Drag Race France is in the middle of its inaugural season and it is proven to be a hit for Drag Race fans.
The latest international spinoff of the globe-spanning franchise is hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12 alum Nicky Doll.
Shadow and Act Unscripted spoke with the drag star ahead of the series premiere to talk about going from contestant to host, fandom criticism, having a French ball legend on the panel, if she’d return for All Stars, who she’s rooting for on All Stars 7 and much more.
How did the opportunity come about to host 'Drag Race France' and did you always know you wanted be a part of a French version of the show if there would be one?
ND: The thing is, when I started the big adventure of Drag Race and being able to represent my country in America, I was trying to figure out how I could bring back some of that experience and some of that industry back to France, because it was definitely a more greener industry at the time when I left. So when I got the call and I was talking with production and we were figuring out how we would make this happen. I definitely felt very humbled by it, but also extremely motivated because I knew my heart was in the right place for it. And then when all of it happened, I was just going to work and pinching myself in the morning. So it was definitely an amazing experience for sure.
What's the biggest difference between Nicky Doll the 'Drag Race' contestant and Nicky Doll the 'Drag Race' judge?
ND: I think that the contestant was a very ambitious hustler that left her culture, her country, and her comfort zone to go and challenge herself. And the host is a fully rounded artist, and someone that learned a lot on the road and comes back to model and come and teach the girls what I’ve learned throughout these years, and what I’ve learned and what the industry taught me across the world, and what I’ve seen, what are the type of drag I’ve seen and how the experience and the people that I’ve met, and the fellow artists that I got that I learned from, really opened my eyes to see what drag can be and what drag should be and what and how to do it. Instead of being a mother figure, because she’s only 31 [laughs], I’m more of like a big sister that has a lot of empathy and because I’ve been through it and I know how much of a pressure cooker it can be. I try to guide them through the stress and the inner saboteur. And I think I did a pretty good job.
You know how the 'Drag Race' fandom is, and of course, when you were announced as host a lot of fans were like how can she host when she didn't when-- when in actuality, a lot of 'Drag Race' hosts haven't won. How were you able to tune out a lot of that?
ND: The thing that I said to myself is, “Regardless of what you do, people will always have opinions about it.” I’d rather have people have opinion about what I do than people having nothing to say about me, because that means I’m not doing much. So that is already something that I brush off. At some point, I was reading some of the comments, I have to say, 90% of the time, it has been very uplifting, positive and really celebratory. [But] then you do happen to see some of these hateful comments.
And then I started asking myself, ‘What was the purpose of a host?’ I think that the show has been built behind RuPaul’s legacy [and] RuPaul’s career. That was the root of the show…how someone that experienced life and someone that experienced the business can teach girls how to follow his footsteps. As much as I don’t think that the formula has been built behind my experience, I do believe that regardless of whether I won or not, season 12, I did learn a lot from season 12, and I did put into action advice and feedback from judges and feedback from other queens that I’ve been able to acknowledge and see. And it did work, because I am the most successful and followed French queen in the whole world and I am someone that managed to successfully get to levels that I wanted to get to.
I think that itself gives me the power to have something to say to the girls and to be able to be that big sister figure. I was already that big sister figure before the show was even a thing because I was that girl that was going around places and living the dream. So, it just makes sense that I am that person. I also know that I am a good person with power now, and I think that as long as your heart is in the right place, there is only good thing that can come out of it.
Tell us about this cast that was assembled for this first season of the show!
ND: I think the first season cast is a good mix of girls that are already known on social media and have really built a name for themselves, [as well as] more obscure names that I hadn’t even heard of before even starting [the season].
But I think that overall, it’s an incredible cast because it really shows you that the most followed people don’t have to be always the most talented because I’ve discovered girls that had few followers that are incredible on season 1. I can compare that to Heidi N Closet on season 12. I remember Heidi had maybe 600 followers and look at the star that she is now. So I think that the first season of Drag Race France really showcased that as well. You can have girls from the big cities that really built a name for themselves and smaller girls that are yet to become iconic.
What was it like having Daphné Bürki and Kiddy Smile on the judges panel alongside you?
ND: It was very interesting to work alongside Daphné Bürki because when I was still building my brand coming back from Drag Race season 12, she was the one that gave me one of my first spot on a talk show to really talk about me and my career and what I wanted to do. So now, having her by my side to judge newer queens felt like a well-rounded experience overall. And Kiddy Smile is someone that I grew up as an adult with. He is a mother figure in the ballroom. He’s an iconic voguer and dancer and just overall a badass b***h, so I think it’s great to have him by his side. Both of them did such a great job at not only having opinions and trying to guide the girls, but also supporting me and allowing me to rest on their shoulders whenever the emotion was overwhelming. Because the thing is, when you host, but you come with a contested background, you really have a lot of empathy and you really understand that you are about to crush someone’s dream.
I was able to do was to show them that maybe the adventure was done for now, but the dream was not broken. The dream was yet to be built. That was just a great part to focus on– to heal as fast as possible for the real challenge to start. I’m excited for drag to learn so much from the ballroom scene. The ballroom scene has so much drag in it as well. So I think that it made so much sense to have someone who is not only is someone from the ballroom scene, but also a mother of a house. He really understands what serving charisma, unique nerve and talent on the main stage means and how to carry yourself and how to present yourself and how to perform. We all know that judging in the ballroom scene can be very tough, and he’s no exception to that.
I think the girls really learned a lot from him because he knows exactly what’s up, and I learned from him as well. He’s incredible, and I think that also sends a perfect message out there [in] having someone like him by my side because he is just incredible.
What are you most excited for fans to see as far as you being in this new role?
ND: I’m excited for people to hear me speak my language, first of all, because people have an opinion about what I did or what I deliver on season 12 in another language– and most of these people that are making these comments can barely speak my language [laughs]. So that’s pretty funny.
And so I’m excited for people to hear and see how my personality really shines differently when I’m not translating every single word. But also, beyond that, even in America, I think that the whole imposter syndrome and immigrant complex really vanished because I did get to experience more and I did get to believe in myself much more since I’ve seen the show and I’ve been traveling around the world and around the U.S. to work. I’m exactly the same person, but I’m just more fully rounded and more confident. And I think mostly after such a traumatic experience, like the pandemic and COVID and knowing and succeeding at surviving all of these tough times changed me and shaped me into becoming a better performer.
'All Stars 7' is on right now and fans are truly obsessed. With the no eliminations format, it also allows the stakes to be different and really a celebration of these winners. Would you ever return to compete on the show and who are you rooting for on AS7?
Each time I get this question, I always ask the fans, “Should I?” And usually, the answer is pretty positive. So I definitely would love to come back and really show what I can do now that I feel way more grounded and confident. As of now, I’m definitely focused on fulfilling my duty as a host and making sure that I do it the best way possible, but you never know, my a** will be back in this world soon. [laughhs].
And I have to say, I think we’ve seen so many seasons of Drag Race that it’s really hard for me to think that a new season could become my favorite, but I have to say that the all-winners season has been incredible. It is so uplifting. And it’s really an ode to the drag art form. I think seeing so many iconic icons that helped shape what drag has become today is really, really rewarding and feels amazing.
I’m incredibly proud of Jaida, because it’s one thing to be a winner, but it’s another thing to have to compete with other winners. And she is just killing it. Obviously, I’m rooting for her, but whoever wins, I will be happy because every single one of them is bringing their A-game and it’s really amazing to watch.
Drag Race France drops new episodes on Thursdays on WOW Presents Plus.