'Drag Race' Runner-Up Kameron Michaels Talks Being Underestimated, Thirsty Fans & More

Kameron Michaels
Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic

Kameron Michaels attends VH1's "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 10 Finale at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on June 8, 2018 in Los Angeles.

After four months, a few dozen lip syncs and a lot of drama, season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race finally came to a close on Thursday night. Brooklyn-based drag star Aquaria was crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar after lip syncing against competitors Eureka O’Hara and Kameron Michaels in the final round.

Kameron’s presence in the top three came as a surprise to many, especially after her lip sync against Asia O’Hara, which ended disastrously for the Texas queen, when her planned butterfly release did not go as planned. But the quiet Nashville queen understands that it was a shock to fans because it was also a shock to her. “I, like most people, did not see myself in that position,” she tells Billboard the day after the finale. “I think people have grown to understand me a little bit better.”

Kameron spoke to Billboard about lip syncing in the finale, the drama she experienced at the explosive reunion, dealing with thirsty fans and more.

Congrats on making it to the top three! How did it feel getting to share that with your fans last night?

It was amazing! I, like most people, did not see myself in that position, and I think people have grown to understand me a little bit better. Just because I'm not a loud person when I'm not onstage doesn't mean I'm not an incredible entertainer. I think people finally understand that about me now.

You first lip synced against Asia, who had that unfortunate butterfly incident. Your face looked pretty confused when you saw the butterflies crawling on the stage -- when did you notice what was going on?

You know what's funny is I hadn't even noticed what happened. With all of my lip syncs, I have no idea what the other girls are doing, because I'm just trying to entertain the audience, or in that case Ru herself. So I am not paying attention to what's going on around me, I'm just paying attention to where the other girl is in reference to me so I don't bump into her or hit her. So honestly, I had no clue what had happened when I saw those butterflies, I was so confused.

As you mentioned, you were focused on entertaining Ru and the crowd -- what was your strategy going into this? I know you had a couple of reveals, but what else were you trying to accomplish in your lip syncs?

What's unfortunate is a lot of people have a misconception that I am a one-trick pony. Like, I do a split, I do a cartwheel and I win the lip sync. That is completely false -- that's not why I've been saved, that's not why I've lip synced multiple times. It's because I emote, and when I'm entertaining, I am turning into the character of that song, and I am selling it with my face, with the rest of the moves and not just the splits. [Laughs] And I think that's really important that the whole audience in a theater full of people got to see me as an entertainer, because you can see me working that stage to the left, to the right, to the back, to the front. That's what I do, I am not some one-trick pony.

I want to take just a moment to talk about the reunion -- a few queens, including Monique and Dusty, said they felt you acted cold around them. In an Instagram Live, you said you felt hurt by that. What has that particular critique been like for you to reflect on?

As an introverted person, we don't always walk into a room and say, "I'm here." It's just not my personality, it's not something I do, and a lot of the time, I have to walk into a room and acclimate to my surroundings before I speak, before we engage. That's not necessarily me being shady, or something we're thinking about with our interactions and how we feel about other people. It's just how we deal with things. That's something that I am learning about myself, that other people can be offended by that, and I'm now realizing that my silence or my lack of actions can be misconstrued as that. Thankfully, Monique and Dusty both understand that now, and we've hung out several times since I've been here in the city, and I'm very happy that happened because it was a conversation that needed to be had.

Yeah, and even on the show you gained a reputation for being more introverted and quiet. Who were the queens that you bonded with on set that we maybe didn't get to see?

Huh. Well I guess you got to see the bond between Eureka and I ... honestly, Monique and I had a pretty good bond. She asked me for a piece of hair on the second episode of the show, and ever since then, she was one of the first girls to kind of poke and prod me to try to get me to talk, and to try and get me to engage with the rest of them. Honestly, I had interactions with all of them. The Vixen was so sweet during filming, and I had great interactions with every one of them, truly.

One of the things from this season that everyone is still talking about is the important discussion of racism in the fanbase that The Vixen brought to light. As a white queen on the show, how did those discussions impact you or change your perspective on the Drag Race fanbase?

I think you can see me in the reunion, even though the cameras weren't too focused on me, but I really felt like I didn't have a voice in that moment. Because I ... as a white queen, I have never felt that, and I was just intently listening to what the girls had to say, because I of course have never dealt with that type of racism in the community. It just sucks, it's not something that anyone should have to deal with, everyone on the show is an incredible entertainer. It should not be chalked up to the color of our skin in terms of how our fame or our interactions with the fan base should be. So, I think it's important for those discussions to be had, and things really need to change.

Now the fans have had a different reaction to you, in that they were immediately talking about how attractive you were out of drag. That initially dominated the conversation around you -- did fans ever take that infatuation with you too far into something inappropriate?

I really don't think I've gotten anything that the other girls haven't gotten. I have this rule where I don't open direct messages if there it strictly says there is a picture attached to it out of sheer caution. [Laughs] I think I know better. But no, people ask me why I don't post a lot of boy pictures anymore, and it's because I had this narrative where I was there to just be the cute boy this season. And that's not why I was there at all, and I think once you watch the full season, you realize that I was there for my drag. That was something I wanted to do online, too, is concentrate on my drag.

I feel like a lot of people underestimate Nashville as a major city for drag, but it really is. Who would you say is the best local representation of what Nashville drag is to you?

Oh god, I mean all of my sisters. I mean we've got The Princess, we have Brooke Lynn Hytes, Aurora Sexton, Jaidynn Dior Fierce, Nichole Ellington Dupree, I mean there's so many other local girls that have come up from working on a Sunday night in the drag scene. Nashville is kind of a home base for some of the best entertainers in this industry, and I think people are finally starting to realize that now.

Well what is next for you, Kameron? Can we expect music anytime soon?

Well there's going to be a lot of touring. [Laughs] I'm gonna be on this tour, and then we're doing a 10's Across the Board tour with my sisters. So I will be touring a lot, unfortunately with not a lot of down time. But I have been working on some music, there is some stuff from the studio. Unfortunately, I am a perfectionist, and until things are up to the level of excellence that I want, I will be releasing that. So I'm gonna have some more time to sit in the studio and write that. I think people do expect music from me, so yes, it will be coming.