As the top three queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, Ginger Johnson, Michael Marouli and Tomara Thomas have proved that the key to conquering this year’s competition is to “evoke the true Geordie party girl spirit” – uhh-huh, ergh-huh. All three fan-favourite entertainers smashed this season, which makes herstory in the process as the only season in the franchise to consist of all Northernern finalists. One more time: uhh-huh, ergh-huh.
As a result of her sharp wit and comedic timing (as well as her iconic armless dress), Ginger boasts the best track record of the three (and the coveted Snatch Game win), while Michael gained the upper hand in the latter half of the competition with her impeccable makeover and gut-busting roast. Although Tomara lacks in the RuPeter Badge department – one vs Ginger and Michael’s three – she’s emerged as one of the franchise’s most entertaining players, in and out of drag, receiving the rare “you’re a star!” compliment from Ru. Truly, any one of these queens could usurp Danny Beard as the ‘UK’s Next Drag Superstar’.
Ahead of this week’s finale, where the trio will write and record verses to RuPaul’s track ‘Spotlight’, we caught up with Ginger, Michael and Tomara to discuss their “life-changing” Drag Race UK experience. Additionally, Ginger reveals that her favourite moment of the season happened off-camera, Michael teases the “herstoric” final challenge and Tomara thirsts over the werkroom cameramen. There’s a lot here.
Congratulations Ginger, Michael and Tomara on making the top three of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season five. How are you feeling heading into the finale?
Ginger: Insane. Completely insane.
Michael: It’s wild. What a journey it’s been. It’s bittersweet it’s coming to an end. We’ve had the best time of our lives and we don’t want it to be over.
Tomara: It’s such a surreal experience and it’s nearly ever. I could sob! I could sob, babes.
How is life as a RuGirl? Rising to superstardom on a drag queen reality TV series is a very normal occurrence.
Michael: It’s the stuff dreams are made of. It’s been absolutely wild. Seeing how much love and support we’ve all got from the fans and getting to do this crazy, stupid thing that we call drag has been mental.
Ginger: My day-to-day life isn’t that different apart from the fact that, now, I spend 15 hours a day on Instagram. It was something I gradually weaned myself off of over the past few years, and now there I am! Back on the internet. That’s certainly been a learning curve, I’ll tell you that much.
Have the fans been nice to you all, yeah? They been good?
Tomara: Yeah, they have. Surprisingly!
Michael: Amazing, especially because we have so much support from the North East as well, which has been fab.
This entire top three consists of Northern queens, the first time in history. What do you think this means for, not just drag performers, but queer artists in general from the North?
Ginger: The North is an absolute high for creativity in all sorts of ways, not just in drag. I just really hope that us three being here in the finale helps turn the spotlight a little bit towards the North East so that other artists working up there can get the shine they deserve.
Michael: We’re all working class, know what I mean? You’ve got that Northern grit. I just think it’s so fab that we get to spotlight and highlight the North East and how fabulous we all are.
Tomara: You’ve got stage school as a Northerner, and it’s very much beating out of you that you need to speak a bit more proper. Babes, grab hold of that Northern grit because it’ll take you far! Just look at us, honey, look at us!
And it’s the three Northern queens from the challenge, where we got the famous “Uhhh-huhhh.” I can’t do it. Can you all do that for me please, on three?
Ginger, Michael and Tomara: Uhh-huh, erghh-huh.
Tomara: Do you know what? I want to take credit for this finale because if it wasn’t for me putting us in a group, girls, who would have known if we’d be here?
Ginger: That’s right.
Michael: Exactly, yes. You formed the group.
Ginger: I don’t know about you two girls, but on that stage doing the disaster class, seeing how well it was going down… I had a funny feeling we were gonna go far!
Michael: As soon as we were paired – well, put in a trio – I knew. Instantly, our chemistry was there. We wrote the thing in 10 minutes, didn’t we? We just had magic.
Ginger: Like the Power Rangers. We’re all powerful separately, but when we come together… Here we are, taking over the world.
Power Rangers: yes. But to me, this feels like the Northern, drag queen version of the Charmed Ones. What was it like, watching the season back?
Tomara: I forget everything anyways. When I was speaking I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, what the hell is even gonna come out of me mouth?’ I didn’t know and I was bloody saying the stuff. It was such a surreal experience, so rewarding, and just so crazy.
Michael: You truly forget half the stuff you say. Especially in the confessionals I was like, ‘How delirious was I? I don’t remember saying any of this!’ It’s mad seeing us all meet for the first time in the werkroom because, obviously, these two are like me sisters for life now. We’ve got so close we’re like best friends. How we were interacting on that first day, not knowing each other, and then getting to see our relationships form throughout the show… It’s so good that we’ve got these memories on film forever.
Ginger: I was so nervous when I walked in. Of course, it’s nerve-wracking anyway, but the amount of personalities in the room, I felt almost shy to be honest. But, as soon as I heard voices from the homeland, I was immediately like, ‘Okay, this is going to be fine. We’re going to do this together.’ And here we are!
