“It’s just three judges with very inflated opinions of themselves nurturing the next generation of talent,” Crystal says with the utmost seriousness of Call Me Mother and – like that – we are hooked. The upcoming OutTV competition series stars Drag Race UK’s angle grinder-wielding alum, as well as US season nine icon Peppermint and Montreal drag royalty Barbada as drag mothers mentoring rising drag entertainers as they compete in a variety of “bonkers” challenges. Each week, one contestant will be chopped from the competition – by their own goddamn mother! – until the winner is crowned the “First Child of Drag”.
Described as The Voice meets Drag Race, the highly-anticipated series is notably distinct from other drag-related competitions due to its outstanding roster of talent; boasting drag queens, drag kings, transgender and non-binary entertainers from across the drag spectrum. “It’s definitely more diverse than some of the other shows we see and I’m excited for people to see that, not only so they have a new example of what drag can be,” Peppermint tells GAY TIMES, “but also other potential drag performers can see themselves more reflected in our wonderful cast.”
Hosted by Entertainment Tonight Canada reporter Dallas Dix, Call Me Mother premieres 25 October on OutTV and will run for eight episodes. Read ahead for our full interview with Barbada, Crystal and Peppermint as they spill all of the T on this – in the words of Barbada – ’emotional and turbulent’ new addition to the drag competition format.
GT: Condragulations on Call Me Mother! I’m so excited to watch this goddamn series. Can you tell me a little bit about how the show came to fruition and why you all wanted to be involved as drag mothers?
Barbada: We were contacted, and I think all the mothers were because of our different personalities and our different styles of drag. We also had different styles of participants so we needed different styles of mothers – and we’re definitely different in many aspects!
Crystal: And I just assumed they got a tax credit hiring me because I’m a Canadian. No, it’s because I’m incredibly talented.
Barbada: Yeah, that’s what it is. We all are though, seriously, we’re great mothers but in different ways.
Crystal: Also Sam, it was exciting for me to get an opportunity to be behind the judging panel rather than in front of it. I would definitely think long and hard before I put myself up for scrutiny again, but it was a no-brainer to be judgemental towards other people. It’s my forté!
GT: How would you begin to describe Call Me Mother? To me, it seems like The Voice meets Drag Race. Also… how does it work?
Crystal: Sam, do you remember The Face?
Crystal: It’s like that but with drag queens. It’s just three judges with very inflated opinions of themselves nurturing the next generation of talent.
Barbada: The way I describe it is exactly the way you were saying it Sam, is that it’s a combination of The Voice and Drag Race. But, I think there’s a lot of add-ons to the show regarding diversity and different aspects about drag.
GT: The series is notable for having a diverse array of drag entertainers. If you walked into a real-life drag show, this is what you would see. Was this important from the jump?
Crystal: That was definitely the appeal to me when I started talking to the producers of the show. They said they were going to put diversity as the focus of the show, and to show a bigger range of drag talent than we’ve seen on TV so far. That was really attractive to me because, as you say, this is exactly the kind of roster you would see in a drag show in your hometown. It’s great to see that reflected in the cast.
Barbada: Absolutely. It shows how diverse the drag community is, and the art of drag. There’s not one style of drag and everyone has their different backgrounds and therefore articulates the art of drag around their background, their personality and where they’re from, and it shows. I definitely echo what Crystal just said, that’s what attracted me also and convinced me to say yes.
GT: Of course, it’s a reality competition with drag talent, so can we expect some drama? Some conflama? Some tears?
Barbada: Oh my god. Yes. There will be tears, mostly because of the family aspect of the show. When you’re losing a family member… First of all, on the show, we all felt like a big family. I think I speak for everyone here when I say everyone felt included and like members of a family. So when you’re losing a member of a family, it’s always very sad. There are a lot of tears. I wouldn’t say “a lot” but there are some tears and they’re genuine tears. They’re not fake. People really got attached to one another and when you lose someone… For us as mothers, when you’re losing a child – okay let’s not say “losing a child”, that’s a bit intense – it’s always very emotional. It’s the same for all of the participants and artists. So, there are some tears but also a lot of great moments. Yes there is a bit of drama, a lot of surprises and turbulent events where it’s like, ‘Ooh I didn’t see that coming!’
