Vanity Milan may not have conquered the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, but she did cement her status as one of the most show-stopping lip-sync assassins in the franchise’s herstory. And that’s on what? Period. “I relied on my one single talent and it got me to top four!” she tells GAY TIMES.
The South Londoner landed in the bottom two on four occasions, sending three of her competitors packing in the process. (Fun fact: Vanity now ties Tayce as the Drag Race UK contestant with the most lip-sync wins.) Viewers raved about each of her smackdowns, particularly for her battle against Scarlett Harlett to Mis-Teeq’s classic R&B banger Scandalous, which was performed in front of former member Alesha Dixon (aka the greatest guest judge the show has ever seen).
Vanity’s time came to end in this week’s semi-final, however, when she failed to embrace her inner Bianca Del Rio for a roast of the eliminated contestants, the panel and national treasure
Linda La Hughes Kathy Burke. “I don’t like to talk publicly, it’s rare that I get on the microphone or host,” explains Vanity. “I’m a lip-syncer, I do the dancing and then leave the stage!”
We caught up with Vanity after her exit to chat about her incredible run on Drag Race UK, whether statistics (and badges) matter in the grand scheme of the competition, and why the next British season “should have at least five POC” contestants to make up for season three’s questionable lack of Black talent.
Vanity, condragulations on making the top four of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season three!
Thank you so much! I mean, it’s a blessing. I never thought I’d get there.
You sashayed away like an absolute goddess. I was sad to see you go, but it made me smile because it was just so warm and gorgeous.
That’s me through and through, to be honest with you. I came in humble and I left humble. Again, like I said, I didn’t think I’d make it that far! The girls behind me, they’re three amazing queens and really good friends of mine so I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I love when it’s RuPaul’s Best Friend Race.
That’s what this episode is all about. We made it to the top four – twice! We became even closer, which was really good as well, and when it comes to RuPaul’s Best Friend Race, I think we’ve shown that you can be shady, but also lift each other up in a way that is loving, comforting and also shows our queer community that you don’t need to put someone down. You can lift them up, but also be a little bit shady at the same time!
“Are you gonna rely on your one single talent?” for example, which has became iconic.
Okay?! And I’m gonna put it on a t-shirt because I relied on my one single talent and it got me to top four!
Vanity, I just have to say, I think you’re one of the greatest lip-syncers Drag Race UK has ever seen. I don’t mean any disrespect when I say this, but I wanted to see you in the bottom every single week just so I could watch you perform…
Do you know what? The ratings might have went up! A lot of people have said that to me like, ‘You’ve done such a great job in this show, but I definitely wanted to see you lip-sync every week,’ and I was like, ‘I kinda wanted to lip-sync every week!’ The music they selected this year was great, but I was trying to stay out of the bottom because I didn’t wanna be in the bottom all the time.
I was getting Trinity K. Bonet vibes, because when she performs, she perfectly embodies a song’s essence. You switched it up every single time and the songs looked like they were coming straight out of your goddamn mouth!
The thing is, when it comes to lip-syncing, I just want to embody the singer, the vibe of the song, what it’s giving and what it gives me is what I’m giving to the audience when I’m performing that song. It’s like you’re watching, let’s say, Alesha Dixon performing Scandalous. I needed to give that kind of vibe, and I think that is, hands down, one of the best lip-syncs I’ve ever done. I’m gonna perform it until I’m dead!
Please do! I will never get over Alesha Dixon giving it her all on that panel…
And she would not sit down! I was living because she was giving me the energy. And this is what I do when I lip-sync, as well, I love to feel the energy of the crowd. She was giving me life so I had to give it all the way back to her, especially because she was part of Mis-Teeq, which is one of the best girl groups in the UK. That was one lip-sync that I did not have to learn the night before because if you know Scandalous and Mis-Teeq, then you know it word for word. Even just getting on stage and seeing her, I was like, ‘Uh oh… I’m going to have to perform this song in front of you.’ I had to let her know it was my time… It was probably my favourite moment. If I were to do Drag Race again, I don’t think I would ever change anything because the moments that I had on Drag Race were the best moments I’ve ever had in life. Just being accepted onto the show… I wouldn’t have changed that for the world.
It’s funny how being in the bottom two for anything can be considered a low, but on Drag Race it can produce some of the biggest highs for a queen and the season overall.
The bookings have just gone crazy because there’s a lot of people that want the Scandalous performance and the Moving On Up performance. I completely forgot about that one until the other day. Everyone wants to see the crazy hair whips now!
Take me back to the last episode. How did it feel when you missed out on a spot in that final three?
As cheesy as it sounds, I knew it was coming. When you’re going up against someone who was “born to be a drag queen” like Krystal Versace, there was no way in hell that I would have been able to stay. Ella has been doing really well in the competition, Kitty’s been doing so good with growth, going from no badge to two badges and a sash… I believe that God has everything set out for you for a reason and I think it was my time. I would’ve loved to be in the top three but who knows what happens in the future? Maybe Ru will turn around and say, ‘Actually, none of you won. Vanity has shown the best growth in the competition!’
You can lip-sync your way to the crown! I believe it.
Again, it’s not all about the badges. It’s about the here and now. When you’re doing a lip-sync, forget what you’ve done in the challenge. It’s about the lip-sync and how you serve that lip-sync, and I think me and Krystal served a great lip-sync for the top three spot and it just turned out to be Krystal. I’m so proud of her, Ella and Kitty.
Over the past few weeks, you’ve expressed how statistics and badges don’t matter. I agree, the queen on Drag Race Holland season two with the most wins, Keta Minaj, departed at top four. Do you think, in your lip-sync with Krystal, statistics mattered?
