‘To Wong Foo’ Is An Undeniable Gay Cult Classic And John Leguizamo’s Role As A Drag Queen Is Still One Of The Best Performances
“To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Juli Newmar” is one of the greatest gay cult classics of the 20th century. The movie follows three drag queens, played by John Leguizamo, Patrick Swayze, and Wesley Snipes as they make their way from New York to California for a drag queen pageant. The movie, released in 1995, gave the drag queen and LGBTQ+ community a diverse and exceptionally rare moment of representation during the 1990s. Now, since the movie is being release in Blu-Ray, John Leguizamo sat down and told Shout! Factory what he did to get into the character of Chi Chi Rodriguez.
John Leguizamo gave Latina drag queens rare and exceptional representation during the 1995 gay cult classic “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.”
For so many Latino fans of the movie, it is the first time they ever saw themselves represented in media. Chi Chi Rodriguez was a major moment for queer Latino representation in the 1990s when being gay was still taboo in mainstream media. Alongside co-stars Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze, Leguizamo was able to bring a Latina drag queen to a larger audience.
Now that the movie is being released on Blu-Ray, Leguizamo sat down with Shout! Factory and discussed what it took to be Chi Chi Rodriguez.
“I was just like, ‘Oh my God. Let me sink my teeth into this Chi Chi Rodriguez. I know how to bring her to life,” Leguizamo told Shout! Factory. “‘I know I can just ramp it up, man. Like, Chi Chi Rodriguez on steroids.’”
Leguizamo wanted to make sure that he truly captured what it meant to be a Latino drag queen.
“I’m a writer so I look at the three-act structure of a screenplay and I always want to have an arc to my character. If you’re the lead, you have a large arch, and that’s incredible,” Leguizamo explains. “But, you know, I was the third lead so my arc was a little smaller but it was good enough for me to go from being sort of rough around the edges to being this polished drag queen. That was my journey, you know, and it was all about accepting my ethnicity.”
Chi Chi Rodriguez’s story arc was hyper-focused on coming to terms with her identity.
“I had my face done really light all the time because I have family members who [have] issues with self-hate and race,” Leguizamo says. “So their face skin will be like five times lighter than the color of their neck. So, that always tripped me out so I wanted to put a little bit of that into it.”
Leguizamo brought his authentic experience to the role and it centered around makeup and colorism that is toxic within the Latino community.
“At the end of the movie, my neck and my face matched,” Leguizamo explains. “My face is much darker. So, that was the arc. Chi Chi becomes polished but accepting of herself, mature, romantically grows. She just becomes instead of a taker, she becomes a giver.”
You can watch Joh Leguizamo’s full interview below.
Check out “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar” and get your pride celebrations started off right.