Why RuPaul's Drag Race icon Miss Vanjie is more than 'just a little meme'
Warning! This post contains major spoilers regarding the most recent episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11. Read at your own risk!
Miss Vanjie left the building… then re-entered… and then left again… only to re-emerge two more times before taking her final bow on the RuPaul’s Drag Race stage Thursday night.
Though she met her untimely end on season 11’s penultimate competitive episode, the mother of all Drag Race exits — who rose to superstardom after making an iconic backwards sashay down the runway following her elimination on the season 10 premiere — topped her prior ousting by cracking jokes and running around the stage, even commanding the show’s crew to turn the spotlight back on so she could re-emerge for another round on the runway.
Despite never winning a challenge across her redemption season, Vanjie remained consistently watchable across her 12-episode run, though she failed to translate her electric, larger-than-life personality to her performance in the “Queens Everywhere” choreography challenge, and she was ultimately sent packing.
Shortly after her elimination, EW caught up with Vanjie to discuss her second Drag Race go-round, her mother’s real age, whether she and fellow contestant (and potential significant other) Brooke Lynn Hytes are still in a relationship, and what she really thought of Silky Nutmeg Ganache’s lip-sync against Nina West. Read on for the full interview, and tune in to the next installment of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11 this Thursday, May 23 at 9:00 p.m. ET.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hello Vanjie! How are you?
VANESSA VANJIE MATEO: Joey, I’m good. How are you? What took you so long?
What are you talking about!?
Miss Joey! Where the hell was you at? We waited for you. Come on, Miss Joey. Miss Joey!
I’m here now, and that’s all that matters.
That’s right, Miss Joey. Miss Joey. Miss Joey!
Keep saying it. I like it!
Miss Joey! You kinky, Miss Joey!
I’m also sorry it didn’t work out for you this season! How are you dealing with having to relive this elimination now almost a year after filming?
I get to laugh at it! I’ve accepted it. I’m still proud of myself, so it’s not as bad. I know that I really tried. I respect, admire, and love the girls, and I respect RuPaul’s decision. Just because we go home, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of anything! I still have you calling me, Miss Joey. So, I’m a winner, baby!
Any time you want, I’ll call you, Miss Vanjie.
Ok, I’ll hold you to it. Don’t act like I won’t. We have to add each other on Facebook.
You’re following me on Twitter! Just slide into the DMs like you slid into swimsuits this season. Has this season made you averse to water and swimming because of the swimsuit issue?
For the competition, it’s not a good idea. I don’t usually wear swimsuits because I don’t want people to think that’s all I do. It just happened to go down that way on the f—ing show. But, lesson learned!
You spoke a lot about redeeming yourself from last season, but I feel like there wasn’t much to redeem because you became a superstar on your own after only one episode. What were you trying to redeem?
It was more so because I felt pressure. When I went home and the whole Vanjie thing started taking off, I knew people wanted to see me back. I just wanted to make them proud, and I over-analyzed everything. I always feel the pressure of making somebody proud, whether it’s my mom, Miss Joey, this, that, and the third. I do take this seriously. Even when it comes to Mama Ru on the show, I took everything she said to heart because I don’t want them to think I’m just a moment or a meme. I’m not just a little meme. There’s more to me.
I’m very proud! We all are! Especially of your second iconic exit!
I shut it down! I don’t think they thought I was going to be able to top myself… well, I can’t really top myself… but, I don’t think they thought I’d be able to outdo my last exit. This exit is the only exit. Bitch, I shut it down! Every time you think I’m going to leave, I keep talking. You could see in the first few seconds that I was sad, but then I snapped out of the sadness and started acting a fool. I had all the judges — even Mama Ru — laughing. I kept going and going. It was everything! I walked backwards, forwards, sideways. I brought the party, honey!
Why did you feel like you needed to top the last exit?
I didn’t plan that first exit, and I didn’t plan this one, either! I don’t think anyone thought there would be anything I could say or do. After that first exit, it’s not like I’m thinking, “What could I pull out of my panty sleeve?” Something about exiting and getting the boot makes me tap into something, and I started letting them have it.
I think you might be the queen with the most episodes without a challenge win. And you looked super surprised that you didn’t win the makeover challenge. Do you think you should’ve won that?
If there was a chance for me to win something, they could’ve given it to me then. I respect the decision, but I did think I was going to win. Not only did I think it, but the other girls were congratulating me backstage [before they announced it]. They were pre-celebrating the win in the Untucked chairs! Wrong! I didn’t get no f—ing prize, but I’m still going on that damn vacation with Brooke.
Did you do that yet?
I don’t think we’re going on any vacations soon, because we’re working like dogs out here. We’re hustling and bustling! I need a damn vacation though. I’m telling you, Miss Joey!
Speaking of Brooke, so many people thought that your relationship was put on for the cameras. Was it real?
