, ‘Girl, you can’t have it all.’ Why can’t I have it all? Why can’t I have a partner? Why can’t I have someone to celebrate all of these wins with? That’s what I want. God can give me so much of this happiness in my business and in my work, but I’d like some of that in my personal life too. I’d like to win there as well.
Madison, you have conquered so much in your professional life after years of being told that it wasn’t possible for you. You can and will have it all.
I know I will, and it’s because I deserve it. I’m doing the work that I’m called to do. Not that I’m unhappy, but I want to be happy with someone who wants to be happy with me. All the dedication that I put into my work, I put it into my partner as well. I’m not 30 no more. I bought this house when I was 29-years-old, so everytime I’m walking through this bitch I’m like, ‘Girl, the house hasn’t aged but we’ve been here since 29.’ In October, I’ll be 45. So, I’m looking at how time will roll right on with you.
What is next for you to conquer in your professional life?
To continue being an exceptional actress! I would love to continue my career the way it is. I have a dream, which was already taken by Melissa McCarthy, and that’s to voice Ursula. There’s another movie I think I would be perfect for, but they probably gave it to Billy Porter. I really want to be the voice of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, I think it has a flavour that only I can do. Billy Porter can sing and I’m not a songstress, but I definitely have a distinct voice and I can cuss like a motherfucker. There is no other person that would devour that role but me. I don’t have any Broadway experience, but I’m an actress now! That plant is a mean green mother from outer space. That bitch was evil. I don’t want to be evil, I just want to be iconic. I don’t give a fuck about being the lead role! Honey, who is the queen without her court, darling? The queen is important but the court can still have her head chopped off. Ask Marie Antoinette. Let them all eat cake!
Listen to Cozy below.