Exiting COVID queen (and her replacement) dish on their RuPaul's Drag Race UK shocker
Warning! This article contains major spoilers regarding the most recent episode of RuPaul's Drag Race UK season 2. Read ahead at your own risk.
If you thought the earth-shattering revelation that Ginny Lemon was actually the real Brexit this whole time was the gaggiest gag in RuPaul's Drag Race UK's basket of fish and chips, this week's episode came along to frock-destroy that notion entirely, as Miss Rona showed up to snatch the wig of a leading contender.
As the episode began, Mama RuPaul informed the remaining queens that, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (season 2 filmed at the top of 2020), production would be suspended until it was safe to do so. Fast-forward seven months, and a new crop of queens sashayed into the Werk Room to continue the competition (just kidding, it was the same queens — with some new "faces" and, uh, teeth, in the case of Sister Sister). But, someone was noticeably absent: Veronica Green, a front-running contender, who contracted COVID-19 during the break and wasn't cleared to return. In her place, the queens were tasked with voting to bring back a past eliminee, and a group vote led to the resurgence of the season's first-eliminated queen, Joe Black, whose prior ouster caused an uproar in a hungry fandom that wanted to see more of the cabaret-performing Glenn Close lookalike. But the high was short-lived, as the RuRuVision girl group challenge facilitated Joe's second bottom-two appearance of the season, and her shocking admission on the runway (her challenge attire was purchased from *gasp* H&M) nailed the final stake into her fiercely beating Drag Race heart.
To recap the chaos, EW had a joint chat with Veronica and Joe, in which we discussed the former's COVID-19 symptoms, the latter's grand return (and ruffling of RuPaul's feathers with her off-the-rack look), and the pandemic's impact on their craft. Read on for the full conversation, and catch new episodes of RuPaul's Drag Race UK season 2 Thursdays on the WOW Presents Plus subscription streaming app.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you both holding up? Are you both feeling okay — especially you, Veronica, you're all recovered?
VERONICA GREEN: As far as my recovery is concerned, I'm doing well. Thankfully, when I tested positive, I only had a mild case of it. I certainly didn't suffer, and I recovered after 10 days!
You'd been a strong contender for the crown up until this point. At what point in the break did you discover you had the virus, and what were your symptoms?
GREEN: I found out two days before we were to go back. We had to self-isolate in our homes for a two-week period, and I live with five others. My fiancé works away as an engineer, so he had to go to the other end of the country for a site visit. He brought the virus back with him. He went on a Monday, came back on a Wednesday, started feeling ill on a Friday. On Sunday, that was when I started to get a bit of a sore throat. On Tuesday I had my test, Thursday I got my results, and it was devastating.
What were you feeling the moment you found out you couldn't return?
GREEN: The results were sent to production first, so they informed me. I didn't know how to process the information. I thought it was a joke. When it sank in, I burst into tears. I was sad for a few days.
You'll be coming back for season 3, so that's more TV time for you across two seasons!
GREEN: Formally, I haven't accepted the offer yet [laughs].
Hopefully you do, lots of people would love to see you back on TV!
JOE BLACK: I certainly would!
GREEN: I do think my journey isn't complete. It was cut short and there were things beyond my control that made me withdraw. The opportunity to go back is something I'm interested in.
Joe, does it feel odd knowing that your good fortune in re-entering the competition came at the expense of Veronica's misfortune?
BLACK: I wouldn't say my time on the show was good fortune! [Laughs] But, no, I think the plan was that someone would come back anyway…. The idea of having taken Veronica's place, the guilt would've eaten me up! I was happy to play a guest appearance, because all of those people earned their place in episode 5, Veronica very much so. We were just lovely additional, after-lockdown guests!
Did you all learn about the seriousness of the pandemic from RuPaul? Did you have any idea that the outside world was as chaotic as it was during filming?
GREEN: No! My experience was a bit different from the other queens'. We didn't talk about what was going on in the outside world, so I had no idea what was going on. It was strange to me that random crew members would disappear because they'd have to go back to their home countries…. When production stopped, that was when it was brought to my attention. When we all got sent home and I went back to my house, I walked in and remembered seeing all my housemates working from home! The tubes were like 28 Days Later…. Nobody on the streets! I thought I'd come back to an alternate reality.
BLACK: The Drag Race bubble! When I came out, you couldn't find a toilet roll!
It was nice to see everyone back and that excitement of human interaction again. We do see some new faces — especially Asttina's facial hair. What did we think of that and Sister Sister's new teeth?
GREEN: Some people came back with literally new faces!
BLACK: Some of us were content with our old ones, though! Asttina knows what she's doing. She kept her facial hair because she knew she would take that [dog costume] off and people would swoon. Everyone thirsts over Asttina all the time, and she deserves every single gasp of thirstiness, all those people reaching for the water! Stunning!
GREEN: I enjoyed watching everybody else's journey to coming back to the competition through the lockdown special that's out on BBC iPlayer [and WOW Presents Plus] now, that documents our journey with videos from home, documenting the whole seven months!
Joe, you had so much support going into this season, but then you got some critiques on the runway for your looks on the first episode, though the looks were popular with the fans. Especially the David Bowie outfit. What was going through your mind when you received bad critiques for those?
BLACK: The seaside runway was actually my original hometown look, but it was too perfect not to do there! So, I moved it over and did something brighter than a bleak, windy, covered-in-bird-droppings seaside look! Being competitive is not in my nature, so I knew I'd hear things I wouldn't agree with and things that I didn't want to hear, so I promised myself that, no matter what anyone said, I'd sit there and listen and take any good that I can from it to help grow and change! I think the look screamed Bowie, and apparently the rest of the internet did as well! That was lovely that everyone [supported me] both of my times there. It's fortunate for someone so briefly on television for both appearances to have controversies!
Speaking of strange exits: Ginny Lemon! Veronica, can you describe watching that happen in the moment? You all had no idea?
GREEN: Absolutely no idea what was happening! I thought I'd be in the bottom with Sister. We were all rehearsing backstage and I remember going over to everybody, Ginny was practicing, but they were leaning over and giving me a nice smile and touching me on the arm. But that was their way of saying her goodbyes to everybody! To see it unfold on stage, the music starts, and they turn but they're not mouthing the words. Initially I thought they were throwing the lip-sync, but then my brain was trying to shout for them not to do it. But it was their moment to do what they wanted to do, and I think it was a brilliant moment!
Well, rest in peace to Ginny's time on the show, but Joe, you had a new life that unfortunately ended abruptly. It's a difficult thing to live up to the Frock Destroyers with a girl group, but I thought you did quite well. Of course, the H&M dress did you in! What prompted you admit that it was from H&M?
BLACK: Michelle had said something about Primark, and I jokingly said "H&M" as if to jokingly be like, "Oh, don't be silly! It's slightly, slightly better!" I wasn't intending to make anyone angry. I was being cheeky, which apparently incited a deep fire within RuPaul [Laughs]. It's great TV! People have been asking me if I'd change the H&M dress, but why would I do anything different if that dress incited such brilliant TV and such passion in someone? I'd wear it again in a heartbeat!
I imagine it must've been difficult to buy expensive outfits in the seven months of lockdown when the performing industry had been decimated by the pandemic. Did you get the H&M dress out of necessity because it was affordable, or did you bring it with you before your first elimination?
BLACK: I thought there was this unspoken rule, because the challenges are quite vague, you don't know what you're doing until you're there. The runways are yours! Pop is very out of my comfort zone. At my shows, I'm in there in a sequin, fishtail dress standing still or behind a piano…. Pop people wear short pink dresses! That was my thought. But, I had it before going in. It was a challenge look, so I thought it served the purpose of looking like I was in a pop group, but lo and behold, it did exactly the opposite!
GREEN: I loved it! [Both laugh] That moment is so brilliant and it's a testament to why this is one of the best seasons of Drag Race. You don't get that reaction often from Ru, and the fact that the U.K. queens got that reaction….
BLACK: I'm so happy to be on the receiving end of it! I'd have it happen again and again so that we can be award-winning reality TV!
The pandemic is such a big theme of the episode. Can you both give an idea of the financial hit you've taken over the last year, because it's always important to remind people to keep supporting performers throughout this.
GREEN: This situation completely wiped out everything I'd built up, career-wise. I'm also a singer and a singing waiter, and all of my gigs [were] canceled. No work whatsoever. The industry was collapsing. When I don't have acting or singing work, I go work front-of-house at a theater, but the theaters weren't open. I felt helpless and alone. I had a hard time financially and mentally, and it took me a long time to recover.
BLACK: I came back from being eliminated to emails about no shows, nothing. I moved to online shows for tips. As far as I was concerned, my journey was done. I actually sold some of my runway challenge looks. Which is really helpful, right? That helped me continue to pay my rent for a while, and getting the call to go back, I had to collect those things back up again!
Hopefully this all leads to a contract with H&M!
BLACK: Well, they have reached out! Not necessarily about a contract, but I think I might be receiving some gifts. They slid into my DMs!
RuPaul's Drag Race UK airs Thursdays on WOW Presents Plus.
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