“I went home but I don’t give a shit,” says a cheerful Scarlett Harlett. (That ‘cheerful’ part wasn’t sarcasm, she’s absolutely buzzin’ this morning.) “I couldn’t have asked for a better departure.” On this week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, the top five contestants raced against the clock as they served three divisive ensembles on the runway for the Miss Fugly Beauty Pageant. The exhilarating challenge, which featured an appearance from one of Paris and Milan’s most esteemed stylists, Charity Shop Sue, was met with rave reviews on social media.
For the third week on the trot, Scarlett received mixed feedback from the panel and was forced to compete in the lip-sync showdown with fellow three-timer, Vanity Milan, to the beat of Mis-Teeq’s classic R&B banger Scandalous. It was one of the most epic battles we’ve ever seen on the British spin-off thanks to Scarlett and Vanity’s ferocity and determination to reach a spot in the coveted final four – the reaction of special guest star and former Mis-Teeq alum Alesha Dixon, the hype (wo)man we all need and deserve, said it all.
Although Vanity conquered the smackdown, Scarlett tells GAY TIMES that she’s content with her exit due to her hilarious homage of Eastenders’ “YOU’RE NOT MY MOTHER!” line in her final moments, which surprisingly led to RuPaul embracing his inner Kat Slater as he squealed, “YES I AM!” Scarlett reveals: “The funny thing is, I didn’t hear RuPaul say “YES I AM!” because I walked backstage. I watched that and didn’t know it was coming! It was so brilliant and it made my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better exit because RuPaul had a Kat Slater moment with me. You can’t get better than that.”
Here, we speak with the Catherine Tate and Eastenders enthusiast about her “rollercoaster” journey on the third season of Drag Race UK. Scarlett dives into her now-iconic “tiff” in Untucked, why it was important for her to open up about her mother’s COPD and whether Macaulay Culkin has been in touch over her legendary Snatch Game impersonation.
Scarlett, this orange look on you is gorgeous.
Thank you! I was gonna say, it makes a nice change considering I did the Fugly Ball yesterday…
Well I agree with Michelle Visage, your Bianca Fowler-inspired look was not ugly!
Let me tell you a little secret: I knew Michelle would love that, because it’s everything Michelle is wrapped into a ball and I was trying to kiss her bum a little bit! And it worked. Well, not enough for me to stay but enough for Michelle to like it, so I was happy. It’s also very New Jersey! Hot Pink times by leopard print times by big hair…
Michelle is an Eastenders fan as well, right? She understood the reference.
And RuPaul! The funny thing is, when I walked off I didn’t hear RuPaul say “YES I AM!” because I walked backstage. I watched that and didn’t know it was coming! It was so brilliant and it made my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better exit because RuPaul had a Kat Slater moment with me. You can’t get better than that.
I personally want to thank you for paying homage to not only Catherine Tate, but that legendary moment between Kat and Zoey Slater on Eastenders. Thank you.
These are the icons that are truly not being represented in the world and I feel like it’s my place to do that. I am representing those that are unspoken for: Bianca, Macaulay Culkin and Catherine Tate. It’s exciting. Strong females in general are a part of my drag. I have a collage that I’ve taken off my wall, because it looked ugly, of all my favourite females in the world. That’s something that really inspires me.
Right, has Macaulay Culkin been in touch?
No! I don’t think so. It’s funny because he’s had a bit of resurgence in his career at the moment because he’s in American Horror Story and he just walked for Gucci. I’m riding on Macaulay Culkin’s coattails right now. He’s having a resurgence and I’m just starting my career, I think it’s time for a collab?
Snatch Game was filmed months ago, as well, and you didn’t even plan to impersonate Macaulay Culkin!
Not one bit. When I tell you I plucked that from thin air, out of my absolute arse. I was going to do either Danny Dyer or Katie Hopkins. Basically, I had the Katie Hopkins outfit and I was never intending to do it. When I suggested Macaulay Culkin I was wracking my brain thinking, ‘How the hell am I gonna manage this?’ Thankfully I looked like him, so that wasn’t a problem, but I didn’t have the clothes. You know he has that classic jumper? The reason that I did it was because I looked over at my stuff in desperation and I saw, in the corner, this one reddy orange jumper that looked just like his from the movie. It turns out that it was a jumper that I bought for Katie Hopkins because she likes to wear those kinds of jumpers. It was meant to be!
