RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13 is already notable in a number of ways. Filmed in quarantine during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the season’s theme is “New Year, New Ru,” promising unexpected twists alongside a brand new runway and judging panel outfitted for COVID-19 protocol. One of the standout queens so far is Arkansas native and current Los Angeles queen, Symone. Her inspired runways and comedic abilities already have her as a force in the competition and probably one of the most well-rounded competitors in the show’s history.
Out of the show’s four challenges (three of which she competed in), she’s already won two. It’s high praise for the artist behind the queen, Reggie Galvin, who grew up shy in the rural South.
“It’s really weird because when I was a kid, I was very shy, very into myself,” Symone told us in an interview for Shadow and Act Live. “I would go to school and come home and close my door and that was it. So when I found drag, it was my way of expressing myself. And when I found it, I was like, ‘Oh wait, this is what it’s like…I feel like I can like breathe. So I’m not letting this go.’ And so I just literally just kind of like dove into it…I saved up my money and I practiced my makeup, and then when I hit 18, prom came around and I did that [in drag] and I got such a wonderful reception from that. And then like a couple of months, not much longer after prom, I performed for the first time. And then that was really like, ‘Oh, you’re good b*tch..and this is fun.”
Perhaps the most standout moment from the season so far is Symone’s train runway, which was a durag. The runway’s impact has extended far beyond Drag Race, with the queen even getting a shoutout from rapper Guapdad 4000, who wore a lengthy 10 ft.-long durag to the 2020 Emmys, a nod to how hip-hop and drag goes hand in hand. Symone says she was in the car when the idea (also inspired by Rihanna) just fell into her lap, something that she knew had never been done on RuPaul’s Drag Race before and no one would think of.
“I’ve always loved the aesthetic of a durag, especially on men [laughs]. And so I was like, ‘I want to bring that.’ And it had never been done before and I knew that the people who watch this show need to see it and understand where it comes from because there is a stigma that comes with it. There is an image that people have of people that wear it. And I wanted to play with it and put it on its head. It was one of my favorite looks that I brought because I understood what I was doing and understood the impact of it and I really wanted to show it in a very beautiful light because that’s how I see it, and that’s how I want people to see it. Whether it’s on me [or] whether it’s on another male, I just wanted it to be seen the way I see it in, which it is [a] beautiful, Black part of our culture and something to be celebrated.”
She also spoke about how she prepared for the Drag Race fandom, which can be toxic, especially as we’ve seen in some of the reactions to the juicy and spicy Untucked episode last week.
On preparing for the fandom, Symone said, “I’ve seen the good of what the fandom is. Because there’s a lot of good, there’s a lot of love. But I’ve also seen the rotten part of it,” noting her conversations with season 12 alumna Gigi Goode. “I just had to really take myself out of allowing myself to be affected by it. Everyone has an opinion, but I also knew there was another layer of me being of color. And I didn’t know how I was going to be perceived. You just never know until it’s on TV. So I think I just let go of it, whether it’s the love or the like. I enjoyed myself and had a good time and presented what I wanted to on there and didn’t care. But for the most part, it has been a lot of love and, and more than I expected really.”
Particularly in reference to last week’s Untucked, we spoke about there being a mix of the so-called “RuPaul’s Best Friend” race and the drama, and how fans should meet the queens halfway.
“People have been talking about, ‘Oh, you know, some of [the] cast are all too nice. It’s the best friend season, it’s too kumbaya.’ And then once they’re spicy, it’s like, ‘Oh, well she’s aggressive.’ And it’s like, OK, well, you know, this is how drag queens are. This is how people are, this is actually what happens in the back rooms that y’all don’t get to see. So it’s like, yeah, you want the drama or you don’t. You gotta pick a side, pick a side, div! [laughs]”
“We were filming during COVID, we were filming early…like we ain’t waking up at like 12 and hitting it,” she continued. “Being in drag for 12 plus hours and trying to present the best of who you are and still not knowing what’s coming around the corner. I mean, of course the anxieties, pressures, anger, happiness is going to go up and through the roof. But you will never understand until you’re on TV or you’re going through something like that. And that that’s just part of it. But I agree, I wish people would kind of meet us halfway and understand that at the end of the day, this is a TV show. We’re here to entertain. We’re drag queens! That’s what we do.”
Watch the full-length interview below, in which Symone talks about a lot more about the competition, her drag influences, what she hopes to do after her stint on the show and more: