Utica Queen ate the RuPaul's Drag Race runway... and Clara the cow
"It's part of life. They grow and they leave you. And you eat them," Utica Queen tells EW during her elimination interview of the now-iconic farm animal that attempted to communicate with her from the afterlife on the Drag Race set. "I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty details, but Clara will always be inside me."
It's a delightfully unexpected way for the Minnesota-based queen (who grew up with family of farmers that, understandably, consumed their livestock!) to kick off an interview, but that's the beauty of Utica: You'll eat what she's serving, whether it's on the menu or not.
And she stuck to her deliciously absurd guns throughout her Drag Race run — including across Friday's episode, when she lost the crown, but won fan affection when a hilarious joke about RuPaul during the roast challenge inspired the Emmy-winning host to throw a dual set of middle fingers Utica's way.
Below, Utica opens up about the spine-tingling moment, what held her back in the competition, and the inspiration behind her Bob Ross squirrel wig. Read on for the full conversation, and tune in to the next new episode of RuPaul's Drag Race season 13 Friday at 8 p.m. on VH1.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hello Utica! How are you?
UTICA QUEEN: Oh my gosh, Joey! Look at her butt! It's so big!
What a Utica way to start an interview!
I know! It's good to hear your beautiful voice!
It's lovely to hear from you as well, though I'm so sorry that we're talking because of your elimination. But, I'm glad that Clara the Cow's ghost now has company since your spirit departed Drag Race.
Clara has been kept the most company! I was baffled! I was like, Char Margolis, why are you so deep into my psyche right now?
Because she knew Clara was an icon!
Clara is an icon? I'll take it!
What's the story with Clara?
I grew up on a hard-working farm. My father is a farmer, and my mom is a nurse, so they made a cute little farm set. A lot of my childhood and young adult life was taking care of all the animals. I had to milk the cows and raise them…. It's part of life. They grow and they leave you. And you eat them. [Laughs] I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty details, but Clara will always be inside me.
Oh my God, you ate Clara!?
I mean, are you going to include that?
Are you saying you didn't eat Clara!?
Um, maybe we should scratch that from the record! I don't want to dash anyone's dreams! You can add it if you want, it's literally part of farm living!
That just fits so well into your Drag Race identity, because you made such an impression with your unique and quirky approach to life and drag. You also might be the only queen in history to receive two middle fingers from RuPaul on the main stage. What did that feel like?
The first time it happened I was like, I can die happy! No one gets this. No one! Can I just say: I had so many crazy, iconic moments this season, but that was bonkers. And to get it twice? Crazy…. When I hit that punchline and they laughed and I got those middle fingers, I was like, wow, I did that! If there was a time to be a fool, it's now. I took a full opportunity to do so!
I actually thought the joke was really funny, but Loni Love and Michelle Visage told you not to be mean during the prep. Why did you forge on with those jokes that they were advising you against?
When you put the nicest person in the room and tell them to do insult comedy, there will be some dissonance! I remember them telling me to switch it up, and I was like, okay, I guess I know how humor feels, but I don't know the math of what humor is sometimes. I am very into pointed humor, but I remember when I first started the roast, I formulated the jokes to be not as icky as they were perceived, and I started to feel it going wrong at the beginning. I freeze up under pressure, so I started to revert back to what I was delivering before and it kind of became a mess. In the roast, I felt it happening and I was like, this is not who I am or who I want to be! So I put my cards down and went off the cuff. That's when the real magic started, and I got those middle fingers! My roast package is a burnt bag of popcorn: There are some great kernels in there, but it's still a burnt bag of popcorn.
I always find it strange or difficult to fully understand the line between funny and mean in the roast, because sometimes these jokes are really mean in this challenge, but they land so well. Do you feel like, now, you have a firm grasp on the difference between what's funny and what's mean?
