Season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race has had a two-part premiere, a series of twists, two talent shows and two fashion balls all within the first three episodes. Unfortunately, the fun and surprises hit a sour note when June Jambalaya was the first to be eliminated–officially.
Writing “officially” is not just a Detox reference, but two other queens, Orion Story and Daya Betty were eliminated before being allowed to come back to rejoin the game on the third episode. But with Jambalaya the first one gone, Shadow and Act had the pleasure of finding out what it was like to be on the show and how she felt during the design challenge.
Shadow and Act: You were one of our immediate favorites at Shadow and Act; congratulations for making it on this season. What was it like to get the call to join the show and become a part of the Ru family?
June Jambalaya: I honestly was couldn’t believe it, because I’ve only been doing drag for about two and a half years, and this was my first time auditioning. And this drag was something I did part-time outside from my nine-to-five. So to get that I was to get the call that I’m worthy enough to go compete in the Olympics of Drag was everything.
With so many girls that are on the season and with the competition being so stiff, what was it like coming into the workroom and seeing the girls for the first time?
It was honestly nerve-wracking, because yes, I’m a competitive person, but every single person there has came to compete and to win. And it was a little nerve-wracking, especially walking in and seeing Kornbread [Jeté], because we trained together in college or seeing Kerri [Colby], because she’s one of the most beautiful faces I’ve ever seen. So it was like, I walked in. I was like, ‘OK!’
Speaking of Kornbread and Kerri, it seems like you three developed a strong friendship early on in the season. What was it like being in the room with them, getting that friendship and just becoming friends with the other contestants?
I had known Kornbread for about eight years now, so I had already knew her and I also, I knew Kerri from her sister Lolita. So. It was very organic to just continue our friendship in this high-pressure situation. But I was very excited to get to know Bosco. Our birthdays are a day apart. [Also] getting to know Willow [Pill] and Alyssa [Hunter] and Orion [Story]. It was the first time I got to actually be around drag artists and create a family, because I didn’t have a drag family.
This is one of the few seasons that have been happening during the pandemic. We’ve talked with other queens about what has been like to get ready during the pandemic, but from your perspective, what was it like preparing everything while this global catastrophe is still happening?
It was, I will say, probably not as difficult as the season before with Symone, because we were on lockdown [prior to the season], but I still faced my challenges of getting certain things in on time and you know, not being able to travel to certain locations for fittings, because a lot of it did come outside of Los Angeles, where I currently live. So that was difficult. So some of the errors and things that you guys see are due to the fact that I wasn’t able to do fittings and try-ons. Things got in, I packed it and I left. It was three weeks to make all of these elaborate items.
Speaking of the garments. We got to see some of them. Uh, but what were some of the items that you were hoping to show up?
Definitely my shoulder pads [look], my mirror [look], I think my finale [look].
And one thing that you talked about in your Meet the Queens interview, and I think also with [managing editor] Trey Mangum at Shadow and Act in our preseason interview series was that you’re like the Real Housewife of drag. How did you come to that aesthetic and what were you hoping to bring to Drag Race with that aesthetic?
I work as a personal shopper and stylist. So I have, you know, worked with some certain Housewives and styled them before. And when I was starting my drag journey, I noticed that, you know, there wasn’t really a ready-to-wear plus size fashion girl. And I just wanted to showcase my love for women, especially women of color. And I am constantly inspired by the women that, you know, go into the mall to get the evening gown and cocktail dress to look there. And, you know, they’re spending a lot of money on like Halston, Carolina Herrera and Ted Baker. So I kind of wanted to take that aesthetic of June as this elaborate housewife, and amp that up with drag.
This season, the viewers have already seen that there are several twists. You have the first twist with two sets of Queens coming in, and then people were going home, people coming back, then the chocolate twist. What was it like experiencing all of that?
It was kind of like you never knew what was coming or what was next. Like, I just kind of rode the wave and I was not prepared for anything, but I expected nothing. Because I knew after the first elimination, what I thought was the first elimination that anything could change, anything could be different. And then the girls come back and then there’s a chocolate bar. And then there’s probably even more twists and turns that continued throughout the season after me…anything could happen.
And I have to ask, speaking of twists, one unexpected moment was when Daya Betty ate that dragonfly on a dare. When I saw that I was like, “Eugh!” What was it like being in the room when that happened?
I still have no clue how or why that happened, but…it did [laughs].
The ball challenge had you and the other contestants creating looks for the mainstage. What was your mindset during that to try to prepare for it and to try to succeed?
[My mindset was] “I’m not a seamstress, but let me just do the best I can do and make something serviceable. As long as I didn’t go down in shopping bags, I was good.”
Since you weren’t a seamstress, did looking around the room make you nervous about what could happen?
Of course. When this is something you’re not skilled at, you’re going to be a little nervous about entering that. So of course, yeah. I had a few nerves and reservations about this challenge.
Each season, everyone is wondering who the queens are going to impersonate for Snatch Game. Who did you have picked out?
I was going to do Tituss Burgess.
Oh cool! Hopefully we can see that on tour or in some of your gigs coming up. Last question: Overall, what has it been like to be a part of this season and to be a part of this huge family of queens and the Drag Race legacy?
I’m very excited, honored, and blessed because like I said, I didn’t really have a drag family. This was just a hobby for me. And now I have connections and resources and peers to help and support me. I’m not completely on my own in this, and that’s the best feeling in the world.
RuPaul’s Drag Race airs Fridays at 8/7c on VH1.