By Joey Nolfi
February 18, 2019 at 10:00 AM EST
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Between getting paid for her Pepsi Super Bowl commercial with Cardi B and the planned release date for her upcoming EP (made in collaboration with artists who’ve clocked time with Whitney Houston, Justin Bieber, and Michael Jackson), RuPaul’s Drag Race‘s reigning Sponge Queen Monét X Change soaked up a crown and scepter during Friday night’s All-Stars 4 finale. But she wasn’t the only lady to take the title, as RuPaul shocked the Drag Race community by inducting both Monét and fellow top-two finisher Trinity The Tuck into the Hall of Fame — a move that has caused a divisive stir in the show’s vocal fandom. EW caught up with Monét shortly after her coronation to discuss the wildest Drag Race finale yet, rising above petty fans’ critiques (“I’m cashing checks!” she says), where her career goes from here, and the difficulties of sashaying into the world as one half of the most polarizing victory in Drag Race herstory.

RuPaul’s Drag Race returns for season 11 Thursday, Feb. 28 at 9:00 p.m. ET on VH1. Until then, read on for EW’s full interview with All-Stars 4 winner Monét.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hey Monét! You must be so relieved that this is coming to a close, but what an evening you’ve had! Winning, dropping your visual EP, going onstage with Kacey Musgraves… I can’t imagine how you feel right now!
MONÉT X CHANGE: My head is still spinning, I’m so happy! I feel like I’m on f—ing bath salts!

Usually, when I talk to the winners they’re exhausted, so it’s nice that you’re still excited.
On season 10 we were all thrust into it. It was hard because we were traveling and not sleeping. At this point, girl, I’ve had three hours of sleep in the past two months. But it’s better to be busy and working than to be at home ordering Postmates.

You also have a jolt of energy from your Cardi B commercial fueling you.
Exactly, okurrr?

What was it like filming with her? Or was your portion filmed separately?
My portion was separate, unfortunately, so I was in the same realm as Cardi B. I could smell her lip gloss on set when I got there. This just fueled me trying to get that one-on-one. I want to do an interview with Cardi B in like, U.K. style while having old English tea and crumpets and talking about sex.

The gag of the season, though, was saved for the last two minutes of the episode, and in that video showing you and Trinity finding out who won, you both genuinely looked like you had no idea how to react.
We had no idea. Not even a little bit. Not an inkling. When I heard Ru say “For the first time in Drag Race history” I was like, I thought it was going to be [crowing me] our first black All-Star. So in my brain, I was like, win, yes. Then a little bit later I realized it was a tie. That’s when I was like, oh, work. I was gagged.

A good gag or a bad gag?
There are no bad gags. It was completely great. I’m happy that I won! I still got a crown, scepter, and $100,000. I thought Ru was going to Manila Luzon me and make us share the $100,000.

Let’s be honest, Trinity didn’t look happy in that video. What was she like in the moment during the reveal?
I think she was surprised in the moment. We didn’t think a tie was in the cards…. It was like, how are we going to show a tie? Where is the tie going to manifest from? Then we thought, maybe we heard it wrong? That’s where her confusion was.

There was also that tweet before the finale where someone speculated on a double win and she responded with “no thx.” 
Yeah, I did see that. I was like, gagged! They showed you, girl.

She has $100,000 to soak up her tears now.
Soak it up, girl.

I’m sure you’ve been online and you’ve seen what the fans are saying. Does it dilute the win a little bit for you knowing that it was a tie? Do you wish it could’ve just been one?
Ego would have you think that, but no. Saying I want it to just be me is the thought coming from my ego, but at the end of the day, I have to realize that the fact that we both won gives both of us more resources to do whatever it is that we were going to do if we won solo. With two winners there are more chances for great things to happen for drag and to make drag mainstream. The mainstreaming of drag can affect a lot of change because drag is powerful. People wanted a diverse All-Star and they got it. I don’t understand why they’re upset.

People get caught up in the pettiness. 
The world today is a whole bunch of petty folks, so I’m not surprised. That speaks to what the fans are coming to the show for. Trinity and I both posted pictures of us in our crown and scepters, and the reactions are so drastically different. On Trinity’s, all the comments are lovely and positive and people uplifting them. And then you go on mine, it’s drastically different. People are calling me the N-word and black this and that, and I think it just speaks to the quote-unquote fans of the show. You can’t even call them fans, because real fans of drag and Drag Race wouldn’t be so hateful. It speaks to the people who are viewing the show and gives you an insight into what we deal with all the time.