Crystal: Just to echo what Barbada said, the interesting thing about our role on the show is that we are judges, but we are also mentors, so I got very invested in the success of my family and I wanted them to do very well. Their successes were my successes and their failures were my failures. So, when your house does well it’s incredible, and when it does badly it’s heartbreaking. In the first few episodes, the mother decides who goes home if their house is in the bottom. That’s an additional added level of pressure. There is nowhere to hide when you’re making that decision. It’s really intense, absolutely.
GT: That is a gag, a sad gag…
Crystal: The expression “sad gag” makes me uncomfortable, slightly.
GT: A sad gag! How did you all react to this major twist?
Crystal: I flipped out. I had a temper tantrum. I went full Naomi [Campbell]! I’m not sure whether any of it is going to be on camera, but if you have watched The Face season one, when Naomi has to eliminate one of her girls and she doesn’t think it’s fair and there are words against the other judges… It’s all of that. I probably kept myself a little more composed than that but it was really hard. I did not take it well, I’ll just say that…
Peppermint: I don’t think any of us did. When I found out about that, it was the one element of the competition I disagreed with very strongly, it makes it 10 times more difficult. Then I’m thinking ‘what a scandal!’ because it changes the strategy for who you would get rid of and why. Once we were there and going for it, it made the process of deliberation and deciding who to send home harder because we took it so much more seriously, and we had so many more deep discussions because ultimately, we had to be the ones to let someone go.
Barbada: It was all fun and parties when we were judging and giving comments. But, when it comes down to being in the bottom house and having to send someone home, you’re looking at that person and having to tell them, ‘I think you deserve to win all of this money and everything in this competition, but it’s not going to be you…’ the pressure is all on your shoulders. That’s what I was saying earlier, there are some moments, sad moments and tears, that was definitely part of it.
GT: I’m going to be sobbing, aren’t I? You also battle each other for the contestants in your houses, so what can you tell me about that? Wig pulling? Nails being ripped off? What happened?
Barbada: Oh my god, we had to call a nurse in afterwards because everyone was terrible. We looked awful, but thank god we had good makeup! I think we knew as soon as we saw them that we were all going to clack fans in order to select who we want in our houses. There’s no buttons or turning around. I think we all knew that we were going to clack a fan for certain participants because they did an amazing job in the auditions.
Crystal: There is an interesting moment where the contestants get to decide which mother they want if they’ve got multiple options. Imagine being that poor contestant staring at the three of us all wanting you? Who are you going to pick? You will make a very strong enemy by choosing wrong!
GT: Which one of you was the most serious on the panel? Every talent competition series has its Simon Cowell and… Michelle Visage, right?
Crystal: I think I might’ve been the mean one…
Barbada: It’s hard to say!
Crystal: Maybe we take in turns?
Peppermint: The one difference is… Obviously, I never did [American] Idol but Simon Cowell is very removed from having to interact with the contestants, as much as we did. As far as I know, he would just see the performance and that’s all he was really judging by. We were so intertwined with the contestants, but also who they were, their development, their performance and their runway. We were so involved in that. It’s really easy to be a cold judge when you’re disconnected from it, but when you are a drag mother or the drag auntie, I think you feel a little bit more… You feel more of a connection.
Barbada: Yes, we would spent late nights with the contestants too, either sewing or gluing on details or rehearsing a certain performance or whatever. It’s hard to give a comment or a negative comment because you not only know it, you lived it. You know how much effort and time was put into everything that was presented.
