When reality TV icon Tiffany “New York” Pollard — a fan-favorite, s—t-stirring bachelorette who vied for Flavor Flav’s affections across two seasons of the classic VH1 series Flavor of Love — got the call to tape a guest-judging spot for tonight’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, she cried like she did during her final car ride away from Flavor of Love‘s first season.
“I just screamed and dropped my phone. I couldn’t believe it! I was so happy,” the 37-year-old exclusively tells EW of first learning she’d appear on the Emmy-winning competition’s judging panel for the first time. “I was leaking! I was crying! I was wet! Everything got a little bit excited!”
As a longtime fan of the series, Pollard says the inclusion felt like a warm embrace from a community she’s admired since childhood.
“I am such a drag queen! Literally, I am! I used to have purple hair in high school; I was putting on long, claw nails in, like, second grade; I drew and shaved my eyebrows! I am a drag queen,” she says with a laugh. “I’m so honored they see me as an icon because what I think resonates the most is the heart; We have heart. You can go through so much adversity and still be true to yourself, and that’s going to translate. We both know struggle and we know how important it is to still stay true to yourself through the struggle and tell the haters they can shove it. We’re going to do us regardless!”
We won’t spoil them here, but rest assured that Pollard’s comfortable connection to the drag world allowed for her inner diva to come out on the main stage, as she spews some of the wackiest phrases ever uttered on the Drag Race runway. Still, the appearance only marks Pollard’s physical debut on the Drag Race set; Naomi Smalls previously channeled Pollard’s spirit during the season 8 Snatch Game celebrity impersonation challenge, which didn’t sit well with fans (or the judges, as Naomi was nearly eliminated for her performance), but Pollard lapped up like a proud mother.
“I got clips of that performance left and right, and I thought she did an amazing job. It was really spot-on. Any time anybody impersonates me, I don’t care if they get it right or wrong, I’m so flattered that I’m going to love it anyway,” Pollard says. “Trust me, I was getting messages like, ‘Oh girl, no!’ But the fact that she put it on and did the HBIC the best she could, I’m always going to say she really smashed it and did it right.”
Getting it “right” as a guest judge, however, meant Pollard felt the pressure to pull together a sickening outfit that wouldn’t overshadow the queens, but would still pop as she doled out sage advice from the panel. What she ultimately chose — a shoulderless dress topped off with a pair of twin hair buns — ended up being an accidental, scene-stealing reference to Scary Spice.
“I guess I did reference her, but I wasn’t thinking about it at the time,” Pollard admits. “I was just thinking that my weave was nappy and I needed to do something to it in the front. When I got the call, I was like, what do I wear? How do I do my hair? But I wanted to stand out, so I put that look together myself!”
While the experience of judging the season 11 girls’ performances in the political stage production of Trump: The Rusical was “legendary” and “mesmerizing,” Pollard’s sole regret about joining the Drag Race family hovered close to her heart (literally) during filming.
“I wish I would’ve shown more cleavage, dammit!” she remembers. “[Ru’s hairdresser] was on stage helping me with my hair as I was fixing my dress because I was feeling constricted, I was like, ‘There are no boobs out.!’ He was like, ‘Girl, you look good! You look like you’re going to church!’ And I thought, damn, I knew I should have whipped my girls out!”
Tune in to VH1 tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET to watch Pollard’s RuPaul’s Drag Race guest-judging debut, and check back with EW immediately following the broadcast for a full episode breakdown with the Flavor of Love superstar.
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