On Thursday night, RuPaul’s Drag Race asked the latest crop of queens to tap into their thespian sides. In an acting challenge, the 14 remaining queens were tested on their performing abilities in two parody films of Get Out and Black Panther, respectively.
Once the films faded to black, one queen had to go. After a thrilling lip sync battle to Britney Spears’ classic club banger “Work Bitch” that included wig reveals, splits and one particularly insane backflip, Vegas queen Kahanna Montrese found herself leaving the competition, while Mercedes Iman Diamond managed to maintain her position.
Kahanna chatted with Billboard the day after her elimination about her unbelievable acrobatics, what it’s like being called “trade,” and the advice her drag mother, Coco Montrese, bestowed upon her before the competition.
How are you feeling after watching your elimination?
I am on top of the world, I am feeling so good, I have gotten so much love. It was amazing watching it, just because, I was so stressed out throughout the whole process, but I am so happy now. I did the best that I could, and now I can see that I was fighting so hard, and that is absolutely clear.
You did fight hard, and that was a lip sync, girl! You landed a roundoff tuck wearing heels! It was amazing!
[Laughs] You know what, that was honestly the first time that I had ever done that! Yes, I am not kidding! I mean, I used to tumble, so backflips and stunts are kind of my thing. But in that moment, I was just like, “Ok girl, I have got to do something that is going to keep me in the game and that people will remember.” That literally came out of my ass, and I can’t believe it worked.
Fans have not only been gagged by your lip syncs, but by your boyish good looks — many have deemed you the “trade” of the season. How does that feel to be looked at that way?
That’s a lot of pressure, I feel [laughs]. But you know what, I’ll take it. That’s sweet! For me, my drag and who I am outside of it is a balance, so the fact that people can understand that means a lot. Because I do take pride in taking care of myself in and out of drag.
So before you left for the competition, did you get any sage advice from your drag mother, Coco Montrese?
Yeah, we talked briefly because Coco is busy, she’s booked out here. But she gave me a little pep talk before I left, saying “Ok, this is how it’s going to be, it’s very intense, this is the hardest thing you could do.” She was telling me, ultimately, to just be myself and have fun, that was her general message for me. That ended up helping me out while I was on the show.
Right, but when you walked in, Vanjie literally clocked you as “Coco’s daughter.” Did that relationship with Coco put any undue pressure on you during your time on the show?
Oh, you have no idea! All of the time! Because, it’s not like she’s just a Drag Race alumna, girl. This is a drag legend, Coco has worked so hard in this industry and created such a name for herself, that people respect just hearing the last name Montrese. For me to be her daughter, I did feel like there was an obligation behind that, but also like … you know, we’re different. So it wasn’t just me picking up where she left off, but it was also me trying to show that I am not Coco. I’m gonna make mistakes [laughs].
On your way out, you said “something’s coming.” Sure enough, you’ve got a new song out and a video on the way for “Scores.” You worked with so many great queens, like Sharon Needles, Trinity the Tuck and Peppermint for the video — what was the message you wanted to get across through this track?
For me, it’s just to let people know, like, do not ever check out on me. Yes, I went home second, but I am still that girl. In the video, it’s just about being independent and strong, and going all the way. You’ll see in the video, I am very much doing that. I am a leader, and I don’t let things that I’ve struggled with take over. I am definitely a fighter, so this is about being that girl. She’s a captain, she’s a head of the varsity squad!