Well, that’s five episodes and five girls gone. After a Monster’s Ball runway featuring guest judges Cara Delevingne and Elvira, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11 has let their latest girl go. Sorry Ariel Versace.
In the final challenge, the competitor was criticized for not only not looking scary, but also not varying things up. Conversely, Brooke Lynn Hytes, who seems to becoming the “look queen” of the season, pulling in runway wins at every turn, won yet again. But in the lipsync against Shuga Cain, when Versace took a tumble and mama Ru made a face, she sealed her fate.
Here we talked to the New Jersey-based performer about what happened, being a social media queen, and launching a wig business for drag queens that pays all her bills.
So that lip sync, what happened?!
When I was not called out to be safe, I was a little gagged. One of my pet peeves is when people are overly delusional. I was super proud of all the looks that I brought for the Monster’s Ball. They were actually my favorite things that I brought and, actually, I loved my first two looks — yeah, my mermaid look was not exactly up to par with the other things that I brought, but I honestly thought that I was being kept on stage because I was in the top. So, I was gagged when I found out that I was not only in the bottom, but the bottom two.
I don’t know, I was a little scared to lip sync just because I was so shook. I was super proud of what I brought that night so to be told that it wasn’t good, but also to have everyone say, “Oh, she’s just a social media girl,” and I was not feeling at 100 [percent]. I just didn’t feel like it was my time to lip sync. Going into it, in the back of my mind I was like, “I don’t want to let all these people down and I need to prove all these people who are hateful wrong and show that I do perform — this is what I love to do.”
When I fell, you know, shit happens. I have fallen before. Drag queens are lying if they say they’ve never fallen before. Unfortunately, mine just happened on national television, but there could be worse wings. I got back up and kept doing the damn thing. I actually thought it was worse than what it looked like on television. When I saw the episode at Roscoe’s, I was like, “Well damn, keep going bitch.”
You mentioned people calling you a social media queen. What was that like going into the show? Did you want to change that perception?
I think there’s a huge stigma about being a queen with a large following on social media. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. Honestly, we are in the day and age where social media is a huge marketing thing. I’ve been getting booked all across the U.S., even before Drag Race just because of Instagram. People see my pictures, they see my performance, and it’s just an amazing platform to show who you are as an entertainer. I’ve gotten so many bookings through my social media so I think it’s something you definitely need to build yourself on.
After Drag Race, not only have I been traveling more, but I’ve also been doing tons of brand deals. Outside of just drag performances, I’ve been doing like skincare reviews. I just did an ad for Iggy Azalea and the spring campaign for the Marek + Richard clothing line.
So this isn’t something that you either had to live up to or disprove? It’s something you’ve embraced.
Yes. Obviously, I went into it with something to prove because people have an expectation of me because I have a bigger online presence, but I’d rather go into it with a dedicated fan base than going into it as a ghost.
During the critiques from the judges and also some of your sister competitors, people have been saying you “wear the same drag.” Your boyfriend actually spoke out about it and I was wondering how you felt.
Well I find it interesting to look at who the fan base and everyone picks and chooses who they want to say that about. Honestly, when you establish yourself as a queen you have specific things that are a part of your brand. When you think “Ariel Versace,” you think big hair, you think Lisa Frank and colorful. I don’t know why people would expect anything less out of me. I got on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Why would I not pull out the most colorful outfits and the biggest hair possible?
But even when you look at my fellow Drag Race sisters who have said my looks all look the same — I love them dearly, but when you look at some of them, their looks are the same. Correct me if I’m wrong, but when you look at Brooke Lynn Hytes, her signature hair is slicked back, platinum blonde hair. She’s worn that almost every single runway, but no one seems to have a problem with it.
And again that may come from the fact that I did have such a big social media presence before so people already knew what to expect out of me.
For sure. As much as you guys are performers, in this day and age specifically, you are also brands. So, having that brand consistency is important.
Right. If I always wear big hair all the time, and I’m sitting here trying to promote the fact that I have a hair business and I love big hair, I don’t know why there would be any point to me going down the runway with slicked down hair.
I actually wanted to ask about that business. How is Drag by Chariel?
Well we started doing it about three years ago, and it’s been doing pretty well. We’re international. We’ve sent a lot of hair out of the country. But we have also made hair for a ton of Ru girls like Trixie Mattel who has worn a ton of hair from us. I’ve been traveling a lot so Ricardo has been a one-man shop, holding down the fort. We offer tons of different styles and colors. We actually have been living off of that so it’s been great. We pay our bills, we pay our mortgage, and everything else off of that.
Is it just hair or do you do costumes as well?
The majority is hair, but we do costumes as well. Ricardo is the one who sews — you saw my mermaid outfit, I’m not a seamstress. But I help with the design and stoning work.
What is it like to date another performer who does drag?
It’s great because we are able to help each other and elevate each other. We both taught each other a lot. He’s definitely helped me so far along. Him and I perform about two to three shows a month at our local bar so he helps me to turn out new looks and new hair. I’m super into makeup so, over the years, I’ve helped him with that so we can both be the best that we can be.
When you look back over your time on Drag Race, was there a particular moment that you think speaks to who you are as a queen?
I really enjoyed doing the Rusical because I had done musical theater for so many years of my life. The reason that I was so upset during that rehearsal was because I had such a huge fear of failure. It was something I was sort of psyching myself out for. Like, “Oh my god, this is something I was looking forward to and I don’t want to fail at it.” When we were actually doing it, I felt so in my element. And after watching it back, I think we all looked like we were having fun and so that would definitely be my favorite moment.