Miss Rona may have prevented viewers from another dose of British excellence this year, but have no mothertucking fear: the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK: The Sequel are finally here, and they’re declaring season two as one of the best in the franchise’s herstory.
On 14 January 2021, A’Whora, Asttina Mandella, Bimini, Cherry Valentine, Ellie Diamond, Ginny Lemon, Joe Black, Lawrence Chaney, Sister Sister, Tayce, Tia Kofi and Veronica Green will strut into the werkroom – catchphrase in hand, obviously – and compete for the coveted title of the UK’s Next Drag Superstar (before receiving a “sashay away” from the government and then ruturning seven months later).
Season two, which will run for ten weeks, sees the return of RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Graham Norton and Alan Carr, with Alan and Graham joining the panel on a rotational basis. It also boasts a star-studded line-up of guest judges including Dawn French, Gemma Collins, Lorraine Kelly, Liz Hurley and MNEK, with more to be announced in the coming weeks.
“Season one was amazing, but I feel like season two ups the ante on everything; the runways, the lip-syncs, the twists, the turns, everything has been upped to nth degree,” reveals Tayce, to which A’Whora states: “It’s an achievement alone to come out of it alive. I will never look at Drag Race the same ever again. For me, a drag fan and as a viewer, it is one of the best seasons of Drag Race ever. It’s changing what Drag Race has ever been.”
To commemorate one of the most highly-anticipated instalments of RuPaul’s Drag Race ever, we Zoom’d all 12 fierce contestants of UK season two. Expect drama, conflama and, in the words of Ellie Diamond, “a cyclone of madness, like when Dorothy goes into her house to find Auntie Em and the window smashes her in the back of the head” – says it all really.
GAY TIMES: Condragulations to you all for making it onto season two! How are you all feeling after the cast announcement?
Ginny: I’ve only done two poos this morning. I’m expecting a third, so I’m waiting on my third shit to fully embrace the day, to be honest with you.
Joe: I felt like I was having an out of body experience.
Tayce: I had a couple celebratory drinks last night, so I’m a little tender today, but I’m loving it. I’m taking it in, I’m absorbing it. This is the beginning of the rest of our lives
A’Whora: It’s been crazy, you just don’t know where to even start. If you go on Facebook, it’s 119 notifications and you go to Twitter like…
Tayce: Not used to it.
A’Whora: You couldn’t even function. Your phone is constantly breaking, falling apart.
Tayce: Breaking the bells, ding, ding, ding, but gotta get used to it now!
A’Whora: It’s chaos!
Tayce: On a bad day, I need constant engagement, can’t be mad at that can you?
Tia: I kept having to voice-note my friends like, ‘I’m sorry I’m not replying. This is just crazy, please don’t think that we’re not friends anymore.’
Veronica: It was absolutely nuts. I was in a state of shock really.
Sister Sister: My phone is my best friend but yesterday, we fell out. We had an argument.
Tayce: Everyone’s like, ‘Turn off your notifications,’ but I love it.
A’Whora: I want to see it, boost my morale!
Lawrence: I’ve toured with a few of the American queens and the girls from season one and they’ll say, ‘It’s like this and this is what happens,’ but you actually don’t know what that’s like until you’re feeling it.
Bimini: The response has been incredible, there’s been so much positivity for everyone and that’s just been amazing to see.
GAY TIMES: As RuPaul says, “This is the beginning of the rest of your life.” Are you prepared for life as a Ru Girl?
Tia: Absolutely not. No. Not even slightly. Who could be?
Asttina: I’m ready!
Bimini: I bloody hope so, I’ve got about five pounds in my bank account.
Veronica: Oh, absolutely. You can never be ready for everything, but you certainly can be ready for anything!
Tayce: I was born ready baby, bring it on! This is something that we’ve literally had to keep in our heads for a year!
Lawrence: RuPaul didn’t go, ‘Can you keep this a secret forever?’ You do what you do until you can talk about it, and now we can talk about it.
