Season 12's pop sensation opens up to EW about why her shocking Drag Race elimination made her step back from singing.

By Joey Nolfi
April 20, 2020 at 08:00 AM EDT
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Tonight, we gently weep for whom the [shade button] tolls.

In the latest of RuPaul's Drag Race season 12's (many) shocking string of bonkers eliminations, New York City icon Jan (née Jan Sport, because f— a chaotic copyright!) sashayed away from the competition Friday night, joining a growing list of "robbed" fan favorites who met their demise in untimely fashion.

Regardless, completely in fashion did Jan go out after she served some of the sickest runway lewks of the year. Though her consistently jaw-dropping performance on the main stage couldn't save the budding pop diva, as a well-intentioned (but borderline manic, according to the judges) showing amid the Droop commercial challenge had the vocally inclined singer struggling to convey her personal brand through comedy. In the end, even a pitch-perfect lip-sync against Widow Von'Du couldn't save her, and the former America's Got Talent breakout was sent packing.

In the wake of her unfortunate exit, Jan had a chat with EW about falling short of her high expectations (she's a Manhattan star with or without the show), her infamous "safe" face following the previous week's Madonna Rusical, and why her Drag Race elimination briefly took her voice as she took a step back from performing to painfully stitch herself back together. Read on for EW's full exit interview with Jan, and be sure to tune in to RuPaul's Drag Race season 12 when it continues Friday at 8:00 p.m. on VH1, followed by the premiere of RuPaul's Secret Celebrity Drag Race at 9:30 p.m.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m so afraid to ask how you’re doing because I really truly don’t want to trigger another epic facial meltdown.

JAN: [Laughs]. You know, I’m good. I’ve had months to process everything that’s going to happen today. I’m ultimately doing good and hopefully I have more crying scenes so people can make memes out of them.

Seriously, you're ok? Have you made peace with this?

Yes. I’m happy with everything that I did…. I think I’ve done enough for the fans to have been on my side and hopefully ride this out with me and stay Jan fans after all of this!

I’m especially going to miss the little scarves you wore in the Werk Room. They made me genuinely concerned about the temperature in there. Was it so cold that you had to go all out and layer up an entire inch of your neck?

Absolutely. I was like, you know what, I’m going to be freezing, let’s do it for fashion. I’ve been to The Pines on a cold day in New York! Sometimes it gets cold during the summer and you have to wear a bandana to go to Cherry Grove!

It does the job! I’m curious, before you were eliminated, did you have a discussion with any of the girls about if you went home who would carry the torch of hitting the shade button?

No, we didn’t have that discussion, sadly! I think I was too upset during the last Untucked to try to make a fun moment of it. I’m curious to see if anybody will become that person for the rest of the season. I hope that it does get passed on. If it doesn’t, at least the next time the shade button is mentioned or referenced, I think people will think about me.

On that note, it does feel strange that you’re leaving because you’ve had such a large presence on this season. Fans adore you, you’ve had plenty of viral and iconic moments, like the shade button and that face you made last week. Does it feel odd that you’re leaving early?

I didn’t think it was my time. I definitely had a slip-up this week and I got in my head with everything that was going on, but I think I had some more time in me. I’m upset to see myself go because I feel I have a lot to offer, not only in the competition and the challenges, but also the comedy aspect. It’s a time for people to laugh and enjoy each other on the internet, and I know the girls left are hysterical in their own way. If it’s not me, I can cheer on everyone else who has those moments.

I can feel how close you guys got. But, that infamous face you made when Gigi won the challenge that week is going to haunt you for the rest of your life! Sometimes I know things are edited to look a certain way, but that face seemed pretty genuine. Were you aware that you were making that face?

When queens are put in a situation where they can feel robbed, you can have two responses: You can be mad at the judges or mad at the other queens. And, to me, it never makes sense to be mad at the other queen. I wasn’t mad at Gigi at all. When she came back to the stage after being declared the winner, I gave her a hug and said congratulations. She came to do what she was doing, and I can’t be mad at her for that. What people saw in that face-crack moment was me realizing that this was not my season. The frustration came out through that. It wasn’t even necessarily at the judges. Of course, I thought, “Why didn’t I win this challenge?” but it was also “If I didn’t win this, how am I going to win the whole season?” [Singing and dancing] is what I do, this is my bread and butter.

That moment was the season ending for you, even though you were safe?

