Darienne Lake joins me this week to discuss the Drag Race! Darienne and I caught up at DragCon this past weekend, which was completely crazy and fabulous.
Darienne: People always wonder why this or that person got on the show when they know someone who is so much better. I try to explain that, for example, if you were going to cast a remake of Steel Magnolias, you wouldn’t have 8 Ouisers.
Chad: Right, and the question is: what does “better” mean? More polished? A better performer?
Darienne: There are so many facets of what makes one performer “better” in a fan’s eye. Some people live for fashion queens, some love camp. Some love the dancing divas. I think this year has a great variety of that.
Chad: It seems like a good season is all about finding the right cast of queens who will have the right amount of chemistry and drama. How do you think Season 7 fared in that regard?
Darienne: This year, I think the contestants take the competition very seriously, so it may come across as cutthroat.
Chad: Did you see this week’s Untucked? I thought that came through so much — the older queens, Ginger and Kennedy, made it clear that they would do whatever it took to win. Pearl and Violet were like, “why does this have to be a competition?” Do you think it’s naive of Violet and Pearl to think they can get away with that approach?
Darienne: No. I think it helps us see their point of view.
Chad: Who do you sympathize with? Because you’ve done pageants in the past, right?
Darienne: I have. I never liked the feelings pageants brought out in me.
Chad: Did the Drag Race bring out your competitive edge, or was that different?
Darienne: Drag Race brought out the competitive side in me, but part of my competition style is alliances. I’ve always been a lover of reality competitions, and I’ve always known that nobody gets to the end without forming an alliance.
Chad: What alliance do you think helped you make it to the final challenge?
Darienne: In my case, I knew I had to listen and watch what was working with the judges.
Chad: In terms of your fashion? Or your personality?
Darienne: My fashion is shit and always has been.
Chad: I wouldn’t agree with that, but I can see that you probably prioritize performance and comedy, right?
Darienne: As an overweight child, I never read fashion magazines because those looks were unattainable to me. I felt more importance should be in my entertainment value.
Chad: Sure, I can understand that.
Darienne: When I was picked on, it lessened when I could make the bullies laugh.
Chad: Do you see some of that same approach in Ginger Minj? Her focus on self-deprecating humor and entertainment?
Darienne: I do see that with Ginger, but I see she has such a strong desire to win.
Chad: Do you get the feeling that she’s trying TOO hard? It seemed like she was really pleading her case to the judges this week. Do you think it’s a fair point that it’s time for a bigger queen to be crowned?
Darienne: I don’t think there is ever a time for a big girl to be crowned. If you’re well rounded, motivated, entertaining, and professional, you should represent the brand of America’s next drag superstar.
Chad: Well, so there’s the question: Who do you think WILL win this season, and who SHOULD?
Darienne: The final 3 all have reasons to be there. Ginger could win, because she has the chops to make it in this business. She’s funny, engaging, talented, and direct.
Darienne: Violet could win, because she has something new and exciting for the audience. She also takes her craft very seriously and is very polished for someone who was 16 when RuPaul’s Drag Race first came on TV.
Chad: ….and Pearl?
Darienne: Pearl could win, because she is that diamond in the rough that has been polished by the machine of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She has grown emotionally on the show. She has had her spirit tested, broken, and rebuilt.
Chad: Yeah, I really have no idea who will or should win. I seriously think at the Reunion that Ru should announce “The winner of Season 7 is…… KATYA!” That would be the most surprising and rewarding ending.
Darienne: I met Katya at DragCon, and she is exactly what you want and hope for.
Chad: (Yes, I know.)
Chad: Last year, there was a TON of discussion about your “edit,” about whether you were depicted as much shadier than you really are. Do you feel like any of the top four queens got a particularly positive or negative edit this season?
Darienne: Violet may have gotten a little of the Courtney edit. Which was: fierce, but arrogant. Which, Courtney is anything but. She was and is so dear to me.
Chad: Yeah, all of my interactions with Courtney have been absolutely delightful. The same is true for you, too, which is why I’m so suspicious of those damn editors!
Darienne: I performed at Tracks in Denver on NYE, and Violet was a delight.
Chad: I feel like Pearl really got the “Adore” edit, where she’s rough and inconsistent, and she’s given second and third chances, but she fights her way to the finish line.
Darienne: Exactly my thoughts.
Chad: I don’t know WHAT to make of Ginger’s depiction on the show. I’ve had the feeling all along that she’ll win, but not necessarily from her edit. I actually prefer her in interviews and on YouTube videos to her performances on the show.
Darienne: I think Kennedy came across as too stuck in her beliefs.
Chad: Sure. I do like her, and I think she’s a complicated character. Brilliant performer, definitely knows what she’s doing. Hearing about her family and her caregiving role really struck a chord for me.
Darienne: Yes, and Kennedy entertained me out of my seat when I saw her at the premier party.
Chad: Same with us! My boyfriend doesn’t watch the show, but he came with me, and afterward, Kennedy was his favorite.
Darienne: I would probably put my money on Ginger to win. I think that she could handle the pressure, adoration, and critiques it takes.
Chad: Aside from the cash prize, do you think the crown matters a whole lot to the queens’ careers?
Darienne: Not at all. Look at Milk and BenDela. Adore and Courtey. Katya and Trixie.
Chad: Yeah, I do think Ginger is the most grounded and professional queen to serve as the face of the show.
Darienne: Whoever it is, they have some big footsteps to follow. Bianca has been a trailblazer.
Chad: The one other thing I wanted to ask you was about internet fandom and backlash. It seems like Kennedy has gotten the brunt of it this season, without really deserving the negative attention she’s gotten. How do you shrug off the haters?
Darienne: Mind over matter. Pay them no mind, because they don’t matter. There is no way their comments will affect my life. I dealt with real bullies. With fists. I can deal with someone with an Internet connection.
Chad: Ha! Did you have any other thoughts on the Drag Race, drag in general, or on being Darienne Lake?
Darienne: RuPaul’s Drag Race continues to keep me as a fan. Bringing more people to the shows in every bar around the world. It’s children, parents, and grandparents who are coming to Battle of the Seasons tours and DragCon.
Chad: Yeah, you’re right! That’s so great to see! I had a lot of all-ages groups coming by my table at DragCon. It’s so incredible to see whole families opening up and becoming more accepting.
Darienne: I’m blessed to be part of a groundbreaking television series.
Darienne will be performing in Cleveland May 30th, Ann Arbor, MI on June 5th, and Detroit on the 6th!
And be sure to find all your favorite Drag Race prints, posters, and postcards at my Etsy Store!