Detox spills all the T in this exclusive interview with Gay Times.
This year, RuPaul’s Drag Race finished airing its tenth groundbreaking series and third edition of All Stars – both of which left us mother-tucking slain honey. With a highly-anticipated eleventh season on the way, and widespread speculation (threads on Reddit) as to which fan-favourites will appear on All Stars 4, it seems like the show is bigger than ever.
We recently caught up with one of the most legendary contestants in HERstory, season five and All Stars 2 alumni Detox, to spill some T on the current era of Drag Race. She spoke to us about potential spin-offs, being victim of a “calculated” edit, and why it’s important for the show to be more inclusive. Get your jush below.
Do you think any of the recent final four performances have lived up to Read U Wrote U?
I have to be honest and say I don’t think so. It’s difficult to recreate magic, and there was something super magical about Read U Wrote U on All Stars 2, and obviously it did really well, and Drag Race has a history of trying to recreate the magic. And often, they don’t really find that magic. Not that everyone else’s is terrible, but I just think Read U Wrote U put everything on a really high pedestal.
It’s funny because it was the smallest production of them all, yet it’s the most iconic.
Right? They were quite ambitious the first time, and now year after year they try to make it bigger and sometimes that makes it lose the magic.
A lot of fans have criticised the new finale format. How do you feel about the lip-sync showdowns?
I honestly didn’t care for that during season nine. Just because, unfortunately, Shea got shafted. Shea was the leader in the competition and was doing very well, and as it turned out, she ended up not winning.
What do you think would’ve happened if you, Jinkx, Roxxxy and Alaska lip-synced for the crown?
I don’t know. It was so different back then, and I was fine with the way things turned out then because I really wasn’t ready. I wasn’t mentally prepared. I didn’t perform to my best abilities during season five. I feel like when you look back on the final lip-sync of All Stars 2, there was a clear winner of that, but…
From your experiences, how much does the edit play a part in how well informed or ill informed the fandom is?
You know, it’s really funny because producers, Ru and Michelle always say that you can’t blame the editing, but the editing is very calculated. Especially now, in the later seasons where in the confessionals queens have to wear one specific outfit, it makes it much easier for them to cut and paste things to create a story. And yeah, they’ll say it came out of your mouth, but when I was rewatching season five, a lot of times, the things that were being said, or the way the confessionals were puzzled together, like yeah, those things came out of my mouth, but they were in different contexts. So a lot of sarcasm was turned into a bitchy comment and of course, they add the rattlesnake in the back and zoom in to some reaction shots. It paints a picture, and it does make for good television, but it is unfortunate that it’s not accurately represented. But that’s what we signed up for. I think, over the years, people realised and now understand going into the competition that it’s a TV show, and although they wanna tell their stories, they edit themselves, and that was very evident this season. It’s smart too, because it’s their opportunity to be on TV, and tell their story their way, which makes it a little calculated and takes the heart out of the show for me. But it’s smart for these girls who realise that it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to edit themselves in way where they’ll remain… working.
Yeah, we don’t get real feuds like in earlier seasons. Queens are too scared to be the villain.
You saw a lot of it during season nine, where it was very apparent that people said things a certain way, and there was a lot of thought process behind it in order to make themselves look better, so they wouldn’t get the villain edit, the mean girl edit, the stupid girl edit. They’re always trying to give themselves a certain edit. Eureka did the experience before, and I think everything that she has done has been very calculating and very self-produced. It’s very transparent. For me, it takes out the allure of the show. I wanna see people be genuine, and compete at a level where they’re fully present and not so caught up in how they’re going to appear to make themselves look better, and to appeal to the masses. It’s almost like cheating to me.
Contestants in earlier seasons were before the Instagram and social media age, so it seems like they didn’t really care about online hate or understand the repercussions of their actions. Now, however, after the backlash Phi Phi and Roxxxy received…
The unfortunate part of our fandom is that we have one of the biggest and best fanbases out there, of any reality programming, but that also means that they’re also super aggressive. That’s the shitty part. We love our fans but they can be very manipulative and evil. Everyone talks about it all the time. We’re always like, ‘Well, what can we do to make them not like that?’ I think that they get off on it because we’re reacting to it, and the more people acknowledge the fact that they’re assholes, the more they’re gonna do it. They feed off it, and it’s like high school for them.
Monique Heart said the same, and that the trolls were all 12-year-old boys and girls and 40-year-old men “living in their mother’s basement”. Is this what you’ve found as well?
100%. It’s old bitter gays, and really young, adolescent kids. The shit that these kids say is gross.
Did you notice much different in the fandom when you returned for All Stars 2?
Oh totally. It’s the development of social media. We’ve become more accessible to people, and obviously we wanna engage with people because that’s what we do. We have to be super engaging, which gives people the opportunity to say whatever they want because we’re public figures and we’re there for their disposal, which really is not the case. It’s hard not to get in your feelings about it, and respond to it. It took me a while to get there but now it makes me laugh more than anything, because these people are still pissed off that I sent Alyssa home three years ago!
Where do you think RPDR can go next, after ten regular seasons and three All Star editions?
It just keeps getting bigger and bigger, which is crazy because the last few seasons, I haven’t been as enthralled into them and as interested. I think it would be amazing if they start branching out further. They have Drag Race Thailand now, and it would be amazing to see a Drag Race UK, which I know everyone has been waiting for for years. It would be great to see them go to different places where there is a different take on drag. Drag is huge in the UK, and there’s so many different kinds of performers there that are amazing. Go to Australia! There’s all kinds of opportunities for Ru to sit back and collect the cheque without having to work!