You’ve all had so many standout moments, from Tomara’s future BAFTA Award-winning performance in Femmerdale…
Michael: “Chuffin’ hell!”
Tomara: The slap! The wig!
And Michael, your stand-up. Ginger, your Snatch Game. Do you think there was a moment for you all that cemented your position here in the final?
Michael: The standout moment, straightaway, was the disaster class. We just had a feeling that us three were gonna do well. That was the first time I thought, ‘Oh my god girls, we’re gonna smash this.’ That really sticks in me head, definitely.
Ginger: I think when I got my first badge, I kind of relaxed a little bit and I could see myself in the confessionals, like I had put my foot in the door, basically. Weirdly, as I got the second and third one, I started to get more and more terrified. The higher you go, the further you fall. So, there was about a three-day period where I was feeling, ‘Yes! I’m in it, I’m here.’ Then suddenly I was like, ‘Oh god, but it could be all over anytime soon!’ I’m an anxious person, so that’s what I go to normally anyway.
What about you Tomara?
Tomara: I think it was the girl group challenge, because that was the moment I really felt like, ‘Oh bitch, Tomara is here on Drag Race and I’m gonna show you, honey.’ That was the first one where I felt really good about myself, showing what I could do. And like Michael said, the disaster challenge because that felt so easy. The charisma, the wit, it was just pouring out of us babe.
This is one of those rare top three’s where I don’t give a shit who wins.
Michael: We said that the end when we finished filming. We were like, ‘We’ve already won.’ The fact that the three of us had the best, best time of our lives. The fact that we got to do it all together, we’ve already won.
Was your Drag Race experience everything you thought it was going to be?
Tomara: Do you know what shocked me, which is so ridiculous and stupid? All the cameramen! I don’t know how the hell I thought this thing was filmed and produced. As soon as I walked in I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s about 50 men just looking at us.’ I was like, ‘Bitch of course, you dumb cow. How is it gonna get filmed?’ Yeah, that was a little surprise.
Michael: It feels like you’re stepping into the television. It’s exactly how it looks on TV. It was everything I thought it would be and ten times more. It was the most incredible experience of me whole life. I never wanted it to end. It was so good.
Back to these men, Tomara, were any of them… eye candy?
Tomara: Now listen… I did fancy one of them.
Ginger: Only one?!
Tomara: Which one did I really fancy? What was he called, again?
Michael: I can’t remember.
Tomara: Oh but listen… I changed in my little tucking panties. Oh, gave them a show babes. You’ve got to! You’ve got to give them a show. I was running around that little werkroom with a little prep in my step!
We need to find out his name. Let’s set you up.
Tomara: I’m praying, because I could do with a little peck on the cheek, my angel.
Just on the cheek?
Tomara: Just the cheek.
This is a PG interview. This has been an incredible season for drag, but also for drama. Tomara vs Cara, Vicki vs Banksie, Vicki vs DeDe… What moment gooped you the most?
Michael: Cara and Tomara. It was so intense at the time. It was only episode two, so we were all still getting to know each other. You could obviously tell that they were friends outside the show, the way the relationship was. We were like, ‘This has been building for a while.’ In the room we were just like, ‘Ooh…’
Ginger: I was right in the middle of the firing line between the two of you. I was sitting at my mannequin and I had nothing on the mannequin. I hadn’t made anything yet. But, I didn’t dare look in either direction so I was just sticking pins in the mannequin, nothing on it, just keeping myself busy like, ‘Nothing to do with me!’
Tomara: I mean, yeah. Listen, we give you a good little TV moment. But bitch, it stunned me as well! I didn’t know that was gonna erupt and happen like it. We felt the way we felt and we had a cheeky argument. We got over it, we dried the tears and smashed it the next week in the group challenge.
Is that what it’s like at home?
Tomara: Yes, it was. But, I moved out. She marched me out of the flat longer than I could say jump babe! She burnt me wigs, she burnt me outfits, she kicked me out the house. No, I’m joking!
I was gonna say, what was the conversation like when you came home from filming?
Tomara: Do you know what, by that point we were just thrilled the way the season went. She was so happy for me that I obviously got into the finale. She was happy the way she went on the show and shown what she had to show, and she’s got a lot more to show. So, she was happy for me. I was happy for her. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, bitch.
Ginger: I think it’s like that across all the drama that happened on the series. It’s a testament to how well we all got on and how much respect we have for each other that, all of the little bits of drama, they only ever lasted for the little explosion they had at the time. Then, you just pick yourself up and get on with it. It’s a really high pressure environment. People are gonna scrap. It’s gonna happen. But, the trick is to be able to let it go and move on with your life afterwards.
All three of you were very calm and collected on the series. Is there a secret to that?
Michael: Live in the moment. I think a lot of queens go on Drag Race and they’re so, ‘What’s coming next? What’s gonna happen? Is it this tomorrow?’ You never know what’s going to happen. It changes at the drop of a dime, so you’ve got to live in the moment and whatever’s happening right at that time, give it your all. That’s how I coped with it.
