Why Mayhem Miller voted himself off Drag Race All-Stars to be queen of his own party
Mayhem Miller tells EW why he self-eliminated from All-Stars 5 and why he's happy fans are finally re-evaluating his season 10 sister The Vixen's legacy amid protests against racism.
[Editor’s note: EW previously verified with Mayhem Miller that his pronouns are he/him, and that is reflected in this story.]
A shot at snatching the RuPaul's Drag Race crown is an opportunity afforded to a lucky few on the global drag stage. After auditioning for the Emmy-winning competition series multiple times, Mayhem Miller finally landed a spot on season 10, returned to kill the Holi-Slay Spectacular Christmas special, and, earlier this year, click-clacked back into the competition as part of the All-Stars 5 cast. But, when the California-based entertainer felt the contentious atmosphere of the season pushing his moral compass into uncharted territory, he did what all great warriors do: Wielded a mighty tube of lipstick in the name of self-liberation.
Though he was favored by fans and fellow queens alike as one of this year's front-running contenders for a spot in the Drag Race Hall of Fame, Miller felt the tug of anxiety during the competition, and made peace with his decision to campaign for his own exit after a poorly received performance in this week's SHEMZ improv acting challenge.
"You’re taking control and doing what you need to do to protect your headspace," Miller tells EW, explaining that he knew it was time to tap out of the contest as the pressures of the competition began to build. "When it comes to that, I don’t call it quitting, I call it self-preservation."
Below, Miller explains to EW why he chose himself to leave the competition, his decision to reveal details of his DUIs on national television, updates us on the status of his relationship with Miz Cracker, and praises his season 10 sister The Vixen as her legacy against racism in the Drag Race fandom gains new traction amid ongoing protests against police brutality. Read on for the full conversation, and tune in to the next episode of RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars 5 Friday at 8:00 p.m. on VH1.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I imagine this has been a pretty interesting weekend for you after seeing the fans reacting to your elimination. How does it feel, seeing how people are reacting to you and being upset that you went home so early?
MAYHEM MILLER: It’s kind of bittersweet. When you’re watching the show as it’s airing and seeing what’s happening on social media, it’s a completely different experience because you’re seeing the feedback being good and bad, but once you’re eliminated, a lot of people are like, “I love you! What happened?” Wait a minute, I thought you guys were mad at me!
Is that why you made your Instagram private, because a lot of that feedback was getting confusing to you?
Yes! I made my Instagram private because it was the easiest way for me to weed out my garden. When you’re public, you’re subjected to getting ridiculed and dragged very easily. You want to be public and be seen, but for me it was so toxic and heavy and negative, the best way to protect my mental health is to take myself out of the equation and do what I can do within my control.
I got the sense that, throughout the season, there’s something that wasn’t connecting. How did the actual experience compare to your expectations?
My experience filming was great in comparison to my season 10 experience. Season 10 was stressful because it was new and unexpected. Going into All-Stars, I had an idea, so I was a little more at ease. I was in a better headspace. I didn’t want to go into it wanting to be perfect. For me, it was like, you’re invited back because you’re a great entertainer. So, I treated it like an invitation to a party and just show up and have a great time. That’s what I did! People were expecting a fierce competitor, but it was more like a summer school experience and I enjoyed it.
It seemed like you made peace with your exit before it even happened, almost like you were relieved to be leaving. Is that a correct assumption?
I was at peace with it because I learned from my previous experience that you have to let go of control. If you allow what’s out of your control to control you and change your mood and your vibe, it’s going to lead down a dark path. I battle with depression and anxiety and I know what my triggers are, and what sends me spiraling. At that point in the competition, I was like, I’m starting to see trigger signs that will put me where I don’t want to be, mentally, so I had to do what I could do and let go and breathe and continue down a different path of happiness.
I’ve been watching your live-streams with Morgan McMichaels every week and you guys are so cute together. Was it easier or more difficult for you, not only the fact that she pulled your lipstick, but then having her there with you in the Werk Room packing your stuff after you were eliminated?
It was so much easier! When I saw her on the main stage…. I knew she had no clue I was in the bottom, and she was going to be so upset when she found out. But, I had to do what I had to do as a best friend for over 20 years now, I saw my friend and I had to clap and cheer her on because that’s what you do! You support your friends no matter what. It was so comforting for me. Then, having her in the Werk Room helping me pack, it was such a good experience. On season 10, I was afraid to go home because I was embarrassed, and I felt like I failed. It weighed heavily on me. With her there at the end of my journey, it was that support system, and I felt supported and seen. That what I did was valid!
Well, standing right next to Morgan was Cracker, who voted for you as well. And you guys referenced some issues you had in the past, but I don’t know the full story. What were the issues that led to the rift between you, and have you spoken to Cracker about why she voted for you?
