“I just want to swim around in cash,” laughs Black Peppa. The Brummy is speaking with GAY TIMES over Zoom alongside her season four sister Cheddar Gorgeous about the impending RuPaul’s Drag Race UK final, where they both face stiff competition from beard advocate Danny Beard and “sex worker pigeon” Jonbers Blonde for the title of the ‘UK’s Next Drag Superstar’.
While adding more zeros to their bank account is, of course, desired, the lip-sync assassin of season four stresses how significant it would be for a Black and non-binary queen to stomp down the runway with a crown and sceptre in hand. “The world is against me,” Peppa continues. “All odds are against me. It is very important for me to be able to use my voice, more than ever to represent and be able to make that change.”
After demolishing the competition with four RuPeter Badges, three of which were consecutive, Cheddar wants to continue “expanding people’s ideas of what drag can do and what the limitations of drag are.” Highlighting the stark contrast in personalities and drag aesthetic of the top four, however, the self-described “punk rock witch” admits that she “won’t be sad” if one of her sisters conquers over her: “There’s always that consolation that somebody who you love and adore and really respect as an artist is going to be wearing that crown at the end of the day. That’s really lovely.”
Read ahead for our interview with Black Peppa and Cheddar Gorgeous about the upcoming Drag Race UK finale, why social media platforms need to take more action re online hate and – because, why not? – fisting! In the words of the latter, “Let us fist the social media companies into greater regulation!” Just give it a read.
GAY TIMES: You both look so amazing today.
Cheddar: Thank you Sam, that’s the right way to start an interview, isn’t it? You know how to butter us up right! Good lad.
GAY TIMES: Congratulations on making the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. How are you both?!
Cheddar: I just wanna know now! I’m like, ‘C’MON! LET’S GET IT DONE!’ Honestly, it’s very exciting and wonderful to be here, and amazing to be top four with three amazing, wonderful artists. But, c’mon. I just wanna get on with it, get to it and whatever the outcome, let’s aim for the stars [points arm to sky]. That was aiming for the stars, that wasn’t a fisting thing.
GAY TIMES: I’m disappointed, I wish it was a fisting thing.
Cheddar: There’s always time, darling, it’s a very early day.
GAY TIMES: This is that kind of interview.
Cheddar: I’ve had my coffee, anything’s possible.
Peppa: Oh my goodness. Sam, I am really excited going into the finale. I just can’t wait for it to happen. Obviously, we filmed the finale episode but we don’t really know what happens. I know it’s going to be a hell of an episode because all of us were clawing to the very end. I always said if I ever ended up on RuPaul’s Drag Race, I wanted the season to be super competitive. I want a challenge and trust you me, I did get my match. And I am so happy because every single person this season was so talented and everyone had their different strengths and weaknesses. We’re just big stars in our own league and now there’s, what, just a day left? I am over the moon and I cannot wait for whatever happens, as Cheddar says. I just can’t wait to conquer the world because I feel like I already have and I have so much more that I want to do. The finale is just exciting. Each of us are rooting for each other, as well. It’s a good team pageant spirit, so to speak.
Cheddar: It’s clear and I think you see it on the season, more-so than any Drag Race season I’ve ever watched, that we actually quite like each other? Even when we fall out… We never really had any massive, huge fallouts on the show. Don’t get me wrong, I want the crown, but I’m not gonna be sad if any of us win. And one of us has to win, know what I mean? In a way, there’s always that consolation that somebody who you love and adore and really respect as an artist is going to be wearing that crown at the end of the day. That’s really lovely.
GAY TIMES: You have both been insane to watch this season. Peppa, you’re undeniably one of the greatest performers and lip-syncers the show has ever seen and Cheddar, you’ve slaughtered the challenges with four wins. How do you both feel, looking back at your run on season four?
Peppa: Seeing it back on television and reliving it, it’s a whole different experience. For example, when you’re at viewing parties and sit around hundreds of people, you’re seeing this for the first time. You’re reliving it in a different way. It was the best experience looking back at it and the lip-syncs I’ve done and the outfits I’ve worn and the choices I’ve made with the wigs, heels and different things like that. Also, just seeing how talented my sisters are from this season. Being in the werkroom and being with them, you see one thing but watching it back you’re like, ‘Jesus! You’re bloody talented.’ We’re just really good at what we do. Seeing Cheddar in confessionals and being so intellectual… I mean, I know they’re obviously very intellectual already, but seeing them and the faces they make when critiques are being given out or when we’re in Untucked and they’re sat there like, ‘Hmm…’ It’s just so interesting to see all of it on the screen. I am just really thrilled to see it all unfold and in the finale coming up, I can’t say obviously, but I’m very excited and I cannot wait for the world to see what’s been leading up to this point. It’s been how many weeks? Seven or eight weeks?
