'RuPaul's Drag Race:' Vanessa Vanjie Mateo Talks Meeting Christina Aguilera, Her Favorite Local Queen & More

Vanessa Vanjie Mateo
Krista Schlueter

Vanessa Vanjie Mateo photographed on March 21, 2018 at TRL Studios in New York.

On Thursday night (March 22), RuPaul’s Drag Race kicked off its 10th season with all kinds of stunts and shenanigans. The new queens entered the competition with a runway-working mini challenge, followed by a new take on the show’s first-ever main challenge: Drag on a Dime. The girls were given 99 cent store items and told to turn the cheap items into expensive-looking, runway-ready looks that they needed to show off to the judges, including the pop icon herself, Christina Aguilera.

With the Lip Sync for Your Life rules back in effect after a controversial season of All Stars, Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo found themselves in the bottom two for their dollar bill and Barbie doll looks, respectively. Lip syncing to Aguilera’s iconic hit “Ain’t No Other Man,” Kalorie emerged the winner, sending Vanessa packing.

Mateo talked to Billboard the day after her elimination about meeting her pop queen Xtina, her relationship with her drag mother Alexis Mateo and more.

Hey queen, how’s it going?

Stephen! Stephen, Stephen, Stephen, we're having this interview, but you know what the hell happened last night, boo boo? You seen that damn episode? What the hell! I mean, this time Destiny's Child got split up and then kicked Beyoncé out instead of Kelly or Michelle! No ma'am.

[laughs] Well I was gonna ask how you were feeling after last night, but I feel like you made that pretty clear.

No honestly, I'm doing great, actually. Since last night, everyone has been saying such nice things to me, so I'm good.

That's great! Now you caught a little flack onstage for your Drag on a Dime look. If you could go back, would you change anything about your runway?

You know what I would've did? I would've just glued two flowers on my nipples and made a panty out of flowers, since I guess Michelle wanted to see my body. I would have gave her that, and I would have come out with my body. I understand what they were saying, but that's not what I was trying to feature with that look. I was trying to give them more Met Gala Rihanna, when she came out with that origami flower dress. That's what I was trying to feature, but Michelle wanted body. And I probably would have used less 99 cent store stuff, since everybody that didn't use that many 99 cent things got further than me.

But it's all OK because you met Christina Aguilera! What was it like working with her?

I am a huge Christina Aguilera fan, so when I saw her, I basically interviewed her like how you're interviewing me right now [laughs]. I asked her every question I had in my head, the things I have been wondering about her music forever. Seeing her, such an icon, I mean ... I was gagged, honestly. She was so sweet, super polite, she said only nice things to everybody. I don't know, I couldn't even put it into one word for you. It was such an amazing opportunity. If I went home, I'm glad it was with Christina Aguilera there. She will always remember me as that bitch that was in the bottom, had to kick her shoe off while she was lip syncing and got sent the f--k home.

You are the drag daughter of Alexis Mateo. How did you and Alexis meet, and what is your relationship like today?

I met Alexis through the pageant circuit. I was dancing for her as a backup dancer, and then we ended up becoming really close. I've always been a person that she could call when she needed something, and vice versa, if I needed something, she was always the first person I would call. We got close, and now we actually live together. We're best friends, she's such a mentor to me and someone who is always there for me when I need something. We are just a family that supports one another and helps each other with their dreams.

What was her reaction when you got booked for season 10?

She was so excited for me! She has always said to me, "You are going to be on Drag Race." Like, she just knew that it would happen. She said, "The moment you audition, you will make it because you've got something. When something is meant for someone, then it is going to happen," that's what she always said. "It will happen." So I got on the show, and she was like, "I told you!" She was so excited for me, and then it was time to work. We came up with so many amazing looks, which I wish I got to show. One thing is for sure — my closet was ready to go with all kind of looks. I was well-equipped for those runways.

You and Alexis both come from the Florida scene, which is home to stars like Roxxxy Andrews, Ginger Minj, Latrice Royale, Trinity Taylor, etc. What makes Florida girls stand out from the rest?

Yes, girl! You know, the Florida drag scene is a big, pageant scene. They love them some pageants down here. They are all competitive, and they take drag so serious, and to them, it's not just a hobby, it's not a little thing we do to take money. It's a career, it's a life, and we take it so seriously. You know, Roxxxy said all of the time that this is her job. It's not a joke to her, which is so true. We all take it so seriously, and because everyone is so talented it makes everyone become better. When you surround yourself with people who inspire you, and that love the same things, that's how you build your presence onstage. You see other talented entertainers, and you are just excited to be like them.

Do you have a favorite local queen down in Florida?

Oh god ... I have so many! Let's see, if I were to put someone on the show from Florida ... lord, I don't know there's so many I like! But you know what, I would probably say Amanda D'Rhod. That girl would turn the damn party if she were on the show. She is so sickening.

So of the remaining girls, who would you say you're rooting for?

I am rooting for a couple of them. I'm definitely rooting for Eureka — if you saw Untucked, I was really close to her. I couldn't tell you what, but something drew me to her when I first met her. So Eureka, I'm also rooting for Mayhem, I love her so much. Oh, and Asia O'Hara, too, oh my god! If I picked my top three, those are my three right there. I'm close with a lot of them, but I speak to those three on a daily basis. I love them.

Well before you go, what's next for you, Beyoncé?

Oh, you know I'm coming out with all kinds of shenanigans. I'm going to DragCon, I'm gonna be screaming on that microphone, I'm gonna be making myself present on social media, I'm coming out with videos, I'm coming out with a bump track, so I will be out here selling all kinds of crazy shenanigans. Best believe, this is not the end of the road. This is just the beginning of the race for me!


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