I haven’t spoken to Cracker. We have our secret text group with the cast, and we all communicate in there and let each other know. We sat down after filming and throughout this past year, and we shared that this was all a TV show, whatever was said was said, and if anyone is uncomfortable during airing, the door is open for any of us to have a conversation. I haven’t spoken to her because it hasn’t been an issue for me. When I left the show, it was already discussed between myself and the cast that I was ok. It was alright! We didn’t need to have that conversation.
You also voted for yourself. Previously, Ongina was adamant about not calling it “quitting” when she voted for herself, do you feel the same way?
Ongina and I were just joking about it, we should start a show called Quitting Queens! The fans think it’s an embarrassing thing to sacrifice yourself and leave the competition, but with her, she was having a lot of issues behind the scenes, and she was in a horrible headspace and it was time for her to check out. For me, it was the same thing. I wasn’t in the headspace that I wanted to be in. For my mental health, I needed to leave. I wish people would understand that when someone sees something that’s not right and they act on it, it’s not anything that’s to be laughed at or made fun of. You’re taking control and doing what you need to do to protect your headspace. When it comes to that, I don’t call it quitting, I call it self-preservation.
I also saw Derrick asking you on Twitter if you regretted saying that you wouldn’t campaign against India to be voted off when, as we saw on the episode, she clearly was making a case to Cracker for herself to stay over you. Now I have more context knowing the reason was maybe beyond just that you didn’t want to campaign against India, but did that still surprise you that India took that approach, and do you feel differently about your own decision to vote for yourself after seeing that?
I love how you have not missed a beat! You see everything! [Laughs]. Ya’ll see how Derrick is, honey! She’s that girl that’s not afraid, she’ll stir the pot anytime she can get it! When I saw that, I laughed and commented back, “Derrick!” It’s just a game, and I don’t think India was being malicious toward me. She was doing what she had to do in order to stay in the game. I think that she felt maybe because she had been in the bottom for a few weeks that the group would say, ok, maybe it’s your time over Mayhem, so she had to do what she could in order to stay. She wasn’t aware that I wasn’t going to campaign against her, so I don’t hold it against her as a game move. India and I are good friends, so I didn’t take it personally at all.
I admired how much you opened up about substance abuse and your DUIs; is that something heading into the competition you had wanted to disclose, or did that come out in the moment, and why was it right for you, in that context, to talk about?
I do feel some people go on with the mind of self-producing. In my case, I didn’t have that in mind. My first time around, I didn’t share a lot about my personal self, because I didn’t want my true life to be exposed to the world, so I avoided those kinds of confessions. This time around, when Blair was sharing, and something in my spirit said I needed to share because there’s someone out there in the world who may be able to connect and relate, and this will be their moment to maybe recognize something that they may be struggling with, and you can be a catalyst to get them where they need to be.
And you’ve been doing a lot of work and raising your voice online about racism in the community and everything that’s going on with the protests. Do you want to see more action from the fandom, which has perpetuated a lot of racism in the community before this came to a head?
I always want to see more action. We need more action and not reaction. We need to not wait until there’s an issue or a boiling point. We need to keep doing the work. My duty as a drag queen has always been to use my voice to amplify those who aren’t heard and be that representation as a queer person of color and a queen of color. It’s my duty.
Especially now, I’m seeing a lot of talk about your season, season 10, regarding how The Vixen was digested in the fandom as a “villain” after she pointed out how fans treated black queens more viciously than they did white queens. Now, fans are saying she deserves an apology. How do you feel about how her legacy is being re-evaluated right now?
I have always championed and been a fan of The Vixen’s since my season. During our season, I always stood up for her because what she was saying was true, and I think a lot of people weren’t ready to hear that truth. Now, we’re in this political climate and situation in the world where it’s been brought to the light, and everyone is ready to have these conversations. It’s everything she was talking about years ago. It’s a damn shame that she got dragged and got the reputation that she did for being so vocal. She definitely deserves an apology from the fanbase and deserves to have the platform and be a very visible voice in this. She’s been leading this for a long time. I support her and send her all the love and accolades she deserves.
Now she’s getting tweets from the Obama Foundation, so, she’s definitely surging on that stage. Honey, I saw that this morning, and this is what I’m talking about. This is what we need. She deserves every moment of that. She should be very proud because she’s worked her ass off.
Taking all of this in, both what you’ve dealt with online and on the show, what advice would you give to queens who might be considering a run on future All-Stars seasons, and would you ever do All-Stars again if they asked?
I always say, if RuPaul calls, you answer the phone! If they were to ask me to come back, I would definitely say yes! For the girls who are waiting to get that All-Stars call, really think about it, because this is another opportunity for you to showcase who you are. If you’ve had growth and a change in your drag and you want to share it with the world, I say go for it. If you had a good run, maybe don’t do it, because you don’t know what might happen this time around! [Laughs]. It’s a wonderful experience, and always be ready to be thrown into that gauntlet. I am glad I went through it!