RuPaul's Drag Race season 14 cast speaks on 'absolutely chaotic' twists for their family of 'f---ing weirdos'
When it comes to RuPaul's Drag Race twists, nobody's already done had theirses served quite like this before. And Mama Ru has assembled the perfect cast of queens to weather every unexpected trap door waiting in the sequined wings on season 14.
"This season is full of f---ing weirdos," says new cast member Bosco in EW's exclusive first round of interviews with the queens, whose collective penchant for drag oddity (have you ever fantasized about the Predator alien seducing you with a sexy lady mug? Prepare thyself!) is just the tip of the glistening iceberg of out-there excellence ahead. "Every person on this season is, in their own right, a complete lunatic, and I think that manifested itself in one of the most surprising, twisty, and turny seasons I've ever seen. If I remember this season how it happened, it sounds more like a fan fiction that someone wrote up, over an actual series of events."
Even RuPaul is getting in on the unorthodox gaggery: "This season, victory never tasted so sweet. Unwrap a world of imagination with 14 new queens who are all game to play," he says in the series' first preview, which introduces a new game-changing element into the time-tested competition: a mysterious chocolate bar that contains a secret surprise for one lucky gal. "Forget the rulebook. For the first time in herstory, a one-of-a-kind candy bar could make a queen's wish come true. Hope you saved room for dessert!"
Given the succulent looks on display in the promo shots below, something tells us fans won't waste time sampling every dollop of queer delicacy on the menu.
Pucker up, because VH1 has set the RuPaul's Drag Race season 14 premiere date for Friday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, with new 90-minute episodes to be followed by new installments of Untucked immediately after. Read all of EW's exclusive interviews with the new cast of queens below to find out just how hard season 14 will drop your jaw.
To know Puerto Rican starlet Alyssa Hunter is to know limits don't exist in her world, even if it means impossibly stuffing four fully grown men under her dress for the sake of a fleeting number. "The idea came to me in a rehearsal. One of my heels broke and I told a dancer to get into the skirt and fix my heel," she says of her 2018 Miss Universe Latina performance — a megamix that shifts from "this is nice" to "gagatrondra" the moment several backing groovers leap out from under her gown to perform a highly choreographed dance odyssey.
She speaks about the (admittedly jaw-dropping) moment with a casual confidence, probably because she's used to gagging an audience. From the sweet softness of pageant beauty (her persona was inspired by Miss USA winner Alyssa Campanella) to the killer instincts of a ferocious panther on the runway (she lifted Continental winner Danielle Hunter's last name as a deliberate juxtaposition), her passion for drag-as-spectacle feels boundless. "We're very ambitious and competitive," she says. "When you're with a Puerto Rican queen, you know they're going to bring it. That's not a question!"
Also not questionable: What she brings to the catwalk. A seasoned, self-taught runway coach who began giving runway lessons from her home, Alyssa was later hired by the Miss Universe Puerto Rico pageant to help women perfect their runway walks on a regional stage. "Obviously, a gay boy needs to help them," she jokes, adding that her talent feels like a god-given skillset written in the stars by her mother, who competed in high-profile pageants in 1994 — just before she was born. "Modeling is an art. It's like a show! The only difference is I'm not doing lip-syncs, but I still do choreography," continues Alyssa. "[My walk] is very confident, very fierce, very strong, like Naomi Campbell, but drag. I feel like a real queen. When I walk, everybody needs to see me."
That approach also holds true to her physical presentation. When she's not leaning into boyishly handsome looks out of drag, she's serving versatile fashions that suit her mood instead of tailoring her vision to fit anyone's parameters.
"If one day I like to look spooky, I do spooky, if one day I want to look beautiful — because I am beautiful — I do beautiful," she says, referencing past looks that range from high-glam to devil horns, sea monsters, and a pumpkin-headed ghoul. "I don't fit in one look; I'm very versatile. I love to do everything."
Angeria Paris VanMicheals
We've only been talking for four minutes, but with natural charisma and crackling wit oozing from every pore of her buttery smooth skin, Angeria Paris VanMicheals has already accomplished the goal she set in becoming a TV star: "I want to show that I'm the pageant girl with the personality. They make those, too," the eight-year drag veteran says. "I'm not a fan of how us pageant girls are received."
