Never forget Nicky Doll, heartwarming hoe of RuPaul's Drag Race
French queen tells EW she needed 'a few weeks of therapy' to recover from her elimination.
"Not long ago I was a hoe, and I miss it."
Such are the words recently tweeted by a self-isolating, blissfully accented French goddess Nicky Doll who, upon her elimination from RuPaul's Drag Race Friday night, might've lost the season 12 crown, but is very much still in the running towards becoming America's Next Top Poet Laureate. Her endearing mastery of the Fringlish tongue (Who can forget "lemurian" or the angelic way she pronounced "hummus?") will be sorely missed as the weeks go on, its memory outmatched only by the lasting impression of her fashionable prowess on the runway, upon which she delivered jaw-dropping creations across her brief time on the Emmy-winning reality series.
But, Nicky's dedication to aesthetic also led to her downfall; After her decent performance as a newborn drag baby during this week's Gay's Anatomy sketch challenge landed her in the bottom two by default simply for not stacking up to the other girls' ace turns, her gorgeously crafted "Planet of the Capes" creation — a rock-hard, chrome-colored metallic mold with a beautifully contrasted sheer cape dragging behind it — ultimately inhibited her movement during a vibrant lip-sync against Heidi N Closet, and she sashayed away from the competition.
Following her untimely exit, Nicky spoke with EW about overcoming her "immigrant inferiority" complex, doing Pete Davidson's drag makeup for Saturday Night Live, (potentially) becoming an ASMR queen with that addictive voice, and being a slave to fashion — even when it meant putting her own head on the chopping block. Read on for the full conversation, and tune in to the next new episode of RuPaul's Drag Race Friday at 8:00 p.m. on VH1.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hi Nicky! I’m so sorry about this elimination. Have you made peace with it after months of keeping it secret?
NICKY DOLL: I think I’m finally at peace with it. When you go into the competition, you go in to win, but I’m not from here. I had the nerve and confidence to quit everything and pack my suitcases to move to America to have more opportunities. I had the fire, so when I realized I wasn’t going to make it until the end, it took a little toll on my ego. After a few weeks of therapy, having some time off, and having a therapeutic conversation with RuPaul when he specifically asked me to come do Pete Davidson’s makeup for Saturday Night Live, those were all ways for me to move on and make peace with everything and just enjoy the show.
Do you remember what RuPaul said to you on the Saturday Night Live set?
He gave me amazing advice that will help me throughout my whole career. Having that validation of RuPaul asking me to do a job for him was a beautiful experience. He told me to never read the comments online and to not pay attention to what other people do, and focus on being the best version of myself. He said, “If you think you’re working hard, work harder.” It was so meaningful to hear that from her mouth.
Do you think he justifiably eliminated you?
I probably didn’t deserve to go home, even though I said my own name [when RuPaul asked who should go home]. I don’t think I deserved to be picked on so much. There’s a stigma of labeling pretty queens as just being pretty and we have to work twice as hard…. That took a toll on my confidence. Watching the show back, I can understand why they weren’t seeing that goofy side of me, because I was so petrified by Michelle Visage’s eyes on the main stage that I was completely silent. People don’t realize the judges only see what they see on stage, so the girls and the audience saw the goofy side of me, but once I’m on that main stage, there’s so much going on in my head. Now I know what to change for the next time I’ll be there.
One of the things that might’ve hurt you, though, was that you said yourself when RuPaul asked who should go home. Why did you do that?
I think I should’ve tried harder. I shouldn’t have let my immigrant inferiority complex take over. [I put] an incredible amount of pressure on my shoulders to blend in, because [immigrants] live with a heavy weight, which is: I am so much more in my language. Having that thought every day in your life when you’re living in a different society in a different country, it’s so frustrating because you’re so quick on your feet and witty and funny with cultural references you’ve built all of your life [in your native language], so when I moved at 25, I felt like I was a 15-year-old in America. That frustration of not being able to be my full self was my frustration when I said my own name. I also did it out of respect for the other girls. I love them so much, it was hard for me to take the spot of someone else who was probably more ready.
In the past when other queens have said themselves, though, it doesn’t sit well with Ru, and he seemed to get a little irritated when you said it. Could you tell it annoyed him in the moment?
