Painted with Raven is back and the contestants are hungry. “Every single one,” reveals Raven. “Not one of them is like, ‘I just wanna go a certain distance,’ or ‘I’d love to make it to the top two.’ No, they want to win.” The Drag Race legend and eponymous host continues the search for ‘America’s Next Makeup Superstar’ with eight ambitious new contestants from across the United States, who will once again compete virtually in a series of mini and maxi-challenges for the aforementioned title and a cash prize of $25,000.
The return of the makeover competition series follows Raven’s herstoric stint on the fourth season of Drag Race UK, where she became the first-ever former alumni to sit behind the judging panel on a season hosted by RuPaul. First! Ever! Read ahead for our interview with Raven, where we discuss the second season of Painted with Raven, why the series excludes international artists and her friendship slash partnership with RuPaul.
Raven, you became the first-ever Drag Race alumni to sit behind a panel on a RuPaul-hosted season. How did it feel to make herstory?
I get nervous when I go into anything. I was going to say ‘nervous’ when I go into unknown territory but that’s a lie, I get nervous even when I’m in common territory, things I do all the time. Always nervous, before I get on stage. I’m back there shaking. My voice starts to crack. I was also very excited because I have watched them all compete. You’re rooting for them, enjoying them, watching them saying, ‘Gosh, why did she wear that?’ or ‘She should’ve done this!’ To be able to actually voice it and speak with them, it was fun. The day before I got to be in the werkroom and chit-chat with them a little bit and to do it on the makeover challenge is like… That’s where I should be giving critiques. It was fun. The second we were done I was like, ‘Can’t wait to do it again.’
Well, we need to get you an Academy Award to sit next to your Emmy because you fake it so well. Raven, we’ll get you that EGOT.
Well the Grammy will definitely have to be for some technical thing, because I do not sing!
But… you were great in season two for the rock challenge with Terri Nun. We’ll get you that Grammy!
Okay, today is the day that Sam told me that I will be getting an EGOT. I’m gonna work on that.
Yeah, how hard can it be? Condragualations on the success and renewal of Painted with Raven. How did you find the reception to season one?
Honestly, when I go into anything I’m always thinking, ‘Gosh, I wonder if people are going to like this, if it’s going to be enjoyed, if it’s going to be embraced.’ To find out that people were clamouring for it and going, ‘We want more!’ was great. Then, to finally come back and be able to film season two… What a privilege, what an honour, what a dream come true to be able to sit down once again and to tweak a few things. There are a few changes you’ll notice in season two. It’s an absolute honour to do what I do. I’m very happy.
The first season of any show can feel like a trial run, of sorts. You mentioned there were some tweaks, so what particular elements did you change for season two?
When we talked about the idea and it was Zoom, I originally thought, ‘I don’t know how that’s going to work, but let’s try it.’ Of course, I was reassured by everyone with what people are doing online with TikTok’s and Reels. You know, why wouldn’t it work? So, I was very pleased to see how it all came together because filming it is one thing, but then piecing it together is another thing. We didn’t realise that, we give them all this time to get ready so all of that time, I’m just sitting there waiting for them to do their makeup! But I was adamant early on that they needed to be given a set amount of time because we want them to be able to succeed. We wanted it to be harder to pick one out of the bunch as the best than know exactly who’s going to be in the bottom. That goes across the board for any reality competition, they want everyone to succeed. Being someone who does makeup and had trial and error with looks, I wanted to give them the opportunity to step back and go, ‘Okay, let me fix this. This is what I want to present.’ We learned to incorporate in those breaks and other types of things to make the time go by not so slowly. When they jump on screen for the first time and everyone sees them, I see them for the first time. I wanted that shock factor.
Because it is virtual, did you ever consider opening up the competition to international contestants?
We did think about it. We thought, ‘Maybe we can do a couple of people from the UK, a couple from Down Under, a couple of people from Europe or different parts of the world.’ But then, if it’s going to be one in the morning for them or 10 at night… That’s the only reason we didn’t do that. I would love for it to be international but it’s hard for someone to commit to eight episodes, do their makeup at midnight and go through the process of it. It would be hard. That’s the only reason we don’t.
One aspect of Painted with Raven that has been applauded is that there’s no eliminations. How did you initially decide to include no eliminations with this format?
We wanted it to be able to see what it could be if someone didn’t do so well in a challenge, had to sit one out and then to see some of the artists react. On this season, we get a couple reactions out of artists when they are muted, when you can tell that they really wanted to do this challenge but they didn’t get to. Then, to see them come back and go, ‘Wow, they are rising to the occasion.’ I do think that in some reality competitions that eliminations is what lights the fire under someone’s butt than the grand prize, so eliminations do need to be kept in some formats. But, I think here it’s great that we said, ‘No, let’s just do it this way.’ Plus, it’s part of the whole Zoom lingo – someone has to sit out, someone’s on mute, someone’s got to take a break. So, it’s just weaved itself into the format.
Number two has followed you throughout your career, having started drag in 2002 and placing second on both Drag Race and All Stars 1. Now, you have a second season of your own show. It’s come full circle?!
[Laughs] Yeah! That’s one of the things that I said. When we went to do this, I said I want a big number two somewhere on the face. I think we got it on there once but we didn’t like it. Number two is my unlucky number, I guess you could say? It’s become a running joke and people have made fun of it, but I embrace it. If you’re gonna be anywhere and not the winner, why don’t you be number two?
How would you describe the new batch of contestants and what they bring to season two?
Every single one of them is hungry. Every single one. Not one of them is like, ‘I just wanna go a certain distance,’ or ‘I’d love to make it to the top two.’ No, they want to win. They’re there to win. They actually utter, ‘I want to win this.’ There’s a fire in them and they’re a little hungrier than the season one contestants. I don’t get to see what they say in confessionals but I think that they definitely all love each other, they all enjoy their time together and being with each other virtually. They’re a little hungrier.
RuPaul returns as executive producer and guest judge for season two. You’ve been collaborators for years now, how would you describe this partnership between you both?
Ru and I both come from the same viewpoint. We know there’s a job to do and we always show up early and ready to go, but we both look at things and go, ‘Let’s try that. Let’s do that. Oh, that didn’t work? Well we just won’t do it again.’ We just don’t take things seriously and I guess that doesn’t sound good when you’re producing shows, but life in general we don’t take seriously. We look at things through bright-coloured glasses and we see the world for what it is. We know to go, ‘Okay, this isn’t that big of a deal.’ We go in and have fun. It’s like two friends hanging out in a cute little studio apartment all day making each other laugh and doing each other’s hair and makeup.
It’s laughing at the absurdity of life, right?
That’s how it should be. I feel so many people, especially now, are so caught up in what other people are posting or saying or doing. It’s just saying, ‘I’m going right here and enjoying the things that make me happy.’
Painted With Raven returns to WOW Presents Plus for a second season from 7pm on Thursday 17 November. Subscribe now at https://uk.wowpresentsplus.