When it comes to whipping up a killer wardrobe, Pearl (Matt James) has always sought to be a nonconformist. The 23-year-old drag performer still vying to be America’s Next Drag Superstar stunned fans and judges alike from the very beginning with an eclectic and creative eye for fashion. To those who have followed Pearl throughout the seventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, she is the sultry, septum piercing-wearing, “fla-zay-dah” contestant who has cranked out gag-worthy eleganza such as the “black trim blonde bombshell”, uber-chill grunge chic, and the unforgettable Mathu Anderson-inspired bearded look, just to name a few.
While she never ceased to impress fans with innovatively embellished ensembles on the show, at the beginning, it was Pearl’s attitude that left the judges thirsty for a little more. It wasn't until RuPaul’s memorable “wakeup” call that we were finally able to see that there was more behind those self-proclaimed bedroom eyes.
After touring through the Midwest and making a pit stop in sunny San Antonio, Pearl expands on where she draws inspiration for her looks and how she describes the essence of her drag aesthetic. “Typically I like to think of myself as a really eclectic dresser,” the Chicago queen says, adding, “I don’t really like to just wear one type of thing.” Pearl says that she has never liked to limit herself creatively and always seeks to go the extra mile when it comes to creating looks. “I’m not just going to wear a green dress,” she explains, “I’m just going to think of something a little more interesting.”
Describing her own drag persona as the ultimate “stepford wife robot bitch”, Pearl says that it’s hard to pin down her artistry as a drag queen in just one simple way and now that she’s touring, it’s even more difficult to pull out her usual jaw-dropping looks. “I don't really have one drag aesthetic, really. I’m pretty open as far as fashion goes,” she says, “but it’s hard when you’re touring and doing shows to bring crazy looks and be able to do crazy paint jobs on your face.”
Although many of her looks arguably left fans captivated, Pearl says she always finds room for improvement, even in her own work. “To be honest though, looking back at the season, I’m not in love with what I did on the show,” she laughs, “’I’m very proud of myself and I’m happy that I was able to bring in some cool looks…maybe it's just me being my own worst critic.”
While to many avid Drag Race watchers Pearl was almost always guaranteed to pull out some expertly crafted look, it was the judges that did not readily embrace her personality on the show at first. Often characterized as a little too lackadaisical, Pearl says that simply being on show impacted her personality. “I think the show put me in a really weird mental state and I really wasn’t myself,” she says. “When people meet me at shows and at meet n’ greets and stuff, I’m very much myself and I think it comes as a big surprise to them,” she adds, “It’s like…I’m actually a lot of fucking fun,” she says with a laugh.
Pearl says that some of her more fun, empathetic moments on the show were often not seen on the final cuts. “The funniest moments happened offset from cameras, which was just kind of hanging out with all of the queens together,” she explains, “Those were the best times, just sitting in the green room and being stupid.”
While the show had its fair share of friendlier moments, Pearl says that it didn’t come without a significant amount of both physically and mentally draining challenges. “There are no words to describe the exhaustion and how humbled you are by it,” she says. “You’re constantly being judged and critiqued and read to filth. It can get so daunting on your self-esteem, not to mention you’re overworked, you’re exhausted and you can’t sleep.”
Pearl explains that it was hard for her, even before she actually started filming for the show and that some of her looks were a team effort. “I got the call and had like two weeks and I had to work every single day. It was hard,” she says. “I was lucky to have some friends that were able to scramble and put some looks together.”
With this season of Drag Race near its end, Pearl says that, even with the demanding nature of touring, she still has made time for a half album set to be released in a few weeks. In addition to the half album, she says that she has worked on a “huge” project with Wilhelmina Models that will be released around the end of June. “Right now, it’s just been so busy touring that it’s hard to focus on creative projects,” she explains, “but in the future, when I have more free time, I would like to work on a bunch of different creative projects.”
Pearl realizes that the show’s publicity can only take a talented queen so far and that it’s important to have a plan post Drag Race. “There’s a lot of pressure to figure out what is going to come next,” she says. While a queen’s time as a Drag Race girl is numbered, Pearl explains that it doesn’t escape her how much gravity there is behind keeping a drag career relevant. “You really just have to take the experience and do anything you can with it,” she adds, “you have to be smart about your future.”
The Drag Race finale airs June 1 on Logo.