The Atlanta native's star wattage is immediately clear; whether she's wearing it on her sleeve via her signature style, or letting her heart tell the story on stage (you'll be hooked after one brush with the quiet ferocity guiding her cover of "I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" by Jennifer Hudson), the personality on stage matches the soul you get behind the scenes.
"You're going to see some big drag, you're going to see some good drag, you're going to get the antics; baby, I'm going to yell, I'm going to roll on the floor," she teases. "I might take my wig off!"
In other words? She's a modern classic — one who out-sparkled Drag Race icon (and her close friend) Silky Nutmeg Ganache for a past pageant title and grunged-up her repertoire to match the hard-rocking style of Adore Delano during a recent joint set. Regardless of the task at hand, she admits she's "always a bit nervous," but she lets the spirit of the art guide her when the curtain opens and the spotlight hits. "I enter this whole other world. Before I start, I'm like, girl, just entertain the people, you know what you came here to do. I block everything out and I completely put myself in that performance. That's why I like doing slow songs and ballads: emoting, telling the story, and getting into what the performance means."
For Angeria, class, style, and grace are all in session, and she's about to graduate to the global stage she deserves.
When you can't escape prisons of beauty that ooze "equal parts evil and naked" from your very soul, you naturally give it up to the Lord for salvation: "I of course have a very sexy Jesus number," says Seattle's Bosco, in the most matter-of-fact tone imaginable. "I was raised Catholic, [so] the idea of Jesus being a white twink is really funny, and I wanted to bring that to stage. I did it in my audition video. It's just me getting really, really naked, and serving up the body-ody-ody of Christ. Yeah, it's great."
If the visual above doesn't have you on your knees in praise of the artist's raw vision, the self-titled "demon queen" of the Pacific Northeast's makeup skills should do the trick.
When she's not stripping her clothes off in the club (she's a nude "exhibitionist" at the club, she assures), she's constructing impossibly stunning creations on her face. They shift from earthy geodes fixed over her lips to full-on Predator teeth drag below the nose topped off with a full pageant mug. It's here that Bosco finds true beauty, in mixing dizzying nightmares with dreamy glitz.
"My favorite character has always been the monster in any sort of story or movie. I always thought they were cooler or prettier or more interesting than the main character, so I've tried to emulate that," the non-binary queen explains, describing her affinity for special effects and body horror as a nod to dysphoria. "The art informed my gender identity, but my gender identity also informed why I was doing the art. They grew together. I didn't really want to fit into one type of stereotype with things, but the more I did drag, the more I felt comfortable expressing the more feminine side of myself outside of drag."
Because Hell was too crowded, she ultimately found her place in the earthly realm of drag by dancing backup for female impersonators who performed regular shows as famous women like Adele, Britney Spears, and Nicki Minaj. So, in a sense, she's sort of the demonic dancing diva of season 14. But, she'll always wrench out her heart — or, perhaps, various other internal organs — for the sake of a good show, "zigging when [others] zag," as she puts it.
"I have a number where I like to give birth on stage, where my water breaks all over bar patrons; they either hate it or they're obsessed. It's really fun," she describes. "I have a 20-foot umbilical cord that comes with it, and my friend takes the baby and walks out the door of the club." Whether you're out the door with her friend or converting to the church of Bosco, something tells us you won't soon forget whatever the hell she chooses to do in front of you on season 14.
Theatrics live through Daya Betty's hands; within the first few moments of the interview, her end-of-arm appendages shift, glide, move along to, and ultimately compliment every word that comes out of her mouth. "Drag is about the catharsis, the release of emotion, and constructing something around that," she says, making it clear that her body is merely a conduit between her deepest thoughts and the audience glued to her every step.
"[My shows] are fun, hyper-sexual, sometimes it might make you cry," explains the Springfield, Missouri performer, describing a repertoire of diverse aesthetics that might feel disparate, but make total sense together when you learn that season 12 icon Crystal Methyd — known for her whimsically absurd take on the art form — laid Daya's foundation in drag.
