With three maxi-challenge wins under her belt – two more than her closest competitors Karen from Finance and Kita Mean – Scarlet Adams is the current frontrunner for the first ever RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under title. Although she’s undeniably proven her value as an entertainer, the Perth-based contestant has been subject to controversy over the past eight weeks due to her insensitive and culturally inappropriate past performances. In one instance, Scarlet donned blackface.
During episode five, she disclosed this part of her herstory with her fellow competitors, and later on the runway, RuPaul told Scarlet that she wasn’t going to “cancel” her because she’d rather it be a “lesson in humility and accountability”. With Karen also facing scrutiny for her past obsession with golliwog dolls, the first season of the Australia and New Zealand-based spin-off has ignited conversations surrounding Australia’s long-standing issues with racism.
Speaking with GAY TIMES ahead of the final, which airs this Sunday on BBC iPlayer, Scarlet says she’s fully committed to “making sure in the future that I’m standing for anti-racism in performances” and that each show she’s involved with is as diverse and inclusive as possible. Read ahead for our full chat with Scarlet Adams, in which we discuss the first chaotic season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under and how she plans to be a “catalyst” for more anti-racism conversations.
How does it feel to have reached the final four of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under?
Insane. I went into the Drag Race not being like, ‘I’m going to win, the only reason I’m here is to win!’ I went to Drag Race to have fun and have the most crazy, insane experience of my life. I just want to be true to myself and trust my gut. I did that, and I made it to the final four!
You also won three maxi-challenges…
Three baby, yeah! I think I was very lucky because I’m a performer, and a lot of the challenges were performance-heavy challenges, so they were in my wheelhouse.
That pole dancing routine was scary to watch, particularly because of the way the pole was moving.
The way it wobbles! Yes, stage poles are so much harder to perform on than actual fixed poles because the top isn’t fixed to anything and it just feels so gross.
With three challenge wins, are you feeling confident about your chances of taking home the crown?
Do you know what, I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen. If Drag Race has taught me anything, it’s that you can think one thing is gonna happen, and then Art Simone jumps out of a pile of trash and the whole game is changed. Look, I would absolutely love to win. But if I don’t, I will be super happy for whoever takes the crown home because all four of us are so deserving and I love those girls so much.
In the first few seasons of Drag Race, it seemed like a statistics game. In recent years, that’s been thrown out the window, look at Sasha Velour and Shea Coulee, Yvie Oddly and Brooke Lynn Hytes, Lawrence Chaney and Bimini Bon Boulash…
Absolutely. That’s why I’ve not counted my chickens before they’ve hatched, if you know what I’m saying. I haven’t spent the money yet!
Did you expect this to be the top four when you sashayed into the werkroom?
Yeah, I think so. I saw Etcetera Etcetera going further, that’s just because I love love her drag. I was truly gagged when they sent Art Simone home episode two, that fucking threw me for a six. Who else was in the show? I’m kidding! Yeah, I think this is the top I envisioned. I did think Etcetera would go a bit further, but definitely Art and Karen up there.
You had a lot of drama with Elektra Shock in the werkroom this season. On your end, where did that animosity come from?
Honestly, there really wasn’t a lot of animosity, I don’t think, that I felt. I was there to play my game, I was there to do my thing and producers would be like, ‘Do you think Elektra deserves to be here?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah of course, everyone deserves to be here.’ Then they’re like, ‘What do you think about her costume on the runway this week?’ and I’m like, ‘Her costume was a bit shit…’ Then they would go, ‘Cut! Her costume was a bit shit! Scarlet’s a cunt!’ We got along fine. There was that moment I threw her under the bus and I probably should’ve thought about that, but Ru on the spot asked me what I think, and I said exactly what Ru said on the runway because I was in front of 17 cameras and Ru asked me a question, so I gave him the answer I thought. I wasn’t trying to intentionally be nasty, I have no qualms with Elektra. I think she’s an incredible performer. But, I think people just need to remember that it’s a television show. Etcetera Etcetera said this in her interviews, ‘If it’s too much for you, watch Antiques Roadshow. If drag queens being shady and jabbing each other with reads is too much, this is not the show for you.’
Reality television in general, you’re gonna expect some drama. A reality television show with drag queens…
The shit we say to each other backstage is so much worse than what we said to each other on camera.
Earlier in the season, you opened up about your history with blackface and how you plan to take accountability for that. How have you committed yourself to anti-racism?
Over the last several years, I’ve done lots of things. You can jump on my Instagram and check out the video I did where I list all of those things. For me at the moment, it’s about opening the conversation and being a catalyst for a conversation that really needs to be had; just making sure in the future that I’m standing for anti-racism in performances. For example with shows that I might be doing in the future, making sure that we do acknowledgement of country and making sure there’s diversity in casts.
RuPaul called you out for this on the main stage. He said he didn’t want to cancel you, but rather it be an example of humility. What did you take from that experience?
I’ll be honest with you, that was a really tough day. I didn’t know what was gonna happen and so, to have Ru say that and be in my corner, felt really good. I feel like it sort of allowed us to move on from that moment.
How are you coping with the social media aspect of your newfound fame?
It’s been very intense, very insane. One thing that I took away, which you didn’t see in the show, is every time we had a guest judge or a guest celebrity – anyone, Kylie [Minogue], Danni [Minogue], The Veronicas – they all gave the same advice when we asked them about being in the public eye. Everyone’s advice was the same and it was, ‘Do not read the comments. Don’t Google yourself.’ So, I haven’t read the comments and I haven’t Googled myself, I haven’t looked at it. Everyone’s got an opinion. Opinions are like assholes, some people like to get them out in public and flash them around. But, that doesn’t mean I have to… That’s their opinion. Just because someone says something on the internet, it doesn’t make it fact or truth. It’s been a difficult mental health journey for me over the past several months.
Looking back, what has been your highlight of the Drag Race Down Under experience?
To be honest with you, filming was the most amazing… And the premiere in Sydney, oh my god that was so much fun. I made sure not to get drunk because I wanted to remember every single second of it. Even the actual process of filming was extremely tiring, extremely draining – mentally and physically – but it was so rewarding and so much fun.
Why should you be crowned Down Under’s First Drag Superstar?
For me, when I watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s about the competition and it’s about who does the best in that competition. If you look at the track record, I crushed that competition. I did really well and I think that the crown should go to the person who did the best. I feel like I definitely did that, and I feel like I could do so much with the validation, crown, sceptre and the money that comes from winning Drag Race and continue performing. That’s what my dream is – travelling the world, performing and showcasing my art.
The final episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under season one airs this Sunday on BBC iPlayer.