Peppa: It’s been long enough! I feel like someone needs to put that crown on their head, so…
Cheddar: Peppa, I have to say, watching your performances back and the costumes you’ve destroyed in that process has been a pleasure! It’s true. Yes, Peppa is right, I can very rarely hide anything. But most of the time, I’m not in a mood, it’s just my listening face. I watch it back thinking, ‘Ooh, I do look ever-so moody,’ and I’m not moody at all! I’m just interested in what people have to say. Looking back over the show, I’m actually incredibly grateful that the show gave space to things that I didn’t really think it would give space to. Looking back at how the meanings behind some of the looks I did were treated, I’m just really happy with how that turned out and the attention that it was able to create outside of the show. I look back with an awful lot of gratitude in the way that what I do was not only accepted and received, but was actively celebrated.
GAY TIMES: And how are you both adapting to life as a RuGirl? How have your lives changed over these past few weeks?
Peppa: It’s been amazing. I’ve had so many other RuGirls reach out and message me and been like, ‘Welcome to the family. I’m rooting for you.’ Queens I’ve looked up to for years. That, to me, is wild in itself. It’s also a good awakening for you to believe in yourself like, ‘Look, I am great.’ Also performing in different shows since the airing and people coming up to me like, ‘You’ve inspired me, your story touched me.’ I know I had a story. If I do tell someone my story, I never thought it was that big of a deal that it would be able to touch so many other people in such an intimate level. Stuff like that, having a platform and a voice. People see the fabulous side of you, but then when they see and listen to everything you’ve been through, they’re like, ‘You have layers.’ I’m so thankful that the show was able to show that as well, and show the different sides of us.
GAY TIMES: As is the case with every season of Drag Race, there’s been some volatile behaviour online. Do you think there’s any way we can combat this, or is it always going to be this way?
Peppa: I don’t think we can get rid of it. It’s the way we deal with it. We can say as much as we want, but at the end of the day it’s about how us, as contestants, manage and deal with that online bullying. We can use our voice to be like, ‘This is not right,’ however we can’t let this take over our lives. I’m not going to be on my phone defending myself when none of these people know who I am. None of these people know how I operate. I’ve been doing drag before Drag Race. I don’t care what you think and, at the same time, I don’t feel like I need to defend myself. Our approach is how we’re gonna deal with it, more-so than trying to make it stop because it’s not gonna happen and we know that. People are always going to have opinions and I think it’s okay to have opinions, just like it’s okay to be a judge on a show and for people to judge what they wanna voice, but it’s how we deal with it ourselves.
Cheddar: I totally agree with Peppa but, I think there is something unique about the situation we face online nowadays. People have always, absolutely, had opinions but perhaps it’s only in the last 20 years that they’ve had a forum where they can anonymously project those opinions without accountability and recourse to any sort of consequence. What’s interesting about your question is, “What can we do?” The truth is: we probably can’t do anything, but that doesn’t mean there are not people in positions of authority in social media companies that can help to create those slow, broader cultural shifts that need to occur in actually creating a culture online where people are accountable for the things that they say; where there is, for want of a better expression, a management on what is deemed to be appropriate to say to people online. If we look at the situation we’re facing certainly on platforms like Twitter at the moment, where the new owner of Twitter is attempting to roll back the restrictions on what might constitute hate speech online, I think there’s definitely more that can be done. I don’t think that’s our responsibility, but that doesn’t mean we can’t put pressure upon the people whose responsibility it is. We have to remember that, within that scenario, we have power because we are the content creators on those platforms and those platforms are ultimately depending upon our content to sell advertising space, which is a bit of a deep answer. Sorry GAY TIMES! Drag queen. Dick joke. Breasts. Etc.
GAY TIMES. Fisting!
Cheddar: FISTING! Let us fist the social media companies into greater regulation!
Peppa: I feel like I was back at your roast again, girl.
GAY TIMES: You said so many incredible things but I think I’ve got my headline with, ‘Cheddar Gorgeous: ‘Let us fist social media companies.’
Cheddar: Done. Let us fist Elon Musk into making things better!
GAY TIMES: We’ll go with that. The trolls do make up a small percentage of the Drag Race fanbase, however, so can you both tell me about some positive experiences, online or in person, with fans?