In a way, Daya is already Drag Race royalty: she gave her sister both the Bert and Ernie wigs for the season 12 makeover challenge and Phenomenal Phil's denim shorts. Consider it a favor returned, as Crystal put Daya in drag for the first time when she was 20 years old as part of her all-inclusive recurring show Get Dusted, just as the latter was coming into her own as a liberated queer person on their own, free from the "repressed" upbringing that nearly stifled her.
"When I went to college, I didn't know anybody, so I could be whoever I wanted to be. That's when I started becoming Daya," she recalls, noting that her drag name is an optimistic nod to some of the struggles she's faced as a Type 1 diabetic
"The ability to express myself sexually, express who I was in my queer space and not feel guilty about it, taught me more about myself and my community…. Daya has taught me not only about gay culture, but how to be comfortable in it."
For Daya, comfort looks like the fantasy created somewhere between looking like "the hottest bitch in the room," channeling classic Madonna looks, or doing herself up as a fashion skeleton or a melted ice cream cone with cherries for eyes.
She stresses that expression in drag, for her, isn't always about the "fashion" or the "recognition in the community," but rather as a form of therapy that responds to how she's feeling in the moment, whether she's funneling grief into her moves on the stage (she lost her father shortly before the pandemic) or simply letting her freak flag fly.
"It really helps me be able to dissect how I'm feeling and have a little bit more understanding and closure with certain things that've happened throughout my life," she says, promising a fully explored (if not fully understood) range on the Drag Race set. So, keep an eye on those hands: "Expect every emotion," she finishes. "I'm a human mood ring. You'll know exactly how I'm feeling as soon as you see me."
Perched in a "really comfortable hoodie" and giant, bug-eyed, Missy Elliott-inspired glasses, Deja Skye joins the Zoom call with her sights — and spectacles — already trained on the future.
"I was scared of what people would think of me, that's why it's important in my adulthood to not hold back as far as who I want to be, what I'm destined to be. I don't hide anything anymore. When I was younger, I was afraid of emotions. I was afraid of being myself," says the Kerman, Calif., native, who didn't come out until age 18, but as a 10-year drag veteran, is wasting no time making sure every one of her heeled struts always plants one step firmer in her truth.
"I'm colorful and curvaceous. I love to push the boundary of shapes. I'm a bigger girl, but I love to show off my body and curves. I'm not afraid of my tummy," says Deja, a lively hostess who thrives on body positivity and lapping up her foes with a whip-smart tongue on the mic. "I do the best dad jokes in the world. The girls say I'm the mom with the dad jokes," she continues. "I break it down; I don't do splits and shablams — don't get it twisted. I don't have AARP, there's no insurance coming my way."
Instead, she might break you down with comic observations at one of her dynamic shows, which, in the past, have also incorporated hilarious theatrical numbers — like that time she paused a performance of Dua Lipa's "Physical" to eat a cheeseburger mid-set.
She also holds down a full-time gig as a cheer coach for kids ranging from preschoolers to high school athletes. It's a career path that's given her a "maternal" edge that helped while wrangling her rowdy sisters in the Drag Race season 14 Werk Room ("I'm the voice of reason," she teases with a smile), and it's given her a solid foundation to stand on as she rounds out her transition from local legend to national star.
With her ongoing OMIGOD GURL! comedy podcast in production, Deja hopes to expand her resume to become a media personality, a makeup mogul (she promises a wealth of fabulously beaten mugs this season), and, well, an elderly clown who goes down as that diva they'll have to carry off stage.
"I don't see myself dancing and breaking it down for the rest of my life. Your body just gets old!" she finishes. "I can be that pretty drag queen in a wheelchair with a microphone in my hand. I'm down for that. Her last breath will be in a wheelchair, on stage, with a mic in her hand, just reading, like, 'You're tras….'" She trails off, her eyes glinting as she envisions the trash at the end of what's shaping up to be a treasured career.
