Credit: VH1

The bodybuilder Barbie has, at long last, returned to the dollhouse.

On Thursday’s epic RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10 finale, Tennessee native Kameron Michaels ultimately sashayed away from the competition as a runner-up in the wake of an epic lip-synch showdown with Eureka and eventual winner Aquaria. Despite her introverted ways — which confused and/or annoyed many of her season 10 sisters along the way — Michaels still established herself as a silent but deadly force to be reckoned with, a lip-synch assassin responsible for ousting a trio of her sisters leading up to the last episode. Shortly after the finale’s end, EW had a chat with Michaels about her personal evolution on the show, one that played out ever so softly, but nonetheless beautifully. Read on for the full conversation.

Credit: Mettie Ostrowski for EW

Girl, how are you feeling this morning? I know you had a late night!
Incredible! On top of the world!

I saw a video you posted on Instagram right after the finale was over, and you said you couldn’t be happier. That’s usually not something you hear from someone who just lost a major competition.
Oh, what are you talking about? I won? [Laughs] I had a great run this season! I had so many wins and I have amazing fans. So yeah, I won.

But what’s this I see on your Instagram that Trixie and Shangela texted you? You seemed more gagged by that than anything that happened at the finale!
I’ve talked to Shangela before, but I’ve never spoken to Trixie. I’ve never met her, so the fact that she reached out was just…the Ru girls are all so welcoming and it does feel like a family.

What did they say to you?
I think Trixie was the one who told me I was a legend, she was maybe referencing all of my lip-synchs! And Shangela just sent me a nice little message about how well I did and said if I ever need anything, just to reach out to her. They were very sweet.

How do you feel about Aquaria winning? Do you think it was the right choice?
Of course, it is. Watching the whole season, she delivered, delivered, and delivered some more. She never lip-synched. She won Snatch Game of all things, which nobody expected from Aquaria. She’s absolutely deserving of the title!

You also wanted everyone to know you won a lip-synch without a cartwheel or a split, right?
Going into the first lip-synch, I knew there was a little bit of a stigma around me, that I’m a one-trick pony. I wanted to make sure that my first lip-synch was free of the tricks that people have seen me do a couple of times now.

Were you constantly working against that this season, subverting people’s expectations?
Yeah! I lip-synched six times in a row this season, including the finale. When you lip-synch six times in a row, you’re bound to do a few things the same. So I was conscious of that during the finale.

In terms of your general output on the show, do you feel that you were working against other people’s ideas of how they expected you to perform as well? Because you’ve admitted that you think people don’t feel that you deserved your spot in the top four.
Oh yeah. I feel like I definitely had to work against that narrative. I was a little reserved and quiet, and, of course, when you see me step on stage it’s a different persona that comes out. I had to fight that the whole season. I don’t want to say I worked harder than anybody else. I think I had to prove my worth when the spotlight came up.

You told me the other day you learned that you’re actually an ambivert, not an introvert, and flip a switch when it comes time to perform. And apparently to go on social media, because after our conversation I went on Instagram and there you were, stripping down to your underwear in front of the camera.
[Laughs] Yeah, so…I think a lot of people are confused and expect me to be the same on social media as I was on the show. But now, what I’m doing is being respectful of other people in the room. I don’t like stepping in front of people and taking the spotlight away from other people. I like waiting for the spotlight to be given to me. So when I’m on a couch with four other girls or I’m in a room full of people, I only speak when it’s necessary or when spoken to. And when I get home I have my own camera and my own space, and I’m in control. I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes or speaking over someone else. The misconception is that I’m being shady or I’m just doing it for social media. No, I’m just being very respectful of other people in the room when it’s more than just me.

That must have made it hard to pick Asia to lip-synch against then. Why did you pick her?
There really was no strategy behind it. They even showed me thinking a little bit on the episode. Of course, it was edited down a little bit. It took me a lot longer in person to make that decision because I didn’t know what to do. The whole theater and RuPaul were just staring at me waiting to give an answer. So I honestly just said a name and stood aside to keep the show going.

Is it weird to ask if you’re glad that you ultimately picked Asia? Because you did win.
I never want to be the one responsible for sending girls home. It’s not something I enjoy doing, but then again it’s a competition and if that means I have to lip-synch, I have to lip-synch. I do think it was important for a theater full of people to see me entertain in that environment…because on the show people are just seeing the edit and what the show has decided to put on the screen, whereas in that environment a whole theater saw my performance.

So when did you realize Asia had unleashed real butterflies? You looked so shocked when the synch was over.
I had no idea what happened. You can see it in the lip-synch, I don’t know if Asia moved from center stage, and I was left, right, center, and bolting around the stage the whole time. I had no clue what had happened until I looked down, and I still didn’t know they were real butterflies. I thought they were pieces of her outfit because she had butterflies on her dress. So I thought pieces of her dress had come off!

Well, now that moment is a Drag Race meme. That’s a good consolation prize, I guess!
I guess that’s fair! I had no clue what happened until the very end.

In the end, what do you think you’ve accomplished on the show, though?
I finally learned why I was there. It’s because there hasn’t really been a person like me on the show, who’s a lot more reserved in normal life until I’m on stage. It’s an important conversation to have — especially me learning something new about myself, that I’m an ambivert, not an introvert. That’s an important conversation because a lot of introverts feel like they aren’t enough. There’s a lot of self-doubt happening. It keeps people from doing things in life because they’re scared of what the outcome might be. If I let the demons win, I wouldn’t do things in fear of failure, and if I feared failure, I’d never be where I am today. It’s important to talk about because introverts miss out on a lot of opportunities because they’re scared of failure.

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RuPaul's Drag Race

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