Everyone seemed to be sleeping on Naomi Smalls throughout the early day of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars season four. That all changed instantaneously during week six, when Smalls anihilated her lip sync against Gia Gunn and created a new canonical lip sync move: the back bend. The performance stamped her as a real contender.
But beyond that, Smalls proved a quieter but not less formidable contender for the crown: surprising during week three’s Snatch Game of Love as Wendy Williams and during week eight’s makeover challenge. And despite not ultimately earning her crown (while she won the hearts of some of our editors, she ended up splitting third/fourth place with Monique Heart), Smalls legacy was only bolstered by her time on the show.
Here, we talk to her about the elimination, the possibility of a Club 96 resurgence and advice for her new season 11 sisters.
I have to start by asking if you’re aware that your song “Pose” was used in Christian Cowan’s FW19 runway show on Tuesday.
Yeah! I saw your video of Milk and Aquaria there. That was a very surreal moment. It’s also cool because I pulled from Christian for All Stars so it was a very meta moment.
Now that that’s out of the way can we talk about the back bend? We have to. How did you come up with that, what do you call it, and did you realize you were creating an iconic moment in Drag Race herstory?
Y’know it’s so funny, I don’t necessarily know where the backbend really, really, really came from. I know I used to see Ciara do it when I was in grade school. But what I can tell you is that if you asked me to do it just standing at Target, I can’t really do it. But when I’m in front of an audience, in heels, in like the gig-arama and some heavy wig, I can do it immediately. I didn’t think it was going to take people by storm like that but I have been loving all the memes. It’s cool to be the meme queen of the season.
“Everyone is sleeping on Naomi Smalls” became a popular narrative on social media during the early episodes. I’m curious for your reaction to that.
I knew that I was doing really well in the competition but I don’t know if I was necessarily sitting in the narrative of each week. But it didn’t stop me from continuously giving my all each week. And we had a lot of challenges that were definitely out of my comfort zone. I was terrified of Snatch Game in particular because on season eight I had had such a bad run of it. But it was probably my favorite challenge this season to impersonate someone that I look up to so much.
Of all of your runway looks this season, which are you most proud of?
When we got the assignments for All Stars season four, we knew we had to bring two similar looks for the makeover. And I brought these really sassy dresses and at that time in the competition I had not really made a statement with the judges and I was really annoyed at that point because I thought I had been really turning it and they just weren’t noticing me yet so the Cher and Sonny look I just kinda came up with from what I already had in my closet. That Cher look was not supposed to be on my friend Ricardo, and we safety-pinned it in the back and had to duck tape him, so it was very much a winging it thing but I’m very proud that I got to show because it was me taking a risk.
Who would you say you became most unexpectedly close with?
Two different answers. I got really really close to Monet. I didn’t know that we were going to become best friends like that. She really appreciates me for my personality and I really appreciate her for hers. There’s no fakeness there. And I am the biggest Gia Gunn fan. I think she is the most hilarious person in the entire world.
Do you think there’s any chance we’ll one day get a real-life Club 96, or at the very least a Drag Con pop-up?
You know, I’ve been trying to talk to a bunch of club promoters and managers. I feel like Club 96 needs to at least be a monthly party. I think it would be the most fabulous monthly party ever. I definitely think that Valentina and I need to step up. Because at the end of the day Club 96 is the only one you remember from that challenge, right?
Fans seem extra thirsty for Naomi Smalls. Are you feeling it?
I kinda love it because I know that Naomi Smalls is not necessarily going to live on forever but Davis is going to so it’s cool seeing both sides of myself being appreciated.
The fandom has been a large talking point amongst this season’s queens in terms of their behavior. How do you think we, as a community, can get a handle on this toxicity?
I’ve been dealing with this for the last couple of weeks. I didn’t ever have to deal with this before. My solution, an easy quick solution, is just to block people because if that’s the way you’re going to treat my content then you don’t deserve to look at it. But I am not really sure who needs to step up and give that statement. I maybe wish that RuPaul’s Drag Race would step in and address it on the show. I’m not really sure that that would stop it but I think that RuPaul’s Drag Race could be a better example of how to handle those emotions.
Advice for season 11 sisters?
Oh my gosh. It feels like forever ago. I really hope that my new sisters find something that makes them happy that does not necessarily involve doing the same routine that every single Drag Race contestant does. I didn’t really realize that until I started working on my own content and not depending on World of Wonder or RuPaul’s Drag Race or a phone call to come film something and instead was working on my own projects, and my own YouTube docu-series, Smalls World, and working on music. Find something that makes you happy because it makes you happy and not because you’re a Ru girl.