You won the online vote to be on RuPaul season 2. What was your strategy?
Well, I didn’t have strategies at that point in my life; I just wanted to be a part of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I decided to do the online voting, but my friend, Esmeralda, she was the one doing everything to make people vote for me. She did a great job because the complete island was voting for me, and I had the support of people both in and out of Puerto Rico. She is the one I owe all of the support to.Was it just lots of social media: Facebook, Instagram...?
Those years it was MySpace! Remember this was 11 years ago. Esmeralda was pushing me a lot because I was lazy with social media—I’m still kind of lazy on that—but Esmeralda was my manager, and that’s why I won. She pushed everybody.
Alright, thanks, Esmeralda!
Do you think you had an edge going into the season because you were already a fan favorite?
No, when they announced me, I actually felt like I had more pressure because the other girls, nobody knew until the show came on TV, but everybody already knew me. The casting site results came out six months before the show, so for six months people were asking me what happened inside the competition.
How long had you been doing drag prior to RuPaul? How did you start doing drag?
I have been doing drag for 19 years. I started in 1998. I’m a dancer, I’m a makeup artist, I’m an actor, and, with Jessica, I’m everything. Before RuPaul, I did drag just for fun and just to express my art. I didn’t know, at that time, it was going to be my passion, and it was going to be my career, so when Drag Race came to my life, it changed everything because I realized this is my business, this is my job, and I’m very proud of myself.
Now, queens are like, “Oh, I want to be Valentina. Oh, I want to be Trixie.” At some point, it’s just like, be yourself.
How is the drag scene different in Puerto Rico versus the United States?
Right now, it’s also really different from when I started doing drag. I think now I have opened my eyes to different types of drag, but in those years, if you were not a good performer, people didn’t give a shit about you. You needed to dance, you needed to do choreography, you needed to be fierce. When I moved to the US, I realized that you can be funny, you can have a beard, you don’t need to wear pads, you just need to express your art in the way that you want as a drag queen.Do you think the show has changed a lot too?
Oh yeah! It’s very different from my season. Especially because this new generation is inspired by other drag queens, and in my generation, I was inspired by artists. I mixed everything: I like this from Madonna, I like this from Gloria Estefan. Now, queens are like, “Oh, I want to be Valentina. Oh, I want to be Trixie.” At some point, it’s just like, be yourself. Also, everything was new for all of us, like Snatch Game, it was the first Snatch Game for our season. Now you know that you need to bring a character, that you need to know how to do jokes, when you walk for the first time into the Werk Room you need a catchphrase. In my year, I just opened the door and I was just impressed that I was on drag race.
I think that’s because of the internet. Everyone is like, “I’m gonna be a meme, I’m gonna get on social media!”
Yeah, it’s like “I need to go viral, I need to have an impact!” But in our years, it was just like I just want to win.
Do drag queens feel pressure to leave PR to make a larger name somewhere else?
I felt a lot of pressure, especially since in Season 1, Nina Flowers was top two, so it put on the pressure that I was representing Puerto Rico, I was representing Latinos, I was representing my friends, I was representing my brand, and it was too much! And with the language barrier. Right now, my English is not perfect, but at least I can have a conversation and understand what’s going on around me. In those years it was basically zero, so I had all of the pressure that you can imagine plus [the language barrier].
Do you think drag helped you learn English?
It helped me a lot. Traveling and meeting people around the world. My English got better because I moved to Boston and I moved to Los Angeles, and I’m not scared anymore. I used to be scared to do interviews, be on red carpets, do TV in English because I felt like “fuck, I’m gonna sound dumb!” Now I realize I just don’t care. At least I speak another language. Some people don’t speak more than one, so I’m proud of myself.
You said Madonna and Gloria Estefan, who else are inspirations for you?
From now: J. Lo and Lady Gaga, but mostly I’m on the Latin side like Olga Tañón, Gloria Trevi, Mónica Naranjo, and Thalía. Also, these artists are inspired by drag queens too. Like when Madonna did Vogue, for the straight community, it was like “oh, look at this Madonna dance,” but Madonna knows that Vogue is from our community.
What do you think the judges are really looking for from their contestants? Do you think queens who play it safe are more successful or the ones who take risks go farther?
You know what, this is about what the fuck they want. And sometimes you think you look fierce and the girl that looked like shit is their favorite. They love—and it’s not the judges, it’s the producers—to play with your nerves and with how secure you feel.
What would you have done differently if you could go back?
Well, I can’t go back to the past, so I’m going to talk about what I would change if I go on All Stars. I want to have better outfits and better hair, because when they called me for Season 2, I was broke as fuck. It’s not like I’m rich right now, but at least I have more people to help me. And I’m not going to be scared about the challenges. I’m not going to be scared about the language barrier. I’m just going to enjoy and to have a good time. I want people to see who I am right now and how much I have grown.