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Carmen Carrera Talks Drag Latina & Her Big, Full-Circle Comeback to Reality TV

Carmen Carrera Talks Drag Latina & Her Big, Full-Circle Comeback to Reality TV

Carmen Carrera on Drag Latina season 2
Revry

“It’s great to see that now, 12 years later, I’m hosting a similar show that has trans contestants,” Carmen Carrera tells Out about being a judge on Revry’s Drag Latina. “Because I was really fighting for that from the very beginning.”

Carmen Carrera made her reality TV debut as a breakout star in the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race where she placed fifth overall. In the following years, Carrera came out as a trans woman, became an advocate for trans rights, and focused on her acting and modeling careers, appearing on shows like Jane the Virgin, The Bold and the Beautiful, and The Garcias. Now, Carrera is making her big comeback to reality TV as a judge on a drag competition series from Revry and Latino Alternative Television (LATV), Drag Latina, which is currently airing its second season.

Prior to interviewing Carrera, Out spoke with Revry co-founder and chief content officer Christopher J. Rodriguez, who was honored in the 2021 Out100. Rodriguez discussed how the LGBTQ+ Latin community in the United States is eager for content that makes them feel seen. “The showrunner and creator of the series, Chiru Adams, had this big thesis,” Rodriguez explained. “The queer Latin community in the US really wants [more] American shows in Spanish. The community is very hungry for it.”

He continued, “We have contestants like Queen Andrew Scott, who, throughout the entire competition, speaks in English. They would get questions in Spanish but would respond in English. And then there are contestants like Ruby Bella Cruz who only speaks in Spanish on the show. It was really interesting to see that develop kind of naturally.”

“We also have two hosts this season,” Rodriguez added. “Fedro, the amazing recording artist from Mexico, is returning to host the second season. And we also brought in a new host, Carmen Carrera, who really is the embodiment of our audience’s mix. She’s Latina-American and just an amazing host. I’m excited to see her flourish this season. For everyone to see everything she’s bringing to the table. Carmen largely speaks in English and Fedro largely speaks in Spanish, which creates something for everybody.”

In a subsequent interview with Out, Carrera spoke about returning to reality TV, her career in the last few years, and how she’s applying herself to be a judge ­– and not a contestant – on this new drag competition series.

Scroll through to read Out’s full interview with Carmen Carrera about Drag Latina season two, which is currently streaming on Revry.

Out: How did you first get involved with Drag Latina?

Carmen Carrera: So, Damian Pelliccione, who is actually on the first episode of Drag Latina, he's the CEO of Revry. He reached out to me and asked me if I'd be interested in hosting season two, and that's how it came about. I was super excited because I've never been a host of a TV show before and I was like, 'Yeah, this sounds like an amazing opportunity.'

How would you describe Drag Latina for people who have probably never seen the show?

I think the best part of Drag Latina is that we have a bilingual format. With so much success of Latino music… I mean, some of the biggest Latin artists right now have crossed over to the English market. I felt like it was just perfect to have that bilingual format, so folks that are in Latin American countries or in predominantly Spanish-speaking countries can pick up a little bit of English as well and still be a part of it just as the folks here in the States.

Being a first-generation American and having immigrant parents, I am super bilingual anyway. There are certain things that I can only express in Spanish. I love the concept. I love the idea. Of course, it's a drag reality competition, and it's great. There's a little bit of drama, there are a few little telenovela moments.

You've been a contestant on a drag reality competition series in the past. Did that experience from many years ago help you approach this role as a host and judge on another drag competition show?

Oh my god, of course. I honestly now understand what it is like to be on the other side. I think I have a lot more grace now for the folks who host other reality competitions or are judges on other reality competition shows… specifically with drag. There are so many elements that go into it, and this was definitely an experience for me to grow as an artist and as a personality.

But it also gave me a little bit of flashbacks from my own experience competing on a show like this. I had to sit back and be like, 'Wow, I have such a better grasp of the entire process on both sides as a host and also as a former reality TV show competitor.' It was a pretty amazing experience, and I definitely sort of took notes from other hosts. [laughs] Absolutely!

You are co-hosting season two alongside Fedro. Did you personally know Fedro before the show?

No, I had actually never met Fedro, even though he lives here in Miami as well. I did watch season one of Drag Latina, so I did sort of have a chance, an opportunity, to get to know him before we worked together. And the best part about it was that we just clicked. We just had an equal understanding that we're here to have fun and to bring out the best out of the competitors.