"Backflipping bimbo" is as straightforward of a self-summary as they come, but Jasmine Kennedie will absolutely explain hers to you anyway: "I'm dumb," she jokes. "But I also do flips, tricks, and splits for you all day."
Still, she's no empty-headed broad. The FIT alum honed her signature moves ("a back handspring into a split" and a triple-flip before "a good cooter slam" are her staples) and mental gymnastics (she fancies her persona a "super glamorous Jersey cougar with a dash of Real Housewives") across a wealth of childhood experiences from rural West Virginia to New York.
Along the way, Jasmine struggled to find her place as a "tomgirl" who tried to fit in with the "sporty-chic" athletic crowd: "I was heavily invested in sports because I was trying to play a part. When I came back [to New York], I switched roles and went for more feminine sports; swimming, diving, and cheerleading, it made more sense for me," she explains, adding that watching Raja take the crown on Drag Race season 3 was equally as formative for her as developing her identity as a performer on the field.
To this day, she doesn't feel like she belongs "in a specific lane," especially after resisting pressure to curb her art and assimilate into the drag machine of a big city. Instead, she chose to travel tri-state lines, hammering her pelvis onto stages from Manhattan to Asbury Park to give herself a well-rounded edge.
For Jasmine, the hustle is real — and lifelong — though on the brink of superstardom, it feels like she's exactly where she needs to be, and she hasn't lost that go-getter grit that got her here. "I'll try not to get dirty," she says of her competitive method. "But if I do, f--- it!"
Yes, you're pronouncing it correctly: It's Jorgeous, with a hard J — just so you don't forget that you're staring the spirit of beauty right in the eye. "Oh yes, absolutely," the Texan stunner says, giggling when asked if she chose a name that makes each personal address sound like a compliment to her gorgeous beauty. There's a deeper meaning behind the moniker as well: "Jorge comes from my boy name. I just had to whitewash it so it could fit," she explains, embracing her Mexican heritage as she's done on stage for years.
A self-taught dancer with moves reared on formative hours spent watching Britney Spears music videos and Selena performances on TV, Jorgeous graduated from being "11 in the living room, trying to do a death drop" to the DIY dancing diva of season 14, who often performs lengthy mixes to Spanish-language music — from Thalía to Lady Gaga's "Americano" — in high-energy shows.
She's since perfected death-dropping to the fault of her joints (her specialty is "gracefully" landing the painful move in "slow motion"), but the connective tissue bridging her past to her present remains intact. "My heritage is Mexican — with the chanclas," she says proudly. "Living in Nashville, someone has to represent." The culture shock of moving from Texas to Tennessee was abrupt, when her home bar relocated her when she was only 18 (a testament, she confirms, to her crossover talents). It's there that she got acquainted with minor fame as a local star — she was even almost too famous to notice that Kacey Musgraves and Troye Sivan wanted to book her for the role of a karaoke-singing queen in their 2020 "Easy" music video.
"I was on a billboard in Nashville, and the connection clicked. [Their team saw] and was like, 'we want you,' but I was busy. I'd do brunch, a night show, and brunch again, all with six numbers. So, I was too busy to answer my phone," she teases, laughing when she remembers that the crew had to attend her show and have her manager pass the request along on stage as she gulped for air between sets. Per usual, she booked the job, bonded with Sivan on set, and had a hilarious interaction with Musgraves.
"When I met her I was like, 'I love you so much!' and she looked like, who is this big ass clown yelling at me?" Something tells us that, next time, after Jorgeous makes her impact on season 14, the former Drag Race guest judge will have no trouble remembering she's looking at the most gorgeous girl in the room.
June Jambalaya describes herself as the "Real Housewife of Drag," and, given her interview setup for this Zoom conversation, she's not joking. Perched in a chair several feet away from her phone's camera, June sits with her hands in her lap, having meticulously framed her body with just the right amount of queen-to-background proportion to suggest she's coming to us straight out of a Real Housewives confessional.