I think I was in such a dark place that I said my own name because it was incredibly hard to hear it already three times after giving everything I had on the role…. If I’m really not what you’re looking for, let me not try to take the spot of someone else. Again, that’s the immigrant inferiority complex…. I knew that Heidi and I would be in the bottom and I didn’t want Heidi to go, because I knew she needed it and had everything to go all the way. I’d rather stop now than struggle the whole season, and come back when I feel I can fix those issues. I want to compete for my drag, not as an immigrant struggling with English.
I normally would ask if someone in your position of assigning the roles regretted the part, they chose for themselves, but you had a really good reason: You said you wanted to show the judges a quirky side of you that they were missing. Do you stand by that?
I wanted to challenge myself. The baby was the goofiest role of all, and I thought it was perfect. It’s also the challenge they’re not expecting me to take because it’s completely outside of my comfort zone, but it didn’t pay off as much as I wanted it to.
I actually thought your performance was funny and the look you gave the baby was hilarious. What was the inspiration for that makeup?
For that look, I wanted to go very Divine with the features, with high brows, but make it camp. I don’t know why, but I ended up having [a Pokémon] face, and I was like, that’s not what I was going for, but it’s funny. I wanted to use the special effects on my tooth to make it look like I only had one, because I was a baby. So, it was Divine slash [Pokémon] slash a drug addict, I guess. I really looked busted.
In terms of assigning roles to others, when you and Gigi said it wasn’t shade that you assigned Aiden the role of the ghost, like, come on, that was totally shade, right?
Um, no! We tried to play on everyone’s strengths…. I wanted to be part of a season that was a good season instead of making up mind games, so I wanted this challenge to go well. I gave her the ghost because she would be able to bring elements of her drag into it. I didn’t name her the spooky queen, she said it herself. It’s not shady, it’s fact!
Aiden has gotten some flak for not trying hard enough. You even said, at the start of this episode, that you feel like Aiden got a pass where you weren’t. Was she trying as hard as you were?
She wasn’t trying that hard. I’m not going to lie or sugar-coat it. I’m not saying she didn’t want to try hard, we all have our own experience, but her definition of trying hard was not the same as me trying hard or Brita trying hard. Watching her was frustrating, because when she took a nap when we did the sewing challenge, we were burning our fingers glue-gunning a dress from scratch. We’re all sisters and looking for validation from the judges…. The only thing I was waiting for was having this stamp of approval from Ru as if he were a parent. Most of our parents love us, but they don’t relate to the drag part. Ru is the mother figure [I wanted to] accept and validate Nicky like my mom accepted [me]. When you see that Aiden is being taken care of that way and you’re not, it builds jealousy.
One thing you cleaned up on, though, was fashion. Your Joan of Arc cape fantasy on the runway was incredible, but it looked uncomfortable. Was it actually hard metal?
It’s actually plastic covered by metal paint. It’s rock-hard, like a mold.
You previously told me that you dress like a model, but you dance like a hoe. I think you did a great job emoting and posing during the lip-sync, but it looked like the outfit was limiting your movement. Is that why you weren’t a hoe in the lip-sync!?
Totally. My dress didn’t stretch at all. I have a passion for performing, but I have an even bigger passion for telling stories through my looks. When you go on that stage, you want to make sure all of your interpretations of the looks are there. It’s a rough choice, because like, am I going to a spandex jumpsuit where I know I’m going to be able to jump like a hoe every time, or am I going to risk having a jaw-dropping outfit that will probably keep me safe if I end up not doing well that week and have an amazing fashion moment? I didn’t think I was definitely lip-syncing in it. It wasn’t easy to dance in.
Did you sense that you were going home when Heidi started tearing up the stage while you were sort of just posing?
First of all, her outfit was probably one of the most comfortable outfits ever worn on Drag Race. Second of all, who does a split on a Kim Petras song? She didn’t do one, two, or three, the girl swept the floor with her ass! I saw her giving a good show, and I went in another direction. And that direction was home.
You tweeted the other day about missing being a hoe while in quarantine, so, I hope the hoe gets a chance to jump out again soon.
I hope so, too, otherwise we’re going to go crazy.
Alright Nicky, well, I’m going to miss literally hearing your voice and accent on this show. I love the way you pronounce things, it’s so soothing! “Lemurian” and the way you say “hummus” are iconic. I’m going to make a career suggestion for a side hustle: Maybe you can do ASMR videos in drag!
Well, it’s in the making! I’m planning on doing that! I thought everybody would be obsessed with my beauty and sense of fashion, but everybody is like “I love your voice!” I never thought it would be such a big thing but I’m definitely going to use it much more.