One hundred percent. In my first episode, a lot of people thought I should’ve been in the top for the musical as well. And it was like, ok, I wasn’t in the top for that, but this is my time to show everybody that I really can do this, and I can do it well. That was my biggest strength as a performer: I’m a singer. To know that I — in my ultimate form, what I do better than anyone else on the season — still couldn’t grab a win, I was like, why am I here?

Is it pointless to think about what you could’ve done differently to win? I don’t think you performed poorly in this challenge and you killed the lip-sync!

I just don’t know that I could have done anything different. I wish I played this challenge a bit differently…. I should’ve thought about the commercial as a whole body, what it would look like when it was all cut together. But, I’m so proud of everything else. This is my first time even being close to the bottom and it sent me home. There were challenges I thought I could’ve been in the top three, but I was safe, but if I wasn’t in the top three, I was fourth or fifth in line. I was doing well in the competition; I just didn’t have that standout moment…. The judges just weren’t picking up what I was putting down, and I can’t control that because I did everything in my power to impress them.

The lip-sync against Widow is indicative of that. But, you were already frustrated heading into Untucked, so when you saw Widow’s mood do a complete 180 after Chaka Khan essentially transferred her spirit into her and lit a fire under her ass, did Widow’s restored vitality terrify you going into the lip-sync?

No. What Widow got from Chaka, I knew she was going to get from Chaka. Just being a fan of the show, I was like, I know I’m going home. Like, you’re not sending Widow home tonight. I know she wants to be here too, and I know how talented she is. She’s going to be able to lip-sync this song down in front of her idol. It would be like if I was doing a lip-sync to Lady Gaga in front of Lady Gaga. There’s no way you’re sending me home in front of my diva.

Were you surprised Ru didn’t keep both of you?

In a way I was surprised because I was completely out of breath and I did the best that I could, and I know I’m a good lip-syncer…. Maybe they just think my time is up, and I have to respect that.

What was that night after your elimination like for you?

There were a lot of tears that happened, and I was very emotional. In my hotel room after, I didn’t have any tears left. I had cried my eyes out for the last three days of the competition that I was there, and I was just numb. I was defeated…. to have that stripped from underneath me out of nowhere was horrible. It was a heartbreak that I’ve never felt in my entire life, and I was like, I don’t want to sing again. I don’t want to do any of these things for a long time. I had to build myself back up to be able to want to do these things again, but ultimately I did because that’s what we do: We grieve moments of sadness, but we pick it back up and we have to look ourselves in the mirror and say “I am worth it, I am worthy, and I can get through this hard time.” That was the beginning of a long process of picking myself back up.

You took a break from singing?

Yeah. I was back to doing shows because I had to do my shows, and I wanted to feel the cathartic energy of being back on stage in my hometown, but I wasn’t singing….I don’t think I started to sing again for months!

I think it’s important that you said that and for people to understand that you guys aren’t characters and that this is a real art for you.

It struck such a close nerve for me. In the theater world, I never really found my groove or my footing, and when I started doing drag, I felt like that was my avenue and purpose. All of it came together with that. I’d done America’s Got Talent and I didn’t have the success I wanted to on that, but that was for a different audience. On Drag Race, I felt like, these are my people: a predominantly queer audience and if they’re not queer, they’re queer allies. I was looking for that validation, because I hadn’t gotten that from theater or the other talent competitions I’ve done. Although I did get good critiques, it felt like a moment of sadness for me in my career. It all led to that moment to get that praise on that challenge, and to not get it was just…

Well, All Stars 6 is just going to be season 12 queens at this point, right? Like, you’d totally come back for that if they invited you?

[Laughs]. I’d love to come back and do All Stars! Watching myself on the show, I learned a lot…. I hope I’m given the opportunity and that I can take the crown home then!

What’s next in the Jantasy?

We’re heading into original music! Jan’s Jukebox [videos online were] a way for me to introduce people to me as a pop entity and not just as a drag queen. I’ve always said that I want to emulate Bianca Del Rio’s career. While she’s a drag queen, she’s a comedian first, and uses drag as a vessel. I want to use drag as my vessel to show people that I’m a singer and dancer who happens to use drag to express it…. I love to entertain people. That’s why I wake up every day! I’m just going to keep feeding the children!

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RuPaul — as host, mentor, and creative inspiration — decides who's in and who's out.

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