It doesn’t matter. It just comes down to the lip-sync, because that’s what people want to see in the bottom two. They want to see who’s going to serve it. I don’t think it came down to Krystal doing so well in the competition, but it may have, you never know what’s going through Ru’s head at what specific time. It turned out to be me to go home, so it was bittersweet. And my outfit, I would not have left in another outfit! It was slamming. I just said “slamming”, Jesus Christ.
What was it like to deliver a roast in front of the judges, the entire cast and the Kathy Burke?
Right, let’s start with Kathy Burke. That was very intimidating because… Queen of comedy. I don’t like to roast people because I’m a loving and caring person! For me to tap into roasting somebody, I don’t know how far I would’ve taken it. It probably would’ve gone way too far, so I’d rather roast myself. I don’t like to talk publicly, it’s rare that I get on the microphone or host. I’m a lip-syncer, I do the dancing and then leave the stage! When someone tries to hand me a microphone I say, ‘Stop right there!’ So, me standing in front of the eliminated queens… And they were all resting bitch facing! I was like, ‘For fuck sake, I’m going to get the heckles and the screaming and the yelling.’ I tried to go for Anubis and she was not having it. She looked at me like, ‘Girl really? That the best you’ve got?’ It was fun.
As is the case with every season, there’s been positive and negative comments on social media. How are you navigating this aspect of your fame?
I don’t go on social media so often, unless I need to post a picture here and there, do a little story. That’s it. However, I don’t go into anyone else’s comments or pictures of me and look through the comments, that is one thing that I don’t do. But, if you come on my page and you start to be disrespectful, you’re open to be disrespected. It’s my platform and my platform is about uplifting people and spreading positivity. If you come with the negativity, you’re gonna get it right back or you’re gonna get blocked. It’s one or the other. I’m still human, at the end of the day, I’ve got feelings.
It truly baffles me how people can send hate to others, especially when it’s queer on queer hate.
And they’re talking about, ‘We need to uplift each other and we need to do this and that.’ You’re the same kind of person who will then turn around and say something negative to another queer person, go to Pride and be like, ‘Yes queens! We been fighting for equality!’ It’s always the “John_” and some numbers that always say something with no profile picture. If you ain’t got no profile picture, that means you’re looking to get read.
Or it’s a 14-year-old. What do their parents think of them writing this shite?
Their parents probably don’t know. I think it’s one of these things where we as people in the public eye always to have to take it with a grain of salt. Like Mama Ru says, “Unless they’re paying your bills pay them bitches no mind.” You ain’t paying my bills. You’re definitely going to come to a show though and go, ‘I love you so much!’ and I’m going to be like, ‘Oh, you were this person, I’ve seen your face!’ Not in the meet-and-greet, boo.
‘You are John_6514. Fuck off.’
‘Thank you very much. Next! Security!’
Throughout the series, you opened up about being the only Black competitor, and this is something that caused a bit of controversy when the line-up was announced. Do you think this is a casting issue or is there a lack of Black entertainers auditioning for the series?
I think it’s a bit of a both. There are so many queens of colour and kings of colour and queers of colour who applied for Drag Race, and I think the time that we were going through, UK season three, we were in lockdown. A lot of people lost their jobs and didn’t have enough money to put into going on Drag Race. I literally scraped what I had together; savings and all these costumes I had never worn before. It’s a little bit of… We don’t have enough money to go on Drag Race as a community. We have to fight and work really hard, scrape everything together to be able to get on. So, it’s casting and not having enough money. Also, visibility is an important thing. We need to be a bit more visible and I think this is the reason why season four should have at least five POC people on Drag Race to make up for the loss.’
What would you say to the entertainers at home who haven’t applied for Drag Race because they might not think it’s a welcoming environment for them?
I was that person who felt that I was being underrepresented on TV as a whole. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. I didn’t feel inspired by watching television, and I’m still not inspired because I don’t see anyone like myself. To the people at home: we need to push that button, continue to raise our voices and keep applying the pressure on these companies that are not giving us the opportunity to inspire the next generation. Now, this is what my platform is here to do: uplift the next generation and give them a platform to say, ‘Vanity Milan is on a TV show. She pushed that button, she worked really hard, she scraped her money together to get on Drag Race and give us another voice.’ I just want to be that representation for them. Never give up, work really hard and apply pressure.
You said you’ve become a more fierce queen because of the show. What did you learn about yourself that you’re going to take into the outside world?
I’ve learned so much about myself. I’m a very confident person, but I’m also very shy. When I get into drag, and when I was doing Drag Race, the confidence just kept going up and up. I’ve learned that I can do my makeup! I’m tired of looking busted and greasy. There’s a reason why I’m looking slamming today – I need to stop saying ‘slamming’.
But you do! You look slamming!
Girl, I look good as hell! This is the thing as well. I’ve realised that I’m my biggest hype person. I’m screaming in the back of my head, ‘You better work bitch! You look good!’ My biggest cheerleader is my damn self. Vanity is the name! I’ve just learned that I love drag so much and if I can do it, somebody else can do it.
The hype person in my head is now Alesha Dixon.
‘RuPaul’s Drag Race! Are you feeling the vibe?!’ When she said that…
Best guest judge in herstory.
What’s next for Vanity Milan? Music? Tour? All Stars?
Whatever comes my way, I’m not saying no. Thank you very much. The tour is coming up, there may be music coming. Who knows? The sky is the limit. I’m Vanity Milan and I’m gonna hit the ground running.
The latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season 3 are now available to stream on BBC iPlayer.