Being from the South, she identifies most with the Georgian 'wives: "I have the attitude of an Atlanta housewife, but deep down, I do the fashion of Beverly Hills," she says, her in-chair pose unwavering, even when asked if her Drag Race run takes a cue from the Bravo franchise's penchant for emotional fireworks. "I wouldn't say I'm the drama, I'd say I'm the shade. But, I don't intentionally do it, because I'm from the South. I say it and then I'm like, 'oh, bless your heart,' and smile it off!"
It's important not to get it twisted when it comes to June. She loves reality TV, though she's a serious, high-brow artist with years of rigorous training under her belt. She's studied performing arts since age 4, and has since married her craft with her heritage to ensure she's fulfilling a personal need and a meaningful tribute to the Black women in her life.
"I grew up around strong Black women, and I take pride in turning my character into a powerful, sassy, sophisticated, ratchet Black woman," she explains. "I want to wear classy clothes, but still be able to do hood rat things. I take the street smarts of my mother, the sophistication of my sister, the know-how of my aunt…. I always felt my truest self around them. It's the little extra spice in the Jambalaya."
Her shows encompass thought-out, heavily orchestrated club numbers (she'll alter everything from bar lighting to backup dancer choreography down to the wire, she promises) thanks to her fine arts background, but during the pandemic she took things to the next level. Mama was making movies in quarantine, like her tribute to Beyoncé's Black Is King that she filmed amid 115-degree Palm Springs sand dunes for Drag Race alum Monique Heart's digital drag show.
"I left my world to remind [people] of where we came from and how beautiful we are, and how we're part of something bigger than what we see in our day to day, and put light back into people's lives that were so dark at the time," recalls June, going on to say that her time to shine in the Drag Race spotlight feels like a similar opportunity to guide the eyeballs she courts to a higher plane.
"I've been waiting for this moment my whole life," she finishes, pausing for dramatic effect like a true artiste. "Oh, yeah, Miss Jambalaya is here to give you guys a few scoops, honey. Grab a seat and get your fork ready: this Jambalaya's served."
Kerri Colby keeps apologizing. Her phone has now slipped from its position twice during our interview, obscuring her statuesque face each time. It's clear: even technology cowers in the wake of her blinding beauty.
It's something the trans performer is still getting used to. She says she feels that, growing up, she was never "considered desirable" as an outcast, so the Los Angeles-based entertainer's relationship to "pretty" drag carries different weight than her sisters'.
"I'm working through the trauma, because I've lived my life, so when people see what they see now, I'm like, you're only seeing the last two years of crazy hard work, but I'm seeing me from day one," she says, going on to explain that her identity isn't tied to material dressings.
Living life as Kerri is her hard-fought prize, as she was forced to make it on her own at the age of 15.
"I couldn't say I would've found myself as the woman I am today without drag. It's quite literally my oxygen, my life supply, everything I've ever been through," she says. "My way of coping was taking it off, getting glammed up, putting on that persona, that superwoman I always wanted to be. It was an escape. I didn't like who I was, I didn't feel comfortable with who I was, but when I'd put my Kerri on, I'd feel so much more comfortable dealing with the world, so much stronger, like a person who wasn't ridiculed or excluded."
Now, Kerri sees herself as an otherworldly "alien" goddess from the "7th dimension," charming her way to earth. And her path to fame was partially written in the same stars that birthed her interstellar being. She remembers a particularly boozy night out as a teen on the streets of Dallas, when she dodged through oncoming traffic to gush over "the most beautiful person" — drag legend (and Miss Continental 2012 winner) Sasha Colby, who'd just exited a nearby building. Years later, they crossed paths again after Kerri moved to L.A., where Sasha cornered her at the famous Abbey bar. "She pulled me aside, like, 'You're gorgeous,'" Kerri remembers, adding that Sasha asked if Kerri belonged to a house. When she said no, her fate was sealed: "She said, 'Great, your name is Kerri Colby,'" and the rest is her-story.
Today, Kerri embraces her looks while leaning into grittier means of expression.
"I'm weird as hell," she says, laughing. "If it's kind of ugly, it's kind of stupid, it's kind of scary, people won't take roles like that, but I'm like, 'give it to me, I don't mind!' I went through so much of never feeling pretty that there's nothing I won't do. As long as you come back and hit that runway, gorgeous like you know how to be, that's winning."
