Houston, we have royalty walking amongst us. If you don’t know Jazell Barbie Royale, you’re missing out on a rising star.
“This was the first place that I ever traveled to on an airplane, and I got acquainted with so many people in that time that it just became a second home for me,” says Floridian-turned-Houstonian Royale. “I came here to visit, and some opportunities came to me to work at different nightclubs. I took them up on the offers, and I moved.”
No stranger to music, Royale has even sung on the opera stage. “The first type of singing that I was ever exposed to was gospel music. Singing is what I did before I ever did any type of drag performance,” Royale explains. “I was heavily involved in school choirs from first grade all the way until the twelfth grade. I was also in an all-city choir where I sang with several celebrities as a child.” That roster of celebrities included Barry Manilow, Melba Moore, Isaac Hayes, Ashford & Simpson, Peabo Bryson, and others.
Royale’s vocal training also sparked her interest in drag. “When I saw my first drag show, I was like, ‘Wow! I can dress how I want to dress, identify the way that I want to, and be able to lip sync to these artists that I love so much.”
With the world’s current Barbie mania, Royale’s full drag name is sure to garner even more attention. The name came to her as she was preparing for her first drag pageant. “I was practicing my presentation, I was trying to be spicy, and I said, ‘My name is Jazell Barbie Royale,’” she explains. “I wanted to be this beautiful human being. I wanted to be able to dress up and become this beautiful person. And that was how Barbie came [to embody] my drag persona.”
After winning the Miss Continental pageant in 2016, Royale showcased her beauty by becoming the first woman of African descent to win Miss International Queen in 2019. In January 2023, she competed in the Femme Queen Face category for the Haus of Tisci and won $12,000—ballroom’s largest grand prize to date. This year, Royale was also seen on Queens of the Universe. In the second season’s premiere episode, she blew away everyone but Mel B with her stunning cover of Adele’s “Easy on Me” and went on to finish in fourth place overall.
“[Appearing on ‘Queens of the Universe’] gave me an opportunity to have my own voice, to put my own voice to a song, and to show the world that drag queens are more than just people that dress up and lip-sync to other people’s music.” —Jazell Barbie Royale
Thankfully, Mel B’s criticisms that kept her from winning the competition didn’t dampen Royale’s desire to stay in the spotlight. “Being on Queens of the Universe was just such a great opportunity. It pushed me to become my own artist,” Royale notes. “I’ve lip-synced to so many different artists [for almost] 20 years of my drag career. [That show] gave me an opportunity to have my own voice, to put my own voice to a song, and to show the world that drag queens are more than just people that dress up and lip-sync to other people’s music.”
Her vocal talent and growing platform are not gifts that Royale takes lightly. “Being Black and trans in this world is no easy task,” she states. “Queens of the Universe gave me an opportunity to inspire, and that’s something that I always want to do because someone had to inspire me. Hopefully, me going up there and being unapologetically myself inspired someone.”
Coming of age in the ’90s and early 2000s gave Royale an eclectic musical taste, thanks MTV and TRL. Yet, she admits that one style does speak to her more than others. “I love disco music, and I love ’70s music,” Royale explains. “I think if we could bring disco back, it would connect us more. Disco is one of those rare gifts where you don’t even realize a song is 20 minutes long when you’re out there on the dance floor.”
This summer, Royale has been busy in the studio recording new music. “Inspiration comes with life, because every day we wake up and new life is happening,” she says of her studio process. As for her progress on a forthcoming and hotly anticipated single, she is currently busy fine-tuning the lyrics for the song.
In no time, Houston will be dancing to Royale’s single. But until we are, Royale has one request: “Destigmatize going to get tested, destigmatize taking care of your sexual health, know that PrEP is available, and know that HIV treatment is available,” she emphasizes. “If you need help, do research to find clinics or nonprofits that can assist you with accessing any type of treatment that you need, including mental health and hormone replacement therapy. All these things are available somewhere.”
Keep up with Jazell Barbie Royale on Instagram @jazellbarbieroyale.