The winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK spills all the T in our exclusive cover interview.
After eight weeks of serving jaw-dropping lewks and Academy Award-winner realness with her impressions of Kim Woodburn and Donald Trump, The Vivienne deservedly won the coveted title of the UK’s First Drag Race Superstar last week.
The Liverpudlian beat out her fellow competitors Divina De Campo and Baga Chipz after writing their own lyrics and recording a verse for a performance of RuPaul’s classic dance-pop anthem, Rock It (To The Moon) – now available on iTunes.
“I couldn’t have called it when we were watching it until Ru said my name,” The Vivienne tells us shortly after her historic win. “I was squeezing Divina’s hand and we both looked at each other and burst into tears. I was really surprised.”
Now, The Vivienne is set to conquer Hollywood with two incredible projects. The first, a collaboration with Baga, will see the stars reprise their iconic Snatch Game characters as Trump and Thatcher for a “spoof of Good Morning Britain”.
The second will be her own adventure, details of which are yet to be announced. However, don’t be surprised to see The Vivienne battling an Indominus Rex alongside Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World 3… (It’ll make sense later.)
In celebration of her win, we spoke with The Vivienne about her time on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, how she feels with being labelled the show’s “villain”, and why the lack of prizes shouldn’t deter queens auditioning for season 2.
Condragulations The Vivienne! How does it feel to be the first winner of Drag Race UK?
Thank you very much! Absolutely amazing, just a dream come true. The past 12 years of my drag career have come to this and it’s just the cherry on top of the cake.
Did you know you were going to win? Or did you and Divina film separate crownings?
Yeah, we always film two crownings and I genuinely couldn’t have called it. I couldn’t have called it when we were watching it until Ru said my name. I was squeezing Divina’s hand and we both looked at each other and burst into tears. I was really surprised.
In my opinion, it was the closest top two since Manila Luzon and Raja in season 3.
Yeah, definitely! It could’ve gone either way. We’re both deserving winners, but what happened happened…
And you’re getting married next month! You must be loving 2019?
[Laughs] Yeah I know! Let’s just put it all in one year. Why not?
What do you want to do with your legacy?
I just want to show the rest of the world that the UK has just as good a drag as the US. When the UK Drag Race was announced, there was a lot of talk, ‘It’s not going to be as good as the US one. Drag queens aren’t as polished over here.’ I’m here to say, ‘Listen. Come to watch one of our shows and I bet you will have just as good a night, if not better than if you go and watch the American queens.’
Well, it’s proven to be one of the best seasons ever… fact.
Oh, it’s proved everyone wrong! It’s just amazing. It’s gotten down to the nitty gritty of raw, British drag. The humour, the comedy and looks as well, which I don’t think a lot of people were expecting. There were some good looks on that season!
Also, it didn’t feel forced. Everything felt authentic.
Yeah, forced drama and storylines. It got back to being a competition and a talent show, rather than a reality show.
How does it feel being labelled the ‘villain’ of Drag Race UK?
[Laughs] If you’re going to come out of Drag Race and blame the edit, that’s your decision. I said everything that I said on that camera. You’re in there to win a crown. I know Divina has called me out for playing mind games or something like that, but I wasn’t playing mind games with anyone. I went into that werkroom to get a crown, do the best that I can do and show the country that I deserved it. I think people can cast you as a villain because you’re confident in what you do, but surely if you’re going into a competition, confidence is key?
They hailed you as a villain but everyone in the UK has shady, deadpan humour?
When you look at the US version, our series was tame as hell. It was so tame and I was the villain, yet I was never the one that sat there and said I’m better than anyone else. I think a couple of queens, mainly Divina sat there and said they were better than anyone else yet I’m the villain? But hey ho!
Well at least some of your shady comments became memes such as, “Who put 50p in Cheryl?”
[Laughs] And my mum is now an official gif! She is a diamond. She hasn’t a clue what a gif is, but she is one. However you pronounce it…
Was there anything that didn’t air that you wish fans could’ve seen?
Yeah. I mean I’ve just said in one breath, ‘You can’t blame the edit,’ but there was a side of me that you didn’t see. I helped a lot of the other queens, like telling Cheryl to put the toilet paper on her shoe on episode one, styling Blu’s wig on episode two, or giving Crystal the orbs that she wore on her head for the sewing challenge. Stuff like that, nice things that I did for other people that never got shown.
Why do you think they didn’t include those moments?
Maybe it wasn’t relevant. Maybe… we’re making TV. It would’ve been nice to have shown a softer side to me maybe, but who cares? [Laughs]
What I’ve loved about you this season is that you knew what you were signing up for, and you haven’t made any excuses for how you came across.
No, not at all. You can sit there on Twitter until you’re blue in the face but there’s no point doing it. I know that I’m a good drag queen, I knew that I wanted to go in there and win. If anyone says I was playing a game, well then yeah, I was playing a game. I was playing the Drag Race game and that’s how you win.