The stars were truly aligned.
They were aligned.
Condragulations on making the top five of season three. How does that feel?
It is wild, beyond imagination. You film the show, sit on it and think, ‘I can’t believe I made it to the top five.’ Even watching it, it still doesn’t register that I’m in the top five of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season three. It is so monumental for my career that it is almost too much to fathom. I just don’t even think about it. I’m like, ‘What’s the next thing? What’s the next job? Another club! Another club! Plane! Douche!’ No, I’m kidding.
You’re not kidding.
‘Plane! Hotel! Douche!’ Anyway, I can’t remember what I was saying.
What a way to go though, right? That lip-sync was killer.
Thank you. I wasn’t happy to leave but I think you can tell how happy I was, even after my exit. A lot of people don’t know this, but I love R&B music. Especially early 00s, 90s. I was born in the 90s and Mis-Teeq were it back in the day. So, the fact that I got to perform that… I went home but I don’t give a shit. I was living my best life, and getting to do that Eastenders line was the cherry on the cake. I couldn’t have asked for a better departure. If I had to depart, it was on great terms.
I completely feel you because I’m a 1993 baby…
See? We’re the same era of Millenial. I have been waiting for a Mis-Teeq bop since the show was announced…
And Shirley Bassey! She’s never been on Drag Race before. I’m so glad that I can say I popped Shirley Bassey’s cherry. I’m sure there aren’t many people who can say that, but I’m one of them! I’m kidding. I love Shirley Bassey, she’s one of my favourite artists ever. She was actually on my collage of favourite women, before I took it down. I adore her, so the fact that I got to do that as well… And the Spice Girls! All amazing people I really look up to. Also, I can’t tell you the pressure of performing in front of one of the band members. I had to do it in front of Emma Bunton and Alesha Dixon! You can’t ask for more pressure than that. You’re wondering why I had a bit of a tiff in Untucked… The pressure of it all is just too much. I just look back and can’t help but think how amazing it is that I got to do that in front of those people and to exit on a good note. I’m so chuffed.
A double shantay as well! You’ve been through the ringer this season.
I have been through the ringer. Up, down, left, right, horizontal and back again, and I love it.
This episode was truly like no other. I was stressed watching it and I’m just a viewer. Has there ever been an episode of Drag Race that has put queens through their paces like that?
No! You ask anyone, I’m the laziest person on Earth. When you hear RuPaul in that tannoy, you feel your testicles rise so far up your body out of pure fear that you don’t even need to get into drag anymore. It’s frightening. I don’t think they’ve ever done an episode where the runway is on the same day? I’m glad that people are enjoying it because it’s something different for Drag Race, isn’t it? I think people just appreciate that, that they’re still able to switch up the formula a bit. This is the thing, watching it is hunky dory because you’re like, ‘Yes mama!’ but going through it… Bitch, it is so stressful, but way more fun to watch eight months later.
Especially when you’ve got Charity Shop Sue in your ear going, ‘Excuse me laydeh!’
‘Excuse me laydeh, you should be on the bloody till!’ I know! What an absolute icon. Considering Krystal [Versace] had done her the week before… Talk about karma!
You’ve had a tumultuous few weeks in the competition thanks to the girl-group challenge and the queens nominating you on the main stage. Did you ever imagine your Drag Race experience would be this… taxing?
Not at all! I mean, I knew it would be stressful. But, I went on Drag Race because it is one of the best shows out there and for a drag queen, it is the top of the top. You would be mad not to go on this show to get your career somewhere and to get the validation from RuPaul, who is just an icon, and Michelle. That being said, I understood that it was going to be a rollercoaster. I’m a huge fan of Drag Race, and if you look at some of the past queens, the ones that stick out in your mind are the ones that have a peak, a crappy day and then another peak, know what I mean? As hard as it was when I was there, I’m almost grateful that I was able to have such ebbs and flows in the competition. It shows that I’m human. I mess up. I’m a perfectionist bordering on OCD and I’m hard on myself when things don’t go right. And as you saw, a couple things didn’t go right. The fallout from that was… Whatever it was. Even with that, the journey was such a rollercoaster. I felt like I was on Colossus at Thorpe Park. It would be boring if I just went in there as a drag machine. I’m glad I was able to give the drama!
