Latest of our Pearl of the Caribbean series showcasing talents from Puerto Rico, Stylist and Art Director Adrian J Ramos talks to drag artist Roberto Carlos aka Rochelle Mon Chéri.
It’s been 10 years since I’ve known of Rochelle Mon Chéri or as his friends and family know her, artist Roberto Carlos. The term “Queen” in the gay community gets thrown a lot but here is one that truly represents the local community with the grace and charm of royalty. It was under the bright lights of the stage, that I met this thriving artist at the historic Krash nightclub formerly located on Ponce de Leon Avenue in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. What stood out for me, from her was her actual grace and humility in which she performed every single week. A bachelor degree in drama from the University of Puerto Rico didn’t hurt either as night in and night out her talent couldn’t be ignored. The club that saw her win many crowns Krash is sadly no longer open for us but it sure was the #1 gay nightclub on the island. One that I’ll never forget as her and at the time her Doll House sisters reigned supreme over the rest. Her work as a drag artist varies from imitations, Broadway musicals, cabaret, Bohemia and alternative acts, that always showcase a true passion for the performing arts and an unparalleled knowledge of her craft.
Rochelle has stood as a representative for the LGBTQ community by constantly being representative in various newspapers, television shows, movies and theater amongst many different areas of entertainment throughout the island. Amongst them in a Univision reality themed show titled “Protagonistas”. Univision is an American Spanish-language broadcast television network that is owned by Univision Communications which airs on cable and satellite TV across the United States. He was part of “Factor Mujer” local television mini-series that aired on WAPA TV. A landmark channel on the island and truly groundbreaking feat since she co-starred with other drag artist and this on an island full of conservative viewers. Rochelle was also the production coordinator for the hit documentary “Mala Mala” which features a close look at the drag/trance nightlife community which can be found on Netflix. She briefly mentioned that she worked on a reality show in South America but unfortunately couldn’t hand over juicy details of the show.
If you’re a local or you are traveling to the island and looking for fun on a Friday night she is currently the only performer with her own weekly show, titled “Rochelle Mon Chéri Hall of Fame” at the “Polo Norte” Gay Lounge in beautiful Old San Juan. This nonstop hustle makes her an inspiration for many up and coming drag queens and overall artist in our community.
I was able to sit down with the reigning Queen to let her express in her own words what she’s all about.
AJ How did your stage name Rochelle Mon Chéri came into existence?
RC As a Pin-UP Girl Extravaganza I had to come up with a very fun, original and unforgettable name. Ten years ago I was a plus size queen, I love chocolate so I got inspired by the chocolate bars Ferrero Rocher and Mon Chéri creating a perfect match to describe all that flavor that I had being that juicy girl. Over the years, gratefully, I lost weight but the flavor last in me so far tastier than ever.
AJ How long have you been doing drag? Do you remember your first performance?
RC I have been doing this amazing art for the past 10 years. Of course, I do remember my first show!!! It was with my friends, now my beloved Drag Sisters from “The Doll House”… We did a “Pussycat Dolls” performance at the PR Gay Pride Parade here in San Juan in 2007…
AJ How long does it take you to put a look together?
RC It depends on the look and the performance… I do enjoy so bad the whole makeup process so I could spend 3 hours doing that. In general terms, it could be so much time if we count the whole process since the first idea. Everything starts with an idea. Then it’s time for the research on music, looks etc. As Drag Queens we need to do a lot and it doesn’t easy at all because we need to work as producers, fashion designers, hairdressers, makeup artists, as DJs sometimes. We need to be very versatile if we want to succeed. It’s a huge project, but very exciting and fascinating at the same time. And it could be days to get ready for a look. But once everything is set, the whole concept is ready, and the body and face are well shaved and prepared I can get the total look finished in 3-4 hours.
AJ What are your inspirations when it comes to your drag aesthetic on and off stage?
RC I am very Boricua, I consider my style as a pin-up Girl Extravaganza with a touch of the Latina Flavor from the Caribbean. I am fun, sensual but a classic lady at the same time. I have many inspirations from the Golden Age of Hollywood like Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Bettie Page, Audrey Hepburn… Also from some classic Latin stars like Carmen Miranda, Sophia Loren, Sara Montiel, Maria Felix…
AJ You started your career in Puerto Rico, which is known for its fierce pageant queens. How did you stand out amongst the crowd?
RC I do consider myself as a pageant queen. I have won many titles and crowns some of them very important in the Puerto Rican Gay Community. Here in Puerto Rico, the crowd is very demanding and challenging so I need to be a trendsetter, very polished, showing who I really am doing everything with freedom, love, and passion. One day I learned that in art everything is done, you just need to do the things changing the circumstances. Another important thing to stand out is kindness, the crowd enjoys and appreciate that.
