Then came the most shocking moment in the history of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Declaring that this was “the easiest decision I’ve had to make all season,” BenDeLaCreme pulled out a lipstick bearing her name written in whiteout. “I’m going home,” she said.
DeLa talked to Billboard about making her shocking decision, Drag Race’s producers and more.
So the first question I have to ask you — where did you get the whiteout?
Oh my god! Ok, let me tell you, because this plays into the larger story of how this decision came about. There were so many weird little fractions that fell into place that all had to align perfectly for what happened to happen. So, the whole idea for even switching the name on the lipstick actually came from an ongoing joke that Trixie and I were always making on the show. We were like, "You know what, if we win the lip sync, we're just gonna write Michelle's name on the lipstick." [laughs] And we always joked about using whiteout to do that, but of course there's no white-out anywhere on set.
However, it came to me on the episode when all the girls returned — I remembered that on episode two, Thorgy Thor was painting her fingernails with whiteout. So I went over to Thorgy and said, "Thorgy, do you still have that whiteout in your bag?" And she was like, "Yeah, why do you need it?" I just said, "Don't worry about it." I shoved it in my bra, and the rest is history. But it was like, if all of those pieces hadn't fallen into place it couldn't have happened.
You said you didn't have that strong drive for the prize like the other girls in the top five did. Why was the title less important to you?
See, that's a thing that was true in that moment. You know what I mean? Like we all come in like, "Oh this is the thing that we want!" But for me, I came on and never expected to do as well as I did, because you can't expect to do well or you won't, right? Like, you have to always be keeping failure in mind if you're going to be kick enough ass to succeed. I was honestly dumbfounded by my own performance in the competition so far, and I never envisioned feeling like I'd succeeded this much on the show.
So it was the thing where I saw, in that moment, the others of the top five were so upset at the idea that they would have to go home at this point. And I realized, "Oh, each of them feels like there's still something that they want to prove. And I actually feel fully satisfied with my experience." Like I said, it was all of these little pieces coming together. I don't think I would have felt that way under any other circumstances. It was like, "Oh, at this point, I have shown the world that I am capable, and I don't have to keep going along with a rule that has never sat well with me."
There have been a lot of reactions on the Internet, and some of them were people who were disappointed or angry that you left. What would you say to them?
I don't know the specifics of that, because I have gotten a lot of responses, and the majority of it is mostly supportive. But yeah, I think those specific lines of criticism sounds like it's still stuck in the mindset that there's one way to win, there's one way to succeed. And my message that I've tried to convey through my actions on the competition, and in my life, is that you create your own rules, you create your own success. It's that old RuPaul quote, "What other people think of me is none of my business." So you know, once the heat of the moment has passed, I hope that those people able to open their minds. Like, "Oh, if I don't get that job promotion, that doesn't mean I failed. If I don't have that new car, it doesn't mean I failed."
Another thing that's been circling the internet is a quote from an interview you did around the time of All Stars 2, where you talk about the show's producers being willing to ruin relationships for entertainment. Do you still feel that way?
[laughs] That quote has been haunting me like a ghost. That was a fiery quote, huh? When I gave that quote initially, it was right when All Stars 2 had started airing, and it was just after the second episode when Adore left. I was very ... impassioned. So ... I stand by the general sentiment. I think in art and entertainment and universally as a culture, we focus too much on the drama of conflict. I mean, look at the Great British Baking Show! People love that show, and that's just a bunch of nice British people making sponge cake in a tent! Nobody fights on that show!
But I will say that in that interview, I spoke without nuance, and that is the universal problem with all of this. We try to boil things down to good or bad or wrong or right. One of the people who makes this show is RuPaul, who is one of my heroes, you know? I think that RuPaul has done incredible things for our community, and incredible things for me personally. Not just bringing me on TV, but being a light in the dark when I was a child. When I was a young, queer kid in the middle of nowhere, I remember seeing RuPaul on the red carpet of the MTV Music Awards and being like, "I don't understand what I'm looking at, but I understand that something about this makes me feel like I'm not alone." So do I wish there was less conflict on Drag Race? Sure, I think I've made that abundantly clear. But I also think that there are a million more incredible things about Drag Race and what it symbolizes and the way it shapes our culture.
Before you go, we're asking everyone this season — who is your favorite local queen?
From Seattle? Well, Jinkx Monsoon doesn't count anymore, though I still get to work with her all of the time. We're about to be in a show together in Seattle next week, and I adore her. But I'm gonna go with somebody who is not a traditional queen, but is a male burlesque dancer that I've been working with forever, his name is Waxie Moon. He plays the lead character in "Capitol Hill" which is a web series that I host. He is an absolute delight, he's a Juliard-trained dancer who is absolutely willing to just be a goofball in the world. I adore her.