RuPaul's Drag Race eliminee on failing a Mariah Carey challenge: I said 'Do we know her?'
Warning: This article contains major spoilers regarding the most recent edition of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11. Read ahead at your own risk!
If not for her record-breaking stash of No. 1 hits, her ability to befriend mammalian creatures of the deep, or the massive impact she’s had on music across her 30-year career, international recording legend Mariah Carey is known for that time she iconically shaded Jennifer Lopez by telling an inquisitive journalist, “I don’t know her.”
Thursday’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11, however, saw a team of competing queens blanking on key elements of Carey’s existence during an acting challenge requiring them to pay tribute to the superstar’s legacy on a mock evangelical talk show.
In the end, it was New York City-based performer Honey Davenport — drag mother of All-Stars 4 champion Monét X Change — who sashayed away following her team’s abysmal performance, during which Ra’Jah O’Hara referred to former Carey manager Tommy Mottola as “Timmy Mottola” after A’Keria Chanel Davenport confused the 2001 cinematic masterpiece Glitter with Whitney Houston’s 2012 musical Sparkle.
Shortly after Honey separated from the Drag Race comb via an unprecedented six-queen lip-sync, EW chatted with the dearly departed queen about her Lady Gaga-inspired runway outfit, how she felt when RuPaul gave her wild lip-sync moves that look on the runway, and whether this ordeal has finally inspired her to earn a diploma from the Institution of the Emancipation of Mimi.
RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11 returns Thursday at 9 p.m. on VH1. Read on for EW’s full exit interview with Honey Davenport.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hi Honey! How are you holding up today?
HONEY DAVENPORT: I’m really excited for what’s to come in my life. I don’t think this is difficult. Before this episode, I DJ’ed at TRL. That’s a dream!
What else is coming for you?
They sent the hardest-working girl home! [There’s] my visual EP called Raw and Unfiltered which I’m releasing in pieces over the rest of the season, showing the runway looks I would’ve worn with songs I’ve written that were inspired by them [and] what it’s like to be a queer person of color in America…. It’s all coming out in 30-second clips [every Wednesday] that I’ve made for each song because I didn’t win $100,000, so I can’t make expensive music videos just yet…. I also have my new YouTube show called Da F—k? It’s a show where we talk about headlines and crazy topics…. it comes out every other Friday as a YouTube series and the full-length comes out as a podcast.
I’m glad to see you’re hitting the ground running, because on Untucked you were so crushed after the elimination that you fell to the ground!
I’ve definitely changed those tears into art. I’ve always felt like I was going to get to RuPaul’s Drag Race and that the whole world would get me, and they didn’t, but it’s fine because I’ve been misunderstood for 33 years of my life and it’s only pushed me further.
What did you want people to finally get that you didn’t get to show?
I wish I’d spoken more on the platforms I fight for. I have insane anxiety, and being there felt like a non-stop performance, so I felt a lot of anxiety. I didn’t feel like I was speaking up about the issues that are important to me. I like to use my drag as a platform for the voiceless; for women, people of color, and those who aren’t being heard. Because the whole world’s eye is tuned in to RuPaul’s Drag Race right now and we have so many problems in the world with no one fighting against them, I went there hoping to use this platform to open up conversations about how we’re treating women and people of color in our community.
I’m glad you’re having the conversation now, and the show is a heightened version of reality, so I imagine it’s tough. I also imagine it’s tough to be eliminated so soon after your drag daughter Monét X Change won All-Stars 4.
No, it’s a competition! I’ve won 18 pageants…. It’s just a gamble of the game. How well you do on Drag Race does not define how great of an entertainer you are. It’s a fun television show…. I’m happy Monét won, and truthfully I feel like a winner now. I wouldn’t have been able to do these projects a year ago; this has opened me up to so many possibilities for what my future could be.
Since this episode, have you also opened up to the possibility of brushing up on up-and-coming, underground artist Mariah Carey?
[Laughs] Honestly, okay, I am a fan of Mariah Carey’s music, but I know I didn’t have enough insight on her life! As an artist, I’ve always just been focused on her art. Going into this challenge, I knew I didn’t have any idea of how she treats her super fans or how she lives her life because I’ve always been more invested in Mariah Carey as a singer and artist…. However, you better trust and believe that I came back home and was like, let me [investigate] just in case.