Outside of that, I’m so impressed you made your All-Stars 4 victory happen without milking the sponge thing. I know some people expected you to whip out sponges like Monique did with cows. Were you actively avoiding that?
You love it or you hate it. But the sponges are a thing. It’s going to be something in Drag Race for the rest of herstory. It’s an iconic moment in the Drag Race lexicon. But, unlike Monique, I didn’t feel the need to constantly remind people of that because it’s just a fact. That’s where I ended my journey last time, so I wanted to make a departure from that.

Are you happy with how All-Stars 4 repositioned you in the fandom?
People are seeing me as more of a glamorous queen, as someone who’s not just funny and is a multi-faceted person. That was true of me before in New York City, but I just didn’t have the resources to get extravagant and nice things. Extravagant for me before was trying to get guacamole at Chipotle while living in New York and trying to pay my rent.

And now Pepsi is cutting you checks.
Hello! I’m cashing the Pepsi checks. Like NeNe Leakes. I’m cashing checks.

This finale is also very different than All-Stars 3, which divided the fanbase. Do you think if the queens had been brought back like a jury this time you’d still be a winner?
That’s a shady question! I know one person’s vote I wouldn’t get is Gia because she’s a f—ing c—t. As opposed to everyone else, I don’t know. It would be so interesting. We should film an alternate ending and redo it and see what everybody’s gonna do.

You clashed with Gia? 
I didn’t clash with Gia. I don’t really know Gia at all. I’m just being silly. She’s fine! [Laughs].

And the final lip sync encapsulated everything that impressed me about you this season, especially your ability to connect with the emotion of a song without a gimmick, like during that Judy Garland lip-sync. The other girls were just doing gimmick after gimmick this season.
Yes! And it didn’t make any f—ing sense. With that lip-sync, people were like, “I think Monét didn’t try, she lip-synced poorly to that song.” I’m like, I am a Judy Garland stan. The Wizard of Oz is my s—. I’ve seen so many performances of Judy Garland, and she was the queen of being so huge while playing it small and being understatedly amazing. That’s the beauty of Judy Garland. I’ve seen the Carnegie Hall performance 19 times. She’s not doing the most, she’s doing the least, but it’s so amazing and powerful it feels like the most.

I think you brought that, whereas Naomi was all over the place and not connecting with the song. You brought it back to old-school drag, which Drag Race has been missing lately.
Ok bitch, you said it! I’m just listening at this point.

I also loved that you spoofed wig reveals and revealed a blonde pussycat wig under another blonde pussycat wig. That was genius.
[Cackles] Yes! We’re so over the wig reveals. It’s like, girl, do not do a wig reveal. I was poking fun at how stupid wig reveals are. It was a combination of Monét X Change having the audacity and balls to wear a pussycat wig in front of Michelle and RuPual again, and also revealing another one under it, girl, I got my whole f—ing life. I lived!

That was the hardest that I laughed the entire season. And the dynamic between you and Trinity lip-syncing was so great because you guys are so opposite: She likes spectacle, and you connect more with the emotion of a song. But, how did you feel about her stealing your old lady look from season 10?
Oh, I did it a million times better than hers. It was horrible! Literally the epitome of when you see it online versus when you get it delivered. I wasn’t the first one to ever do saggy old lady t—s. There have been centuries of women and drag queens from the Continental [pageant] to little gay bars in Indianapolis who’ve probably done it better than me; I just did it on TV first. Trinity is free to try as much as she can.

Mettie Ostrowski for EW

Did you make that yourself or is that something you have to go to somebody to get made?
The one I went to was Phi Phi O’Hara! I was telling her the process I was going to do to make it and she was like, no, come over and I’ll make these saggy old lady t—s for you. And she showed me what to do. I have to thank Phi Phi O’Hara for that amazing costume that the judges did not understand!

I feel like that’s controversial! You don’t hear too many people thanking Phi Phi these days.
Oh no! I love Phi Phi. She’s been a great friend to me. She’s one of the sweetest queens I know. She helped me with three costumes for season 10. She’s a great queen and I love her.

Good.
You’re like, “No Monét! Give us the T!”

No! You know better than I do. I believe you! Moving on, I just wish that at the end you were lip-synching against Monique, too. Did you and Monique have a secret alliance going that wasn’t discussed on camera? It seemed like you might’ve.
No, we didn’t. We didn’t know we were going to be there! Even though we were on the same season. Obviously we had speculated because everybody reads Reddit. We all know what’s going on. We didn’t talk about it, and there were no alliances. If Monique had f—ed up really bad and I was in the top, I probably would have sent her home and vice-versa.

Reddit is usually right with these things, but before the season they said you went home early?
It was like, saying that I went home third. Mhmmm.

Proving bitches wrong!
Right. Reddit, get y’all facts and currency in check, honey.

