Has there ever been a more controversial elimination than Joe Black’s? In the word(s) of Michelle Visage, “NO!” Although the legendary entertainer left audiences slain with her two ensembles, in which she paid homage to David Bowie and the golden – we repeat, golden – interior of the Brighton Pavilion, the panel, however, were unimpressed.
Social media hailed their comments as “baffling” and “pure bollocks“, going as far to demand justice with a change.org petition. Even Tracy Beaker herself, Dani Harmer, was “gobsmacked” at the outcome, which saw Joe frustratingly sashay away in last place. Doesn’t feel right, huh?
“I just stood there smiling like, ‘Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. I don’t agree with this necessarily, but smile smile smile.’ Obviously, it’s about the queens and the show, but it’s also about the audience and how the audience reads things,” Joe tells GAY TIMES.
“The audience, from what I’ve seen online, very much disagreed with them as well! The audience are the ones to react to this, and they’ve made their feelings clear! Michelle Visage is apparently, I’ve been told on Twitter, no longer welcome in Brighton!”
Following Joe’s frustrating elimination, we spoke with the star about her critiques on the main stage, losing the lip-sync to the “wonderful” Bimini Bon Boulash, and who she would’ve impersonated for the show’s staple challenge, Snatch Game.
Joe, I love you and respect you, but I am furious that I’m speaking with you today.
I’m furious that I’m speaking to myself! Wait, what?
It was quite a night. I was the number one trending thing in entertainment on Twitter. Quite a day!
How did you find the reaction from fans last night? Like you said, social media went crazy!
It was overwhelming. Obviously, for a long time I’ve known that that’s what happens, so the reaction has been grander and more loving than I could’ve ever imagined. I’ve spent the last few months going, ‘God, maybe it wasn’t very Bowie? Maybe it wasn’t!’ Do you know what I mean? I started doubting what I’d done and I saw it and was like, ‘Wait, no! I was right!’
Even Tracy Beaker was furious!
Tracy Beaker was fuming. Boy George is quite a prolific tweeter and I was like, ‘Right, he’s friends with Bowie, let’s see if he’s said anything.’ Last time I checked, he hasn’t said anything yet. What I’m also hoping for is Sophie Ellis-Bextor to be fuming. For no particular reason, other than I’m very fond.
Like you tweeted, you both went home in grande costumes on the first episode…
You say “grande,” but what I actually said was “ridiculous” costumes!
C’mon though, that pavilion look was gorgeous. What was going through your mind during the judge’s critiques? It was all so baffling!
I’ve not really been in competition environments much before, so I was like, ‘Okay Joe, you’re going to get people saying things to you that you don’t necessarily agree with, but this is what it is. So, take it on the chin. Don’t be ‘aggy.’ So, I just stood there smiling like, ‘Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. I don’t agree with this necessarily, but smile smile smile.’ Obviously, it’s about the queens and the show, but it’s also about the audience and how the audience reads things. The audience, from what I’ve seen online, very much disagreed with them as well! The audience are the ones to react to this, and they’ve made their feelings clear! Michelle Visage is apparently, I’ve been told on Twitter, no longer welcome in Brighton!
The audience are the ones to react to this, and they've made their feelings clear! Michelle Visage is apparently, I've been told on Twitter, no longer welcome in Brighton!
I would not consider myself a David Bowie expert in the slightest, but that look was clearly Bowie!
The reason I did that one is because I love American Horror Story and the character in Freakshow, Elsa Mars, does that look. I also love American Gods. In the series, Gillian Anderson plays the god of media, and she appears in different guises. At one point, she appears as David Bowie in that look, the orange hair and the blue suit. I was like, ‘Right, this is the one I want. It’s androgynous, we can do a spin on it. It’s been referenced so much, so I’ll do this.’ But, y’know…
Some fans have expressed that this was the worst judging in history. For you, how does it feel to see that level of support?
Going out first is always an iconic placement. Everyone also remembers the person that goes out first, not necessarily who goes out second or third. It tends to be first and middle onwards. As shitty as it is to go first – no one wants to go first – you are always remembered. For people to say, ‘This is the most wrong first elimination’ is amazing. It’s been incredible, all the support online. I expected, going into this – because it’s still television isn’t it? – that I’d get a lot more negative comments. There’s been the odd one or two, but nothing that’s brought my day down. It’s just like, ‘Okay, cool. This person doesn’t like me. Mute.’ I haven’t come under attack or whatever. I thought it would divide people and it would be a fairly even split of, ‘That was the wrong decision!’ and ‘Nope, right decision! Should’ve gone home.’ But I would say, from what I’ve seen, 99.9% of people have gone, ‘What the hell is this madness?!’
It has been unanimous. I was speaking to a friend this morning, and this is the first episode of Drag Race she’s ever seen, and she said, ‘Yeah, agreed. I think Joe could’ve legit won it.’ It says it all?!
[Laughs] Also, I’m really glad that I went out looking great. It wasn’t a sewing challenge where I’d made something absolutely dreadful, and I was leaving with two bits of fabric that were safety pinned together, looking defeated. I was dressed as the Brighton Pavilion, well, the interior of Brighton Pavilion – thanks Graham! I left looking royal. Producers have said to me, ‘You kept your head held really high,’ and I was really pleased about that. In these situations, it’s quite easy to feel attacked and kick off, but I knew what I’d signed up to. So it was like, ‘Ooh yeah, thanks very much. Lovely time, lovely to be involved. Gorgeous.’ I still got to do Drag Race!
