Queen also tells EW about the surprising backlash she received after her Donald Trump-inspired look (and why she loves to say "girl" and "honey" so much)
Warning: This post contains major spoilers regarding the most recent episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11. Read at your own risk!
Oh, honey. Girl. Honey. Hoooney. Giiiirl. Honey! Unfortunately, it’s time to crash, as the Shuga rush of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11 has worn off.
Though she brought an infectious brand of genuine kindness to season 11’s crop of cutthroat queens, New York City’s Shuga Cain met her untimely end on Thursday’s episode after landing in the bottom two for her three-part caftan-reveal runway (in what world are THREE caftans a bad thing?).
Following her elimination, EW caught up with the dearly departed Shuga to reflect on her penchant for saying the words “honey” and “girl” at the end of every sentence, how she feels about the public’s (unexpectedly harsh) reaction to her Donald Trump-dinging runway look from episode 4, what she plans to do with her troll outfit (even she hates it, America!), and how she maintained her sweet, sugary disposition throughout a season of bitter bickering and savory tension.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hello, Miss Shuga! How are you holding up after reliving this perplexing elimination last night?
SHUGA CAIN: It’s a hard pill to swallow. I went for a good, long run today to let it go. I’m holding up all right!
You said in the episode that it makes absolutely no sense. Has it become more understandable for you after a few months have passed, or do you still think it makes no sense?
After watching it, to be frank, it still kind of doesn’t make sense to me. Watching it back and seeing how I did, compared to everyone else, obviously there were things I needed to improve, but I was diverse, confident, and I worked really hard. For the longest time, I beat myself up for how I thought I performed and how I thought my outfits looked. Then, watching it last night, I was like, “No! I actually did do well!” It made it worse! I just have to take my time to work through it and keep going! It’s a small moment in a large lifetime.
It feels especially wrong that they faulted a mature woman for giving us three caftans! In what world is three caftans on one woman a bad thing?
[Laughs] Exactly! Michelle’s a tough one; she’s hard to please! I found that out through the season. When she said it to me, I was at a loss, but also I wasn’t surprised that she had some critiques for me. It’s all subjective. People like what they like, and you can’t do anything about it.… At that particular time, they didn’t have a taste for Shuga!
Speaking of runway looks they didn’t like: Have you burned the troll outfit?
It’s still sitting in a bag at the bottom of my closet. I might burn it! I had high hopes for that troll look. When I was little, those troll [dolls] were like my friends, so she holds a dear place in my heart, but it was terrible! Very terrible. I’ve been playing with the idea of doing a Rudemption, but I haven’t been able to pull that together yet. We might just let her be!
Do a live performance of you burning the troll outfit!
[Laughs] That would be amazing. There’s actually a Trolls exhibit in New York City. I’ve passed it numerous times. I die laughing at it because, like, I should just show up in the troll look and participate in the exhibit. But, I don’t want to be caught dead in that look again!
Let’s do a performance art piece there. I’m in New York too, I can meet you there. I’ll bring the lighter fluid and the matches, and you bring the outfit. We can burn it there, right in front of the exhibit!
A lot of people would join you for that. That sounds amazing!
The other runway look I want to ask you about is the Trump look. Did you get any flak for that?
Absolutely! It was surprising, because I’ve had a lot of people who are fans of the show who really grew to like me but, when I did the Trump look [they] were upset with me and said they were no longer going to watch the show. My mouth was on the floor. I found it difficult to understand how you can be a Drag Race fan and a fan of Donald Trump. It’s a weird, eye-opening experience to realize how much Drag Race has touched different walks of life around the world.
We’ve seen crazier things from the fandom on this show, I guess! On a lighter note, I keep wanting to add “girl” and “honey” to my sentences when talking to you, because those are clearly your favorite words to add to any sentence. Where does that come from?
I don’t know where it came from. I had no clue I did that! I get excited and animated. When I was younger I used to say, “Honey, child!” I was a wild kid, but I wasn’t aware of it. I do a recap show online, and the kids who comment on that brought it up. I heard from my fiancé that there are Reddit threads about it, too! [So] I’m aware of it now, and I think it’s funny. When I open my mouth, it just kind of all comes out!
Please don’t stop. It’s one of your many endearing qualities. You were so sweet and composed throughout this season, while most girls get messy on this show. Is it hard to remain a kind person, even in the context of a medium that feeds off of drama like reality TV?
It’s not hard! It’s just who I am. I’m older! I’m 41, so I went through the crazy drama and catty stuff when I was younger. It’s just maturity. I know how I want to be treated, and I’m not interested in the drama. I was focused on my performance and making an impression on RuPaul. So, I spent my time thinking about how I could do better. When the girls were doing all that stuff, I didn’t have time for it.… You don’t have to go to those levels to make an impression!
Initially, I thought of a den mama wrangling her kids. But actually, maybe you’re just the mama ignoring her kids and letting them do whatever while she’s off doing her own thing.
Now that I watch it, I realize how the girls were just too much! It’s like, thank God they weren’t my real kids, because they all would’ve been grounded! [Laughs]
Maybe “den mama” also isn’t appropriate because a lot of fans were thirsting for your confessional look. They’re calling you Shuga Daddy on Twitter. Is that a role you’re willing to embrace?
[Laughs] I guess! It’s weird to me, because I feel like I’m so not a daddy! I’m young at heart! I’ll never forget the time a young boy called me “sir” while helping me at a store. I was like, “What the hell?” I feel like I’m so young. I don’t think I’m ready to break that!
Okay, it’s still den mama! And you do have more years on these queens, but you’ve been doing drag for the least amount of time. Given that your history with drag is the shortest, has going on the show changed how you approach drag more than it would for the other girls?
It has, because when I started, I was new and trying to do the most and be the most and prove that I was talented. Now, I’m allowing myself to have more fun.… Now that it’s done, I’m enjoying this as much as possible. I love traveling and I love the art!
I hope so! Because you left a six-figure job to pursue it. After this whole experience, has it reaffirmed that as the right decision?
It definitely has. Not so much on my bank account, but definitely on my soul. I was a media producer for these [education technology] companies. I worked for a charter school network, producing their media content. I made a crap-ton of money making fun videos to teach kids about math and science. I’d done that for eight years, and the work was great and making an impact on the kids, but I just couldn’t be in the corporate world anymore. It’s weird, because [for Drag Race] we’ve gone into corporate spaces to do interviews, and the minute I step in, I get this visceral reaction, like, I can’t be there! I hate it!
What do your former colleagues think of your work in drag?
The people that I’ve talked to are super-supportive. They have viewing parties. They’ve been wonderful. I had to leave my last job and not tell them why [to go on the show]. My old boss was super-supportive about that, and has been rooting for me. It’s been good! It has inspired a lot of other people, and that was the most important thing for me: that my story could inspire anyone to live their truth and not be scared about it!
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