Peppermint: To that same point, it wasn’t so much like one of us was the Simon Cowell because we saw something and wanted to judge it coldly. It was more, for me, I experienced a heightened level of disappointment sometimes because I knew what we had planned and the potential of what we were trying to do. Sometimes, someone in my drag house didn’t achieve that and I was disappointed in that, and none of the other judges even knew.
GT: Barbada, we haven’t seen you on reality telly yet like Crystal and Peppermint. Do you think this helped you or hindered you on Call Me Mother?
Barbada: I don’t think it helped me, definitely not! But, the contestants were choosing on what they know of the mothers, right? Obviously, they know Peppermint and Crystal more than me because they had seen them on TV, they’ve seen their career or follow them on Instagram. With that aspect, it was a bit more challenging, I have to admit. However, I think as someone who has not been on reality television, I sometimes felt like the wild horse. I would bring stuff that I wanted to do, so there’s a few different surprises that give a good show!
Crystal: Just to reemphasise what you said, Barbada revealed to me during filming that she had never really watched Drag Race so she had a totally fresh take on all of it, which I think is such a benefit to the show.
GT: Crystal and Peppermint, do you think the contestants went into the series thinking they’d know exactly who you are based on your time on Drag Race?
Crystal: I think, speaking for myself, my edit on Drag Race was pretty true to me. So, I don’t think anyone had any expectations of what I was going to be like, so no. I would say that what you see is what you get with me! But Peppermint, I think your house put you more on a pedestal than the rest of us.
Peppermint: They may have. I really don’t know, but none of the drag artists on our houses expressed, ‘Whoa! She’s so different! What a bitch!’ you know? I didn’t get any of that. Well, we’ll have to wait and see the show and see what the confessionals say…
Crystal: Exactly, there may be some surprises in those confessionals that our children may not have said to our faces but did to the camera, so we’ll see…
GT: I know the show is about these incredible up-and-coming drag performers, but do we get to see the judges of Call Me Mother flex their skillset on the show?
Crystal: Wait and see Sam! You’ll never know…
Barbada: Put it this way, I think it would be a waste of talent not to put us in the action, know what I mean? We’re not the main attraction here, the artists are, let’s not forget that. But, it would be a waste to have incredible drag artists and not use a tiny bit of that potential.
GT: What are you most excited for viewers to see and take away from Call Me Mother?
Peppermint: I’m really excited for them to see the wider array of drag performers that are on the show. It is something really special because we were seeking to bring that onto the show and make it open to all types of drag performers, and I think we achieved that. It’s definitely more diverse than some of the other shows we see and I’m excited for people to see that, not only so they have a new example of what drag can be, but also other potential drag performers can see themselves more reflected in our wonderful cast.
Crystal: For me Sam, I think the cast on this show is incredible. They are so funny, so bonkers, so creative, so talented, and I’m excited for the world to get to meet them. The one advantage that we have with this show is that it’s the first season and there are no expectations. Other TV shows start to eat their own tail and become self-referential, the stakes get higher and higher and the money that people spend gets higher and higher, and we get to go back-to-basics, which brings a real rawness, which is great, but you also get to see the people and artists much more clearly. Everyone will fall in love with them.
Barbada: Absolutely. I’m basically going to answer the exact same thing that I said on the show when I was the third one to speak, which is: ‘What they said.’
Crystal: Barbada’s triggered!
Barbada: Well, it’s always so hard after you give such great comments and say exactly the answers I had in my mind so I’m like, ‘Okay, let’s not just repeat what they said.’
Peppermint: Say it in French!
Barbada: I’m gonna say it in French! I think you already have a sense of how there is a very good link between the mothers. It’s a friendly competition, but in the end it doesn’t feel like a competition because we’re all in it together. We’ve helped each other a lot and I’ve had a lot of help from the other mothers too, so you feel it right now in this interview, how we’re really connected and have fun together.
Call Me Mother premieres 25 October on OutTV.
Watch the trailer here or below.