First RuPaul's Drag Race season 11 eliminee Soju opens up about her iconic cyst
A cystar was born on the first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11.
Though her time in the Werk Room was short, inaugural eliminee Soju introduced an inanimate icon into the Drag Race canon — one bound to join the ranks of Ornacia and Lil’ Poundcake as the show’s most memorable non-living entities: An oozing cyst on her self-described “taint.”
Yes, both dreams and pus-filled sacs burst on Thursday’s season premiere, as the 27-year-old Korean queen attempted to garner sympathy in the wake of her lackluster runway lewk by telling the judges she’d recently suffered through the rupture of a painful cyst near a super particular part her pelvic region.
Thoroughly disgusted yet earnestly intrigued, the judges put Soju in the bottom two anyway for her shoddy, handmade, bell-shaped gown, and she lost the subsequent lip-sync against fellow competitor Kahanna Montrese.
EW caught up with Soju shortly after her elimination to discuss the state of the cyst, her cutting-corners approach to a design challenge, and her commitment to fusing Korean heritage with contemporary drag. Before RuPaul’s Drag Race returns next Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on VH1, read on for our full exit interview with the dearly departed queen.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We have a lot to talk about, but let’s get the obvious out of the way: Girl, how’s the cyst?
SOJU: [Laughs]. I’m good to go. Don’t worry! The reason it popped is because I was on antibiotics, so it’s all taken care of.
All gone! It’s all behind us!
That cyst is now iconic, and the memes are everywhere. You had to know that saying that was going to follow you for the rest of your career.
When you’re filming, you don’t know what’s happening. When I was on that stage sharing that personal information, I just didn’t know what I was talking about. At that point you have to say what you have to say because you don’t know if that’s going to be your last time talking to Ru, so I was like, I have to tell them the truth!
All iconic inanimate objects on Drag Race have a name, like Lil Poundcake and Ornacia, so did you name the cyst? Should we name her?
I mean, she can go with anything. She’s your cyster, ayo cyst… I’ve seen all kinds of memes. I’ve seen people putting it on Naomi’s memes from All-Stars 4 and writing “Club Ninety-cyst!” It’s taking on its own life form, so I don’t think I can put a name on it.
Well, I was thinking Cystina!
Cystina! Cystine chapel!
Lovely! Just one last question about the cyst: Did you bring it up for sympathy because you were getting bad critiques?
Definitely not. They were just talking about how I was having a rough week…. I was going through so much pain, so it just hit me and I wanted to be honest and upfront. When you’re in the bottom two, it’s survival mode and you have to explain yourself. There was no explanation for that dress that I made, though, so I wasn’t going to do another explanation of that, so I had to do something else!
I feel like Drag Race is the only show where the first queen eliminated has a pressure to live up to the legacy of the last first eliminee. Did you feel a pressure to live up to Miss Vanjie’s iconic exit and do something memorable?
I didn’t think about living up to anyone’s iconic moment. But, Vanjie was there and when I was sent home, I got a letter from Vanjie expressing sympathy for me because she’d been there. Reading her nice little letter put everything into perspective and made me feel relieved that there can be a second chance in the future, maybe, and there can be more opportunities for me — even if I go home first.
That was a sweet moment and you listened to her then, but I think it’s interesting you decided to stay the course and continue with your dress’ silhouette even after Vanjie warned you against doing it because that’s what sent her home!
[Laughs] I was super in the zone. I was very confident about what I was making! I wasn’t worried one bit! No one could change my mind. You’re also under a time restriction, and I didn’t feel like I needed to switch gears. I felt like, is she just trying to give me a hard time? I wasn’t thinking about what she was saying; I was only thinking about what I wanted to do.
What moment did you realize, sh—, okay, maybe this isn’t it?
When we were lining up to walk the runway. Until then I wasn’t focused on what anyone else was making because the garments don’t come together until the queens put them on. When they were on the floor, they looked just as messy as mine, but then they put them on and accessorized, and I was like, maybe I should have hot-glued something on or sewed it together!
You said that you did that dress because you didn’t have to cinch or wear padding. Some people read that as taking a lazy approach to the first challenge. As someone who is a huge fan of Drag Race and knows the show really well and probably should’ve known better, do you regret that?
I can understand why people heard that as me cutting corners, but what I was trying to explain was, I don’t have to pad or cinch because of the silhouette I chose. I didn’t choose it so I [didn’t have to] do those things; it was the other way around. Right when I saw the tools I started sketching a Korean Hanbok, which has that silhouette.
I also have to ask you about your polarizing entrance look, because I used to do Taekwondo when I was younger, and I didn’t realize I’d been doing drag since I was three because I basically wore the same thing you did in the entrance segment! Do you stand by this look?
[Laughs] It was very polarizing. A lot of people didn’t like it because they didn’t understand the silhouette. But on Drag Race, do you really want to see the same silhouette over and over or see something challenging and different and be educated about it? My whole point was to be different and be myself and bring Korean culture into the limelight of American entertainment. My goal from the beginning was representation, so I have no regrets about what I wore in the beginning. I’m proud of myself!
I love that with each of your looks, you incorporated something representing your heritage. Have you always embraced your heritage or was it a process? Some queens talk about how they were ashamed of their heritage growing up because it bothered them, and then they learned to embrace it through drag.
Oh girl, yeah! For sure. When I moved to America I lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa before I moved to Rockford, Illinois. I never lived in a place where there were a lot of Asians to begin with. When I moved here at the age of nine until at least graduating high school, I felt like I had to keep my Asian heritage to myself because people didn’t understand it or they poked fun at it. I wasn’t confident enough to speak up and say something about it, so I wasn’t always about showing Korean culture. But when I found drag, I kind of found my voice and was like, you know what, people are paying attention to what I’m saying now! Drag helps you put your voice on that platform where people are listening to what you’re saying and watching what you’re doing.
How do you feel seeing so many K-Pop acts rising in the U.S. mainstream these days? Billboard just put Blackpink on its cover!
It’s a great thing! Every few years there’s a K-Pop group making it in the American industry. Unfortunately, they [usually] don’t do well in America, but I think K-Pop is slowly changing with BTS and Blackpink. It’s growing a lot more and there are events now like KCON, which is a huge convention in New York and L.A. that I attend. But we need more consistency. We don’t need a K-Pop group to come to America only once in a while. People are starting to take interest in Korean culture, too. There’s more to Korean culture than just pop music.
I do love good K-Pop though! I remember when BoA did her English album in 2009.
Rest in peace! [Laughs]
I love that album, though! I still listen to it.
Me too, I love that one!
Oh, one last question before I forget: You were thirsting for Scarlet Envy in this episode. Has anything happened between you two?
Nothing has happened between Scarlet and I. The way she talks, she’s very flirty, so we just joke around. But I think she’s a top, so I don’t think anything’s going to happen! [Laughs].
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