As one of the most iconic contestants in herstory (this is not opinion this is fact), Jiggly Caliente’s involvement with the Filipino version of RuPaul’s Drag Race was met with enormous buzz online. After rising to superstardom on the fourth season, where she blessed viewers with one of the most memorable runways of all time (c’mon Baked Potato Couture!), Jiggly continued to slay the mainstream with a recurring role on Ryan Murphy’s trailblazing trans drama Pose and a comeback on the sixth season of All Stars.
The latter, Jiggly says, was instrumental in her role on Drag Race Philippines, where she follows in the footsteps of former alumni such as Brooke Lynn Hytes and Nicky Doll by making the shift from contestant to judge. “Honestly, I think it all started with my promo look from All Stars, because of that butterfly sleeve,” Jiggly tells GAY TIMES. “I think that’s what started it, and then I got a phone call, ‘Hey, would you be interested?’ If ever! I was like, ‘Okay, sure. Why not?’ I’m not going to turn that down.”
Hosted by legendary actor Paolo Ballesteros, who is best known for hosting one of the longest-running noontime shows in the Philippines, the series follows the same format as the original and its various spin-offs with 12 queens battling it out to be the country’s first-ever ‘Drag Superstar’. Filipino comedian and impersonator KaladKaren joins Jiggly on the panel, marking the first series of Drag Race to feature two openly trans women as regular judges.
To mark the premiere of Drag Race Philippines (the first two episodes are available to stream now on WOW Presents Plus), we spoke with Jiggly about her involvement with the series, why her judging style will never be “malicious” and her response to the so-called ‘fans’ who complain about ‘too much’ Drag Race.
Jiggly, huge congratulations on Drag Race Philippines. How did you get involved with the show?
Honestly, I think it all started with my promo look from All Stars, because of that butterfly sleeve. It became such a big deal, and I honestly didn’t even think about it that way when I was getting my promo look done. I just felt that I didn’t get to show much of my Filipino side on the season because I was only on for two episodes! I didn’t get to rock what I really wanted to wear so when it came to promo, I wanted to have a little bit of the Philippines with me. That butterfly sleeve made such a wave here in the Philippines and the outpouring amount of support I got from the Filipino fans… I think that’s what started it, and then I got a phone call, ‘Hey, would you be interested?’ If ever! I was like, ‘Okay, sure. Why not?’ I’m not going to turn that down! Then, it became a reality.
I didn’t not expect that answer! I love that.
It pays to be pretty!
There’s only been a handful of queens who have made the shift from contestant to judge. How did you personally find that process?
I find it really cool, but it’s also cool that it’s all the girls who’ve lost. It’s none of the girls who have won! So, I feel like this is RuPaul’s consolation prize to me for losing All Stars so quickly. All jokes aside, we are all very knowledgeable on drag and all have our own idea of what drag is. At least for me, I know I have a good grasp on the Filipino drag scene and I think that’s why I got involved with the show and I was asked to be part of it.
Prior to filming, did you speak with any of the other judges such as RuPaul, Brooke Lynn Hytes and Nicky Doll? Did you get any tips or advice from them?
Yes, I have RuPaul’s phone number. No I don’t! I don’t have that phone number. But, I did speak with Michelle Visage about it. She was my main phone call, actually, and she told me to lead with my heart and judge with my art. That was the best advice she could have ever given me.
You’re one of the biggest personalities to ever come out of Drag Race, so viewers are pretty damn excited to see you behind the panel. How would you describe your judging style?
[Laughs] There’s always going to be a punchline. I think my judging with the queens is a lot more relatable because I, all too well, know the feeling of losing on Drag Race. When I give out my critiques, it’s never malicious and it’s more, ‘Okay, here’s how we can make this better.’ It’s never, ‘Your drag is shit!’ That was never the way I judge. It’s more, ‘Let’s find a way to fix this situation so that you could’ve been better in this challenge.’ That’s how I approach my judging style.
What surprised you the most about being on the other side of the panel?
How fucking difficult this job is! Jesus Christ. Michelle said it was going to be hard, but she didn’t say it was going to be that difficult. She didn’t tell me that you’d get invested in the girls. No, she didn’t tell me that part. She only told me to lead with my heart. She wanted me to suffer as much as she did, I guess. [I got attached] to all of them. I didn’t want anyone to go home. After seeing All Stars 7, where nobody went home, I wish nobody went home so we can show the things that they worked for because these queens literally had to do all their preparing for Drag Race in the height of the pandemic in lockdown. Things were very scarce to come by. Wigs were hard to come by, fabric was hard to come by, designers were hard to come by. Some of these girls have to travel four, five or six hours out of their neighbourhoods to go to designers. I just felt bad for them. I couldn’t be a shitty judge and be like, ‘Your dress looks weird.’ I couldn’t do that to any of them because I know how hard it is in the pandemic. It was hard for me in the US getting stuff for All Stars, let alone these girls in the Philippines…
Were you familiar with any of these contestants before the series?
Yes, pretty much all of them. Out of the 12 contestants I’ve met 10 of them, so it was like, ‘Here we go!’
Did that make it easier or harder for you to judge them?
You know what somebody is capable of outside of the competition. When you don’t see them bring that into the competition, it’s heartbreaking because you want to be able to tell them, ‘Wake up and get your shit together.’ It all makes sense now when RuPaul mentions your inner saboteur because people sometimes get in their own way.
That inner saboteur…
It got me too! My inner saboteur is that I refuse to learn how to sew. I have the Beyoncé mentality, okay?! This little diva doesn’t need to know how to sew. Luckily, I don’t have to do that anymore! I don’t have to worry about sewing ever again.
Every single country has their own unique style of doing drag, but what sets Drag Race Philippines apart from other international versions?
How can I say this without giving anything away from the show? The work ethic of the Filipino drag queens is different because a lot of the bars here, the girls go in at four o’clock in the afternoon for rehearsals, do a run-through of the show at nine o’clock and then put the show on at midnight. So, it’s dedication. I don’t really know any other country that does that, that’s what sets these girls apart because they are completely in their job.
How would you like this series to impact the drag scene in the Philippines?
I would like it to go mainstream the way me, Manila Luzon and Ongina and all the other girls have had to go mainstream, like me being on Pose. I want it to open doors for them the way it opened doors for me. That’s what I want to happen, and I feel like it will because these queens are so amazing. It won’t be long until they’re mainstream as well.
Every time a new international version is announced, viewers tend to complain that there’s ‘too much’ Drag Race. What would you say to them?
Think about 10 years ago. Actually, think five years ago when there weren’t any franchise’s of Drag Race and Drag Race was the only one. You have to think about certain countries, at least in the Philippines, it’s very religious and conservative. For Drag Race to have a franchise here in the Philippines, that’s huge. We as queer people, our rights are being taken away as they’re given to us. You have to think about that. This is a blessing that we’re able to have this. So when people say, ‘There’s too much Drag Race…’ bitch, 10 years ago, this didn’t exist. Why are you complaining that our people are being showcased? Why are you complaining that our stories are being told? If anything, you should help celebrate this so that it continues on so the younger queer generation don’t have to go through what we went through. It’s nice to see ourselves on television and that our stories are being told by our people. We don’t have to dream about somebody else representing us. That’s what I have to say to those people. They’re just boring.
In the UK, Drag Race Philippines will premiere with two episodes on 17th August at 12pm BST and continue weekly every Wednesday, with Drag Race Philippines: Untucked airing two days later from Friday 19th August, exclusively on the streamer of all things drag, WOW Presents Plus.
Subscribe via https://uk.wowpresentsplus.