By Joey Nolfi
June 29, 2018 at 08:35 PM EDT
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The bigger the queen, the harder she falls, right? Not in Eureka’s case. The large-and-in-charge, body positive season 10 stunner might’ve sashayed away from RuPaul’s Drag Race without the crown, but she still carries with her a newfound pep in her size 16 step.

“I won in my own way,” the Tennessee native told EW shortly after Thursday’s grand finale, which ultimately saw her losing the title (and an epic three-way lip-synch battle) to 22-year-old New York City queen Aquaria. “I gave people of size hope. And I gave myself hope. All I wanted to prove in the finale is that I deserved to be there, and I did that… And that word has gotten around, so of course, I’m a winner. People are rooting for me now more than ever. They feel like I was robbed, and that’s who you want to be: The robbed queen! That just makes people support you more. It’s strange how it works, isn’t it?”

Read on for the rest of EW’s interview with Eureka, during which she discusses Asia O’Hara’s shocking butterfly stunt, how gimmicks are detracting from the purest essence of drag queen lip-synchs, why her knee surgeon is the real winner of season 10, and the multiple controversies that have followed her throughout the competition.

Oh my God, what a damn finale, girl. Congratulations on doing such an incredible job! You were my favorite to win and I’m so sorry it didn’t work out that way.
That’s okay, I won in my own way! I appreciate you!

But girl, I have to keep it real: I noticed that during “Bang Bang,” it looked like you maybe didn’t know some of the words!
Oh, I definitely don’t feel that is correct. Maybe in the moment it looked like it. I thought I knew the song. It was the way it was edited, maybe? I would love to give my real opinion on that, but I think I’ll hold onto it.

After seeing these lip-synchs, it’s so clear to me that you just love flexing that new knee and that the real winner of the season is your surgeon. Does the surgeon get a fruit basket after all of this?
My knee surgeon definitely deserves a lot of things. So, I’m going home this week and I was thinking about going by there and doing a video or something, congratulating them!

I know you had to hold it together in the moment last night at the viewing event, but when you finally got a moment to yourself and you had a second to process that this journey is ending without the crown, what were you thinking?
I didn’t want to disappoint my family. They were really rooting for me and excited. I think they were hoping to feel like winners, too.

I saw the tweet you sent about the negative fans and asking them to give you 24 hours of peace. What did you mean by that, and what were you experiencing that made you tweet that message?
We have a fandom that has chosen to be very nitpicky to me and my character this season, and they’ve tried to invalidate the fact that I made it as far as I did. They think I didn’t deserve it. They also had certain opinions about who I am as a person and how I view life that are very incorrect. It’s spread with a lot of hatred and negativity online. I went online and saw people saying my reveals were boring and all this negativity, and I wanted to tell the world to give me a break. I’m in enough pain. You don’t have to inflict more. Talking with my family and seeing my nieces and my nephew crying because they’re just as upset I didn’t win as I am…that was enough shame for one night. I didn’t need more from the community that’s supposed to be lifting me up, you know?

Mettie Ostrowski for EW

What’s one of the misconceptions people have that bothered you the most?
Obviously, it would be the moment where I paired Kingsley with Aquaria. The color of his skin…wasn’t the only reason. It was obviously makeup trickery, but it was also the mood and the energy I was getting from Kingsley. He was overhyped compared to her. I was trying to be strategic because RuPaul told us to be, and I felt I needed to. But I feel like that moment was taken in a different context than it was meant.

Do you think that played a part in RuPaul’s decision to not crown you?
I think RuPaul does care. She’s a businesswoman and she’s growing with the times, as she always has. That’s what makes her an incredible public figure in the entertainment industry, because she’s always grown with what’s in the now and trending. She’s very smart that way. It would be somewhat silly of her not to pay attention to all of that. She’s a representative the masses are supporting… From that perspective, not only did Aquaria do an incredible job throughout the season, but she also had that [fan] support. So I think that RuPaul definitely takes [fan reaction] into consideration. This is her legacy and she wants it to continue to build. She can’t do anything to harm it. There’s never been a controversial winner, so I think if I’d won last night, I could have potentially been a controversial winner because there’s such an open controversy around me right now. But it’s not my time. The decision that was made is the right one.

The brief moments I’ve been around you, you’re so kind and you have such a warm personality. It sucks to know there are people who don’t see that. 
Yeah, I definitely agree! But that’s why I think this is my path, you know? Because I still need a little bit more time to show more of that. Even during the season, I held myself back a little bit from getting myself involved on social media. I didn’t want to address some of the topics to be more controversial or start heated arguments or confrontation with the fandom in any way because it’s just not who I am. I like to fight negativity with positivity. Everything I post — even when I’m getting a point across — I still post a positive note about it because that’s who I am. People will learn that on their own time.

The racial discussion and the narrative is still very important for this season. It sparked a lot of conversation, and it is desperately needed. It’s not the ideal role that I could have played, but at least it’s still helping to spark the conversation to affect change. Whatever role I have to play to help create change, I’m going to. It’s a task I’ve been given. I’m weirdly happy with it.

That’s such an interesting, unexpected perspective on it.
I’m a winner, baby. I know I’m a winner. I won in my own way.

So you still feel like the big girl won in the end, even though she doesn’t have the crown?
Yes, I absolutely think so. I gave people of size hope. And I gave myself hope. All I wanted to prove in the finale is that I deserved to be there, and I did that… I proved that I deserved to be there. And that word has gotten around, so of course, I’m a winner. People are rooting for me now more than ever. They feel like I was robbed, and that’s who you want to be: The robbed queen! That just makes people support you more. It’s strange how it works, isn’t it?

Girl, we have to talk about the butterflies real quick. I could see those damn butterflies flying around the stage throughout the rest of the taping behind RuPaul and the rest of the girls.
Aquaria and I were sitting backstage and we got to see the lip-synch from a monitor, so we kind of got to see what was going on, but we weren’t sure they were real until after the crew was rushing around to find things to try to catch or sweep up the butterflies in the safest way they could. We were heartbroken for Asia because we both know that she deserved to do better than that. It was a sad moment.

Do you think that it’s diluting the essence of a good lip-synch when girls focus more on the spectacle and less than connecting with the lyrics? Are gimmicks ruining lip-synchs in that sense?
Yeah, I think at times. We’ve been taught that…well, I don’t know, specifically…in Asia’s stance, I think she got in her head and felt that since she couldn’t split or do the dancing tricks, she had to go above and beyond to shock, which was not the case.

I think the gimmicks are a little much. That was an issue with Aquaria in the first lip-synch…it didn’t show on TV as much as it did in person, but the Vanjie fan and the rip-away and the cones on her costume had her in a nervous place. You could see the nervous energy. I was comfortable because I did rip-aways and reveals I’ve done before. I played to my strengths. If people try to push themselves to an uncomfortable place, it causes you to mess up, you know? I like a good reveal but it’s not necessary. Latrice Royale is a powerful example of that.

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