Kornbread the Snack
Have you ever heard the sound of $4,000 sizzling in the bottom of a bedazzled wok? Well, meet Kornbread the Snack, queen of whipping out cooking utensils in the middle of her shows — all to catch showers of cash rightfully due to her.
"They call me to do gigs and say, 'make sure you bring the frying pan.' I collected $4,000 in the wok.... I thank the wok. I have a few of them, with different color handles and sizes depending on the venue or how big the skirt is that day," she says of her signature move, which sees her pulling a giant pan out from under her dress to stress: Whatever Kornbread is cooking, you're ordering one of everything.
On the menu for the self-described "corpulent queen" is a regular offering of charisma on stage, built atop her foundation as a working actress in Los Angeles (she has a roster of TV and streaming acting credits to her name). Throughout her life, nothing could keep her from the performing arts; she once took a job as a customer service representative for a local theater just to be near the stage. There, she dealt with her fair share of Karens — including a woman who once hung up on her in a fit of rage when Kornbread questioned her, uh, intelligence in selecting the proper seat. But, no one truly hangs up on a legend, and Kornbread makes sure you're fully dialed in to her every move.
"I have a creative mind and I think of outlandish and insane stuff," she says of her approach to comedy, frequently on display in her video collaborations with viral creator Brandon Rogers. Like their popular short film A Day With a Robot. "My comedy comes from a truthful place. I have a filter, but there might be a little slit in the coffee filter when it comes to my words. You might have a couple of beans up in your cup of Joe! Im a firm believer in being so serious that people just find it very funny, honestly. Growing up I didn't talk much, and I didn't say much, shocker! So, as an adult, I just say everything that pops into my damn head."
That's a particularly explosive recipe, given her close friendship with season 12 alum Heidi N Closet. Imagining these two in the same room is equal parts blissful and "chaotic," Kornbread says, adding that their bond can sometimes feel symbiotic — like that time Heidi listened to a gut feeling about Kornbread's prospects on the show, despite the latter's refusal to reveal anything about her secret season 14 casting outright.
"She told me if I ever got on Drag Race, she'd give me the exact dollar amount she had when she went to the show. She was like, 'you're not telling me, but I hear things,'" Kornbread remembers of having to keep the information from her friend. "And she showed up on my door with the exact amount of money she had when she went to Drag Race."
With such a strong family foundation guiding her, "nothing scares" Kornbread at the end of the day. "The only thing that scares me is me getting in my own way," she finishes. "Whatever is going to happen will happen regardless, so I do everything full-out fun. You're going to get it and love it. You have no choice; I'm going to force-feed you!"
British beauty Lady Camden has only "freshly escaped from Buckingham Palace," and a very jealous someone is hot on her tail: Queen Elizabeth herself.
"I applied for RuPaul's Drag Race UK once, and there was a note written from the Royal Family that said, 'Please don't let her join,'" the English transplant jokes. Her experience with the noble clan is no laughing matter: A seasoned ballet performer who attended the Royal Ballet school, Lady Camden performed for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles on two separate occasions. Now, she has her sights set on joining the closest thing queer Americans have to a Royal Family: the cast of RuPaul's Drag Race.
She's part of the new British invasion of drag, which ignited in recent years thanks to Drag Race UK and its band of global superstars. She's doing it with a unique style that's a mix of refined ballet finesse with glam-pop edge, a delicate balance that took her years to hone.
"The ballet world has strict stereotypes with male and female roles, and I never felt comfortable expressing my femininity. I wasn't bulky and butch enough, so there was weird body shaming going on," she recalls, having experienced conflicting feelings while studying in the U.K. before moving to Sacramento (and later San Francisco) to explore her art. "I got injured a few times with my back, so I had a lot of time where I couldn't move or walk easily. I'd sit at home and paint my face for fun in my bathroom to feel fun or cute. It started to light this fire in me, it felt like how it was when I played with Barbies in my room. It felt secret and naughty, but really fun. I could be silly, stupid, and childish as a drag queen!"