Do you think she’ll continue for much longer on the show?
Well, she has to be! Especially if it continues on in the States. It’s his namesake, it’s his baby. It’s hard to imagine it without Ru on it. He is so wise, even on the reunion, the way he handled the situation with The Vixen and Asia and Eureka. I always forget just how much of a mentor he is and how wise he is. If Ru was not involved, the heart of the show would be gone.
Lately, there’s been rumours that previous All Stars contestants such as Manila Luzon and Latrice Royale are in the next season. So, I’ve gotta ask, would you ever come back?
No! [Laughs] I was just having this conversation with Alyssa, and we were like, ‘Y’know what? We weren’t expecting to go through what we had to go through during All Stars 2, there was a bunch of shenanigans there’. While it was great TV and we had fun doing it, I don’t think we’ll ever go into that competitive situation again. That being said, if they were to do something – this is what we talked about – like a Real World/Road Rules challenge, where we’re not necessarily there competing against each other, where we’re competing for a cash prize, that would be fun. I would always be down to do that. I was so close on All Stars 2, I literally left there thinking that it was mine. Then, basically with my edit, especially to get third place in the eyes of the viewers, was kind of heartbreaking to me. I would just rather not go through that again. Plus, it’s exhausting. It’s mentally draining, it’s expensive, and I have other things going on!
There’s so many spin-offs that could be done…
There’s so many things that they could do with it. I think, now that they’re doing an All Stars every year, it’s too much. We’re running out of some amazing girls. There’s a huge pull of girls to choose from, but there’s really only a select few that are fan-favourites, strong competitors, that would make really great television. I think they need to slow down on the All Stars, because we’re drowning in drag right now.
All Stars 2 was incredible because they waited so long and all ten queens were legendary.
Yeah, wait two or three years, because it makes people more excited about it, and it makes it that much more special.
Overall, how much impact do you think Drag Race has had on popular culture?
It’s changed pop culture, just like RuPaul did when he came out in the 90s with Supermodel. Every year, it becomes bigger and bigger and it’s a massive pop culture thing. It’s not just a cult classic anymore. It’s Emmy Award winning! We have people on TV shows and movies, and it’s getting more and more mainstream. Being in Paris for Fashion Week, it was crazy how many people that I looked up to and admired knew who I was. It was wild and humbling. I don’t often realise or appreciate the impact the show has had, but then situations like that happen where people who are actually a huge deal and huge celebrities know who I am. That’s wild. Sometimes I sit back and pinch myself and say, ‘I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the success of Drag Race’. Any time the show announces new girls, I always say, ‘Okay, welcome to the family, don’t be a dick, don’t be an asshole’, because it’s an amazing, free opportunity.
Earlier this month, a group of drag queens protested Donald Trump’s arrival to the UK. How important is it for queens to get involved in politics?
Here’s the thing. I’m not a super political person, politics scare the shit out of me, but you have to – especially right now, with the climate we’re in – use your voice in a way that can inspire or affect change. Drag in itself is already a form of activism, but there’s always things we need to be doing outside of that, so it’s super important to try and get involved and use your voice. When you’re handed this platform, you have to use your voice for positivity. It’s so embarrassing honestly, being American and being able to travel all over the place and I feel like I have to apologise. I’m like, ‘Sorry!’
It feels like the drag community is growing faster than ever, with more people wanting to try out the art form. Is this a good or bad thing?
It’s great! I love drag. It’s always been such a huge part of my life. It’s amazing that it’s opened up the world’s eyes to what drag is, and now it’s being celebrated instead of feared. It’s seen as uplifting, and not belittled anymore, and I think people wanna be a part of it and celebrate it with us. That’s why I feel like it’s important for the show to start casting trans drag artists, trans men, drag kings and bio queens. Maybe there is space for them to have their own representation and their own TV show, but I think that there has to be a way for them to work in. So, I’m all for it
How does dating work when you’re a famous drag queen?
Even my hand is tired of me. My hand text me and said, “I need a break”.
So it’s going well then?
Honestly, I just don’t have time for it. It’s not that there’s no interest, I just relocated to Chicago and I’ve met a few people there. I have a few people that I talk to in places that I’ve been that I try to hang with, but it’s hard because I’m very busy and I think my goal and my priorities have shifted in the last couple years. I’m more focused on my career right now, trying to make it more sustainable where I can have opportunities where I can be off the road, and to start settling down. Not necessarily to start searching, but allowing the opportunities for love to happen. But right now, I don’t have time so it’s not a focus of mine. Yeah, I’ll go out and have my fun here and there, but it’s nothing more than that. I don’t wanna date or start a relationship with somebody when I don’t have time for them. I know I would want someone to have time for me, so it’s not really fair. It’s the same reason why I won’t get a dog! It’s not fair that I won’t be able to spend time with it, to love and to nurture. It’s also hard to know whether people’s intentions are genuine or not, whether they see you as Matthew or as world famous drag superstar Detox.
Do you get hit on more as Detox or more as Matthew?
I don’t know! I feel like it’s in the middle. Detox is definitely more willing to take the bait, whereas when I’m out of drag I’m a little more reserved. I’m a little shyer. When Detox takes over, then no dick is safe.