Cue the sappy strings and runny mascara, because the grand telenovela diva of RuPaul’s Drag Race — who definitely didn’t want to go home tonight (or any night, for that matter) — made her final exit from the Werk Room.
Though Valentina’s All-Stars fantasy has come to an end, the deliciously extra beauty queen has plenty to be proud of, as she starred in Fox’s highly anticipated adaptation of stage musical Rent on Sunday night — two days after her Drag Race elimination.
In anticipation of her Drag Race exit, EW caught up with Valentina between Rent rehearsals to discuss her decision to wear heels and a bikini bottom to paint a wall during this week’s night club design challenge that sent her packing, what she really wanted to say to shady guest judge Erica Ash after she slammed her runway lewk, coming out as gender non-binary, how her own identity influenced her performance as Angel in Rent, and what exactly it means to live one’s French Vanilla Fantasy.
RuPaul’s Drag Race returns next Friday at 8:00 p.m. ET on VH1. Read on for Valentina’s full elimination interview below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hi Valentina! How are you?
VALENTINA: I’m great, mi amor! I’m on my way to work right now!
Yes, you’ve been so busy with rehearsals! What a time for you to be eliminated: the same weekend you’re also starring in Rent. You couldn’t ask for a better pick-me-up.
It’s the way life works! I think publicists and people pay a lot of money to make things line up [and] for people’s careers to have an end and a new beginning in this crazy way. Life is so weird and it feels like part of my destiny.
The fantasy continues!
The fantasy is a reality!
Speaking of pick-me-ups, girl, French Vanilla Fantasy? I still don’t know what the hell that means or what was in that cup!
At Drag Race, we’re very exhausted. We’re working long days and long hours. What I picked up as a nervous tic to keep me going was drinking coffee that had French Vanilla cream in it. Part of the fantasy was that I was asked one of the production assistants if they could get me a French Vanilla Fantasy instead of just [a regular] coffee, because there was a specific way that it had to be made, with the straw and the protector on it and a special kind of coffee. Mine was specifically the one with a little cute, pink donut on it. I would say, “Can you get me a French Vanilla Fantasy please?” Part of me loving being on set and the fantasy of living my life was the idea that PAs are there, and if you ask them for a coffee they come and bring it to you and it feels like a very Hollywood experience…. people love to play house with me, but it’s all fun and games!
I didn’t think it would be as interesting to listen to somebody talk about how they get their coffee, but you exceeded my expectations.
Anybody who didn’t know what French Vanilla Fantasy was, I was quick to get them by the hand and be like, “This is how you make the French Vanilla Fantasy! You get the donut first, then the creamer in the cup, and you have to make sure you have the straw because the straw is what makes this a delicious experience!” [The] PAs were so sweet and worked so hard dealing with us crazy ass drag queens. I appreciate them for living the fantasy with me!
Spoken like a true diva. Also diva-esque: the outfit you used to do some heavy-duty set construction, which was a see-through sweater, a bikini bottom, and stilettos. Is that the outfit you do all of your home improvement projects in?
Yes, m’am! When you’re painting, you don’t want to get it all over your clothes, so the least amount of clothes you wear, the better. And the heels are great at reaching real high to the ceiling, you know? You don’t need the ladder when you’ve got a pair of stripper heels.
… or Naomi Smalls’ shoulders.
That’s true, too!
Switching gears: I know you recently came out as non-binary. Is that something you realized through the art of drag?
It’s been a long process for me to explore and express myself and my femininity through drag. Me being in drag for so many hours of my day and for so long in my career now, I’ve been wondering: How much do I identify with the femininity of being a woman and how much is put on? I came to a place where I understood that I live in a world where I can honestly be my full, authentic self, and I feel most happy knowing that I don’t have to conform to a gender because I really don’t feel like I’ve ever fit in with feeling completely male, feeling like I’m trans, or fully a female. Being non-binary does go under the trans umbrella, but I’ve always felt so alone — not just the idea of being gay, but just being very different…. I even felt different from gay people, you know?
Drag helped me be fully aware of my authentic self. When I’m not in full drag, I have shaved eyebrows, a full manicure, and I sit with my legs crossed; those things explain my femininity, but it’s also a part of how comfortable and how feminine I feel inside. There’s a shift between how masculine and how feminine I feel that I don’t really feel the need to define if I am male or female, because I feel like both at the same. And there can be some days that I feel more masculine or more feminine. Non-binary means you don’t have to be either or.
I imagine your identity informed the way you approached Angel in Rent.
I think that’s my element of being able to bring some authenticity into the character. My coming out as non-binary has been, in context, connected to Angel because I want people to know and understand that Angel is such a beautiful human being — or character— [but] she’s a human being to me. She lives as a spirit in my mind and in my heart, and guides me to be a better person. Through that experience, I’m [often] asked how I view Angel [and her identity]. The only way I can explain it is the way that I identify and bring my authenticity to the character, and how I identify and connect that to who I think Angel is. I hope that through this, people can see what it means to fully be free and to identify freely as yourself — especially when you have the level of community around you to support your truth.
Did some of the Drag Race acting challenges help you prepare for Rent?
My preparation for Rent right now is preparing for the character and working with my director and vocal coach. What Drag Race did is it created a platform for me to be discovered, which I am eternally grateful for. Without Drag Race I wouldn’t have Rent, you know? I will always be grateful for that.
The art of being a diva, though, isn’t specific to a gender. And you certainly are the diva of All-Stars 4. Is this really how you live your everyday life or are you playing an exaggerated character on TV?
I’m definitely an authentic, complex character in real life. Most people that have met me and know me personally know that I’m extra and a lot of fun. I think I was able to show who I really: I’m silly and I’m goofy. Granted, I do know we’re filming a reality show…. I was happy I was able to unleash the diva and let people know that being a diva is ok and it’s fun… Even if you’re crowned Miss Congeniality!
It all resulted in some great memes this season. Your “line reading” of “So you think I could go home tonight?” blew up. You had to know that was going to stick!
No, I was literally shocked! I was drinking so much alcohol to get rid of the pain in my feet from those boots. It was a very drunk reaction of shock! Obviously, the delivery behind it was very telenovela, and I live for watching myself on camera. I’m so entertaining, even to myself…. it was all juice cocktails and me just being my dramatic-ass-telenovela-full-fantasy-Valentina self.
You were also upset with guest judge Erica Ash when she slammed your runway outfit, and you didn’t fully get your moment to speak your mind. What were you going to say before the girls cut you off?
I’m totally over it! I hope she has a great life and a great career. Maybe from that experience, she’ll learn to step into a safe place of drag queens in a beautiful community where she can be more constructive and more supportive of the queens! I found out that she was healing from a broken back or something [on that episode]. Maybe she was just…. having a painful day. You never know what people are going through. I wish her all the best!
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