By Joey Nolfi
January 30, 2018 at 10:00 AM EST
VH1

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3. Read at your own risk!

As if the Mona Lisa were plucked from the Louvre and repurposed on the walls of a Lisa Frank museum, season 1 champion Bebe Zahara Benet — a surviving relic from the deepest trenches of RuPaul’s Drag Race herstory — made a surprise return to the candy-colored Werk Room during last week’s All Stars 3 premiere, joining the 10-strong roster of competitors for what’s shaping up to be the show’s wildest edition yet.

Now that the dust has settled on the shocking episode, Benet had a chat with EW about coming back to the show that made her a star all the way back in 2009, how she’s coping without season 1’s notorious filter, her confusion regarding her new nickname (“I’m really not that old!” she says of the “mother” moniker), and the true fate of ousted contender Morgan McMichaels.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hello, mother! How are you?
BEBE ZAHARA BENET: Is this like, the new generation that uses the word mother? [Laughs]

I was going to ask you about that! I feel like everyone has been calling you “mother” instinctively, so I figured, well, that’s just how I have to greet her.
That’s what I’m trying to find out! Do they think I’m old, because I’m really not that old! [Laughs]

Are you offended?!
Absolutely not! I love it. I’m just curious where it comes from because everybody started doing it at the same time. I’m intrigued.

If you are everyone’s mother, then, the real question is: are you a proud mother of these shady children on All Stars 3?
I want to believe that [laughs] I’m a nurturer by nature! You’re going to see that play out a lot. I have a motherly instinct and I’m always trying to give therapy.

Uh, Bebe…. I think we just found the answer. That’s why you’re mother!
Yes! [Laughs] It’s good to be back, though. 

Judging by what Trixie and Milk had to say about you in the confessionals, they sure stuck you with some shady queens this time around though, didn’t they?
Right. Right! Right?

Have you chatted with Milk since he called you Grandma in the confessional on the first episode?
No, I’ve not chatted with Milk. For people to go through the confessional and say things like that, they must be very intimidated. I think I intimidated a lot of people, so it’s okay.

Is Milk going in time out? Mother, ground her!
Yes, well, keep watching! [Laughs]

Were you nervous about stepping back onto the show without the season 1 filter?
Absolutely not! I hope I don’t come off as being cocky…. This is what I do, this is what I live, this is what I breathe! I was more so excited and anxious to see how things have changed and evolved. In terms of how I was going to look without the filter? I wanted to be shot in HD! Are you kidding me? Do you think I’m going to spend my money on all of this makeup and these products to not look my very best? Please shoot me in HD! Puh-lease!

On top of their looks, these other girls know how to play the game. They entered the show after it had already become popular. Was that a difficult adjustment for you to return to a show that had changed so much since your season?
It wasn’t, because I knew I was going into the show with a different point of view. We all [have] a different drag aesthetic and drag persona, but there are so many people who haven’t gotten to know who I am [on the show]. I speak a different drag language, which I can add to your taste buds. I know people have said I’m coming into a competition next to people who are very popular, but we created [the show’s] popularity! So, have some tea with that! [The other queens] are popular because all of the season 1 girls created that situation for [us] to be that popular.

But because season 1 was so new, did you notice a difference in the way the girls behaved or competed back then as opposed to the girls now, who were on the show after it had become a hit?
What was beautiful about season 1 was the fact that there was no blueprint…. We did our best at being authentic and raw with our gifts, emotions, and how vulnerable we were. Now, because it’s become so popular…. a lot of girls go on the show wanting to be [something] or create an image. They want to be “the bitch” or “the nice one” or “the fashion girl.” While that makes you stand out, it dilutes the purpose [of the show] in the first place. It’s important to go into the show being grounded…. You need a firm grasp on your foundation, because it’s not all honey, honey.

It feels like one of the queens who came into the season trying to fill a certain role as “the bitch” was Morgan. Did you agree with Ben’s decision to cut Morgan?
I totally understand where Ben was coming from when she [took issue with Morgan’s desire] to eliminate the stronger queens, because that would be my same strategy. I like to compete with the best…. you never know what challenge will play to your weakness or your strength, and you don’t know who you will need to help you when you’re weak and vice-versa. I don’t think that sending all the strong competitors away is the best strategy, [but if it was my strategy] I wouldn’t say it out loud, honey!

Was Ben correct in saying that you guys reached a consensus about how you were going to eliminate each other going forward, though? She used that as part of her justification in sending Morgan home.
We spoke about it as a group. Nobody said, “Okay, this is exactly how the elimination process will work.” A majority of people voiced their opinion that it wasn’t fair to send the strong players home, but rather we’d look at it challenge-by-challenge and also the judges’ critiques. I could tell that was the general consensus.

Do you know where Morgan is now? Is she alive? Is she okay? Do you know where the hell Alaska and Chad took her at the end?
[Laughs] Well, I think she’s alive…. she’s on social media, still breathing the breath of life! Morgan is good. Everybody on the show is going to have amazing opportunities. You’re an All Star for a reason. Even being the first to go…. I don’t think the girls have anything to worry about if they put in the work.

So we should keep our eyes peeled for Morgan to pop up in the future?
Keep hope alive, honey! Keep hope alive!

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on VH1.

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