Pearl Liaison (real name: Matthew James Lent) may not have won RuPaul's Drag Race Season 7, but she's emerging as the show's real breakthrough.
It certainly helped that Pearl was the best-looking contestant (in and out of drag) the show had seen in a long, long time. But Pearl also approached the competition with an irresistible air of nonchalance, genuine sass, and spunky irreverence, including with Holy Mother Ru.
Yet, her personal style and flawless makeup made viewers swoon, and this month, Pearl gets her reward: She's gracing the cover of Dazed, the British fashion bible, a first for any Drag Race contestants.
"The initial idea for the Pearl cover story came from our executive fashion editor Alister Mackie and photographer Willy Vanderperre, who loved Pearl's raw and uncompromising spirit on Drag Race," says Dazed deputy editor Owen Myers. "They wanted to show her in a new fashion and art context. No Drag Race queen has ever been shot in this way - but then, there has never been one quite like Pearl."
For the shoot, Pearl dons a peroxided wig that recalls Marilyn Monroe's iconic blonde locks. In addition, Kim Jones, creative director of Louis Vuitton, designed custom scarves emblazoned with "Pearl," and lent items from his personal archive of Leigh Bowery clothing. We also get to see Pearl as Matthew, wearing the latest spring 2016 collections.
See the full cover shoot and read excerpt from Pearl's interview with Dazed's Isaac Lock, below.
Slideshow: Pearl Liaison's Full Dazed Cover Shoot
On working with RuPaul...
Isaac Lock: Do you get to see RuPaul at all while you're making the show?
Pearl Liaison: Only when you're filming. But it takes hours to film with RuPaul. She has an earpiece in the entire time, and she recites her lines from it over and over. She doesn't fuck it up, she just redoes them a million times: different funkiness and different this and that, and she talks to herself because she's talking to the guy in her ear. It takes forever.
On the pains of drag
IL: Do you see yourself growing into an old queen? Are you going to make a career of it when you get to Ru's age?
PL: Uh-uh. No fucking way, girl. I took two weeks off last week, and by the end it was like, 'Oh my God, I kind of miss Pearl!' I miss that bitch, but I can't possibly do this for 20 years the way I'm doing it. I'd be lucky to, but, girl. It's not good for your body. It's not good for your skin. My dick is in my ass all the time, my ribs are crushed by a corset, I have bruises on my hips, my toenails are falling off. I just got a manicure because I had glue residue all over my nails. I can't do this forever.
On peeing as Pearl
PL: Well, I don't tape. So I just pull it out and shove it back in there with my pointy stiletto nails on. I get bruises everywhere, my eyes will be red from rubbing all that make-up off... I used to wear a lot of glitter on my eyes, and it got to the point where I couldn't keep scraping glitter off my eyes every fucking day.
Pearl on sex (and cab drivers)
PL: I don't have time to sleep with anyone, honestly. When am I going to have time?
IL: When you're at home?
PL: When do I go home?
IL: You just had two weeks off, remember?
PL: That's true. I slept with someone during those two weeks. But that's rare! Don't get me wrong, it definitely happens, but, girl, I was a bigger whore before all of this. I'm not even close to being a whore now. When am I going to sleep with someone? Between taking my make-up off and calling a cab? In the cab? With the cab driver? Like, I suck off the cab driver and that's my sex life? Don't get me wrong, I've tried.
On gender identity:
IL: So it's just drag for you? How do you consider your gender identity?
PL: Oh, I'm not confused at all, I love being a boy. If I ever had questions when I was growing up about who I was supposed to be, those questions were answered when I started doing drag. I don't have a deep philosophical reason for doing this. I just like doing it, it's fun, that's it. When I started, I still had a day job, so it was different for me than it was for some other drag queens in that they were so thirsty. I did drag because I wanted to, not because I had to. I wasn't that thirsty bitch at the bar trying to get noticed and get a gig. I was just going out with my friends who were in drag too. I wasn't working in Starbucks and then, like, babysitting someone's kid and scratching around for a gig. I graduated hair school when I was 17 and I was working in a salon before I was 18. I had a good job and I was able to pay my bills. I think the struggle came from my reasons as to why I had to be that self-sufficient person, which was that I had no support system from a really young age.
And how RuPaul's paved the way for gender non-conformity
PL: RuPaul paved the way. She's making money, she's changed lives, she's changed the way people see drag queens, she's changed what gender non-conformity is. She's got it going on, and I will never not respect her.
On not being a victim:
IL: That's something a lot of people responded to on the show. I think you on the main stage, crying when Ru asked you to talk to your five-year-old self, was the most emotional reality TV moment ever.
PL: I mean, girl, I never thought I was going to go on Drag Race and cry. Watching myself cry on TV is the hardest thing I have ever had to go through. I rejected all invitations to host viewing parties, because I just wanted to be at home with a few close friends under a blanket, you know. It's fucked up. It's a weird, unnatural, bizarre thing. The thing is, I've been through things but I have completely grown, and I'm almost thankful. I would rather have gone through those things and be who I am, than be someone who has had things handed to them their entire life. I'm not a victim, and I was afraid that if I ever opened up about 'my story' then I was going to come off as one. But in the end I was much more emotional than I thought I would be. Maybe I just don't go there with myself. Maybe there is still a little bit of a pain there. I don't know, but I don't think about it. I just live my life and that's it.
Read the full interview at DazedDigital.com