And why is it so frowned upon to “play a game”? It is a competition after all.
Yeah or like, ‘The Vivienne shouldn’t win because she was good from day one, whereas somebody else showed growth.’ It’s like, ‘What? Sorry, I thought this was a competition to be a good drag queen!’ Do you have to start shit, and then get good or what?
How does it feel, as a Drag Race fan, to have your Snatch Game hailed as the best in HERstory?
That is the most amazing thing that could’ve ever come out of it, because Snatch Game is the one episode I always look forward to every season. We’ve been seeing a bit of lull in Snatch Game in the past couple of years, so being able to bring that Snatch Game polish back is just absolutely amazing. Impressions is something I love to do, so if I had fucked Snatch Game, I would’ve been really upset with myself. I’m so happy.
Have you heard from any of Trump’s wonderful supporters?
[Laughs] No! I thought I was going to get a hell of a lot of hate for that. But no, it’s all been good. Maybe they thought it was the real Trump? The Trump supporters are that stupid they probably thought it was him.
You bravely opened up about your past drug abuse during the series. What kind of response have you received from fans?
The response has been amazing. People have been messaging me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, telling me about their stories. Whether they’re still in addiction or in recovery saying, ‘My family don’t know about it. It’s been a secret that I’ve been carrying and I’m so happy I get to speak to you about it.’ It’s nice to know that people have seen my story and that it’s resonated somewhere, whether it’s helped them make a change, made them realise they’re doing something wrong, or if it’s helped them tell their family.
Do you hope that message will also resonate with other drag performers who are living that lifestyle?
Yeah, hopefully. Drag is a great way to make a living because you get to do what you love and it doesn’t feel like work. However when you do drag, you’re not working in an office. You’re working in a nightclub, so you’ve got drinks flowing for free and drugs flowing for free. Just try and make those good decisions like, ‘Okay, maybe let’s just enjoy the gig and then go home.’ You are booked as a performer, try and treat it like that. Maybe have one drink, do your job, enjoy yourself, go home and get ready for next day’s work.
How do you think Drag Race UK will impact the drag scene here?
It’s going to light a fire under everyone’s arse isn’t it? I think every drag queen is going to apply for season two and good luck to everyone who does it. If you want to apply, do it. It’s the best business opportunity you could ever be handed as a drag queen. Whether you like the show or not, do it! If you get on, you’re going to have a great life after it.
There’s been a bit of controversy over the show not awarding queens prizes, due to the fact it’s on the BBC. You’ve been outspoken about it on Twitter…
[Laughs] ‘Oh, you don’t want to audition because you don’t want to win a badge? Okay!’
Why do you think it’s caused so much of an uproar?
I don’t know. If you’re going into RuPaul’s Drag Race just for the prize money, you’re doing it for the wrong thing. I entered RuPaul’s Drag Race to get the recognition. I know I’m a good queen, but to get recognition from RuPaul and the world… it’s amazing. You’ll have a career that bounces off the show and if you play it correctly, it’s going to last a lifetime. I’m about to tour the world. It’s those things that come after it. You’ll make that 100k in three months, hopefully. It’s not all about prizes. It’s about the experience, having a great time and boosting your success.
Who would you like to see on season two?
Season two… We definitely need some more scousers on it so Tiara Fletcher, Brenda LaBeau and Michael Marouli. Who else? I would love to see Miss Rory from Newcastle. She’s a real queen of mean, kind of stand up comedian. She’s brilliant.
Would you like anything switched up for the second season?
I think they hit it nail on the head. There was a lot of speculation about whether it was going to be shit, whether it was going to be a cheap rip-off version, but I think they absolutely couldn’t have made it better if they tried. There was a lot of moaning about, ‘Oh, these queens haven’t been represented,’ but there was only ten spaces on that first season. You’re never going to represent the whole of the UK with one season. This is going to go on for so many years, I can see it, so everybody’s going to get the chance to be represented.
You’ve got two series coming out. The first is with Baga – what can we expect from that?
It’s like a spoof of Good Morning Britain and Good Morning America. It’s Donald Trump and Maggie Thatcher having this weird on-screen romance, reading ridiculous news stories, some true and some false. A lot of fake news. It’s just ridiculous.
I’m so on board. Then you have a solo one coming out, which we know nothing about…
Yeah, we haven’t got a final cutout of what we wanna do yet, but it’s definitely going to be along the lines of, ‘The Vivienne takes Hollywood.’ We shall see! I want a cameo in Jurassic World 3, so… [Laughs]
I hope it’s as your “I’m drippin’!” scouse housewife character.
[Laughs] Can you imagine everyone in Hollywood Boulevard seeing me walking around saying, ‘I’m sweating ere!’
Final question: How do you feel about competing on Strictly now?
I’d do Strictly, yeah! Fuck it, why not?
All eight episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK are available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.
Photography Darren Bell
Words Sam Damshenas
Hair and makeup supervisor Holly Sliwka
Retouching Anisa Cleaver