By Joey Nolfi
April 21, 2017 at 10:00 PM EDT
VH1
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Across her short tenure on season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Eureka O’Hara nearly fainted upon meeting Lady Gaga, ate her way through a $6 Ramen noodle wig, stirred up a healthy dose of controversy in the work room, and conquered the daunting task of playing a grown-up version of North West in a Kardashian-themed musical. After surviving all that, though, it was a major physical setback — a serious knee injury sustained during a cheerleading challenge — that eventually did in the fan favorite contestant.

In a shocking turn of events (the second game-changer in what’s shaping up to be the twistiest Drag Race edition yet), after season 9’s comeback queen Cynthia Lee Fontaine seemingly trumped Farrah Moan during an intense lip synch battle, an unidentified member of the show’s staff approached Mama Ru, who left the runway, returning to the head of the panel moments later to deliver bad news: Cynthia and Farrah would remain in the competition, but, due to the physically demanding nature of the competition, Eureka — who’d already been declared safe from elimination — would be leaving the show in an attempt to reduce the risk of further medical trauma.

Eureka’s correct when she tells EW her “route’s not over,” however, as RuPaul ultimately extended a heartfelt invitation to the fallen queen: Leave the show now but come back for season 10. Read on for everything the departing beauty has to say about the brief — but memorable — impact she made on Drag Race, and whether she’ll take up the offer to return for another shot at becoming America’s Drag Superstar.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m so bummed you’re leaving! You served so many amazing looks this season, including that hospital chic crutch realness at the end!
EUREKA O’HARA:
I was giving you Furby on a crutch, honey!

And you still worked it! Even in those little ballet flats. You bejeweled the hell out of those things.
Aww, my little flats! You’re bringing up the memories, honey. The doctor wouldn’t allow me to wear heels… I needed to be on crutches 24/7… Usually, I special order shoes because I wear a size 16, so all they could find to fit my feet were those little ballerina slippers!

That’s dedication. It’s not like you’re leaving because you did something wrong… I think you might be the first Drag Race contestant eliminated because you went above what the judges were expecting.
I didn’t look at it that way! That’s so refreshing to hear.

It says a lot about your tenacity.
That’s definitely who I am. I have an amazing, loving family that I want to be able to help and support… they drive me a lot. [Being eliminated] was hard at first. I felt like my body let me down, and then as I was healing I realized I kind of let my body down. I’m obviously a bigger girl; I’m not upset about being big, but at the same time I decided to make certain health choices in my life that possibly could have helped to remedy the situation.

I know Charlie Hides was actually lip-synching with an injury last week too, right? What are your thoughts on that?
I mean, that’s her side of the story! [Laughs]… I’m kidding. 

What! Spill the tea, girl!
It’s hard to tell with Charlie. I never know what’s real and what’s not. Charlie and me never clicked. I still hardly talk to her… I don’t really know Charlie. I didn’t get to know her when I was there. She told me to shut up – that’s about as much as I know about her.

You don’t think she was actually hurt?
I think she was injured. I just don’t know how extensive it was. I feel like a part of Charlie was ready to go home. She probably was hurting from that challenge… There were a lot more girls who were hurting and injured, but after they saw me leave, they probably just kept it to themselves!

So what was running through your mind when you saw the producer approach Ru at the panel?
Either they both slayed and are staying or they’re both leaving. [Then] I was like, “Oh s—, oh s—, oh s—.” My butthole got tighter and tighter… and [when Ru said my name], I got light-headed. I thought she was going to say they recalculated and I was in the bottom two. Or they were going to say something like, “Farrah’s your best friend, do you want to tap in and try to save her on your crutches?”

Will you take them up on the offer to return for season 10?
Absolutely. I’m coming to the closing end of seeing doctors after knee surgery. I’m doing really well, and as long as the powers that be allow it, I’m definitely going to be back.

You had to get surgery!?
Immediately. My ACL was completely torn in my left knee. It’s an experience that was a part of my past, girl, so I went through it. Now I feel like a stronger person.

You get two seasons of Drag Race on your résumé now, though!
And I get an ACL surgery on my insurance record. That’s gonna haunt me when I’m filing for life insurance, girl. Wait and see!

I have to ask you about the work room drama with Sasha Velour and her eating disorder. Was there more to that story than what we saw?
It was right after we’d just gotten done having this big emotional moment regarding Charlie and the AIDS epidemic. It was a very emotional few moments… Valentina wanted to talk about her disorder, and I immediately thought to re-track and throw it to something funny. The atmosphere was already so emotional that it wasn’t a good time, which is my life [laughs]. I’m always trying to break the ice with a toothbrush! It was poor timing for my comedy. I think because of the sensitivity at the time… that it triggered something in Sasha to snap back about… and I’m just not the one. You don’t snap at me without getting a clap back.

Your apology was so sincere, though. It’s important for people in the community to see these positive portrayals of sisterhood, don’t you think?
I have such a love for Sasha because she represents a different side of difference, like I do. I represent difference in a different way… that’s something we realized about that situation. We had similar feelings but in different directions, and we didn’t respect that about each other until after.

I usually ask queens what they would have done differently but you’re leaving on pretty odd terms, it’s not like, in hindsight you really could have done anything differently.
I guess I would have told that choreographer “F— no, I’m not doing a cartwheel!” [Laughs] I had my reservations about the cartwheel, but I did push myself past my gut. I was like, I don’t think my big ass should be doing cartwheels… [I’ve learned to] listen to my body.

Is your eye still on that Miss Congeniality crown?
I’d rather have the title crown next year. Maybe someone else deserves and needs Miss Congeniality more than me. I don’t need that reassurance; I need the reassurance of being America’s Drag Superstar.

RuPaul’s Drag Race airs Fridays at 8:00 p.m. ET on VH1.

RuPaul — as host, mentor, and creative inspiration — decides who's in and who's out.
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