For drag artists across the nation and the globe, the Emmy-winning competition series RuPaul’s Drag Race remains a proving ground.
“We all have risen to the top in our local scenes in one way or another and drag race allows you the platform to see how that measures up against everybody. See how that measures up against the legends and the icons that have already done it,” Season 14 finalist Bosco said during Deadline’s Contenders Television: Documentary + Unscripted awards-season event.
Joining the Seattle-based queen to reflect on the latest season of the VH1 hit were fellow finalists Angeria Paris VanMichaels, Lady Camden and Willow Pill, and Miss Congeniality winner Kornbread. In true Drag Race fashion, Season 14 upped the ante with a game-changing golden candy bar that offered one queen immunity, a lip-sync smackdown, another high-energy Ru-sical and more. However, Drag Race also touted its first straight contestant and the franchise’s most trans-inclusive cast yet, with a total of five contestants identifying as transgender including Bosco, Kornbread and Willow Pill.
During the panel, Willow Pill spoke about how their experience on the long-running competition series helped them come into their own truth about their gender identity.
“Having so many other girls on the cast sharing their stories and talking – whether it’s back stage or phone call – to coach me with this process has been absolutely priceless,” they said. “When you’re together with your people constantly it kind of just rubs off on you and you realize what’s going on behind the brain, so a lot of that journey I have to attribute to this experience.”
They continued: “Because of the pandemic I hadn’t been in drag in 15 months. [Drag Race] was my first dip back into drag and then I was like, ‘Why am I so happy all the time, getting to be in drag?’ I was like ‘Okay, something’s going on here.’ ”
While the camaraderie and support among the queens was an aspect of Drag Race that helped Willow Pill on their journey, Angeria Paris VanMichaels said she wasn’t expecting the closeness with fellow contestants when she first joined the competition.
“I think the biggest thing for me is that I got really close to them and they were really nice and that’s not something I had thought would happen going into it,” she said. “When you watch it on TV and you see everybody with drama and the edits, then you see we all still can get along and stuff like that, but still maintain drama when we need to.”
One of Angeria’s closest competitors was Sacramento queen Lady Camden, who made her mark with a number of challenges, including Ru-sical “Moulin Ru.” For the London-born performer, starring in the Moulin Rouge!-inspired production served as a “reminder of it’s not really about what you’re given, it’s just what you do with it and that attitude.”
She continued: “I had such a crappy attitude going into it at first and I think I needed to have that moment to reset and be like, ‘Not everything’s going to go your way, in fact it’s never going to go your way in this competition so you have to balance and shape-shift.’ I think once I kind of let go of whatever expectations I had, I think I just felt a little bit freer.”
While those four queens made it to the final stage, Kornbread exited the series early due to an ankle injury. Despite her short time, the L.A.-based queen walked away as the new Miss Congeniality – a title awarded to the kindest, most helpful queen in the Werk Room.
“People go, ‘You go around saying sweet nice things to them’ and that’s not true. I actually give them a lot of tough love and I talk a lot of crap to them,” Kornbread said. “The more crap I talk to them, they take it as motivation, but it’s just me running my mouth. But it’s great to see that they take my side as I am as a person and they embrace it.”
As for what keeps drag artists coming to the Main Stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Willow added that “it’s a way for you to be like ‘Can I really do this? Can I bite as loud as I bark?'”
“It’s the ultimate challenge for yourself as an artist,” they said.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 14 concluded on Friday. Read the recap here.
Check out the panel video above.