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BeBe Zahara Benet Talks Upcoming Music Projects & 'Drag Race' Return: 'I'm Coming Back for My Coin!'

Bebe Zahara Benet
Courtesy of VH1

Bebe Zahara Benet

RuPaul’s Drag Race returned last Thursday (Jan 25) with its third iteration of All Stars -- and the stakes are even higher. Not only are heavyweights like Trixie Mattel, Shanegla and BenDeLaCreme returning for the battle royale, but the mysterious tenth competitor was finally revealed: season one winner BeBe Zahara Benet. The Cameroonian drag artist is the first winner to return to compete in a second season of Drag Race.

In celebration of her return, the OG drag superstar talked to Billboard about the show’s impact on pop culture, her upcoming music projects and why she decided to return: “RuPaul owes me $80,000. I’m coming back for my coin!”

RuPaul’s Drag Race began filming while President George W. Bush was in office and has grown into a cultural juggernaut. What has been the most exciting change as the show has evolved?

BeBe Zahara Benet: I think that people are taking our artistry a little more serious compared to when we started. They are of course fascinated and entertained by who we are as performers and what we do in terms of our artistry, but a lot of viewers identify with us as human beings. I think that that has helped change how people view drag.

And also, you know, it's become so [immersed in] pop culture because you see a lot of what we do with other mainstream artists. Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Rihanna, all of these artists that we do love -- you see so much of what we do, the personas, makeup, hair, fashion -- like, all of is now incorporated in pop culture, and a lot of it has to do with drag, because we over-exaggerate everything, right? We take it out to the next level. I think that people now put two and two together and they can learn to really appreciate what we do as artists.

So why did you decide to come back for All Stars? You've already got a crown, girl!

There isn't a rule book that says that a crowned queen cannot come and compete on All Stars. But when I was asked to the show, I was a little bit hesitant because I knew exactly what [people would] say, you know. I knew it was going to be polarizing; I knew that people would really, really love it, or they would really, really hate it.

But what really made me finalize my decision to come back to the show is the fact that times have changed a lot, and I have also evolved a lot as an artist. I felt like this was a great platform to get to showcase my artistry to a new generation of Drag Race lovers, and also to show that my OG supporters have been with me right from the get-go. And plus, I can also learn new tricks from the newer generation, because to be a very solid entertainer and an artist, you have to be willing to learn from anybody and everybody. So, hey, a queen can learn new tricks.

And plus, RuPaul owes me $80,000. I’m coming back for my coin!

I'm curious, when you first walked into a work room, was there a one specific queen you were intimidated by?

Oh no, absolutely not. I don't get intimidated, you know. Because I feel like when you get intimidated, you become nervous, and then you turn to fear. And then that all becomes the distraction from what the purpose is in the first place. Going in there I allowed myself, just like I did in season one, to keep an open heart, keep an open mind, and to make sure that I do my very best.

You performed an original song on the premiere of All Stars 3. Can we expect more music from you?

Oh, yeah. This year is gonna be a lot of ear candy, which I'm excited about. You know, many people do not know that I am so immersed when it comes to music. I have such a huge knowledge of music. I like my songs, I like my melodies, my harmonies, you know. And I'm so excited to have another platform where I can share this different kind of music and reach your ears. Also, most people don't know, but I have an amazing live show where we take pop music -- we take original tunes and we [reinterrupt them with a] world beat.

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