It was beautiful for us to collaborate because I've heard stories of other TV shows or other seasons where some of the hosts don't get along, and that's unfortunate, but we got lucky. We clicked instantly. We had a great chemistry, great connection, and we also had integrity for each other's persona. Like, real respect.

Fedro and Carmen Carrera on Drag Latina season 2

Revry

How would you describe this cast of season two queens for fans who will be tuning in to watch the show?

What I love about this season's cast is that there's such a great representation of how the community has grown throughout the years. When I was younger, it was a different vibe. There was certain, I guess there was just avenues where it's like you can only function this way, and all these things have changed so much and there's so much individuality and there's so much creativity in their drag that it was beautiful to see. They're young, they're excited, they're passionate, and they're also just super expressive and creative. It was a beautiful thing to watch. There's a lot of love, but there's also moments where they check each other, and it's in a way that there's finesse to it. I really enjoyed watching them. I was watching every second backstage.

Strong personalities, and they check each other? That sounds familiar… It sounds like a certain season of a certain drag show from a long time ago.

[Laughs] But you know, what's different about this season is that there's not a lot of pretentiousness. There's a lot of genuine personality here. I think that because the show is still relatively new, there isn't a set format of how to be or what is the formula to success, which is exciting when you watch a new TV series. It's still forming about what the elements are and how things are put together. It was great to just see a lot of authenticity from these girls because there's no blueprint. They're creating it now, which is awesome.

We could argue that when you were in season three of RuPaul's Drag Race, there was also still not really a clear blueprint. So it's really exciting that you're joining Drag Latina season two and once again figuring out with the contestants what this is going to be.

Yeah, exactly. And because it's a hybrid of English-speaking folks and Spanish-speaking folks, it's like a mixture of personalities and flavor. Of course, we have amazing queer people, but we also have that Latina element that's in there that makes it really fun. And us, Latinos, we are dramatic even for the smallest thing. So yeah, there's no blueprint, there's no way of being that will get you to the top, there's no formula. It also leaves room for iconic moments, because this is a new series. It's pretty dope to now sort of be in a similar situation… but now I'm the host.

You're now seeing these contestants, these queer babies fighting and having their personalities on TV. Now that it's been so long since you had a similar experience, do you feel a sense of protectiveness over the contestants, wanting to give advice and wanting to try to guide them in some way? Not that you're their drag mother or anything like that. But I just wonder what's your perspective now that you're on the other side of things.

Right. It's hard because you have to give a critique and be honest. And I think I was sort of on the nicer side because it's just how I genuinely am. I appreciate everyone's creativity, and you have to understand artistically that there's no one way to do drag. There is definitely a wrong way, but there's no one way. What we were looking for in this competition was somebody who was bold and fierce, but at the same time who had integrity and knew how to carry herself. I tried to stick to those things and give the girls guidance and advice that was going to help them versus trying to criticize and make them feel kind of scared.

It takes a lot of guts to be on that runway, to be on television, to kind of put yourself out there. That's nerve-wracking enough. I wanted to make sure that they were receiving critiques that were only going to make them better, and not discourage them, because there is a lot of pressure that is involved in this process. So, protective? Absolutely. Drag mother? A little. I'm mommy vibes for sure. But most of all, it was about guidance and advice that was going to help them and elevate them. I can see the fear sometimes and the hesitation sometimes, and you have to work through that.

In recent years, you have been focusing more on acting and on modeling. How has this been for you, returning to reality TV?

It does feel like it's a full-circle moment. When I was on television in this setting, it was maybe 12 years ago, maybe longer. So, when I transitioned, there was a nuance. It was a new thing. We were breaking ground, we were trailblazing. It's beautiful to see now, 12 years later, all of that work and sacrifice that I put in using my platform and using my voice… not having a blueprint, not having a sort of way of being… just genuinely putting myself out there and trying my best to be a voice of change and positivity.

It's great to see that now, 12 years later, I'm hosting a similar show that has trans contestants, because I was really fighting for that from the very beginning. I've had some success in my career with modeling and acting, but I'm not going to forget where I come from. I always wanted to lend my voice because trans women on drag shows inspired me in the first place. So that was really important for me. Coming back now and seeing trans women competing and flourishing and shining, it's definitely a full-circle moment, a proud moment, and just something to celebrate.

There are so many amazing, talented trans people out in the world. People tell me all the time, like, 'Wow, Carmen, you really set the tone and you really woke us up to want more and want better.' And people still follow me to this day who are inspired by me and want to create a life for themselves that is not, I guess, how society wants us to live. We're going to succeed and we're going to be great. We're going to follow that path of greatness. So, it's a beautiful thing. It really is.

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.