Long live Joey Jay, the short-haired, killer 'filler queen' of RuPaul's Drag Race
Joey Jay is gay. Very gay. And it might've taken her a lifetime to confidently settle into her refreshing aesthetic as a femme queen with masc trim (and that natural, faded haircut!), but the self-proclaimed "gay ass bitch" (in the most flattering sense) never wants you to forget she comfortably found a proper showcase to take her talents to the next level as an early standout on RuPaul's Drag Race.
As the mini narrator of a season full of instant icons, this admitted "filler queen" transcended her own tongue-in-cheek label by winning over fans from the moment she sashayed into the Werk Room, eventually starring in a healthy collection of memes across a mere five episodes. But Jay's time on the show came to an abrupt end on Friday night, after the judges questioned her taste level during the notoriously difficult ball challenge. She made a valiant effort in a subsequent lip-sync against Atlanta diva Lala Ri — a clever, seasoned stage vet — who essentially hijacked Jay's mid-song stunt by hungrily picking up the literal dollars she rained on the stage. Jay knew it was over in that moment, but let it go down as a prime example of her self-deprecating approach to stardom anyway: When you're on TV, make it good TV, whether you're laughing along with everyone else or jabbing at yourself along the way.
Below, read on for EW's full exit interview with Jay, including tea on her on-screen "romance" with Kandy Muse, how she felt about critiques about her natural hair, and how she kind of broke the rules to pull of her dollar-bill lip-sync stunt on her final episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Joey! How are you?
JOEY JAY: Sup, bitch?
That is the best greeting I've ever received in one of these interviews. It makes me even more upset that you're leaving the show.
I'm so grateful for everything I did and do I have any regrets? Absolutely not. I do have a feeling the fans are going to be a little bit upset.
We do have serious matters to get to. First: How many questions have you had to answer so far in these exit interviews about being trade of the season?
You're the first one! Yeah, you're definitely not! It's crazy to look up "trade" in the dictionary, because my picture is not there! When I was growing up and learning about what being gay meant, it's always been the hyper-masculine men on a pedestal. That's what you needed to be to be considered attractive. I'd never have imagined that we'd be taking a young, small, feminine boy from the Midwest who likes to wear women's clothing and putting that on a pedestal instead. That's so beautiful and proof that a community is going in a more open-minded direction.
It must be so exhausting for you to consistently talk about how pretty you are.
It's so hard, Joey. [Laughs] I love attention and I'm eating it up. It could be from a fly, I don't care, I'll take the compliment!
On this episode in particular, it was clear you didn't just attract fans, but also your sisters. Kandy seemed to have a crush on you and chased you around the Werk Room. Did anything ever happen?
I was actually live with Kandy [the other day] and we had thousands of people watching, and she was like, "Send me a picture!" I was like, "Baby, I'm literally naked right now"…. we flirt! I love me some Kandy.
Um, did you text her a picture?
Oh my God, that's the tea right there. It's funny because she said that she had a crush on you but that your taste on the runway was questionable and —
You know what? We could say the same thing about her with some other things!
It's notable though because this is the second time she said it. She took issue with your chicken feathers in episode 1! Have you eliminated chicken feathers from your wardrobe, and have you perhaps re-evaluated your approach to fashion?
Here I am in the Pork Chop Loading Dock next to Kahmora and Denali, both in ostrich feathers. I can only imagine how much those outfits cost. Mine was maybe $100 or $150 total. I don't see their outfits being blasted around the entire planet. They're still paying off their designers, I'm being talked about worldwide! My feathers are the Vanjie of the season, so I think I'm going to embrace these chicken feathers and keep spending a little bit of money to be talked about more.
I love how your mind works. People watching at home wouldn't have had any idea unless the other queens said anything.
Right! And if you really want me in ostrich feathers that bad, buy me some! Then I'll wear it. I do love a feather moment. But you're talking about it and that's all that matters, and I paid a fraction of money!
Your approach to the season overall fascinated me, like I said, you were the mini narrator of the season with incredible confessionals…. Did you come in with a strategy to win people over with great confessionals?
I wanted to have fun in the confessionals, and I know that you're going to have nothing to worry about if you are genuinely yourself. I'm wacky and have a dark sense of humor and I like to talk a lot of s---…. My friends were like, "What are you going to say when you enter the Werk Room?" and I was like "Filler queen!" Because it's funny and you're going to talk about it…. everyone walks into the show being fierce. Fierce comes a dime a dozen. Another one is going to come down the block in five minutes. I want to be fierce and memorable, but myself and kooky!
You also made a huge meme during the rap challenge by identifying what makes gays so good at life: You said "I don't sing, I don't rap, but I'm gay." Gayness is the thing that gives you the strength?
When you're gay, it's like you have a superpower. I'm an X-Man! When you're gay growing up, you have moments where you don't know what your brain is doing in your head [asking yourself] am I straight, why did I just get beat up, why do I talk funny…. When you get picked on a lot, you develop a thick skin. Then, when you're an adult living life and you feel like life is getting hard, you've already done that part. When you go on a show like this and have all this experience of being different, it's fine!
Something else you leaned into this season was your approach to wigs. When we first talked, I gasped when you said you weren't a huge fan of wigs, but you did experiment with some different styles — particularly this week with the high pony. Did you do that on your own accord, or was it because of the critiques?
I'd be an idiot if I thought they weren't going to bring up the natural hair thing, so I came prepared with wigs…. When they critiqued it a little more, I felt that I had to wear hair for the ball challenge so that I wasn't defying them. I still want to turn looks. I was already planning on wearing the wet hair with the first one, and the red jacket that Michelle can't stand is my favorite jacket ever! So, I wore my boy hair to have my moment to feel untouchable on the runway. The third look, I liked my dress, it was cute, but I thought a blonde pony would look snatched with it. And if I'm in the bottom, it's Iggy Azalea, it was perfect!
When the judges said your natural hair was getting repetitive, how did you feel?
I got here for being me, and me being me has gotten me as far as I've gotten in life, so it works every time. I knew I had to play the game a little bit [too].
I tried to imagine some of your looks with longer hair, and I think it would take the looks down a bit. The hair elevates it.
That's the beauty of drag! It's what you put on when you wake up in the morning, what you perform in, what you go to work in. Everyone has their own sense of style.
You also had an amusing exchange with Carson on the runway this week, going back and forth about "IV bag" versus "poison ivy," and you looked so confused!
The challenge was "Mixed Bag." You had to have a costume that played off the word "bag." Poison ivy doesn't have the word bag in it! So I did the IV look, and if you look at my arm, I had green and blue and red veins because it's poisoning me. [Laughs]
This season is turning out incredible lip-syncs. You were so good in this, and Lala also blew my mind. I loved that you threw the money in the air, but then Lala started picking it up off the stage and...
I know! I was like, f---, that bitch! [Laughs]
You looked a little shaken! What was going through your mind? Was it an "Oh, s---" moment?
Yeah! I was like that bitch f---ing one-upped me! [Laughs] I knew Lala was a force to be reckoned with. She's one of the best performers in the country. Not to put myself down, but I knew I was probably going home if I went against her, so I was like "I'm going to run away to my station!" and they were like "No, you can't!" But I went to my work station, grabbed this money and put it in my purse because I might've been going home, but you're going to remember my lip-sync! I wanted a moment!
It was a real moment, for both of you!
She's doing what she needs to do, I'm doing what I need to do. There's only one winner, but we're going to make good TV!
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.
RuPaul — as host, mentor, and creative inspiration — decides who's in and who's out.