RuPaul's Drag Race star Ariel Versace dishes on THAT legendary fall
Warning: This post contains major spoilers from the most recent episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11. Read at your own risk.
Ariel Versace has sunk back under the sea.
Though she entered the RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11 Werk Room on a wave of potential (with a hefty social media following in tow), the self-described New Jersey Bratz doll couldn’t stay afloat when it came to meeting the judges’ expectations on the runway, and she secured her untimely demise after failing to stitch together three cohesive lewks for this week’s spooky Monster Ball challenge.
To make matters worse, Ariel literally fell from grace (but quickly recovered like a true champion) during her lip-sync against Shuga Cain — a stumble that seemingly sealed her fate in the eyes of RuPaul, but essentially assured her place among the ever-growing roster of Drag Race memes.
After walking the Drag Race plank, Ariel had a chat with EW about her time on the show, the pop cultural inspirations that came through in her words (“Lights, camera, and me without a stitch of makeup!”) and clothing (Hello, Lizzie McGuire ice princess eleganza!), the backlash against her wigs, and how she really feels about that iconic slip-up. Read on for the full Q&A, and tune in to the next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11 at 9 p.m. ET Thursday on VH1.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hello, Ariel! How are you holding up after last night — are you okay?
ARIEL VERSACE: I feel fine! It happened. Low-key in my head, it felt like this nightmare that I’ve always had. But honestly, seeing it on TV wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was an amazing experience. Everyone falls, and when you fall, you get back up.
I’m genuinely shocked, still, and for what it’s worth, as much as I’m excited to talk with you, I don’t think you should be the one I’m talking to this morning in the context of an elimination interview. Do you agree?
I will say that no matter what, I stand behind every look I wore on the runway…. I don’t think I should’ve touched the bottom, but that’s my opinion and I’m not the one in control of that.
Monét X Change told me last year after she was eliminated that she’d rather be thought of as wrongfully eliminated because then you go down as an underdog legend. Do you agree?
I’d rather go out with people feeling like it was undeserved rather than thinking, “This girl sucks. Bye, girl!” I stand behind every look. That’s all I can do: Be proud of what I presented. I’m getting a lot of feedback that people were into what I wore… and thought I shouldn’t have been there.
This is Drag Race we’re talking about, and it’s a good source of entertainment. I know you fell, and it was probably painful, but you had to anticipate that the memes were coming. Are you okay with the meme-ification of your demise?
One hundred percent! I’m going to start requesting memes. I’m a huge Mario fan, so I’m waiting for somebody to do a meme of somebody throwing a spiky blue shell from Mario Kart at me.
You’ve also joined the likes of Farrah Moan and Akashia as queens who’ve fallen on the main stage. That’s not bad company to be in, right?
Right! Let’s not be delusional: Drag queens fall all the time. Mine just happened to be on national television. At least it was on national television because, well, I was on national television!
What was going through your mind when the fall happened?
I was so nervous to be lip-syncing in that outfit because of that train, and all I kept thinking was, “Do not slip on this train!” And then the second I felt my balance lost, I was like, [sings] “Oh my God!” I felt like it was going to happen. I think I jinxed myself.
It’s something that’s memorable now. You have to be thankful because it’s such a talking point?
Yeah! There could be worse things. Like, my outfit could’ve been falling apart like some people. Just kidding. Well…
Your outfit could have accidentally revealed itself like Kahanna’s!
[Laughs] Right, the unintentional tear-away!
Your online presence this season has been fascinating. You even pushed back against Billboard on Twitter, calling out someone for writing recaps that criticized you. I thought you, of all people, coming from the social media world, would be the least sensitive to that kind of thing. Why do you think it affected you that much?
People don’t understand. Yes, this is a TV show and it’s for entertainment, but people don’t realize we’re actual people outside of the industry. We all have feelings, we see everything you write. I pushed back on [a critique of my zodiac look]. I was super-proud of that Aries outfit. We all work so hard to be there and put so much time and effort into those outfits, and I think they worded it that my Aries runway… was “subpar.” And I was like, “Okay, time out, I’m going to tell you one thing: My Aries outfit was not subpar. It literally was one of the most fan-arted [looks]. No, Mary. We’re not going to call it that because it’s not.”