Yes! Bitch, first of all, clearly I can’t win no damn acting challenge, let alone act like I’m in a f—ing relationship. Ya’ll know I’m too vulnerable. I’m a person who wears my heart on my sleeve, so I’m not faking no damn relationship for no damn storyline! It’s definitely real. If you want to see if we’re still dating, keep watching, because we’re going to confirm or deny all the allegations against us, coming up.
Who made the first move?
He likes to say I made the first movie, but it was him. We were kind of flirting, and it was kind of a joke. But, one day, it ended up where we just started growing this little bond. And the next thing you know, we were just like little puppies.
In each other’s hotel rooms!
They wouldn’t let me, but, child, when I tell you the cat needed to be scratched… She was meowing, honey!
One of my friends recently saw Brooke in public and saw that Brooke had a photo of you as the background on her phone.
He better have me as his f—ing background, because if he don’t he’s gonna get his ass cut the hell out.
So it’s still going on, then, if you’re Brooke’s background?
We cannot confirm or deny anything because we have two more episodes. We are the Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake of the gay franchise of Drag Race. Ya’ll going to have to watch and see because we do confirm that. We do let everyone know about the question everyone’s asking at the reunion.
Let’s put it this way: Do you have a photo of Brooke on your phone’s background?
Right now, I’ve got my damn self on my background. But, it’s a photo he took of me!
Vanjie! I can’t believe that. Do you at least want him to win? Because you have friends like A’Keria and Silky in the top four against your “lover.” Who are you rooting for?
They’re all sickening. Whoever prepares the best! Obviously, don’t bring butterflies or bugs. It’s anyone’s game. Each of us can represent the show in a great way. I love Brooke Lynn. Silky and A’Keria are amazing people and sickening. Silky is a great person if you get to know her. Yvie’s always coming from left field and thinking outside the box. I think each of them can win and I love and respect each of them. Bitch, I ain’t winning, so I’m happy it’s not my choice.
Speaking of Silky, were you shook by how bad her lip-sync was after she talked so much s— about wanting to lip-sync?
I was surprised, but I could tell something was wrong, because I kept trying to give her a pep talk and get her to snap out of it. I could see her inner saboteur. She was starting to get defeated, and it’s like, bitch, this isn’t the time to get in your head! This is the time for you to get delusional, like you always are! You were ready! But something wasn’t right.
Do you think Nina did better?
I thought they were both a hot mess. We watched it from the back, so we didn’t know what the mouths were doing, but we could tell RuPaul wasn’t impressed with either, so I thought they both were going home.
Well, things that are impressive: Your mother! What a goddess. You previously said you didn’t know how old she was. Do you know now?
She keeps that a secret! I don’t know if it’s a Hispanic woman thing, where you don’t really tell people your age. She keeps it to herself, and it changes all the time. I don’t care what she is, because it’s whatever my mom wants us to [see]. If my mom feels like she’s 22, let her be 22 in her head. It’s her fantasy. I do know her age, but I’m not going to put my mom’s business out there. You’re not supposed to ask a woman her age anyway, Mary!
I didn’t ask her. I asked you!
But I’m not trying to get crushed by my mama.
After her Untucked appearance, she needs her own TV show. Would you be down to do a show with her? Let’s pitch this now.
For sure. We should do Keeping Up with the Kardashians style, or a show like The Simple Life used to be, where they put Paris and Nicole doing some random s— together, because my mom’s a kook. She’s crazy. Also, I’m going to put this out there now: I want to be on American Horror Story. So, Ryan Murphy, contact me, because I would love to be on the show. It’s one of my favorites!
I think Trixie Mattel was on one episode as herself.
I want to be on a full season. I don’t even have to be myself. I don’t have to be Vanjie. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself to only be Vanjie. I plan on acting. After I tour for several years and things slow down, I want to go out and audition. I want to do more, I don’t want to settle for the norm.
I loved what you did with Iggy Azalea in her two music videos. Those were great!
She reached out to me to do her first video, “Sally Walker,” then I did Jimmy Kimmel’s show with her. Then she told me she was interested in having me do her next video, “Started.” They gave me a few little lines, but they wanted me to play myself… so it was off the cuff, speaking up and acting a fool. It was fun to work with her. She loves the show and she loves the girls, so it was fun working on set and getting to see how they do music videos.
Do you have any projects coming up that you want to plug?
I’m hopefully coming out with music, but I don’t just want to come out with, like, a Drag Race parody. I want to do something more serious. I’m the face of Chips Ahoy, so, bitch, there’s a lot of controversy with that. But I’m not turning down no opportunities!
They had me do some Mother’s Day [ad], and some conservative people started getting upset about it. Child, boo-hoo. Eat a cookie and calm the hell down. It’s not that serious!
It’s just cookies, people. And you’re cashing the checks. I’m proud of you!
Thank you Joey! I’ll see you in the DMs!
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