In RuPaul's Drag Race winner Symone, a star is born: 'I want to rule the world'
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As we connect by phone, Symone has been America's Next Drag Superstar for no more than 15 minutes, and she's already reigning with iconic behavior.
"Well, it was red all over. And I love nails," the 26-year-old says matter-of-factly, mere moments after Mama Ru presented her with the RuPaul's Drag Race crown. She's answering a question about one of her (many) legendary finale ensembles: This one — a crimson gown covered in fingernails — stipulated that, well, she wear something red. And, uh, she loves nails. So, like she did across all episodes of season 13, she hit the nail square on the head, and made it look easier than taking a refreshing swig of Sweet Toof.
Coming from any other queen, the frankness might come off as a sassy jab, but Symone speaks with conviction dressed in simple, endearing elegance. Tonight, there are no exaggerated tears or false expressions of awe in her voice; She's a small-town dreamer who moved to a big city and entered a globally renowned competition with natural charisma. She was always a winner, and left the series as a bona fide star the world had (finally) discovered.
Most of the time, like her answer above, she's effortlessly to-the-point in all regards — and many points did she make across season 13. Each runway she approached both as a stage for her art and a platform for her mind. From Black Lives Matter-inspired gowns to pieces made entirely out of beautiful braids, Symone interpreted the look and soul of Black excellence, and wore it as if strutting the runway with her insides-out.
"I love Black culture and Black women, and the strength that comes from us. Me auditioning was a beautiful accident, because I almost wasn't going to do it. I almost didn't finish the tape, but the stars aligned for me to be here. [I thought] what would [my presence] mean to people when this aired?" she says. "Do I feel a responsibility? Yes, because I am a Black person, period, and I have a platform now to speak and say. But that's just who I am. That's why it made it so much more impactful, because it felt authentic, it felt genuine, it felt like she's truly here to shed the light on this beauty that, in my opinion, is overlooked."
The Arkansas native — who struggled with self-confidence issues as a child before moving to Los Angeles some three years ago to pursue drag with her collective chosen family, the House of Avalon — says she wants her success to show people "that there's hope," and "that there's still life" after the nation has been "bogged down in another death, another murder, another atrocity" against Black Americans.
"There are still people who are fighting, people who see what's going on and are trying to uplift," she continues, settling into her status as Drag Race's fifth consecutive winner of color since 2019. "I want to break some ceilings, molds, and boundaries. I want to be the Naomi Campbell of drag. I want to be the Rihanna of the world. I want to be a business. I want to go out into the world and say, yes, I can do these things. I'm a drag queen, so what? I want to rule the world, in the simplest way possible! I want to spread the hope, the dream, and the love."
If this is what society looks like under Queen Symone, we bow down in perpetuity. Read on for our full coronation interview with the reigning RuPaul's Drag Race season 13 winner.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Miss Symone! Congratulations!
SYMONE: Oh my God! My baby! Can you believe?
Of course I can! How are you feeling!?
[Sighs] I'm so happy. I'm in a different world. It's insane.
I can't even imagine what the House of Avalon looks and sounds like right now, what the hell is going on over there?
Listen, let me tell you something: There probably ain't no bricks left. I'm going to be real with you: I probably don't have a house to go back to.
How's the blood sugar? Is it low, is it high, what are the levels?
Mmm, usually it's low, but right now it's just right! It's all the levels put together, baby!
What ran through your mind the moment you heard RuPaul say your name?
I literally fell to the ground. I lost all sense of balance. It was just all of this work, this journey, this moment, I just got crowned by one of the idols of my life. I won the competition I've been watching since season 1. Imagine feeling like everything you've ever wanted came true in a matter of five seconds.
Who was the first person you called, and what did you say?
I called my mom! I was like, "Mom, your boy did it! Your baby boy did it! I told you I was going to do it, and I f---ing did it!" I called, she answered, and then we were both just screaming at each other.
We have to get her that production deal. Mama Symone deserves her own program that you can now fund with your $100,000.
I'm on here right now to let everyone know that you and I are in collaboration with this. Mother needs her show. Arkansas on the come-up!
I really thought your first call might've been with someone from the furry community showing their love and support for your revival of their industry with your beast couture look.
[Laughs] No one from the furry community first, but, maybe a little bit later!
That's for after-hours.
Off the record!
In all seriousness, you dominated the season in ways we haven't seen many queens do before. And your star quality felt so natural from the beginning, like you always knew you were a star, it's just that you hadn't been discovered. Is that how you live life?
I knew I always had something, but I wouldn't say I believed it when I came in. Going through the competition, I believed it. By the end I was like, yeah, I'm here. This is my time. I told myself that I deserve it. Through the finale, it was just me living and being relaxed, totally being in the moment. I've been asked a lot about what I regret, but I regret nothing. My mindset is so much healthier than when I walked into the Werk Room.
The whole season came to a head on your head and on your feet with these three finale looks — the nails, how difficult was it walking with those nails trying to jump off the edge of your shoes?
Y'all didn't know I liked nails that much. You didn't know! [Squeals]. It was actually really easy. I'm just in nails. So, I've got nails on my feet. It ain't nothing, it's fine. Like you move your hands, you move your feet!
Are you trying to tell me you walk with your nails that long — hanging over your shoes — all the time?
All the time. They somehow CGI'd it out [on the show]. I don't know what kind of voodoo magic they've got going on in production. But that's been me the whole time and y'all are just new.
[Laughs] You done told my secret! F--- you, Joey!