AJ Puerto Rico is currently struggling politically and socially amongst its culture. What do you think is the responsibility of the LGBTQ community these trying times?
RC I really appreciate this question because it is true. As a community, we care our issues and that mixed with our political struggles makes things heavier. But I think as a community we have been doing the things very well over the years and we need to keep that flow. We have achieved a lot. As a community, we need to keep us stronger, united and positive than ever, and we need to be an example for our society, because the gay community we have faced a lot, and if we could everybody can. That’s the positivity that as a Puerto Ricans we need right now.
AJ Do you feel the other girls in the community look up to you after all the work you’ve put into your art?
RC Not only other girls but also the community in general. Every day I receive a bunch of supporting messages from them telling me that I am a huge inspiration for them. And I feel very blessed and grateful for that because that is part of my purpose of life. I want to create a positive impact on the most people possible being an example for them through this art. And it is very exciting seeing my purpose into a reality.
AJ Any current drag queens local or international that you look up to and why?
RC Yes! From here I look up to our pioneers, without them we couldn’t get the drag scene as we have it today in terms of community spokespersons and performers. Some of them are Antonio Pantojas, Ruddys Martinez, Felix Chevremont, Kathy La Fontaine, etc. One of the International queens that I respect a lot is Divine, a drag pioneers in Hollywood the other one that I love is obviously, Mama Rupaul, because I aspire to be like she, and I know some of my colleagues as well. She is everything in drag, a leader, a spokesperson, a great artist, writer, model, actress, host. Rupaul came to change the game and create a statement in the drag of the whole world.
AJ Do you have any favorite tracks at the moment that you love to perform? Any all time favorite?
RC Yes, I love to perform “Firework” from Katy Perry, this song is very powerful, some say this is my anthem because when I was reigning as Miss Krash PR that was my number one hit. Other favorites are “I surrender” from Celine Dion, Alejandra Guzmán personification, “Mamma knows best”- Jessie J, “Born This Way” – Lady Gaga, “Quizás, quizás, quizas”, “Nasty Naughty Boy” – Christina Aguilera, “Tú falta de Querer”- Mon Laferte, And many more!
AJ You started your career along with a group of drag sisters known as the Dollhouse. All of you have gone onto great things. Will we ever see an on-stage comeback from the group?
RC Currently my Drag sisters and I are growing and achieving our dreams by our own. Every each of us is working on individual goals. I hope one day we can come up at the stage together again. Maybe one day, in the near future, once we feel realized and established on what we want now.
AJ Does Rochelle have any advice for up and coming queens on the island looking to achieve similar success?
RC Yes, I do. I think the best advice I could give to the coming queens is that put purpose on what you want to do. Drag is an expression of art, as Drags we spread messages and many people identify with us, so the first thing is not only dressing up as a girl and that’s it, Drag is more than that. We need to get a reason, a meaning, a purpose on what we are doing with the art and do it the best way possible. Be unique, there’s a bunch of drag queens out there, find a way to be you and stand out from the rest. Never be mediocre push yourself to do the best you can. And Never loose your kindness, this helps you to grow in drag and in your life in general.
AJ These days drag is respected a bit more due to its mainstream coverage on shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Do you feel this is an adequate representation of the drag community?
RC Yes, I do feel that way. We are fighting for years to get a mainstream coverage to open minds and awarenesses that drag is a very important expression of art as many of the others. Rupaul’s Drag Race is a hugely important platform to showcase to the world our community messages of “love is love” and “we are all equal”.
AJ Do you think is necessary to be on the show to succeed?
RC I don’t think is necessary to succeed but it is very important. We need to aspire more in every aspect of life. And Drag Race is something big that every drag queen should aspire because once the world knows you it opens doors of a bunch of possibilities. Every good drag queen deserves an opportunity like that.
AJ What does Rochelle have in store for the future? Will you follow the steps of your past Dollhouse sisters and aim for Season 10 or 11 of Drag Race? I would love to see you participate!
RC I see myself in the future doing a crossover maybe trying a new life in another country, getting a chance to be in a movie or tv series, this always has been a dream for me. I am cooking some surprises for next months as well, like a beauty pageant in Washington DC, a Reality TV in South America, etc. With Drag Race everybody supports me for that and I appreciate it. You never know. Let’s see if I can but everything in order and some day I cheer up myself and audition for the show. I know that is a life changing experience.