“I definitely thought my life was going to be different,” laughs Crystal Methyd. “Way different.” We’re speaking with America’s Next (Next) Drag Superstar over Zoom (the new normal!), while she quarantines in a Manchester hotel room for her headline UK tour, Wonderland. It’s her first solo venture since rising to fame on Drag Race season 12, where she earned a coveted spot in the top three with Jaida Essence Hall and Gigi Goode and transformed RuPaul into an unruly fangirl week after week with her El Debarge-esque mullet. 2020 has been utter crap, and we all know why, so we’ll avoid the spiel.
However, seeing our favourite contestants lip-sync for their lives slash legacies and participate in wild challenges has been a major comfort in lockdown. Of course, we also had Chromatica, the squirrel who mastered the Ninja Warrior obstacle course, TikTok and – more recently – the Cheetos’ downfall (not Coco Montrese, she’s doing well), but overall, Drag Race has arguably been the most reliable source of escapism for the queer community. “I don’t even know how to process it, because all the interaction I see from people, it’s been online!” she continues. “It’s just been crazy, and I’m so happy to finally tour and see people’s faces.”
As soon as Crystal sashayed into the werkroom in a circus-themed ensemble and told producers that she’s a “little devil that likes to raise hell in the Bible Belt,” we knew she was going to define the U in the C.U.N.T. acronym. Although she started off strong, channelling The Powerful Girls’ queer anti-christ HIM in front of Nicki Minaj for her I’m That Bitch rap, she stayed in the ‘safe’ bracket for a number of weeks. Following her hilarious impersonation of Madonna in the Ray of Light era for the Rusical, however, Crystal stampeded her way to the final, where she served one of the most batshit crazy performances in the show’s history; reenacting the life cycle of a bird and regurgitating in her mouth to the beat of Nelly Furtado’s I’m Like a Bird.
Other fashion choices that showcased her whimsicality included a dragged up version of Freddy Kreuger and a lesbian spin on Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie for the makeover challenge. Unsurprisingly, all these factors won Crystal legions of supporters. Right now, she’s sitting comfortably with 873k followers on Instagram. “It is intense, they send me so much love,” she says of her dedicated fanbase. “Sometimes you feel like you’re not deserving of it, but it’s also crazy to think that me being myself is able to inspire other people to want to be themselves, which is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Online, Crystal followed in the footsteps of Vanjie as the subject of countless memes, which she championed on her own personal social media channels – especially the ones from ‘Incorrect Drag Race’. The star’s resemblance to her Rhythm of the Night doppelganger (who hasn’t been in touch, by the way), and RuPaul’s perceived lack of knowledge about her Snatch Game character, bubblegum pop and nu-metal singer Poppy, achieved viral status. Her ‘romance’ with Gigi also became a hot topic, with fans concocting ‘Crygi’ as their official couple name. “My boyfriend likes to remain anonymous, so the whole thing was Gigi was nice,” she starts. “Gigi and I joke that we are actually in a non-physical relationship. She is one of the people I really clicked with, and we loved each other from the moment we met. I see it as this friendship that I’m going to have forever, which I’m so grateful for.”
Despite all the love, Crystal admits that she’s slightly overwhelmed with her sudden rise to fame. “Now that I’m a huge celebrity, my life is so different,” she jokes. “It was crazy to see my Instagram followers increase throughout the season. It just kept going up and up and up. I was like, ‘What does it mean? Am I rich now?’ It’s been a little bit strange because there’s so many eyes on me.” Her tone quickly changes. “I’m a perfectionist, so sometimes I feel like I’m a little too picky about things like, ‘Oh, well, I can’t post that because I don’t look good in it.’ I feel like I’m not posting as much as I used to, but I’m just trying to make sure I’m putting out things that I feel represent me.”
Before season 12 aired, Crystal scoured “the Reddits” to see how viewers perceived her. As a massive fan of Drag Race herself, she’s seen how passionate – and at times, cutthroat – fans can be, especially to queens of colour. “It’s hard to go on social media because you read so many comments that are like, ‘They’re amazing, I love them,’ and it doesn’t really affect you. But then, you read one mean comment and it gets you.” Although she has some regrets about her time on the series, saying she wanted “more time” to add detail to her runways, Crystal is now at a point where she won’t allow others to dictate her artistry. “I quickly realised that I don’t need to know everything,” she says, “because I don’t want other people’s opinions to change the way that I do what I do.”
