Throughout the ninth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Huffington Post Queer Voices will interview each departing queen on the Saturday following the air date of their elimination episode. Check HuffPost Queer Voices weekly to read about these queens’ reflections on their time on the show, as well as their legacies as queer artists and performers. Check out the previous interview with Jaymes Mansfield, Kimora Blac, Charlie Hides, Eureka O’Hara, Cynthia Lee Fontaine, Aja, Farrah Moan, Valentina and Nina Bo’nina Brown.
With only one more episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” before the reunion and season finale, we’ve really come down to the best of the best this season ― and we witnessed a top five who each deserved to be there for their own unique reasons.
However, someone has to go, and this week it was NYC queen Alexis Michelle. In a season lacking major drama or arch villains, Alexis often seemed to find herself at odds with the other girls these last few episodes. However, even during her shadiest moments broadcast on the show, Alexis always managed to come off as a professional and on top of her game and she scored a number of wins throughout the season.
It was Alexis’ NYC sister Peppermint who sent her packing this week, leaving us with a top four of Pep, Trinity Taylor, Shea Couleé and Sasha Velour. In this interview with HuffPost, Alexis reflects on her accomplishments while on the show, the season as a whole and what she wants to do with her platform as this season of “Drag Race” begins to draw to a close.
HuffPost: Looking back on “Drag Race” since you filmed last summer, how do you feel about the experience? Do you feel like you achieved everything you set out to achieve when you first hit the soundstage?
Alexis Michelle: If I really look back at it, I can’t say that I achieved everything that I was trying to achieve. I think I achieved a lot, but I’m known at home for being a very visual, polished queen and I feel like I brought an element of polish to the show ― but perhaps there were a couple of times where visually, whether it was the pressure or whether it was a bit of misjudgment, I maybe didn’t put my strongest foot forward. And, of course, I would’ve liked to go all the way to the top. So I can’t say I accomplished everything I set out to but I did accomplish at lot.
Is there look or a specific episode or element the show that you were the most proud of?
I definitely felt very proud of my performance in the Kardashian musical ― getting to work with Todrick Hall was such a dream come true. And I have such a fascination with Kris Jenner, so getting to portray her in the musical was so fun and I feel like that was a real shining moment. And, of course, the episode after that was Snatch Game and that was just a great time all around, both to be able to pay tribute to Liza [Minnelli] and to get to make RuPaul laugh. And then to get to do Breathless Mahoney [from “Dick Tracy”] for the Madonna runway was such a dream come true. A big full circle moment for sure.
How do you feel about your portrayal on the show, particularly towards the end of the season? These last few episodes seemed to portray you in somewhat villainous light. Do you think this portrayal is accurate?
Well, let me just clarify by saying I’m not calling any kind of shade on editing. I think that as the competition goes on, the pressure gets higher and stress levels get higher. And then, that being said, I felt a great friendship with all of my sisters and I think that perhaps in a season that really felt a lot like “RuPaul’s Best Friend Race” at times, if there was ever a moment of tension, that’s really going to stand out for people. So perhaps that’s where this perception is coming from but I assure you I was far from the shadiest person in the room [laughs].
As I’m sure you’ve gathered, so much of the show’s fan base now is made up of young teen and preteen girls. Why do you think “Drag Race” resonates so profoundly with this demographic of viewers?
I think that “Drag Race” speaks to a lot of young people in particular because young people in their adolescence are at a time when they’re really defining who they are and drag is all about self expression of who you are. As I’ve been out in the world and I’ve met a lot of these young fans, it’s become clear to me that the inspiration they derive is in us being able to live as ourselves so fully. And I think that to a young person who is figuring themselves out and really defining who they are in the world, that is where the inspiration comes from about living fully, living truthfully and very glamorously, at that. A lot of these young boys and girls love make-up among other things and getting to see us express ourselves so visually, I imagine, is very stimulating.
With “Drag Race” being aired on VH1 this season, do you see any political implications with the show being on such a mainstream network at this moment in history? What are your thoughts about that whole shift?
The move to VH1 is definitely indicative of the fact that the show is more popular than ever and will probably continue to gain popularity. With the move to VH1 we basically doubled the number of people that view the show and that’s really huge and major. And it’s very exciting. I’m glad that perhaps in reaching more people that it’s also reaching people that may not have watched it before. Maybe it’s now more of a mixed crowd watching the show, and I think that’s helpful in the world because connection is what the world lacks a lot of the time and it’s what the world needs the most, I think, is connection.
What do you want to do with the platform that “Drag Race” has given you?
There’s so much that I want to accomplish personally when it comes to acting and singing on stage and on screen. I know that expressing myself in that way does do a lot for a lot of people, as I’ve learned in my travels. But I also just want to make sure that if I have this visibility I can use it to speak my truth politically. We’re in such a time of unrest – and for good reason because there’s a lot of crap going down in the world socially and politically. So if there’s anything I can do to bring light to the right side of history than that’s what I want to do.
Out of everyone left in the competition who are you rooting for?
It’s such a hard question because even with the girls that left previously in the competition there were such good contenders. Any of these girls that are left could win – I kind of want them all to win for different reasons. I love that Trinity represents pageantry and polish but she showed herself to be such a diverse competitor by coming out in very different kinds of looks as well as doing really awesome in acting challenges. I think Shea is so well-versed and well-rounded as a queen. I love that Sasha brought something so intellectual and artistic to the show but so polished at the same. It really never felt rough around the edges with Sasha. And Peppermint is just such a tour de force. You’ve got to see her live – she just sparkles on stage and lights up the room when she’s on the microphone. It’s so hard to say – there’s really something great about all of them.
What do you want people to know and understand about who Alexis Michelle is as an artist going forward?
The first thing everybody should know about me is that I am here to entertain and make you feel great – well, to make you feel. It’s not just about feeling great, it’s about making you feel. Entertainment can sometimes be about distracting from the harsh realities of the world but I say, for me, I want you to feel good, I want you to slip away from all that, but I also want to hold the mirror up to society and perhaps make you think a little bit. And beyond that ― beyond entertaining I want people to know that I’m here to spread love. I think that’s what the world is missing when it gets messed up and that’s my message – just like RuPaul says, “Everybody say love!”
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” airs on Friday nights at 8 PM ET/PT on VH1. Check out “Untucked” below. Missed last week’s interview with Nina Bo’Nina Brown? Head here.