Oh, y’all wanted a twist? In one episode, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14 not only brought back both of their previously eliminated queens, but introduced a brand new rule — one that could change the fate of one lucky queen.
In Season 14’s third episode, which aired on Friday, Jan. 21, the full cast of 14 queens — including Orion Story and Daya Betty, being given a second chance by Ru — were introduced, along with those fans watching, to RuPaul’s own Willy Wonka-inspired golden ticket scheme. At the end of each lip sync for the remainder of the season, the losing queen will unwrap her own chocolate bar to see whether or not the single golden ticket is inside. If it is, the queen is spared from elimination. If it’s just chocolate, she will sashay away.
The queens were then tasked with throwing a pair of balls — one group would be constructing chic animal print gowns down the runway, while the other got patriotic in all red, white and blue-inspired dresses for the judges. Willow Pill took home top honors for her stunning leopard-print pantsuit, while queens June Jambalaya and Maddy Morphosis wound up in the bottom.
Performing in a lip sync to guest judge Kylie Minogue‘s “I Loxve It,” both queens offered up disco realness to win the judges over. Ultimately, Maddy’s subtler approach to the song won her another week, while June’s wild interpretation (and lack of a golden ticket) left her packing her bags. Below, Billboard chats with Jambalaya about her feelings towards the returning eliminated queens, how pop singers Normani and Chlöe inspire her drag, and why she did not believe in RuPaul’s golden ticket idea.
It was so fun to see you on the show — how are you feeling about your time on Drag Race?
I learned a lot in a short amount of time, for sure. I think being around the best of the best in this art form of drag, it definitely let me know where I need to be. I got to take some things I liked from other queens, and got to see what I liked about myself as a performing artist, and all of that.
Sometimes, queens come on and they don’t get to show off their best stuff, but I loved that in the premiere, you really got to show off what a great dancer you are. What is it about dance that inspires your drag?
To be real, I think training and spending the majority of my life in front of a mirror being told how I had to look, how my body had to be positioned to have a career kind of warped my mind and my perception of my body. Now, going into drag, I get to throw all of that out the window and say, “I’m just gonna do it. I’m just gonna dance how I want to dance, there’s no right or wrong style when it comes to dancing here.” Like, dancing queens pull from so many different references; musical theatre, voguing, being African. There’s just so many inspirations, and I don’t have to be a size two with washboard abs to be considered marketable as a dancer.
Now, I also wanna talk about how you were the voice of dissent in this episode when Orion and Daya both walked back into the work room, saying that you weren’t excited to see them — a fair thought for anyone in your position. What is that like, especially for you who literally sent Orion home, to see these queens come back?
So, what you guys didn’t see was that I was pretty emotional during and after my lip sync with Orion — because yes, I want to win, but never at the expense of another person’s dream. And so it really was hard for me, and then to see her come back, it’s really like, ‘Well then why the f–k did I just live all these emotions?’ [Laughs.] Like, yes, I was very excited for her and Daya to have another chance to fight for their dream, but this is also a ball challenge, something I know I’m not great at, so having these two girls who are seamstresses come back puts me further down. That’s where a lot of the insecurities and nerves come from.
I appreciate it so much when queens are straight up about girls coming back. Like, I’m sure that’s not fun from a competitive standpoint, so it’s good to express that.
Completely. Like, no I was not jumping for joy that they were back. But, at the same time, I’m happy that they get to keep going after their dream, that’s a real thing. It’s just that now it might be at the expense of mine! [Laughs.]
On the subject of queens getting second chances, this is the episode that introduced us to the golden ticket concept for the season — where each time a queen loses a lip sync, she unwraps her candy bar, and if the golden ticket is inside, she gets to stay. How did you feel about this new twist?
I did not think it was real! I really thought that we were all going to just have chocolate bars and that was going to be the gag within the gag. Like, we get done pouring our hearts out in these lip syncs, open it up, and it’s like, “Oh, we all have chocolate.” So, to be real, I didn’t pay too much attention to it.
Oh my god, this is now RuPaul’s Psychological Warfare Race, that would be grim.
Exactly, the gag within the gag!
I love ball challenges, but I think they are definitely the hardest of the challenges on the show — constructing an entire outfit out of random materials in a matter of hours while also styling and showing off two other looks seems insane. So when the ball challenge arrived, what was it like having to deal with all of the variables there?
Um, it was a lot. [Laughs.] I am not a seamstress, I am a swipe-and-go kind of girl, I shop at department stores. Honestly, I think that I let the challenge psych me out instead of just enjoying the creativity and going back to that idea of the little kid wrapping yourself up in a sheet and making something out of nothing. But I was like, “I’m plus-sized, I need to make it fashion, but ready-to-wear,” and I sort of let that take over. Now, to be fair, I was going for a Wakanda princess bride, and I even pulled out my braided wig, so I don’t think it was the worst, but it certainly was not a seamless, constructed garment. And there were some girls who could really sew this season.
Your lip sync was iconic because you quite literally littered the stage with the separate pieces of your outfit — what was going on there?
I already knew I was gonna be in the bottom — kind of. Like, I had an idea because I’m not a seamstress that it wasn’t gonna go my way out there, so I made sure the wraparound train was removable, the tube dress was stretchy, and that my shoes could be thrown off if I really needed to break it down. I just told myself I needed to have fun with it. Quit thinking, make them remember you.
Last thing I’ll ask before I let you go, June — what’s a song, or an album, or an artist that has been giving you life and inspiring your drag as of late?
Oh, easy, Chlöe and Normani. Even from just her photo aesthetic, Chlöe is just so good. And Normani is someone that I would love to meet and work with — the way she pulls from the rich ’90s R&B and places it into current times, it’s so fierce. Like, I see the Aaliyah and Beyoncé inspirations in all of her stuff, and I absolutely love it.