Peppa: I have help with my socials now, where I have my friend help me go through them, but every now and then I’ll come across a comment or inbox message from someone back home in the Caribbean where I’m from and they’ll be like, ‘I remember you. You were that person that was dancing and doing all these competitions in high school and you used to inspire me to be more of myself.’ I’m like, ‘Huh? What?’ The idea of this person finding me… To me, if you knew me then, there’s no way that you would be able to realise who I am today. It’s the idea of this person even remembering who I was and being able to find inspiration in me when, at that time, I was going through my own emotions and whatnot. Knowing that I was helping that person all this time, it is the best feeling ever. Even now, I still feel like I am growing and learning. There are people that still come to me like, ‘You inspire me to be myself. You inspire me to be fearless. You inspire me to not care what people think.’ I can be very much a big statement when it comes to clothes and I just don’t care what people think. A lot of people see that and they’re inspired by that. Those are the better things about online, so to speak, than the negative stuff. I take those things and I always think about them when I’m having a bad day. I don’t lose sight of the people who do look up to me and admire what I do, because they are out there. The negative always finds a way to consume the hundreds of positive, but I always try my best to focus on the positive.
Cheddar: It’s so easy to do, isn’t it Peppa? We are sensitive. Peppa and I don’t like to admit we are human beings, but we are occasionally. So, it is very easy to be consumed by negativity. I have had such a wonderful, overwhelmingly positive response online. I feel very lucky, or maybe I just don’t see the negative anymore because I don’t look on Reddit. Maybe there’s an entire group of negative comments that I’m just not aware of because I’ve been on social media for a very long time now, and I’ve a healthier relationship with it than I used to have in terms of being able to look at what you need to look at. The most meaningful interaction, for me, has been around the pink triangle look. I was contacted by a lot of positive people for that and every single message… I made a point of trying to make sure I checked my messages really thoroughly because every message was such an affirming thing. There’s nothing greater than being told that what you do has resonated and had significance for somebody and maybe, it felt like it did some good. I quite like the idea that the things I do can have a reach outside of just me being fabulous. A lot of the time, we’re in this together and we also have to be the louder voice for the people who aren’t always being listened to. That was very special.
GAY TIMES: Drag Race is still a strong political force, whether it’s raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, Dakota sashaying into the werkroom as the first trans woman and Baby prioritising her mental health. The show still has such a huge impact on queer youth at home, so what are your hopes for the future of Drag Race UK when it comes to spotlighting certain issues?
Peppa: My hopes are: put yourself in other people’s shoes. Try to understand that we’re all human. It’s okay to root for your faves without having to tear anyone else down, because that’s one thing I’ve been noticing a lot lately. You can cheer for your favourite people without, in the same breath, having to tear down another girl. At the end of the day, we all deserve to be here. We worked so hard to get to where we are today. A lot of people forget that. We were doing the damn thing before we were on the show. Whatever happens on the show doesn’t dictate how talented we are and how great we are at what we do, because we only see a fraction of what the show decides to show of our capabilities. For some girls, they show more than others because some girls leave by week one and others don’t. I think it’s so important to always bear that in mind and not discredit a girl like, ‘She wasn’t great. She was this and that,’ or ‘I can say this about that girl because I am team this person and that person.’ The fandom can be great, but it can also be toxic. That makes the experience very complex and difficult for some girls more than others.
Cheddar: I think that empathy is the mission. Empathy is the only mission that really matters. For empathy to be possible, there needs to be space to deal with the complexity of the people’s lives you’re seeing on screen. So, more room for that complexity to allow that empathy to grow.
GAY TIMES: What would it mean for you both to follow in the footsteps of The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Krystal Versace as the UK’s Next Drag Superstar?
Peppa: I just want to swim around in cash. It would mean the world to me to be representing the UK as a winner because it would show that everything in my life led up to this point. And I’ll have a platform to make change. I feel like being a drag queen is something that’s very political. I feel like we live in a time where there’s so much happening. Without having to get into it, there’s so many things that are happening that I wish, if I had the platform – and I kind of, in a way, do now – a lot more people will listen than if you didn’t have that. I feel like that’s really important. Representation is important. Being vocal is important. All these things really matter. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t care for politics growing up and now, more-so than ever, being queer, being Black, being non-binary, the world is against me. All odds are against me. It is very important for me to be able to use my voice, more than ever to represent and be able to make that change.
Cheddar: Obviously, it would make my ultimate goal of beginning a cult a lot easier…
GAY TIMES: I’ll join!
Cheddar: Thank you, you’re gonna love it. Like Peppa, I’m really interested in expanding people’s ideas of what drag can do and what the limitations of drag are. It’s no secret that my stuff may be a little bit more serious, but I believe drag is the Trojan Horse. The reason why we are entertaining and why we’re fun is because we have so much more to say and so much more to offer. Anything that allows me to have more attention in doing that is a good thing.
The finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season four airs this Thursday on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer.