Cockroaches can die, who knew? This week, Etcetera Etcetera became the fourth queen to get the chop on the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under after leaving the judges with a case of the gags (and not in the good way) with Piss – her own brand of yeast spread.
In her commercial, the self-described “glamour bug bitch” had the Pit Crew on their hands and knees (thank you Etcetera!), used her yeast to black out her teeth and pissed into a cup – which was deemed “too on the nose” by RuPaul. Following a riveting lip-sync battle against Maxi Shield to Vanessa Amorosi’s dance-pop classic Absolutely Everybody, Etcetera’s time was cut short and she was told to sashay away.
“If you cut the head off, a cockroach does stay alive for a long time. Even though they killed me, I’ve got a bit of time left!” Etcetera jokes to GAY TIMES over Zoom, before addressing her critiques on the runway. “Ru praised Kita [Mean] for referencing Divine and Pink Flamingos. They said, ‘Good on you for doing that!’ but apparently, pissing into a cup is too much? If Divine was on Drag Race, I’m sure she’d do more than piss into a cup.”
Following her elimination, GAY TIMES caught up with Etcetera to talk about her journey on the tumultuous first season of Drag Race Down Under, how opening up about her trans and non-binary identity has impacted viewers, and the controversy over Scarlet Adams’ racist past. We also tried – emphasis on the word ‘tried’ – to get the T on why Untucked was mysteriously missing from this week’s episode…
Condragulations on making the first season of Drag Race Down Under! How does it feel to be a Ru Girl?
It feels really great. It’s something that we weren’t even sure would ever happen, you know? There was all of these stories about, ‘Drag Race is coming Down Under!’ and we all said, ‘Yeah, bullshit! RuPaul is not gonna make the journey all the way down here!’ Then when he finally did, and I got the call saying, ‘Oh, you’re gonna be auditioning,’ I was like, ‘Jesus Christ. It’s actually happening?’ It took me off guard and I thought it was a prank call at first. Then I realised it wasn’t one of my friends just making fun of me. I was like, ‘Okay, this is serious.’ Walking onto the show I was like, ‘Alright, I guess it’s showtime.’ It’s a really surreal experience.
It’s the same here in the UK. We never thought a Drag Race UK would ever happen, and now we’re waiting for our third season…
I know! It’s surprising when things actually come through. I suppose places like Australia, especially, we’re always the last place to get something, it feels like. We just got Taco Bell! Now all my friends in America are like, ‘What do you mean you just got Taco Bell?’ It’s an exciting thing for us here. So RuPaul’s Drag Race is like the TV equivalent of Taco Bell. It’s something that a lot of other places have. We finally got it and we can’t wait to dig in!
I enjoyed watching you so much this season, but I can’t believe the cockroach has been killed…
Yes, well if you cut the head off, a cockroach does stay living for a long time. Even though they killed me, I’ve got a bit of time left – a bit left to go!
How did you feel when RuPaul told you to sashay away?
At that point it actually felt, I’m not gonna say it felt right because of course, I wasn’t pleased to go, but there was a point where I was like, ‘Actually, I think this makes sense.’ It felt right with the universe. I had been really homesick. I was really tired. Obviously, we just came out of a COVID lockdown so I’d spent so much of my time just sitting at home and being around my partner, not having to be in a room full of insane drag queens all of the time. Then all of a sudden, stepping into that environment, it was very overwhelming, very tiring. At that point, I just wanted to go home for a nap to be honest. There was a lot of social interaction. I didn’t think it would be that much. I thought it would be more competition, less so talking to people. But y’know, good fun, good fun.
I really enjoyed your performance in the challenge this week. There was a bit of conversation in the episode, however, about your humour being too crass. Did you ever think that RuPaul’s Drag Race would be the place that would tell you that?
This is interesting, because I think that Australian audiences and UK audiences probably have a very similar perspective on what is ‘too crass’. We have very similar humour centres, so I grew up watching very crass humour. I grew up watching Monty Python and The Goodies, humour that was, at its essence, gross. I remember seeing that kind of stuff growing up and thinking a lot of it is quite funny. I think it’s important, with drag, to find those things that people find disgusting, find those things that people go, ‘Eurgh, that makes my stomach turn,’ and turn it into something funny. I mean, Ru praised Kita [Mean] for referencing Divine and Pink Flamingos. They said, ‘Good on you for doing that!’ but apparently, pissing into a cup is too much? If Divine was on Drag Race, I’m sure she’d do more than piss into a cup. I think it’s interesting to look at what is actually crossing the line when it comes to drag. I would say that drag in itself inherently crosses the line. It is inherently a middle finger, a fuck you to what people consider to be tasteful or what they consider to be okay, and I love that. That’s why I do it. I do it because it is rebellious, edgy and political. Pissing in a cup, for me as a trans person, is really political. There’s so many layers to that. There’s so many layers to everything we do as drag artists. You could sit there and write a fucking thesis on it. But at the end of the day, I think it was funny and that’s all that matters. ME!
