On the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, the London drag queen Baby gracefully bowed out of the competition, which has since sparked discussion surrounding mental health and anxiety.
To catch you all up to speed, during episode five of RPDR UK, Baby spoke about how she has been feeling anxious throughout the competition. In the episode, Baby and the rest of the cast performed the show’s annual Rusical, titled Lairy Poppins. Baby performed extremely but due to the very high standard of competition, landed herself in the bottom two.
Prior to the lip-sync, Baby was tearing up during the judges critiques as she mentioned that she hasn’t been feeling herself, and Ru offered her advice about keeping your inner-saboteur at bay.
As the episode continued, Baby and Dakota Schiffer lip-synced for their life to SIX The Musical’s No Way and they both turned the house down. Baby, in my opinion, is an absolute powerhouse, and I was thinking that Ru was going to use her rare double-shantay.
But I was totally shocked when Baby announced that she was voluntarily leaving the show, stating: “I need to go home and take care of myself.” Ru responded: “I respect that. Baby, I love you. We all love you. Take care of yourself and remember what I told you. Now, sashay away.”
When I tell you I low-key shed a little queer tear… Mostly though, I was overwhelmed with pride for this drag queen I’ve never met, for simply putting her own mental health first. You can almost see the relief it brings her. Ru regularly says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell do you expect to love anybody else” and what Baby showed on that stage was ultimate self-love. Amen.
Whilst I was at university, I had severe anxiety and I was very guilty of pushing myself too hard to just ‘keep going’, to the point where I felt constantly faint and that I didn’t have a grasp on how to help myself. What I admire Baby for is acknowledging what path she was heading down and putting a stop to it. I wish I could have had this example to follow back then.
Since the episode has aired, Baby took to Twitter stating: “A lot of what you saw on camera was me ‘switching it on’ and I’d gotten to a point where that was no longer sustainable for me and my well-being. I was having aggressive and frequent panic attacks, then just walking into the work room, a challenge, the runway, or untucked acting like NOTHING had happened.”
I am sure that those of us who have suffered from anxiety can find ourselves ‘switching it on’ or ‘putting our best foot forward’ in order to try and deflect from what is really going on in our heads, or simply because we don’t want to let that anxiety win. In a competition setting, it can also be hard to deter from the “be strong” mentality that you feel you need to summon within a competitive nature. If RuPaul’s Drag Race is the Olympics of Drag, then it’s no surprise that the contestants feel the pressure to think like athletes and persevere – even when struggling with anxiety.
Baby continued to explain: “The psychological requirements of being on a show of that scale meant that I wasn’t able to do my job to the best of my ability. So, rather than stay and misrepresent my skill level and artistic capabilities, I decided to go home and take care of myself.”
The star demonstrated the importance of taking your mental health seriously, the powerful act of self-love and knowing when a situation has been too much for your headspace at that time. As the famous Dirty Dancing quote goes: “No-one puts Baby in a corner”, and in this case, Baby felt backed into a corner, and had the strength to step right back out of it. You go, Baby!
I think it is important to highlight the support that Baby felt from the current cast of season – she mentioned Le Fil and Cheddar Gorgeous for being there with her during her panic attacks. The love that radiates from the queens to each other clearly isn’t just for show. It may actually be RuPaul’s Best Friend Race after all, and it brings peace to me as a viewer to see that she didn’t have to struggle with anxiety alone.
Baby appears to be thriving, by stating that we don’t need to worry about her as she is “booked and her bills are paid” and has attached to her Twitter post her new song ‘Theatre!’ – available on iTunes. Iconic.
Drag Race has been entertaining for us for many years now, and it is more than just a competition for drag queens. It provides a platform to address issues that spark conversation, whether that be the intention or not.
You best believe I will be sat there, eyes-glued, volume-up, ready to watch the queens once again next episode.
Rachel volunteers with Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity – sign up now to get involved.