Back in 2009, RuPaul’s Drag Race was not the international pop culture juggernaut that it is today. It was simply a reality show -- combining elements of America’s Top Model and Project Runway -- hosted by a singer/TV personality whose fame (at the time) had peaked in the '90s.
Victoria “Porkchop” Parker, the show’s first-ever eliminated contestant, certainly wasn’t sure where the show was headed after season 1. When she auditioned for the program, she simply saw it as an opportunity to raise her profile. “It was very nerve-wracking to be on the first season of Drag Race, because you didn't know what the future held for the show — if it was going to be a huge hit or a huge flop,” she tells Billboard. “Well luckily for me, the show was a success and I have been remembered.”
Now, a decade after her television debut, Porkchop has seen a significant change in her career, from having fans from around the world to making multiple cameo appearances back on Drag Race. The queen says that Drag Race changed her life for the better, even if she wasn’t on the show for long. “There's endless opportunity that I have been given because I was kicked off the show first,” she insists. “I was on the show for one full episode, and I have milked that 15 minutes of fame for the entire 10 years since then.”
Even before making it onto Drag Race, Porkchop made a name for herself as one of the premier drag stars in America. She was known as one of the best pageant queens in the country, with multiple titles, both national and international, under her belt. She had even appeared in the acclaimed 2008 documentary Pageant, revolving around the 34th Miss Gay America pageant, where she placed as second alternate.
When word got around that RuPaul herself was putting together a reality competition based around drag queens, Porkchop knew that she wanted in. She placed her photo on a website where auditioning queens were voted on and ranked before finally getting hold of one of the show’s producers. After a phone call, she formally applied to be on the show and was later granted a spot.
Porkchop says that going into the show, she was confident that she would do well. She was one of the most well-known queens, and was the only one with a national title appearing on the season. But when Ru announced that the first challenge would require the queens to sew a garment, she knew she was in trouble.
“The only thing I wish I could change is I wish I had never pulled that green horrible outfit off that trash bin,” she says, looking back on her memorable outfit she wore on the runway. “I put it together and made that horrible outfit and wore it on the runway stage. I wish I had not made that, and wish I had made a better selection.”
At first, RuPaul didn’t know what to do in that final moment after Porkchop faced off against Akashia in a lip sync to “Supermodel (You Better Work).” She says that RuPaul stopped production and consulted with her producers to figure out who to send home and what to do. In the end, Ru chose Akashia, a lesser-known queen than Porkchop, to stay. “I just remember walking off the runway, wanting to leave with a positive saying and know that I had not been cast on this show in vain,” she says.
But Porkchop’s elimination spelled trouble in her real life. When she returned home to North Carolina, she was confronted by the owner of Legends, a gay nightclub in Raleigh that she worked at, who told her that she had made a mistake by appearing on the show, and eventually fired her. “He told me that I had made a horrible career decision, that it was going to be the worst thing I'd ever done,” she says. “So no, my RuPaul experience initially was not positive.”
Over the next few years, life wasn’t easy for Porkchop. She moved to Los Angeles in search of auditions and opportunities to do more television. But she says that Drag Race, at the time, was still seen as just another silly reality television show that wouldn’t break through to key audiences, including the gay community.
Part of the show’s struggle for its first three seasons, Porkchop says, was that it didn’t have to support of the national pageants, like Miss Gay America, Miss Gay USofA, or Miss Continental. “None of the national promoters wanted to accept the show, because that would be reaching into their pockets and taking money from their income,” she says. “And so, the first two or three years of the show were an uphill battle.”
But something changed in 2012. When the fourth season of the show aired, Porkchop noticed a demonstrable shift in the way that people talked about Drag Race. Maybe it was the new cast of characters, maybe it was increased production value. But one thing is for sure to Porkchop — season 4 is where the show became what it is today. “People really found out about it and really started enjoying it — that's when things turned around,” she says. “And when things turned around, they turned around forever it seemed.”
Suddenly, Porkchop was attending red carpet events for the show (and subsequently being famously called on by RuPaul during events), getting photographed by some of the best photographers in the country, traveling around the world to perform and even dancing on stage with Miley Cyrus at the 2015 VMAs. It was a dream come true.
But still, Porkchop wants the chance to get to show America exactly what it is she’s capable of, which is why she’s been publicly vying for a spot on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. She confirmed that she is not one of the queens appearing in All Stars 4, much to her own disappointment. “I'm taking this opportunity to once again ask [the producers]: what are you waiting for?” she said. “What have I got to do, stand on my head and do drag? I don't get it!”
The queen, however, says she still has hope that she will make a triumphant return to the show. Her case in point? At this year’s DragCon, the event hosted the first annual Miss DragCon pageant, where multiple queens who were eliminated first in their respective seasons competed for the top prize. Going up against the likes of Coco Montrese, Pandora Boxx and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, Porkchop emerged the winner, snatching the first-ever title.
“I worked from January until May to get ready for that contest,” she admits. “I lost 40 pounds, I got into the best shape I could be, and I did that because I wanted people to notice that I was not going to be sitting back, resting on my laurels … I was really hoping that they would ask me to be on All Stars 4 because of that, but obviously they weren't watching.”
After years of struggle and a lot of uncertainty, Porkchop is in a place where she is recognized for the supreme talent that she is. When looking back on her favorite memories from the last 10 years, the one that sticks out the most to her is also one of the most recent — when RuPaul honored the queens of season 1 at the season 10 finale of the show. Porkchop said that getting that recognition was what all the season 1 stars have always wanted.
“The season 1 girls pretty much did get the shaft,” she said. “Until this year, I don't think that anyone had really thought about how big a chance we took, until RuPaul said that we were people who were brave souls that went on this shows because we were given this opportunity.”
While she had to go through hard times to get to where she is now, Porkchop says that she doesn’t regret any of it. If she could do all of it again, she would, because being the first queen eliminated from RuPaul’s Drag Race turned out to be one of the best things that’s ever happened to her.
“I'm sure I'm not the only person who's suffered because of the show, I'm sure there's other people who had ridicule, maybe lost a job, had many bad things happen,” she says. “But it all turned out for the best, and when you are given an opportunity like that, never turn it down. You take every opportunity that comes.”