Ginny: I’ve been waiting my whole life, I was born a star, I just needed a reality TV show to wedge my croc-ed foot in. Now I’ve got my trotter in the door, there’s no stopping me.
Cherry: I am as ready as I ever will be! It’s gonna be wild.
Sister Sister: I feel like the universe seems to take care of me every step of the way, I say bring this on! I was ready for a new chapter anyway, and it may as well be in cross-dressing.
A’Whora: I’m looking forward to the fact that we’re making history. We’re going to create television where people are going to see us before lockdown, and then see the effects of the pandemic.
GAY TIMES: We’ve all read your bios and seen your Meet the Queens, but what is the most important thing you want viewers to know about you and your drag?
Cherry: That there’s never been a queen like me on the show, and it’s gonna open the world’s eyes. I think my drag is the most polished drag I’ve ever seen.
Joe: Most importantly, that I am a silly bitch. I love the vintage, the glamorous, the ridiculous, that’s it for me. I’m really obsessed with silent movie looks and old Hollywood looks where it’s people looking glamorous, but bordering on grotesque.
Asttina: If you believe drag is big hair, sequins, gowns and the tradition that it was and still is, then you won’t understand me, and you won’t understand a lot of queer people. My drag is about expression and who you are, hopefully that comes across. I also have the CV to prove it, and no one else really has the CV to prove it – minus a few.
Ellie: I’m self-made. I do my own hair and my own outfits – not for the promo, that’s a bit expensive! But everything else I brought to the show. I make 99.9% of everything I do.
A’Whora: My main thing is I am an image, but that’s what I don’t want people to know me as. My message is: don’t judge someone by their cover, don’t write me off simply because my whole career has been people using me as an image, wanting to use photographs of me, shoot me and never want to book me for entertainment value. I want people to not be so quick to assume.
Tayce: The common misconception of me is that I’m going to be a massive bitch because I might look a certain way, but I’m the type to talk, kiki and jump around with fans in the smoking area of a club. I’m just ready to show what Wales has to offer and put them on the map. There hasn’t been Welsh representation before. It’ll be fun to go on, do the damn thing and show them we got it. I’m so excited for people to see my personality and just have a bit of fun.
Bimini: You don’t have to put yourself into a box, you can do what you want to do. I started in East London where there’s now drag kings, drag queens and AFAB queens, so I’m from somewhere where it allows you to be as weird, colourful and vibrant as you want to be. I don’t want other people to think there’s one drag that fits all. You can do and be who you want to be. The biggest thing for me is as long as you’re not harming anyone, do whatever you want. Don’t listen to what other people say.
Ginny: I want them to step inside the madness because there’s a lot more than what people think. People just think I’m a goofball, but in fact I am actually an artist, a drag infiltrator and a drag troll, so I’m really excited for people to look at my work as an artist and look at my singer-songwriter career.
Lawrence: People are so caught up in saying, ‘What’s your brand? What are you branding yourself as?’ Listen, cut it back! Drag is about not conforming to anything and not fitting in boxes, that’s the truth behind doing drag 1-0-1. I’m gonna make people laugh with stupid silly jokes. I love being crass and silly and saying things that your mum would say, I love that sense of humour.
Sister Sister: I think it’s easy for drag to be taken too seriously these days, and I think that will be the queer community’s downfall. The whole point of it is that we are just absolute clowns, that’s the fun bit.
Veronica: My drag, I go for the surface, the pretty face, but there’s so much more to see. There’s a whole backstory to my character and I’m very eclectic in my inspirations and references.
Tia: I’ve been raised by the older generations of queens and so it’s important to me to entertain people. A lot of drag performers, it’s not always the most diverse group of people, so it’s really important to represent my heritage and have people see themselves reflected on stage or on the screen.
GAY TIMES: Without giving too much away, how would you describe season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK?
Tia: I haven’t seen it yet, but I was there, so that probably helped.
Ellie: A cyclone of madness, like when Dorothy goes into her house to find Auntie Em and the window smashes her in the back of the head.
