After three long months and over a dozen unforgettable lip syncs, season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race came to a dazzling finish Thursday (May 30) night at Los Angeles’ Orpheum Theatre. Ultimately, Yvie Oddly snatched the crown and the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar (along with a $100,000 check) after beating out Brooke Lynn Hytes in an epic lip sync to Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory.”
Dallas’ own A’Keria Chanel Davenport gagged fans (and won-over non fans) this season by constantly delivering performances and looks that defied any prior judgments viewers may have had. She first sashayed into the workroom presenting a fishy beauty queen aesthetic, telling viewers she was proud of her pageant background and determined to change any negative perceptions or preconceived notions of what a “pageant queen” could be—and boy, did she succeed.
A’Keria spoke with Billboard about her run on the show this season, what it was like preparing for the final lip sync battle royale, what she’s excited about now that the show is over, and much more.
Congratulations on everything this season — you have a lot to be proud of. How has this whole experience been?
Oh, well, I got a pay increase of course! But it’s been amazing, meeting the fans and hearing the different stories of how you inspire people. I try to keep myself very humble, so hearing stories about how I’ve actually had some type of impact on someone else’s life makes me feel very fulfilled. It’s just been a very fulfilling experience.
When you came first came onto the show, you weren’t ashamed to brand yourself as a pageant queen, even though you ended up doing a lot of things that pageant queens aren’t really known for. What was it like getting to do things like acting like a crazy twerker in the L.A.D.P. challenge?
The thing about it is that’s how I honestly act! When I was in that challenge, that’s who I am as Greg, like every day all day cutting up and acting a fool. That was me. But it was even better to be able to do it as A’Keria because, you know, with pageantry, they want you to be so polished; you can’t say this, you have to act like that at all times when you’re in the public eye. So allowing myself to be a fool, but also being in drag, it was just like, “Okay girl! I got the hang of this!”
Was there a challenge you were worried about not doing well in?
Dancing. Any time it was a dancing challenge, baby, it’s just like “Oh, here we go.”
But you won one of the dancing challenges!
Yeah, I definitely was excited about that because it was my first win, plus I won a challenge that I wasn’t so confident in going into it. But I’m one of those people where if I am struggling, I’ll never show it on my face. So even in the challenge, my goal was of course to have the routine, but also to just keep that game face on the entire time, because not only was I trying to lead myself to victory, I had a crew of girls that were under me that I was also trying to lead to victory.
So when you went on the show, what did you want to present and get across as who A’Keria Chanel Davenport is? Did you want people to perceive you in a certain way?
When I came on the show, I didn’t really think of what I wanted people to think of me. I try not to really focus too much on what others think of me because as long as I’m being who I truly am, people are gonna like you or they’re gonna hate you regardless. I can wake up every day confident in myself knowing that I’m human, I make mistakes, but this is also who I am. Either you’re gonna love me or you’re gonna hate me, but are you going to respect me or embrace me? So I didn’t really go in saying “I want to be this” because if you do that, you kind of get wrapped up in what you think that people may want.
I saw a video of you at a pageant a few years ago performing this crazy song, “Take Time” by Ledisi, and you always brought character to your lip syncs on the show. When you’re on stage, what do you want to deliver every time and what’s the energy you want to bring?
My goal is always to just be entertaining. When you’re on stage, it’s just a moment of release. If you’ve had a bad week, depending on what song you’re doing, that could come out on stage. I did shows where I was going through a breakup, and my only way [to cope] instead of crying was being like “Well girl, you better do some type of strong ballad in the show and get that energy out!” Or the same goes if you’re hyped about something. So it’s just always about entertaining; that’s always been my goal: to be entertaining.
Speaking of performing, what was the process of getting ready for the finale like?
A lot of sewing. That was the hardest part. I sew for myself a lot, so finding the time to make outfits with the busy schedule that I had. As far as prepping for the actual lip syncs and stuff, I really can’t say I really practiced or prepped because like I said, I like to entertain, so going into it I just wanted to entertain, period. To me, I feel like you really can’t practice something that should come naturally because you want the fans to see you having fun in that moment.
You just kicked off the season 11 tour. What are you looking forward to about touring in the next year?
Well I’m excited to see what tour life is like. This is my first tour ever, so I’m excited to see what that’s like. It’s also a chance to bond with other girls outside of competition. It’s a lot different when you’re free and you’re okay and you can drink and you can socialize the way you want to and you’re not so forced in competition mode or at each other’s throats. It allows you to actually enjoy who the other girls are.
Right. And you tweeted yesterday about your sisterhood with the other girls and to celebrate whoever the winner may be.
My thing with that is I just feel like it’s just like with pageantry. At the end of the night, there can only be one winner. So of course I’ll get sad if I’m not crowned, but that’s one of the things that pageantry has taught me: how to lose. At this point, win, lose, or draw, I don’t feel like I actually lost because some things you take and you grow from that. Everybody’s journey is not going to be the same, so what’s for me is for me and just because I don’t have a crown doesn’t mean that there’s not something better out there for me.
Regardless of what may happen tomorrow… I’m am TRULY happy for WHOEVER may win! I truly love them and when the sisterhood is real then you can still celebrate them.
— AkeriaDavenport (@A_doubleC_D) May 30, 2019
That’s the best attitude to have because all of you have already won.
We all have already won. We’re working; the fans love us. There’s no point in me being evil at heart or being upset with the girl who is crowned because she didn’t pick herself!
So what’s next for A’Keria? What are you excited about for yourself to do in the next year besides touring?
I actually have some upcoming projects that I’m working on, some business interests coming up, some charities that I’m working on, so that’s what I’m definitely excited for. If you don’t know, I’m really big on skincare, so I’m actually trying to get my foot wet with a lot of skincare products and get into that field. So many people focus on the beauty products and cosmetics, but you gotta have that canvas right first! Also, many people don’t know this, but I want a funeral home!
Yeah, I get that same reaction out of a lot of people. I want a funeral home. I’m also talking to charities who help transgender women and youths in the LGBTQ+ community. There’s a lot of children who are out here who don’t know the way, or they’re beating themselves up because of something they don’t fully understand, and it’s not helping when their bully or their family neglects them at that point. So even if it’s just making sure we have counselors or somebody they can talk to, or a phone number that they can call, how to deal with bullying or how to deal with what it is that you’re going through and not fully understanding about yourself.