Ballet still has a place in her heart, even when she's conjuring her childhood into fashions that register from "regal and refined" to "something trashier from Camden Town." She'll gladly show off pirouettes and other difficult maneuvers in her sets, though she's reaching beyond the ingrained standards ballet instilled. Like her hilariously unhinged YouTube series Learning S--- With Lady Camden, in which she dons full drag and accompanies professionals who (attempt to) teach her how to do things, like changing a tire on a car.
"I don't remember learning a single thing, it's hard doing mechanics and s---!" she says of the improvised series, and promises that leaning into her "instincts" and trusting what she's already good at were key to potential success on Drag Race. "[It's all about] vulnerability of being present in the moment and responding to what's happening, especially if it scares you or freaks you out," she continues. "Relinquishing yourself to the elements, in that way!" — unless it's bowing to the Queen's troll tactics.
"She's at home just talking mad crap about everybody she doesn't like," Camden jabs of the Elizabeth's suspected (completely unproven) obsession with Drag Race, which we may or may not have completely made up during our interview. But, that's the magic of Lady Camden: a fantasy that's just as ridiculous as it is regal.
Let's just get it out of the way: Yes, Maddy Morphosis is the first straight, cis man to compete on RuPaul's Drag Race. It's natural to assume that this will be her defining element on the show, but her talents say otherwise. For example, she's like, really good at her day job. "It was going from stocking shelves at Target to going on set for RuPaul's Drag Race, and immediately going back to stocking shelves at Target like nothing happened," she says.
All jokes aside, Maddy's place in the drag community is one she feels "privileged" to have, and gave her a sense of belonging during her formative years of feeling "different" and "enamored" by viewing the world through a feminine perspective versus assimilating into the heteronormative culture that pervaded the rural town she grew up in.
"I started to question myself. Who was I? I wasn't into things that were traditionally masculine. Am I trans? Does that mean I'm gay?" she remembers of life before Maddy, which she says a former girlfriend changed for the better when the pair traveled to a local queer bar for her drag debut. It was there, on Halloween, that she mustered the courage to doll herself up, finally morphing her appreciation for drag-themed pop culture (To Wong Foo and Priscilla were early favorites) into a form of expression that felt right for the first time in her life.
Soon after, Maddy was addicted to the confidence drag gave her. "I learned I can take a lot of those aspects and apply it to my daily life. As far as the gender stuff, I learned that all the things related to gender are arbitrary. I identify as a cisgender straight man, but I'm gender non-conforming in my presentation," she explains. "I can go out, do drag, put on makeup and heels, but it doesn't alter who I am as a person or shape who or what I am."
Surprisingly, she never encountered pushback (outside of the recurring, dreaded assumption of "Oh, you're not straight") from those within the queer community, and says her journey to becoming the comedy queen she is today was largely possible thanks to the acceptance she felt from her local peers who allowed her the space to explore.
"The only pushback I've ever had was people outside the drag community, people who aren't in the scene but just want to have opinions about it," she says. "It sucks when people who don't know you have the biggest opinions about you. But, let's show 'em, baby!"
Show you, she will: Particularly her body, as she enjoys donning "just, like, general stupidity" in her aesthetic — most of which she builds with a comedic edge.
"What I do is comic-based to show people something they can immediately recognize, but that they haven't seen before," she says. "You've seen Colonel Sanders, but you've never seen a drag queen Colonel Sanders with titty tassels. It's so outlandish and stupid. I'm just having a good time."
If you look hard enough, you'll see that the window Orion Story's soul somewhere between her uncrossed legs (as seen in this photo of her as Daphne from Scooby Doo). No? Okay, if you listen long enough, you might hear her life's story after dialing the 1-800-HOT-SLUTS line advertised on her Instagram. Still nothing? Fine, but hearing it all straight from the Michigan-based performer's mouth doesn't provide much clarity — and that's a good thing. "Chaos. Always chaos," says Orion, describing the essence of her drag. "I just like to make people laugh."