Asttina: If you feel this year was bizarre, mad and overwhelmingly crazy, you ain’t ready for season two!
A’Whora: Gaggy. Shocking. It keeps you on your toes. Expect the unexpected.
Tayce: You’re gonna throw up and you might shit yourself. It is gaggy episode after episode.
A’Whora: The best way to describe Drag Race UK season two is a k-hole.
Tayce: The biggest k-hole you’ve ever seen. Season one was amazing, but I feel like season two ups the ante on everything; the runways, the lip-syncs, the twists, the turns, everything has been upped to nth degree. Gaggy is the word.
A’Whora: It’s an achievement alone to come out of it alive. I will never look at Drag Race the same ever again. For me, a drag fan and as a viewer, it is one of the best seasons of Drag Race ever. It’s changing what Drag Race has ever been.
Cherry: Honestly, it’s probably the best series I’ve ever seen, and I’ve not even seen it yet. I’ve seen all the Drag Race series and there’s not been one like it yet, without a doubt.
Ginny: I would describe it as the best season ever because I’m in it. They did a good job in season one, thanks Baga for setting up, but you know we’re MUCH BETTA!
Joe: Inspiring, because there’s been a global pandemic and somehow, us 12 have managed to make a fucking epic season of Drag Race.
Sister Sister: It’s the blessed and the cursed series because we literally filmed in a pandemic. It’s its own monster. I genuinely don’t think fans are going to expect half of the foolery and the shenanigans that we get up to.
Veronica: To use an American phrase, it’s going to be gag-worthy. It really felt like for the first time in a long time, that reality television was actually representing reality as well. It’s not just entertainment, and we’re taking the nation along with us.
Asttina: It’s just gag after gag after gag, lip-sync after lip-sync after lip-sync, outfit after outfit after outfit. And it’s just gonna be so rewarding. Not just for us girls, it’s going to be rewarding for everyone.
Bimini: Iconic! I’m obviously biased being on it, but I think it’s gonna be one of the best. I got to share it with all of these queens and everyone brings something different. Everyone has such a unique personality and I think that will really come across.
GAY TIMES: How have you all grown as performers since sashaying into the werkroom?
Asttina: You will see when the show airs…
Tayce: I’m a lot more switched on now with life stuff. I’ve always been very all over the place, gliding through life. But after doing it I was like, ‘Start being serious about things, get more organised, get more switched on and mature.’ In terms of drag, it’s always changing, it’s always evolving, that is what drag is, you’ve always got to try and look better than you did the night before.
A’Whora: I went into Drag Race thinking I was one thing and that I knew what I was good at. Going into the show, it makes you challenge every aspect. I never thought I was an actress, and you get put into this position to do it because your life depends on it. I am still insecure, I was so insecure back then, but my confidence and my own self-validation as a queen has changed massively.
Bimini: I think I grew with confidence over the summer. I won Miss Sink the Pink in 2019 and that was the turning point for me in drag, where I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna start going for this.’ I stopped teaching, I was a yoga teacher, and I was just doing drag full time. I was building confidence and I was getting to know who I was as a queen and as a performer. I was able to have a look at what I’ve done on this show, what I was proud of, what I wasn’t, and then I was able to kind of step it up even more.
Cherry: I would say I’m a completely different queen. I just feel, overall, that the whole pandemic has helped me realise even more that life is too short, and to not give a fuck. Just live your life and enjoy it for what it is, because it’s short so make it worth it.
Ellie: I’ve been able to sit on my lonesome and really reflect on the past couple years in drag, who I was and who I am now, and figure out where I fit in to me, if that makes sense? I found more confidence in myself and that’s obviously helped me portray Ellie in drag a lot better. My attitude towards life has sort of changed as well.
Joe: I think in general, I’m much more tired as a person, much, much more tired as a person. You know, if something seems too big and scary, you can do it. I think it’s taught me that I can rise to the occasion and get things done.