The Missouri-born performer started practicing drag “out of spite” to her mother. One evening, the pair were watching the Death Becomes Her runway on the seventh season of Drag Race, in which Violet Chachki cinched her waist in a black lingerie number with an oxygen mask, reflecting how she ‘died’ of oxygen deprivation. “My mom was like, ‘This is disgusting. I don’t like that.’ We had a little argument about it,” remembers Crystal. “Around then, I bought a wig online and started doing makeup in my room at night.” She did what many other baby drag queens do to learn how to paint their face: binge-watched YouTube tutorials. However, the people she was taking advice from were light-skinned, and so their products didn’t benefit Crystal’s natural skin tone. Her friends would joke that she “looked like a white girl”.
Crystal, who is half-Mexican, half-white, explains: “It wasn’t offensive or anything, but I was like, ‘I don’t want that.’ When you’re on stage, under all the bright lights, you get really washed out. So, I started using stage makeup and learned how to match my skin colour better. Then I got to the Crystal face, with the cartoon shapes that I draw. I just wanted to look like a 2D drawing of someone! I like big makeup because everyone can see you from the stage, no matter how far back they are. I always feel prettier with more makeup on.”
To combat the lack of “club kid” drag in her small town, Crystal created her own monthly event called Get Dusted, held at The Outland Ballroom in Springfield. “I didn’t have any drag queen friends, so I would just make my friends do drag,” she states. “Every performance was a bunch of people who’d never done drag before, and it was in a rock bar so it was mostly straight people who’d never seen drag. But they always had so much fun. I would even take pictures with kids. It felt like I was getting involved with my community for the first time.”
Although Crystal’s parents weren’t very receptive to the “drag thing,” they eventually attended a performance. “The first time they came, I pretended they weren’t there because I was starting to psych myself out, thinking, ‘What if they don’t like it? What if they do like it?’ After, my dad was like, ‘This is way cooler than I thought it was gonna be, but I don’t really want to come again,’” she laughs, before diving into her mum’s ongoing support for her drag.
“My mom would still come to the drag brunches that we do, and whenever she sees anything shiny, she buys it for me. I’m always getting really ugly clothes that I never use, but it’s the thought that counts. It’s so funny. She wasn’t into drag at all, but now obviously thinks I’m the best drag queen ever. She’s always like, ‘You’re creative. You have the creative flux. Other people are not as creative.’ She loves judging, watching Drag Race and being like, ‘I don’t like that. This is bad.’ She’s savage.”
Sadly, Get Dusted came to a halt because of COVID, and like many other venues across the world, The Outland Ballroom faced going out of business. There is a ‘halleloo!’ moment, however, as Crystal’s community united and received enough donations to tell the bailiffs to sashay away. Still, Crystal and her haus haven’t missed an event in the four years since the night came to fruition, so she rallied her troops – including her Springfield sister Lux, Dragula star Yovska and season 12 castmate Aiden Zhane, among several others – to perform lip-sync extravaganzas from their own homes.
The result? Three addictively berserk 40-minute movies that feature Crystal lip-syncing to MARINA’s Froot with a fruit headpiece, Aiden providing the spook factor with a Marilyn Manson number, and a group performance to Little Mix’s witch anthem Black Magic. “I want to keep doing them, because each time, we’ve raised the bar for ourselves,” says Crystal. “I really want the next one to be just insane, and I haven’t figured out how to do that yet!”
While we wait for the inevitable fourth entry, Crystal plans to conquer the world by creating “art installations that are interactive with smells and sounds when you walk through” and following in the footsteps of other Drag Race alum with a single that comprises “a bunch of random sounds and cat meows.” She says: “I would imagine that they probably won’t be lyric heavy, but the words in them will be meaningful and impactful.” Crystal also plans to persuade the Drag Race producers to crown both her and Gigi for a future season of All Stars. Make no mistake: she’s very serious about it. “We’re only going to go back for All Stars if we’re a couple,” she states. “We’re going to be on the show as a couple, but then the stress of the competition will break us up, and then we’ll get back together before the finale and then it’ll be a double crowning.”
When she ultimately makes her ruturn, Crystal teases that she won’t hold back. If there are any former Drag Racers reading this who plan to make a comeback in the near future, BE VERY CONCERNED. “I won’t let the other contestants being sickening make me feel less confident about myself. The hardest part competing was comparing yourself, and it’s funny even now outside of the competition, I still do it. Like, ‘Gigi’s in the Rihanna fashion show, how come I’m not?’ But, I would never wear a bikini. Comparing yourself is something I’m over.” On a more surprising note, she says she’s gunning for a less favourable edit than her stint on season 12. “I think I would try and be the villain this time. Oh, wouldn’t that be fun? People already like me, what do I have to lose?”