One thing Reddit users talk about is the fact that there hasn’t been a winner of color since season 8. Trixie is half Native American, but white-presenting in drag. How do you feel about that?
The fact that there’s never been a queen of color in the All-Stars Hall of Fame, it does suck. But Drag Race has had many queens of color: Violet, Bianca, Raja, who else…

Um, Bob?
Bob! Oh my God. [Laughs]

Come on, girl.
[Laughs] There have been lots of winners of color, but not All-Stars. It’s unfortunate, but it’s never too late for a change. If you get mad, change it. Change is never late. It’s always welcome.

The issues of race are so complex in this show, and you were the first queen to call out that photo that someone had made of the black queens standing behind Trinity on the couch, which was absurd. How did that make you feel, and why do you think this fanbase is so racist and vicious?
Here are the realities: RuPaul’s Drag Race is the most culturally diverse competition game in reality show history. Never have we seen so many queer voices of color being represented and our stories being told except on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The show isn’t racist, but the fandom is. The fandom is so conditioned. You have to think of what our demographic looks like: It’s is not the same people who watch Love & Hip-Hop…. Our demographic is younger, white teens. For a lot of them, they haven’t had the chance to experience a bunch of people of color, and they’re conditioned to like a certain type of thing without realizing it.

Now that they are seeing more queens of color and getting a chance to dive into that world, they’re learning up on their gay history and that queer people of color are responsible for 80 percent of the vernacular that we use as gay folks, so learning up on that and seeing Paris Is Burning is helping, but it’s hard. I don’t know how to make that more clear to these younger fans. Sometimes it takes people like the Trixies, the Miz Crackers, and the Katyas to call it out when it happens. A few days ago on Bob’s Instagram, he called out a bunch of racist fans who were on Latrice’s birthday posts, and he screen-shotted them, commented, tagged them, put them on blast. Putting people on blast and making people more responsible for the things they say online will help change.

Yeah, I agree. I understand what you’re saying about some fans not being exposed to that world, but that particular photo seemed so pointed and targeted to chalk it up to inexperience. 
You also have to realize what we’ve discovered [is] a lot of these people who write these vile things are 11 and 10-year-old kids. I don’t think they’re fully aware of the gravity of posts like that. The person who made that photo was found, and information about him came out. I think he’s some 14-year-old kid. Sometimes these kids don’t have any idea the gravity of what they’re doing online and the impact it has.

You think he didn’t think that was a racially motivated move?
I think he knew it was racial, but especially in gay culture and in drag culture, it’s fun to read and make fun. I don’t think he realized the gravity and how gravely racial it was. He thought he was just being funny and making a c—nty meme, but in reality, he was being rude, nasty, and vile.

We’re running short on time so I want to lighten it up a bit: There’s the potential for your drag family to keep the crown when Honey Davenport, your drag mother, competes on season 11. Since Drag Race challenges tend to comedically amplify the world of drag and pit queens against each other for the crown, how do you think Honey will  fare in that competitive context?
The reason Honey became my drag mother is I was out one night at a New York City bar and I saw her. She was performing and I was like, this queen can save the world. That’s what I know about Honey to be true. If she ever finds herself in the bottom, they are going to have a hard time sending her home because she’s a great performer.

There was so much talk this season about how the winner was going to represent the fanbase well and carry on a legacy, so stepping out into the world with this crown, knowing that this is a controversial win, do you think it’s going to be more difficult to make your mark?
I don’t think it’s going to be more difficult. I think people are already looking at what we’ve done, and I think it’s a clear direction that I’m taking my career. I just had the opportunity to be in the Pepsi commercial and I have a Nickelodeon series I’m going to be a part of. I can’t really say what the project is, but it’s on Nickelodeon and comes out in 2020. I also have my EP Unapologetically and my visual album that people have been reacting to so positively. People are recognizing that I’m trying to take drag into the mainstream realm because in my heart of hearts I think drag is a magical thing. We’re seeing something that can change lives. There’s something about a man or a person in a dress and the art of drag that can cause people to change…. With the mainstream comes some negative, but drag can affect great change and I think that the little negative that comes with the great change is worth it.

Also, I forgot to ask this earlier: Because you’re a Judy fan, how do you feel about the Stonewall thing, where Ru correlated her death with the beginning of Stonewall?
I didn’t know that correlation. But, then again, there are always like token, tiny gay tidbits that gays always school me on and I’m like, no, Miss Thing, I know everything about this topic! And then I find out that they’re literally always right. Older gay men are always right. I can’t wait to be an old gay man so I can always correct. I thought it was a piece of knowledge I didn’t know, and it’s interesting to see the fans [react]. It’s crazy. I don’t know!

Well, here’s to you getting old, wise, and hopefully not having saggy t—ties.
[Laughs] Thank you, my dear!

Related: 

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