It’s like you said, Divine eating shit is considered iconic but pissing into a cup is a major no-no…
Oh yeah, absolutely. I don’t really understand… Again, where’s the line? Show me the line and I’ll probably snort it. That’s what I say.
Right, now I want some T. I have to ask: why didn’t we receive Untucked this week?
Erm… I’m actually gonna defer on that one. I don’t think I can answer that without breaking my NDA! Good try though. Beautiful try. I’m gonna leave that in TV land. I think what was said on the show was what needed to be said and what needed to be shown. The conversation that happens now, after the show, will be way more important than anything that could’ve happened there. It was a room full of white people discussing racism. RuPaul gave his opinion, as a person of colour, and now the conversation falls back on the wider systemic issues within the drag scene. We’re not just talking about Scarlet and her racist actions, we’re talking about the racism that’s inherent in our society; the racism that exists in every club, every promoter and microaggressions that happen all the time. So, I think it’s important to recognise that, yes, while we can look at Scarlet as a particular individual, her actions were enabled by clubs, audience members and other queens, and that’s what we should be focusing on; the wider systemic issues of racism and how us, as allies to people of colour, like myself as a white person, how I can be the best ally to those people, platforming them and highlighting their voices as possible.
You did that in the episode too as one of the only queens who stood up and condemned Scarlet’s actions. How important is it for people to do what you did in their normal everyday lives?
I don’t think the burden should ever be on people of colour to consistently call out racism in their day-to-day lives. Their lives become easier when white people and allies are able to make those statements. As a non-binary trans person, I’m in a room a lot of the time where I hear transphobic rhetoric and people being transphobes; especially in the drag scene. Sometimes, it requires a lot of strength and labour on my behalf to call out those people and say, ‘That’s actually problematic and it’s not okay.’ Because it then becomes, me as a trans person, being upset and I seem vulnerable, emotional and judgemental, all of these associated issues. But if someone else calls it out, it has way more impact a lot of the time. It’s important for allies to use their voices, to amplify what makes people of colour feel safe. Especially in the drag scene. It’s meant to be an inclusive space and the fact that a lot of drag queens of colour and audience members of colour don’t feel in those spaces, it says a lot about how our drag scenes are built.
During the show, you opened up about your trans identity to your fellow sisters. Did that feel like a safe and inclusive environment?
It did. I had a really good experience on the show in terms of my trans identity because the queens that were on the show were super respectful of my pronouns. They used the right pronouns for me the whole time on the show, they were inclusive in their language, they didn’t make any transphobic jokes or slurs or rhetoric to me. I was so surprised on the show when I brought that up because any other drag dressing room I’ve been in in my life, that has happened. I think when Karen [from Finance] was like, ‘It’s so unfortunate that that is something you have to thank us for,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t think you realise from your perspective how transphobic a lot of drag artists are and how much I do have to face this everyday of my drag career.’ Especially working in Australia, there’s a lot of transphobic rhetoric that’s kind of ingrained into our humour and the way we do drag here. We saw it with Dame Edna and the way that Barry Humphries has said some really transphobic things, and he’s one of our biggest drag icons here in Australia. I think it’s interesting to put a lens over what we actually find funny and how we can be funny without making marginalised people feel like they have been pushed to the side in the drag community.
What kind of response did you receive from viewers, particularly Australian viewers, when speaking about your transness on the show?
It’s been super positive in a lot of ways. It’s been so so positive, and the biggest thing for me is I’ve gotten to get those wonderful messages from people where they’ve said things like, ‘I was never really sure where I fit in or what my identity exists within or how I label myself, but seeing you talk about it and articulate it gave me an understanding of my own gender and my own experience.’ I think, for me, I never saw anyone like me on TV when I was growing up. I never saw someone say, ‘Hey, gender is not black or white. It’s grey, and there’s a lot of grey that you can play in, have fun with and celebrate your diverse gender.’ I never saw that growing up, at least not in the Australian mainstream media. So, I think to be that person and have people say that to me, it really has flicked a switch in my head where I’m like, ‘Huh, I really have become that person that I would’ve loved to have seen growing up.’ That is really special for me.
Over the past couple of years, there’s been a rise of openly gender non-conforming queens sashay into the werkroom. Drag Race Espana just made herstory with four openly non-binary queens. Do you think we’re entering a new era of RuPaul’s Drag Race where cis entertainers will no longer dominate the line-ups each year?
I can’t answer that question because I don’t know what the line-ups are gonna be. I’m not a fortune teller! But I would love to see diversity everywhere in the media, and I would love to see it, not just on Drag Race, but I would love to see it in mainstream TV. I would love the queens that get popular off the show to not be white, skinny, cis gay men all the time. I would love to see some of our big girls or trans girls or queens of colour have the same opportunities, platforms and experiences off the show and in mainstream media. They say ‘the real race happens after the race’ but that’s also where a lot of these queens face the most harsh discrimination, from the wider mainstream media world. I think it’s really important to support diversity, not just on the show, but also in their journey after Drag Race.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under airs every Sunday on BBC Three.