That was one of my favorite looks of that episode.
Right. You’re not going to criticize people’s hard work with unwarranted things. Go ahead, read my mermaid look for filth, because that wasn’t something I was 100 on. It could’ve been better. I’m no designer, but don’t tell me that something my friend made that we’re all super-proud of is subpar. That’s not going to fly with me!
On this challenge, though, you had people like Plastique Tiara and Shuga Cain saying your outfit didn’t look monstrous enough, but you still went with it. Why?
I wanted to be a mermaid! My drag name came from The Little Mermaid, so I went with my instinct. You don’t have a lot of time to think about things. It’s do or die.… I had a mini-vision in my head and said, “Bitch, I’m going to be a mermaid!” I started constructing immediately. You don’t have time to second-guess yourself.
I loved your first two outfits this week. I thought your glasses worked perfectly with the second outfit!
Right! Until the day I die, I will stand behind those two outfits. I loved them. They were two of my favorite looks that I wore on the show. I’m going to tell you this right now: One of my biggest pet peeves is people who are overly delusional. Well, I fell into that category because my delusional ass, when I was kept on that stage and they didn’t call my name as safe, I was under the impression that I was in the top three because I was so psyched about my first two looks.
They were fantastic. Especially when you called the first one a “punk rock Silent Hill nurse.” Dork reference! I love your consistent pop culture references. I died when you said, “Lights, camera, and me without a stitch of makeup on!” from Drop Dead Gorgeous in your intro interview.
I love Drop Dead Gorgeous. In Philadelphia, we did a live show of Drop Dead Gorgeous. Of course I was Denise Richards, the one who dies in the swan!
Would you consider yourself a pop culture geek?
Definitely! Pop culture is something everyone can relate to. It’s always fun to incorporate that into what you’re doing to make people laugh and show what you like through your art.
My favorite one from this season was your Lizzie McGuire ice fantasy eleganza for your entrance look.
I always said if I make it on RuPaul’s Drag Race, I’m coming out in that stupid-ass igloo from Lizzie McGuire.
Did you do it because of that meme someone made a few years ago about that dress from the movie being judged on the runway?
I found that hilarious, yes! And also, did you ever see that video where it’s Lizzie lip-syncing against [Isabella] and Michelle’s like, “Yass!” So I was like, I need to wear this outfit!
That’s what I love about you. I know you come from the social background, so you’re giving us little meme moments that not a lot of people picked up on, and you deserved so much more credit.
Right! She’s a little meme queen.
You were read constantly for having the same style of look and makeup — especially your wigs, which were pretty much all the same. Were the outfits you had planned for the rest of the season topped with the same wig, or would there have been some variation?
I think it’s funny that people pick and choose who they want to say is allowed to have a distinct silhouette. Now, after the show, I wear flat hair all the time.… Drag Race is supposed to bring the best of the best. My boyfriend and I own a hair company. Why would I not bring my biggest and best hair to the competition? People kept reading me for the similar hair silhouette when people do similar silhouettes all the time. Look at Trixie Mattel: She always has her big, blonde hair and people love it. Even on my season, Brooke Lynn Hytes, almost every runway she came out in a platinum blonde wig, slicked back.… That’s how you put your drag persona in concrete. I wear big hair. Ariel Versace slays big hair!
Why do you think people do it to you over others?
I came into the competition with eyes already on me. People knew me from online. People expected a certain something from me. They see what they see online, so this whole new generation of Drag Race, people want to act like they’re on the judging panel as well. They’ll judge you for anything. I’m going to keep on wearing my big hair because I love it. I’m going to keep on wearing it, Mary, because that’s what I like. I find it hilarious that the one runway where I did switch up my hair silhouette, that’s when I go home. For my needle dress, I had that giant red updo. It wasn’t a little floopy-floop, it was a giant red updo! And my witch look, it was a pinup-style roll, but oh well!
I wish we could’ve seen more!
You’ll see all my looks online. I have them all pictured. There will be different hair and silhouettes. You’ll see them, and people will be gagging for them just like they always used to.
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