And laugh you will at the mini performance-art pieces shared across her social media pages, whether she's grooving through a sincere Lady Gaga routine or sporting Mary Katherine Gallagher drag in a TikTok where she holds still for eight whole seconds before performing a comically unenthused hand-clap — all soundtracked by "Sexy Bitch" by David Guetta.
When asked to pinpoint the origin of her penchant for humor, the Miss Michigan Drag Queen of the Year titleholder cites her mother's influence. "Growing up we'd always go to Michael's and change all the letters hanging up to spell 'poop' and 'fart.' You know, stupid s---," she remembers. "I learned to not take anything too seriously. Especially in a house where we didn't have a lot of money or the nicest stuff. Humor costs nothing, and it's something everyone can enjoy."
Maybe that's why it's difficult for her to break down the whys of her inspiration; it comes naturally, as did her spot on season 14, which she landed after her first and only audition. She says the show came to her at a tough time, and helped her work through a difficult period in her life. As does captivating an audience by juxtaposing oddball humor with genuine, drop-dead-gorgeous beauty queen looks.
"The way I think about it is, they come for the looks and stay for the jokes. I find it hard to not be myself. I don't think I could ever not be. The best way to do that is to be as chaotic as possible," she says in earnest, a few short breaths before describing her aforementioned crotch-flashing Scooby Doo outfit as a gateway into "the hearts of America." She might be kidding, and she might not; she says both quotes with the same conviction.
"I always try to mix it up. I don't want people to get too comfortable with expecting what they're going to see," she finishes. "There are so many things we always limit ourselves on. We say, 'that's not my drag,' 'that's not my brand,' but the important thing we need to think about is: what else can we do? Even before drag, my entire life I've tried to step outside of my comfort zone…. Once you start getting in the habit of doing that, you're not really scared of anything anymore. Everything is on the table. I don't have anything to hide!" Indeed, whether it's her heart on her sleeve or a patch of underwear way down there.
Willow Pill is an "angelic whore," and she's not changing for anyone. Unless it's the day she feels like being a "demonic fairy," or the next day, when she's living her "cherublike" baby-adult fantasy with huge prosthetic ears and deep eye illusions painted over her lids. The point is: Willow Pill does what Willow Pill wants, and you're going to love it.
"I like something to be slightly off…. because that's the lens that people have always viewed me through: the queer, young-looking, whimsical kid," says the former film school student. "My drag is usually very cute, it's slightly psychedelic, it's always a little bit twisted. I like there to be a fashion-forward aspect to everything that has a little bit of an ugly appeal. That's, to me, how the world is — it's beautiful in all its facets, but it's also kind of gross."
Her worldview certainly isn't a costume; Willow has persevered through chronic illness since childhood, having been diagnosed with cystinosis, a kidney disease that causes problems with her eyes, throat, and muscles, and even resulted in a kidney transplant when she was 14. She calls it "not a very forgiving disease," one that's often made it difficult to perform. But, true to her renegade spirit, she pushes through, and is figuring out her next steps as she takes the current ones. On the show, she hopes to be an example for others struggling with similar circumstances.
"We don't talk about what it means to be chronically ill and grieve your life as it's happening," she says. "That's a sacred place of my heart that I shared on the show, that I don't always share. It's not as much for me about awareness as it is I hope the other fans and queens and queer people who are chronically ill or experiencing disabilities in their life can see something that makes them feel seen."
One person who absolutely gets it is season 11 winner Yvie Oddly, who's influenced Willow's life and art since they first collaborated on a documentary in college. "She was someone I looked to because she was going to give me the freedom to do whatever the f--- I want," Willow remembers, adding that Yvie — who previously spoke about her bout with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome on Drag Race — understands everything the same way Willow does. They codified their experience on Yvie's 2020 song "Sick Bitch," which serves as an affectionately "dumb" friendship song, per Willow, as much as it does a meditation on illness and empathy.
"Drag kind of sucks the life out of you, and [Yvie understands] what it's like to be an artist sharing so much of yourself while also trying to preserve a little bit of yourself, for yourself," says Willow. "It's tough s---. The older we get, the closer we get." A match made in angelic whore heaven.
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