Irregardless of placement, the biggest competition is getting on the show, and I did that. They had thousands of applicants from what I gather, and I was one of 12 people. As someone who isn’t traditionally drag… I think it’s ‘DRAG!’ but I don’t think I’m a drag queen. People call me a drag queen and I go, ‘Yep. Cool. Lovely.’ But what I consider what I do is DRAG, just that all capitalised, because it’s just ridiculous and big and ludicrous and silly and camp – all of those things. The fact that I got onto that show, being a little out of the box from what the show would normally have – I’m including Ginny Lemon in this as well – is amazing; that I got on there while not necessarily pertaining to the traditional elements of what the show is.
Once you’re a Ru Girl, you’re always a Ru Girl!
The amount of messages I’ve had from the other alumni… Violet Chachki was furious. This morning I saw that she posted a picture of David Bowie in the Life on Mars video with, ‘MAKE IT MAKE SENSE!’ and tagged the Drag Race account.
It feels like we need a call to justice, a change.org moment…
There is! Someone started one called ‘Bring Joe Black’. I didn’t want to retweet it. I thought, ‘Oh no Joe, don’t go there! It’s already filmed Joe, you know these things can’t be changed.’ A friend of mine said that the mayor of Brighton said that RuPaul is no longer welcome!
Onto the lip-sync… I was worried for you because you had that gorgeous gown on, but I think both you and Bimini served one of the best opening lip-syncs in HERstory.
Thank you! Well, I can take great pride in that I pretended to be in a lift on the Drag Race main stage. No one else has done that yet! Also, I was a little bit worried when people started kicking off that Bimini would come under fire, because I don’t want that. In an ideal world, no one would go home. I remember when Bimini left and she came over and gave me a kiss. I was like, ‘Oh lovely, thank you very much, goodbye.’ I’ve not done this before, I don’t know how nice those moments are! I don’t know what makes that cut, that kind of thing. But when I watched on the screen, ‘Yep, yep,’ because I can’t be angry at her. I would never blame whoever won that lip-sync, because Bimini is absolutely wonderful. We had a lovely chat last night – she might have had a few drinks – and she was like, ‘We did it, we did it, yeeeeeah!’ I couldn’t have hoped to lose to someone more wonderful.
How would you describe the relationship between you and your season two sisters?
I mean, I wasn’t there long enough! Post-show, it’s really wonderful. You always see in these interviews people go, ‘It’s a sisterhood, it’s like family,’ and it’s easy to read that and go, ‘Yeah yeah yeah, course you do…’ But, genuinely, the moment I walked in and realised that that was the cast, all 12 of us, I was like, ‘I get it now.’ I fell deeply deeply in love with every single one of them. There’s a special connection that many other things couldn’t bring. We’re all linked through Drag Race, but each season has its own unique experiences. We haven’t had the same experiences as the people on season one, you know?
When you sashayed into the werkroom, who did you think was your biggest competition?
When I was posing, ‘Oh, don’t Glenn Close look rough,’ I heard ‘Yessss bitch!’ and in my head I was going, ‘I think that’s Ginny Lemon.’ I know what Ginny Lemon sounds like, and that was the last person I expected! I love Ginny, but I did not expect to turn around and see her there. That was amazing. I’m not sure if it’s naivety on my part, but I didn’t really see anyone as competition. Not because ‘I’m the best’ sort of thing, but what’s lovely about this cast is that everyone is so individual. No one blends into each other. Everyone is them. You look round like, ‘Wow, everyone is so excellent at what they do.’ Everyone is their own biggest competition because everyone is so unique to themselves.
I smoke maybe 7000 cigarettes a day and can barely walk up the stairs without falling over. I'm not sure I'm ready to do the splits to a banging club track, know what I mean?
Again, that might be naive because I’m not much of a competitive type. I’m like, ‘Oh, no one’s competition, we’re all here to have a lovely time aren’t we?’ Looking round, if I had to give an answer, it would’ve been Lawrence Chaney and Ginny – for what I do. I’m not going to be able to do what Tayce and Asttina Mandella do. Not only because I wear giant dresses, but I’m just not the physical type. I smoke maybe 7000 cigarettes a day and can barely walk up the stairs without falling over. I’m not sure I’m ready to do the splits to a banging club track, know what I mean?
Are you willing to reveal who you would’ve impersonated for Snatch Game?
I had a few options. In my audition, I did Mystic Meg and Edith Piaf, but then someone in Canada did Edith Piaf, so I dodged that bullet as they did very well. Every time I’ve said this to any of the other girls they’ve gone, ‘Who?’ My main choice was Tallulah Bankhead, an actress from the 30s who was far too wild for film and moved into theatre. What I like about her is her voice. The last film thing she did was play Black Widow in the 1960s Batwoman. I love a raspy voiced woman! Any woman that sound like they smoke too many cigarettes and smoke too much gin, that’s my kind of gal. I also considered Glenn Close…
Tallulah Bankhead was rumoured to be romantically involved with Billie Holiday, right?
Tallulah Bankhead was rumoured to be romantically involved with quite a lot of people! I think it was called the Knitting Circle, which was a secret group of Hollywood bisexuals and lesbians. I think it was Knitting Circle… But yeah, Marlene Dietrich, Tallulah Bankhead, Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf, a group of women that were said to be having illicit affairs with each other.
Love this circle.
Yes! There’s a wonderful podcast that I got addicted to called You Must Remember This, which is about the history of classic Hollywood, and that’s where I learnt about that.
Putting that on my list, thanks Joe.
I love learning!
The first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season 2 is now available to stream on BBC iPlayer. You can watch the sickening trailer here or below.
To hear our thoughts on the brand new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, subscribe to Snatched! an original podcast from GAY TIMES. Each week, we dissect all of the drama and conflama of the latest episode and chat with the eliminated queen, who spills all the T on their exit and time on the series. Snatched! is now available on all streaming services including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.