Lawrence: I was excited, and nervous, because so many people in Scotland know who I am and I didn’t want to let them down. I wanted Scotland to be represented because people were so upset when Scottish queens weren’t on last season. The worry there was, ‘Listen Lawrence, don’t psyche yourself out with this shite, you can do it,’ and staying focused. What I’ve learned now is how to stay focused. I’m good at loads of things and I have many strings to my harp – whatever you want to call it!
Sister Sister: Well, this year in itself has been a pressure cooker, but it can throw something else in the mix. Having to prove yourself on Drag Race, you find that you automatically polish everything that you do anyway, because it’s not just you performing to a crowd anymore, it’s performing to the matriarch of the drag world and to every camera in the room; thinking that you’re going to have every audience member watching you all the time, so you just become incredibly self-aware. It’s literally polish yourself up and get better or you’re just gonna fall by the wayside and probably end up lip-syncing. You just become a toughened, better, shinier version of yourself, which is fun.
Tia: It’s given me a lot of new tools that I didn’t think that I had in my arsenal. I just feel really really proud of myself and grateful to all the people who have supported me and uplifted me to get me to that place.
Veronica: I’m a very confident person, but when I first started drag, I was very shy. It can come across as being a bit of a bitch because people wonder why I don’t want to talk to them, but it’s because I’m socially awkward. It takes me a second to get involved in conversations, because I’m not a fake person. Once I came out of my shell, you get to see how quirky I am. I’m proud of this side of my personality and who I am, my identity and to showcase that you don’t have to attach shame to these words, because we are who we are, and I’m proud of that.
GAY TIMES: Let’s get to the nitty gritty, which one of you is the – how do I put this – firestarter?
Ginny: Ginny Lemon.
Ellie: There are certain ones that stand out from the pack, but drag queens are shady, regardless whether you’re on a reality TV show drag competition!
Joe: If you’re talking shady, at six foot tall, Ellie Diamond. Wherever she walks, she will cast a shadow. She is Britain’s largest adult baby.
Tayce: Miss A’Whora! Absolute hound, she lives for the drama.
A’Whora: What can I say? I brought the TV. I’m just a strong believer in if someone’s got something to say, don’t speak about it in the room, say it to their face.
Tayce: That’s what annoys you when you’re there, because people will have such a game to talk and then once the camera’s on the tin, they have a meek little persona. Honey, you weren’t acting like that five minutes ago.
A’Whora: They’re divas off camera and then when the camera’s around they’re Miss Congeniality. Like, fuck off!
Tayce: But it’s the fiery season, expect the gags, expect arguments, expect controversy, expect conflict, expect crying – lots of crying.
Lawrence: A’Whora is the firestarter because she’s opinionated, and I like that about people. People like pretty people to not say a word, and she’s a pretty person who will say something.
Asttina: We’re all going to start shit in some form. It could be everyone. It could be the queens from season three, who knows?
Ginny: I think we’re all burning our own little sacred fires. To be honest, it is a bunch of witches cackling around the puffs. I don’t think it’s a case of who brings it first, I think it’s when the circle forms and the magic happens. That’s when it really booms.
Sister Sister: We’re all a bunch of conniving little bitches, but there’s a lot of love in the room at all times. I was so nervous about who’s going to be the biggest bitch until I realised the call is coming from inside the house. I am literally the nightmare in the room at all times.
Tia: I don’t think it’s me. My energy is very observing, intrigued about what’s going on. I don’t think I’m a troublemaker. You are a troublemaker. I feel like you’re causing trouble right now!
GAY TIMES: Can we expect any “red wig and silver dress” levels of shade?
Ellie: Maybe not a red wig and a silver dress, but definitely a silver dress and a red wig. Wait…
Cherry: Absolutely! It wouldn’t be Drag Race if there wasn’t something to put on a t-shirt! There’s a lot of moments that definitely can be transformed into merchandise.
