Monday, March 7, 2016 | 6:58 p.m.
Pop princess Britney Spears’ mouth dropped wide open the first time she saw her double, female impersonator Derrick Barry. Britney even invited the now Las Vegas resident and “Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas” star at the Linq Hotel to attend her two arrival ceremonies in Las Vegas for her resident show “Britney: Piece of Me” at Axis at Planet Hollywood.
Now Derrick is competing in the new Season 8 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” with America’s drag elite. It premieres tonight with a super-sized 90-minute episode titled “New Now Next Honors” on Logo and unveils a court of cutthroat queens each competing to grab the crown, $100,000 cash prize and coveted title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar.”
The series marks the 100th episode of “Drag Race” and the 100th drag queen to sashay in the work room for contests of makeup artistry, costume design, sewing, lip syncing, dancing and runway walking. RuPaul promises unpredictable competitions and jaw-dropping moments as the new ladies of drag join the fabulous 88 queens who fought for the crown before them.
Derrick says we’ll have to watch to see if he impersonates Britney in the “Snatch Game” segment, but he wants to show off his comedic chops, too. He also revealed that we’ll see him in different photo shoots with new looks and impersonations.
So you’re the local glamazon going to do battle with 11 of you?
Well, there are 12 total, so, yeah, 11 of them are going down!
And you’re very confident about that?
Well, I have to be, you know? I’ve been in the game so long that there is a part of me that thinks I should win every crown and every pageant or competition. I’m always going to want to be the queen of the throne.
Are you portraying Britney through this new series?
My promo look is very Britney-esque, being blonde. I think that that’s my signature and trademark. There are elements of Britney to everything that I do, so you may be surprised and think that I’m switching it up. But you’ll have to watch and see how that all stands out.
We know the first episode is tonight (Monday, March 7), but what can you tease us with that we’re going to see?
I’m not sure we can talk about that. The only thing that I can tell people to look forward to is, “It’s Derrick, bitch.” That’s all I can say. That’s my tagline. I learned everything from her, but I’ve got to step outside the Britney box for this one. It’s kind of a cross between “America’s Next Top Model” and “Project Runway.”
I mean there are elements of other reality-TV shows that it drew inspiration from, but I guess the best way to put it is, “It’s just a competition of the best drag, and it’s all different types of drag.” Not just celebrity female impersonators, whereas if we were doing “Battle of the Divas,” then it would be Cher against Madonna against Britney. This is very different because they all have very different drag styles.
Are you the only celebrity impersonator in this new season?
I know that I’m the only one who is working on the Las Vegas Strip who has a background coming from a show like that. I’m sure there are other ones who have impersonated people at times, but no one has the career that I have had — not in the same form.
Derrick, are you still in “Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas”?
I haven’t been full time at “Divas” since last March because I was traveling so much last year on the weekends. I came in for pride last year and his anniversary parties, and I was here on Thursday. I just don’t have the time right now to commit to that full schedule performing six to seven nights a week.
That’s just not something I can do. I had to trade in that “Divas” dream for this realty-TV show. I’ll always be there for special events. I love working with Frank. He gave me the chance to work at “Divas,” so I’ll always do what I can to make guest appearances there.
What was your overall experience working with RuPaul?
I had seen him in person before, but there’s something so unbelievable about being in his presence in or out of drag because he’s a larger-than-life personality and character. I wasn’t sure what to expect, if there was going to be diva moments or things like that, and I never ran into that.
I thought he was extremely professional. He’s absolutely gorgeous in person. I can’t even believe that I got a chance to see him and not have it be from me watching him on TV. It was pretty incredible.
And now you have the beginnings of a TV and movie career?
I have a movie coming out this year titled “War on Everyone” with Alexander Skarsgard. I shot that last year in Iceland. A new series with Nick Nolte titled “Graves” that will be on Epix. I’m hoping that being on “Drag Race” gives me the opportunity to continue a career in film and television and also get myself out there to do more things as myself.
I love comedy, and I would love to do more comedy and maybe even a spot on “SNL.” The sky’s the limit. Theater would be fun to get back into, so I’m just hoping I get to branch out like I have been able to this past year and continue on that path.
I love being on the road. We get to go to five cities for the premiere parties of “Drag Race,” and I already have a tour lined up in Australia and Britain. I’m hoping that this year is my biggest one yet.
This is what you always wanted, this is what you always dreamed of, right? But it looks like it’s bigger than what you dreamed.
Absolutely. When I left high school, my goal was just to be a paid entertainer and make a living performing nightly or performing in theater, and I accomplished that dream. I always wanted film and television, of course. That’s what any performer or actor would love to do and see their career go to new heights, so this has just completely snowballed this last year into everything I ever wanted and more.
Other than Madonna giving you a bit of lip back at you, has anybody ever argued with you about the fact that you must really be Britney?
Any time I meet different celebrities or people, if I’m doing Lady Gaga, maybe then they would say you look like Britney dressed up as Lady Gaga for Halloween, and we prefer you as Gaga. I mean I can’t post a picture as Gaga or with Gaga without people saying we prefer you as Britney, or this looks like Britney.
I think because that’s how I started and that’s what I am known for in Las Vegas and TV appearances. Things have always been as Britney; people have a hard time parting with that. I am lucky that I look like Britney enough to have a career as her impersonator, so I get that there are die-hard fans who don’t want to see me do anything else.
It was crazy to see Madonna, somebody who’s actually worked with Britney, tell me, “No, you’re Britney!” She knows Britney, so she obviously knows I’m not her, but it was fun for her, and it’s a convincing enough look for people to be shocked.
I just worked with Mat Franco, who won “America’s Got Talent” last season and he’s now at the Linq Hotel theater, too; he had never seen me as Britney before. We had done a charity event. We’re backstage talking, and he couldn’t even focus on our conversation because he just kept saying, “This is so crazy. It’s freaking me out how much you look like her.”
It’s cool that I still have that effect on people, and it’s fun to see that with different people like Katy Perry or Eminem, who I’ve worked with in the past, and Olivia Newton-John in her most recent video. They’ve all given me a confidence boost in knowing that I’m on the right path doing the right job and doing a good job of it.
Britney is here many times this year. Will you go to see her show again and again?
I’ll definitely be checking her out on this run. Things are pretty hectic with getting together all my premiere-party looks and costumes. I’ve got to focus, but I will definitely see her show. I’m excited for the revamp. I love that she’s going to keep some the same and put in new things.
One of my favorite songs, “Breathe on Me,” is in now. I’ve been doing that one on the road for a couple of years, and the reaction is always great from the audience. It’s exciting to see Britney change things up and get more into her catalog that maybe wasn’t a single but was a fan favorite and put that to life onstage.
One fun question to end, and I don’t mean to be offensive: What’s larger in your closet, the boy’s side or the girl’s side?
Always the girl side now! I miss the days where I had a boy closet, but it has taken over. I don’t have enough closets to fit the drag that I have now. I guess that’s never a bad thing, but it’s not something I ever expected was going to happen.
Season 8 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” premieres at 9 tonight on Logo. Share is hosting a premiere party.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.