Where did this idea come from!?
Well, it was red all over. And I love nails. So, it was like, how do I make a statement like this? At first there was a different silhouette, but I just wanted to be sexy, fun, and flirty. It's reminiscent of my entrance look, but we did it a different way, a different slinky dress, if you will. We did my hands and my hair. Red is sexy, fun, flirty, it's hot, so I wanted to lean into that and show that side of me. And, I love nails. Who said I can't have a dress made of nails? Nobody said that!
And then your black and white look is so consistent with what you've done all season. It looks like you were reclaiming southern belle gowns. Why was this design so important to you to wear at the finale, at this cultural moment?
I wanted to play with silhouettes. On the show, I didn't do anything that grand. I wanted to be the only debutantess, goddess, woman coming back to reclaim her things, her time, and her land…. I played with the old silhouettes of that time, but made it urban, and put Symone into it, which of course was the big hair and the bandana. I poked fun at it and reclaimed that narrative. We're taught certain things, and I wanted to mess around and tweak.
What do you mean when you say we're taught certain things?
We're taught American history, and I wanted to do an "F-U" to it. This is me coming back to reclaim what was stolen, but I did it in a way that was gorgeous and grand. I wanted to put my foot in it!
Speaking of putting feet into things, the Timberland boots look? Ma'am, who the hell gave you permission!? That's one of my favorite things ever!
I did! I told myself! It was me, the whole time! [Laughs]
Please tell me how many boots you had to cut up.
I will never tell how many boots I had to massacre to make that! I will say that, because this was a lip-sync, I wanted to give them a lip-sync silhouette, but I didn't want it to be just a traditional moment. So, I was like, Timerlands! Shoes! Urban! Symone! Work. The designer is Cierra Boyd. She made a leotard that I was so inspired by, and I wanted it to be my moment.
I've seen a few theories about how you approached that lip-sync. Some said Coyote Ugly, and maybe I'm reading too much into this, but it felt like you sauntered back and forth with no huge acrobatics or big moves, like you were one-upping "Gimme More" the way Britney Spears did "Gimme More" at the 2007 VMAs. Was that the vibe?
We love Britney! That's always me! I know my strengths. I'm not that type of girl when it comes to lip-syncing. I'm an emoter! I like to feel things. I had to come in but do it in my own way, and that's been my narrative the whole time. How can I twist it and turn it and shake it and bake it and make it me! That was my way of doing that…. This is Symone lip-syncing. I want to always look like me, no matter the situation.
On a more serious note, I look back on doing this interview with Jaida last year, she won immediately after the murder of George Floyd, now you're winning after the jury found his murderer guilty. What do you want people to take away from your victory, especially right now?
I want people to know that there's hope. I want people to know that there's still life. It's so easy to get bogged down in another death, another murder, another atrocity, but I want people to understand that there are still people who are fighting, people who see what's going on and are trying to uplift. There's always a light at the end of the tunnel. That's what my crowning represents. I come from such a dark place, of feeling like there was no way out, but finding my way through it. But, there's a way. If you can see it for yourself and you want it, there's always a way. That's what my induction into this beautiful hall of glamour is! It's just hope.
Almost all of your runway looks are, in some way, celebrating Black women and Black culture. Did you come on the season feeling a responsibility or a duty to do that? Was there ever any other option for you other than to create an entire runway package built around Black excellence?
I wouldn't say necessarily a responsibility or a duty, because that's just me! Everything aligned for me to be on the show at the time. That's always what I've aspired to be and what I loved. I love Black culture and Black women, and the strength that comes from us. Me auditioning was a beautiful accident, because I almost wasn't going to do it. I almost didn't finish the tape, but the stars aligned for me to be here…. [I thought] what would [my presence] mean to people when this aired? It's just who I am…. Do I feel a responsibility? Yes, because I am a Black person, period, and I have a platform now to speak and say. But that's just who I am. That's why it made it so much more impactful, because it felt authentic, it felt genuine, it felt like she's truly here to shed the light on this beauty that, in my opinion, is overlooked.
Why did you almost not finish your tape?
It was the internal struggle. It was me thinking I wasn't worthy and that I couldn't do it. It was thinking how I could possibly have the gumption to think that I could be on a show and compete for a crown that 12 other people before me have won? It was a lot of self-doubt, but I had my friends and family beside me, telling me I was a special person and that I was going to do this tape. They pushed me to do it. I'm grateful that they did that. If they didn't see what I didn't see at the time, it wouldn't have worked out this way. Thank God.
Now that you have the title, how do you want the reign under Queen Symone to go?
I want to break some ceilings, molds, and boundaries. I want to be the Naomi Campbell of drag. I want to be the Rihanna of the world. I want to be a business. I want to go out into the world and say, yes, I can do these things. I'm a drag queen, so what? I want to rule the world, in the simplest way possible! I want to spread the hope, the dream, and the love.
I think about the person that I needed when I was young, that was such a driving force. When I got the call, I was like, you're going to be that person in a way that inspires hope. It can be done, and I'm going to do it. So, I want to continue those journeys and breaking those molds and being in those rooms that we're not necessarily seen in. I want to be on TV, I want to act, I want to host, I want to tour, I want to see the world, I want to do it all.
Subscribe to EW's BINGE podcast for full recaps of all 12 seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race, featuring exclusive interviews with Jaida Essence Hall, Trixie Mattel, Katya, Peppermint, Bianca Del Rio, Bob the Drag Queen, Sasha Velour, and more.
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