Did you know about the whole “I don’t know her” meme where she shades Jennifer Lopez? That made the Mariah Carey team lip-syncing to a Jennifer Lopez song at the end extra hilarious.
That is really hilarious, but I didn’t know about that meme [at the time]. My art has always been contained inside of New York City. I’ve always been the New York City — I hate to say “legend,” because it makes me feel old — but I’ve always been the New York City doll who hasn’t been focused on the rest of the world, and this made me open up to the importance of social media and how disconnected I’ve been in the New York City bubble. [But now “Waiting For Tonight”] is a song I’m going to hear at a bar every night for the rest of my life.
I know you know your team messed up. But I’m wondering why you all didn’t speak up more to shift the team’s focus to another diva — especially after Ru told you to!
I definitely spoke up a couple times and said, “Do we know her? Do we want to switch it?” But it wasn’t until the middle of the challenge…. However, I was trying to be a good team player. I was actually going through a really hard time in my life when I went to Drag Race. I was homeless, I was in a big debate with my husband, one of my mentors…. was in a coma. It was the strangest time, but you don’t say “RuPaul, I’m not really in a good place right now, I can’t come to Drag Race.” [So] I wasn’t in a place of defending or standing up for myself or even justifying my art.
Have those situations gotten better for you?
Sort of. I did find an apartment, but I recently discovered my roommates are heroin addicts, so I have to move again! But the thing is I will have enough money to move somewhere great because of RuPaul’s Drag Race! It worked out: My relationship with my husband worked out and my mentor came out of a coma and is doing better every day. My anxiety is a real issue that I haven’t addressed, but I started seeking therapy…. So when I came home I was able to deal with some of those inner issues that were preventing me from being the greatest performer I could be. I’m in a stronger place than I’ve ever been.
It must’ve been intimidating, because I’ve never seen Ru as seemingly annoyed as she was before putting your whole team in the bottom. You guys pushed her buttons when you all blamed the team instead of individuals. You were the only one to blame yourself.
I definitely feel like I should’ve picked a different answer. [Laughs] I should have said, “I’m the only one who said we don’t know enough about Mariah!” I guess I wouldn’t take back that decision, actually…. the judges went down the line and I remember thinking each judge felt like Ra’Jah and I did the worst, and that Ra’Jah somehow did better in the section that I did…. So I was just like, this is my fault, and if I didn’t take responsibility for something that was my fault, I wouldn’t be the Honey Davenport I’m proud to be. I didn’t speak up in the fight, which is a real problem in this world. You can’t let people just drag you along, and for those reasons I deserved to go to send a message to people that when you’re not feeling something — especially when it involves your art — pivot and figure it out, but always make sure you look your best; I didn’t do that!
That look RuPaul was giving you while you were lip-syncing, I’ve never seen her watch a lip-sync with that look on her face before. Did you notice that she kind of had that “displeased” look on her face while watching you?
Girl, I was in my zone! I’m a recording artist, so when I’m lip-syncing I make sure I have a connection to the music the way I’d have with my own, and where I was that day and all those feelings I had, I was more trying to perform the song in my unique style, and I didn’t notice that RuPaul didn’t receive that well…. But I think that RuPaul gets me. I feel like I got the most incredible mentor and drag mother ever! There were five other people on that stage, so [that face] could’ve been directed towards any one of us!
Regardless of what happened, you’ll always be a legend for that Lady Gaga runway look! I just want to clarify: on the show you said it was her “Angel Down” look from the Joanne Tour, but it reminds me more of the look she did for the “John Wayne” video.
I didn’t express it right…. It’s a combination of Lady Gaga’s “Angel Down” look — the bottom of one of her jackets from the Joanne Tour, which was shredded denim — and Beyonce’s “Formation” . Somehow, I only seemed to say “Angel Down” as part of what I was referencing, but as the season continues and I release all of my runway looks, you’ll see that all of them are concepts. They aren’t just pretty things; they’re things that said something about the America I want to see, and both of those pieces of music speak to social issues I’d like to tackle.