Tomara: For me it was just, ‘Babes, have fun. You’re literally a silly little sausage, just have a laugh and have fun. Don’t be shit, show your talent and have a laugh.’ So for me, that really did help me. Babes, have fun.
Michael: And we laughed, didn’t we?
Tomara: And that’s what we’ve done. That’s why we were slightly more relaxed because we were generally having fun. Don’t get me wrong, not every single week was a ball and easy-breezy. But, the main focus in my head was, ‘Bitch, have a laugh and enjoy yourself.’
Tomara, I don’t think anyone across any franchise of Drag Race has ever had more fun than you.
Tomara: I didn’t realise how funny I was, clearly. I couldn’t stop laughing at me own jokes – and I only told two!
There are seasons where track record comes into play in the finale, and in other seasons there have been winners who haven’t had as many wins as other contestants and more bottom placements. So, do you think track record holds much weight anymore?
Ginger: Who knows? Who knows? Not us!
Tomara: I hope track record doesn’t count because, babes, I’ve got one win!
Michael: The thing is, with Drag Race, is there a way to crack the code? Is there any logic to it?
Ginger: It comes down to Ru, really. It comes down to who Ru connects with the most, I guess. I mean, ask us after Thursday! We’ll give you the answer then. I do think this is the closest top three we’ve had in the UK, anyway.
What was your standout moment from the season? It could be from the challenge, getting to know someone, the cameramen – anything.
Tomara: My favourite moment was when RuPaul said, “You’re a star” and I said, “I know!”
Michael: I howled at that watching that back. My standout moment, definitely, is the makeover challenge and hearing Peter’s story. It really affected us but in such a nice way. It’s something I’ll cherish forever, getting to do that and seeing the look in Peter’s eye when he transformed. He was on Cloud 9.
Ginger: Mine would’ve been week two after the sewing challenge, the devil just got in us in Untucked and we could not stop laughing. We were constantly doing these impressions of Cilla Black and that’s where that started. Me and Michael and Kate, DeDe was there as well. In that moment, I was so tense and I let it all out of me. I looked around the room and thought, ‘My god, we’re really gonna have some fun.’ That was really special. You didn’t get to see it because it was in amongst everything else that was happening, but that’s my favourite moment.
Michael: I have to second that. It will stick with me forever. It was one of the funniest times of my life. We were screaming laughing and it was the realisation of, ‘We’re on Drag Race and we’re gonna have the best time ever.’
Ginger: You know when you laugh so hard you feel like you’ve had two bottles of wine, and you’ve not even had a drink? It’s intoxicating and just takes over you. It was such a release, it was so gorgeous.
You’re free to politely or violently decline, but may I see your Cilla impressions?
Tomara: I was never in on the joke because I could never do it. What is it, do it Michael?
Michael: “Oh hello, luv!”
Tomara: [Tries to impersonate, fails] I can’t do it!
Ginger: I don’t think any of us were doing a good Cilla impression.
Heading into the last episode, what can you tell me about this final challenge?
Ginger: Are we allowed? Can we talk about it?
Tomara: Just to be on a RuPaul track, babes, says it all. How amazing is that?
Michael: The first ever music video on Drag Race UK.
Tomara: Bitch be ready, because it’s fierce.
I assume there’s a choreo moment?
Ginger: Err, yeah. Choreo. A lot of it! I actually hadn’t thought at all about the finale. As we were going through the competition I completely forgotten that it was a song and dance number. So, on the morning we woke up to do it I was like, ‘Oh god, that’s what I’ve got to do today.’ But no, it was so so fun. The music video is amazing. We saw a very quick cut of it, a mock-up, and we looked like superstars.
Michael: It’s one for the herstory books.
There’s been a lot of talk on social media. But, what is going on with the official UK season five tour?
Ginger: The only thing I know about is the Angels of the North Tour, coming to a city near you in 2024…
Michael: It’s going to be epic. We have so much material. It’s going to be fantastic.
Finally, what would it mean for each of you to usurp Danny Beard as the ‘UK’s Next Drag Superstar’?
Ginger: I think, for me, it would mean that… I’ve always down whatever I want with my drag. I’ve never really followed the crowd. I’ve always been off living my own little cloud cuckoo land, as you all saw on the runway every week. If I were to win, that might encourage some other weirdos who don’t see things the same way as other people to get out there and do it anyway. Be as weird as you like. That’s what I would hope.
Michael: For me, it would just be validation of all the years of hard work, crap gigs, the struggle, but sticking with drag. It’s me passion, it’s what I love. And just to inspire people of my age not to give up. It’s never too late. You get one life, go for your dreams. I’m living proof. There’s no time limit. Stick with it.
Tomara: Follow your dreams, babes, and it will all come true. Imagine if I had me own little TV show? That’s the prize, right, when you win Drag Race? Imagine the people that I’d entertain? That’s all I’m saying, angel. The charisma I have in this body! Yous are all welcome.
Drag Race UK season five is streaming now on BBC iPlayer.
You can watch our entire interview with Ginger Johnson, Michael Marouli and Tomara Thomas here or below.