That’s the thing with Drag Race, and reality television in general, moments of despair can turn into something iconic.
Exactly. Look at Laganja [Estranja]. I’m just living off the back of my Laganja moment now! At the time, the stress of the competition was difficult but looking at it now, I realise it’s an enjoyable moment because it’s part of the Drag Race process. As hard as it was to watch, I gave myself some time to process it. If it didn’t happen, that episode wouldn’t have been what it was. Everyone spoke about it, so…
Also, viewers at home cannot tell you how to feel. If I was in that situation, I would’ve been sobbing. It was an authentic response, right? What more can you do?
It was. Normally in a situation where I feel like I’m being bombarded, my first reaction – which you saw in Untucked when I said, ‘I’m not interested in talking, thanks’ – is to shut down and become a turtle. But this is Drag Race and you can’t afford the luxury of being able to do that. You have to deal with what’s happening around you. It was a real reaction because, in reality, I would’ve walked away and processed my feelings. My feelings came out and, as hard as that was to watch, it is what it is. I became Laganja and I’m happy because she’s a brilliant queen.
The fans can get a bit heated whenever there’s a bit of drama on the show. How are you navigating this new social media aspect of your fame?
I’m not gonna lie, it is a little bit difficult. Like I said, being on Drag Race is a rollercoaster, so the enjoyable moments are so ecstatic and amazing. Then, the down moments are really hard. They’re two very… What’s the posh word I like to use? Dichotomy! They’re two very opposite ends of the spectrum. That’s Drag Race, you have amazing highs and lows and not everyone is gonna like you. I understand. One thing about me is that I’m very self-aware. The person that I saw in that Untucked moment was a person that… I don’t like acting like that, but it was in the heat of the moment. I regret that moment even though it is an iconic moment in Drag Race history because I don’t like watching myself be angry. I can understand where the fans are coming from because if I saw that, I would probably think the same. It’s difficult and I just wish fans could understand how difficult it really is. I reacted in a way that I wish I didn’t, but it was out of pure utter stress. I have got a little bit of negativity about it, but that comes with the territory and I knew that would be the case. I spoke about my mum’s health, which is something I don’t really talk to anyone about. It was the first time and it was on TV, ironically. I went on stage and then got read to filth, then everyone picked me and then I went into Untucked. That was me trying not to burst into tears. That was me trying to be like, ‘I need to be strong right now because these girls are literally telling me, to my face, that I’m not strong competition and that I should go.’ The real person inside of me wanted to burst into tears and run off crying. I had to pull up my big girl knickers because I was on a TV competition. I can’t let them see me sweat. If the girls see me sweat, they’ll smell more blood in the water and then it’s game over. I looked so angry but it’s because I’m masking the fact that I’m really upset. I had to do it for me because no one else in the room at the time had my back.
Your conversation about your relationship with your mother and her COPD was really beautiful. What impact have you witnessed this moment have on viewers?
That has been the highlight of my experience on Drag Race. Before my mum developed COPD, I had never heard of it before. I didn’t know what it was. I had no clue whatsoever. So, when I spoke about it on TV, it made me remember – from all the messages from fans and supporters that are going through the same thing – that there are many people out there, like me, that had never heard of this disease until one of their family members got it. There are a lot of people out there that understand that, watching your parent go through that, is really tough. I would also like to say that the fans at home, who might be sending me negative comments, understand that I’m dealing with my mum’s health at the same time. That being said, it was one of the highlights because of the amount of messages. The British Lung Foundation actually reached out to me on Instagram about working together, so I couldn’t have asked for a better response. My mum’s really proud, which is all that I want.
Finally, who do you want to see sashay away with that crown?
Kitty Scott-Paws! I would love to see any of them. They’re all great, but you know I have a soft spot for Kitty. She was the one who spoke to me about my mum. She was the only one, I think, that didn’t pick me on stage! So, I’ve got to give it to Kitty because she’s my homegirl.
The latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season 3 are now available to stream on BBC iPlayer.