I think so! After reviewing and doing some more study about the work, I'm like, oh dear, I know what it's like now. I've grown so much to see what humor can be and add my own little twists. Another bit of creative dissonance I was having was I was trying my best to emulate what the others were doing. When I let loose and did my own thing, that was the most magical. If I do this again, it's about doing my own thing and being true to who I am, not trying to give them offensive humor.
I look at your trajectory this season, and I think we can trace this all back to Olivia Lux when she planted the seed in that moment when you whispered a joke to her about Tina Burner, and she told you to tell Tina to her face, in front of the cameras. Did Olivia open those floodgates?
I would say so. [Laughs] Olivia has been a very influential human for me in this whole competition. I felt comfortable around her when I was experiencing this crazy world of Drag Race. I'd feel comfortable enough to share a little nugget with her and she'd be like, "Girl, this is gold."
This whole thing recalls what the other queens were saying about you a few weeks ago, when they said that you had a binder full of insults from the reading challenge that you were reading at dinner. Can you clarify what happened?
I was actually asked. I remember someone being like, "So, what else did you guys do?" I was like, okay, I'll just read them! Why not? This is what I've got! I didn't get any inkling that it was at all ill-perceived. That's what everyone else was doing! I definitely felt a little thrown under the bus when that comment was said about it being inappropriate. I didn't realize! I'm someone who's very accommodating, and if I'm asked, I'm going to deliver as much as I can. I definitely felt like I was set up [by the cast] in that regard…. I feel like there's a dissonance between me and the other girls, especially as it winds down in the competition, because I'm very kind, very doting, and a lot of the girls are very charged individuals that thrive with an external energy where I thrive with an external energy…. I started to feel the dissonance between me and the girls. I couldn't quite give them what they wanted, and then I had this idea that I had to give them what they wanted, so it just became this little spiral moment. I'm a Minnesotan, I want to be on everyone's good graces and put my best foot forward, but it was little instances like that when I started to feel lonely!
You were open in Untucked about your desire to make friends with the other queens. Kandy also said that it seemed like you didn't invest as much in the competition as the others. Do you think you valued the companionship between the queens more than the competition?
I put my best foot forward to the competitive side of things. I wanted to be in everyone's good graces and create a sisterhood. That's what I'm all about. When it becomes so competitive, and you have to step on others to do the work…. Sometimes that would've been the better choice to succeed, and I wasn't interested in making that choice. We, as a community, can strive forward without being our true and authentic selves without stepping on others to get what we want or need. I could feel some of the girls took that route during the competition and made it out like, "Why aren't you doing that? That's how we're succeeding, so why aren't you?" But I was not about it. That can be interpreted as not trying as hard in terms of being competitive, but I believe that, during this crazy time, this opportunity is so important for us to come together.
You were conscious of a lot of things, yes. Especially not appropriating anyone's culture with Bob Ross' afro. Do you think Bob's natural hair was appropriation?
It's a little tough, because that was his natural hair, and I remember, after doing some research, that the production he was working with asked him to perm his hair to make it bigger, which I don't think is the best thing that they could've done…. but when it comes down to artistically representing Bob Ross, realizing that, if I'm going to achieve this look, I have to purchase an afro, and I think that, even emulating that character, I had to be conscious of other cultures. I wanted to put a more artistic spin on it that's more Utica. By doing the squirrels, I was still able to achieve the likeness of Bob Ross, but also share the art that I have inside.
What I loved most about you this season is that your art was unshakeable. You had a clear vision and stuck to it. Where does that confidence in your art come from?
When I first started drag, I told myself that I want to be the best version of myself I can possibly imagine. If I'm able to use this art to show that and to tell these stories that I have in my heart to the world, I want to do that to the best of my ability. That's permeated my drag career ever since I started. Utica is me. She's an extension of what I want to embody with my life. She's the best part of me, so I think that's what it stems from. It's this desire to create this magic and to impress myself and others, and to show my best side that I possibly can. That's what inspires me to keep going with this work and to be the light that I know that I am.
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