Ginny: That will pale in comparison. The absolute shenanigans, the madness! You think I’m just saying this for the press babes, but you will not believe… You know that it halted? Could you imagine the madness all of us go back with that mindset? Can you imagine what that’s done to everyone? You think we were tense and mad at the beginning? Wait till you see after that, the seven months mental breakdown! I can honestly say this is going to be one of the most dramatic seasons ever. I’ve not seen the later American ones, they get a bit dull, UK is where it’s at now.
Bimini: No one’s holding back. Not one drag fits all, look at Ginny Lemon stood there in crocs, that is iconic! And that’s so British. I feel like that’s what sets us apart from America, there’s a bit of a punk element when it comes to drag because it’s not just one, you can do whatever you want. Ginny Lemon stood there in crocs.
Cherry: I think it hits home differently, doesn’t it? It just feels so different being from the UK and seeing all these queens.
GAY TIMES: After a year like 2020, what do you hope fans take away from this season?
Asttina: I think even though this year was crappy, it’s actually been quite a rewarding year of self-learning, self-growing and self-evolution, understanding yourself and understanding people around you. That’s what I hope comes from this season, is that no matter what happens in life, especially if things are out of your control, you understand who you are. Sometimes you feel like you’re that little paper bag in the air that means nothing, but you are valid, you are loved, and you are seen. I know especially when the cast photo came out and represented the new flag of the LGBTQ+ IAP+ 47128, it’s about everyone being seen, heard – even though you might not feel like you are.
A’Whora: Enjoyment. If we can bring a smile to at least one person’s face, we’ve done something good with the show.
Tayce: There’s arguments but when it does come down to it, we are all friends. At the end of it, we all come out as besties, and I think people are gonna have smiles on their faces. I think they’re gonna look at UK drag like, ‘Okay, they don’t play around!’ because I don’t think Americans have that expectation. They will after this.
Bimini: We’ve all got here, we’ve all managed to make it through possibly the worst year that we’ve lived through. If we can make it through that, we can do anything.
Cherry: I know people will watch the season and feel fulfilled and proud to be British watching it, because it really is British drag.
Ellie: I hope watching season two, you accept any queens where they are, what they portray on the show, and the drag that they are putting on for your entertainment. Appreciate that, celebrate the artists, celebrate the drag queens and don’t spread hate, spread love. Treat others how you want to be treated and one day the world will be rainbows and unicorns. Period.
Ginny: All of the drag that’s been represented is amazing. I’m one of the first openly non-binary queens on the show, so things are changing. This is the year of change. Drag Race is changing. The representation is incredible. They can take away hope, I think that’s the message that I’m personally giving in my yellow madness, and that it will get better. And I think this is just the injection of sunshine that people needed in their lives.
Joe: It may have been a crap year, but there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Good things will come. I’ve learned that you just have to be patient and enjoy the ridiculousness that is eventually going to happen. So hang tight, beautiful things are on the horizon.
Lawrence: I think the amazing thing about when we were doing season two was no one was giving up. In these hard times, we all pushed through it. No one lost their faith. There was a real kind of amazing energy filming this season because we all knew how lucky we were to actually even be doing this. How lucky are we in a climate right now where no one’s got a job and the entertainment industry is not being looked after at all by the government? How amazing is that? That we have a home: RuPaul’s School for Girls.
Sister Sister: We are nothing if we can’t perform and entertain. That’s literally our job as queer performers. If I can’t make people laugh I’m not doing the job properly.
Tia: We’ve had such an unbelievably rough year, so being able to kick the year off with Drag Race UK season two and then the US version coming, there’s so much joy, so much drag, so much glitz and glamour and fabulousness!
Veronica: It’s cliché, but live life to the full because you never know what’s around the next corner in life. The whole entertainment industry was taken away from me in the summer, and I’ve had to navigate through an unexpected life and changing society. Everybody should enjoy every moment of your life, make choices that you love and do things that you enjoy because you never know what’s going to happen next.
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season 2 airs 14 January on BBC iPlayer – watch the first teaser trailer here or below.