Warning! The following article contains major spoilers about the April 5 episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10. Read ahead at your own risk!
It’s time to cool the engines and hush the ankh-ankh-ing, because the “U-haul” of RuPaul’s Drag Race has unfortunately run out of gas. Though she was an early favorite to make it all the way to the end of the reality competition series’ 10th edition, New York City-based queen Yuhua Hamasaki met her match in an epic lip-sync battle against Mayhem Miller to the hard-rocking sounds of Hole’s “Celebrity Skin.” Consistently hailed as one of the fishiest queens in Drag Race her-story, Hamasaki’s inability to uglify herself for this week’s challenge — a commercial shoot for the fictional dating app for beastly babes Madam Buttrface — landed her in hot water, but Michelle Visage seemingly bashed the final nail into Hamasaki’s coffin after a tense exchange at panel saw the acid-tongued judge reading the 27-year-old’s feathery runway fashion for filth.
The morning after her surprise elimination, EW caught up with the Chinese-born Hamasaki to discuss her time on the show, how the season 10 cast repurposed Monét X Change’s questionable sponge eleganza, and how one of Japan’s biggest pop stars influenced her drag identity. Read on for the full conversation.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Girl, I’m so excited to talk with you. I just wish it wasn’t because you had to say BYE GAY PEOPLE this soon.
YUHUA HAMASAKI: [Laughs] Bye gay people! Bye gay boys!
Are you holding up ok?
Yeah, I’m fine girl! Life goes on. It’s a show! It’s what you do after the show — knowing that you’ve been given an amazing opportunity — that really matters. There are girls that have won their season, but what are they doing now?
The show has gotten to a point that, even if you’re only on for one episode, you’re still a star to the community.
Look at Vanessa! First episode, she was gone! But everybody’s talking about Miss Vanjie!
Yes, and we’re all going to buy Miss Vanjie t-shirts!
I’m going to make her give me one because I’m broke. I got eliminated third, so I need her to give me one for free.
Missing that $100,000, eh? I do want to ask you about your name. I’m hoping it’s a nod to J-pop goddess Ayumi Hamasaki?
Yes! I chose an Asian last name because I want people to hear my name and know that I’m an Asian girl. And her last name sounds so killer, doesn’t it? Hamasaki!
It’s funny because we think pop queen Stan culture pits American artists against each other in a really intense way, but in Japan it’s ruthless. She’s always compared to Utada and Namie Amuro, it’s nuts!
Yep, and you know she has the biggest career though out of all of them! [Laughs].
Hah! You’re trying it! I’m a Namie girl, though. I’m sad she retired! But it’s clear, then, especially after what you said about your name and your runway look this week, that culture and identity are important to you and your drag.
When I first moved here at age seven, I had culture shock. Growing up in China was completely different than growing up in America. When we moved here, I didn’t speak a word of English. I was critiqued [by Americans] and ashamed of my culture. I was scared to eat Chinese food in front of my friends, in school I was afraid to speak my own language! I tried to hide anything that made me look Chinese. Drag allowed me to be proud of who I am, and being part of who I am is being proud of my Asian culture. So I embody that in my drag!
Did you feel that you had to go through another acclimation process again when transitioning to drag and coming out as a queer person?
I feel like I still do. A lot of the references most drag performers understand are pop cultural. Most people understand old-school drag, which is inspired by Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Donna Summer, and then new school queens follow Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj, so I’ve always felt like I had to explain my humor, style, and the type of drag that I do. I was talking to other drag performers just yesterday, actually, and we talked about my runway look [from last night]. They understood it right away that the crows mean death and death in Asian culture means evil. And that I was embodying what an evil queen would look like if she were made of crows. But I guess that didn’t translate in American culture.
I found it odd that Michelle critiqued you so harshly when you explained its meaning. She’s always telling queens to bring themselves and their creativity to the runway, and you put real sentiment behind it. How did that feel?
She calls it clapping back, but I call it explaining myself. If I don’t explain myself, the judges aren’t going to understand it and I’m going to be sent home. And I want to stay in the competition — that’s why I’m explaining myself.
I was shocked that you landed in the bottom as early as you did, but then I was like, did she watch season 8? Because as Acid Betty knows, putting birds on sticks on your costume is the kiss of death!
You’re right! I was not thinking of Acid Betty when I did the crows! The crows were actually inspired by Alexander McQueen’s feather collection, which is why I had the crows in the back just like he did! I thought it looked high fashion, but they called it arts & crafts. I’m going to send you a picture of how Alexander McQueen did it and then how I did it, and then you tell me what it is [Laughs].
Monét X Change had some choice things to say about you throughout the episode in the confessionals, but I feel like her look didn’t even come close to yours this week, and of course, her sponge eleganza wasn’t great, either. Are they letting her skate by?
I don’t produce the show so I don’t know!
That reminds me, I noticed you and some of the other queens blotting your noses with sponges that look like the sponges that were on Monét’s dress from week one. Did you guys just cut that awful dress up and distribute the sponges amongst yourselves?
They were falling off of her, so they were everywhere! We’d find them in all corners of the room. The girls were just picking them up off the floor. I didn’t touch them, but the other girls were using them. They were just picking up the scraps from the floor and drying their faces with it [Laughs].
That’s so hilarious.
And it’s gross!
To each their own! But when it came down to the lip sync, I don’t want to be shady, but I have to ask you about doing air guitar. Girl…
When I think of a lip sync, I’m thinking of what the performer would be doing. And Courtney Love was the artist behind the song, so I thought of how Courtney Love would perform that song, so I was trying to be her playing her instrument!
I saw someone on Twitter compare it to Lindsay Lohan playing the guitar like Jamie Lee Curtis at the end of Freaky Friday and I died. Did you see that?
No, I didn’t see it! I’d love to see it!
It’s somewhere lurking the dark corners of Twitter, but it’s pretty funny. I always feel like even though the queens get eliminated, it’s good to become a good drag race meme in the end.
Yes, as long as it keeps you relevant! If people keep talking about you, that’s all that matters. If they’re not talking about you, that’s when you should be scared!
You’re also making a name for yourself in openly discussing your gender fluidity. Can you elaborate on that a bit more?
Every gender has been doing drag for a long time. But we always see the notion that only cisgender men are able to do drag, but that’s not the case! Transwomen have been doing drag forever. Gender fluid people have been doing drag forever… cisgender females and transpeople are doing drag, too! And we just don’t talk about it. So, I’m here to represent that.
Do you think Drag Race has gotten so big and has such a prominent place in mainstream culture that the old school rules of drag have to be resurfaced or re-explained for new audiences?
I would say so, because drag is for everyone. If you want to do drag, do it. As long as you’re having fun, do it. Because that’s the most important thing about doing drag: be yourself and have fun expressing what your true self is all about!
One last question, I have to ask what you thought about Yara Sofia calling you U-haul in the first episode.
That joke I’ve heard before. I‘ve heard every joke with my name. So, U-Haul was nothing to me at all. I thought it was funny, but I’ve heard it before. Sorry, Yara!
RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10 airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on VH1