When she entered the workroom on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 6, Kylie Sonique Love had one mission: to show the world just how hard she’d worked in the 11 years since her appearance on Drag Race season 2. “I just wanted to go and do my f—ing thing,” Love tells Billboard over the phone with a giggle. “I was gonna take all my stuff I learned about drag and apply it to what I was up there doing. And clearly, it paid off.”
On Thursday (Sept. 2), Love got to see that hard work finally come to fruition, when RuPaul declared her the winner of All Stars 6, and the latest addition to the Drag Race Hall of Fame. It’s a moment that not only meant a lot to Kylie, but to transgender fans watching at home — Love’s crowning made her the first transgender woman to win on any U.S. season of the show (Drag Race Thailand crowned the franchise’s first-ever trans winner, Angele Anang, back in 2019).
Love says she’s proud to be the first trans winner on All Stars, and that she’s even more proud that she’ll get to continue doing drag — she says that during the pandemic, she found herself questioning whether or not she would ever be able to perform at queer clubs again thanks to the after-effects of COVID-19.
“I didn’t think I was ever going to get to do drag again,” she says. “When I got called to do [All Stars 6], even then I didn’t know what was going to happen. Like, ‘I might just be sitting at home, watching myself on TV doing drag for the last time in my career.'”
Below, Kylie Sonique Love chats with Billboard about her historic win, her hopes for the future of drag performance, Dolly Parton, her now-iconic lip sync moment from the finale and much more.
You’ve just won All Stars 6! How are you feeling after getting to watch yourself win on national TV?
It felt really good! Honestly, I tried to disconnect myself from thinking about winning or losing since I got back from filming, because it felt like that was apart from everything I wanted to do. I was proud of everything I did on the show, and at the end of the day, it’s not my choice who takes home the crown and the money and all of that. So, I was like, “All right girl, win or lose we’re gonna be the same, so we don’t get caught up in our feelings. So, honestly, I feel the same — I don’t feel any different than I felt from when the show started, because I’ve just been working really hard, and I didn’t wanna get caught up in the game. That being said, I am so grateful for all of this. Plus, it’s like … “All right girl, we got this extra money that I wasn’t counting on!” So now I’m working my ass off to get Gizmo [Love’s dog] this house I promised him.
Can’t wait to see Gizmo in his new house, honestly.
Yes, sir, we need to get him a yard! [Laughs.]
Your win is also historic — you are now officially the first transgender queen to win a U.S. season of the show! How does that feel, making history on the show as your true self?
Well, it’s really good to now know that there is a trans person on television winning. We haven’t really had that before — often, we see trans people fighting to be a part of things, fighting just to be in the Olympics, fighting to be able to just use the right bathroom. But to just go and do something where you don’t need permission from anybody, and you just need to be fierce and kill it, it feels really good. To be honest, I didn’t really go in think of myself as “the trans person.” I just am.
Honestly, during the pandemic, I didn’t think I was ever going to get to do drag again. When I got called to do [All Stars 6], even then I didn’t know what was going to happen. Like, “I might just be sitting at home, watching myself on TV doing drag for the last time in my career.” Who knew that we were finally going to be out and about by now? So I wanted to make every moment count, I wanted to make sure that I was very proud of what I did. I never tried to compare myself to anyone else in the room, because I didn’t want to limit myself. If I had a sister that was sad or upset, and I felt like I could say something to help make them feel better, I did that. We shared the room together, and the energy was super important. So when I felt there was a negative energy, I wanted to kind of flip the script on that. Like, I’ve let that energy get to me in my past, and it’s not good.
When you say you weren’t sure if All Stars 6 would be your last time doing drag — are you saying you were close to quitting, or that it had become nearly impossible to do because of COVID? Or was it both?
I absolutely did not want to quit, and I would never just quit doing drag. That being said, all of the queens lost our jobs because of the pandemic. We couldn’t go to clubs, and the few times that I saw queens manage to get back out, they were wearing face shields, like … what the hell, you know? Drag is about having fun, being around people, being carefree, and often being messy [laughs]. It’s a place where you’re supposed to not worry about the chaos of the world, and we couldn’t do that for over a year. I was watching everything and thinking, “This is not what I fell in love with when I started, and I don’t know if this is something I’m willing to permanently adapt to.” I need to be in a room full of people and feel their energy — I don’t need to have defogger on my f—ing face shield so that when I lip sync there’s no condensation, you know? But when I got that magic call, honey, I said, “All right, time to get it together.” You know that movie The Incredibles, and the big workout montage in the train yard? That was me [laughs]. I had to get it together, and then I watched at home like, “Damn, I am a skinny b—-.” I worked my ass off, lemme tell you.
There was a moment in the finale that everyone has been talking about — in your final “Stupid Love” lip sync, you tripped over a piece of fabric and then fully turned it into a forward roll. What was going through your mind the moment that happened?
It felt crazy. I was in a dress, I didn’t think I was gonna be doing stunts, I thought I was just gonna be spinning around! Then all of a sudden, my foot catches this very slippery boa on the stage, and honey, my feet were flying out from underneath me. Everything went into slow motion, it was like the moment straight out of a movie — everything was moving slow, but your mind is still thinking at [and] moving at normal speed. It was just like, “B—-, do a f—ing dive roll, and pose when you land. Make it look good!” And that’s exactly what I did! All those years of gymnastics paid off, honey! There was a reason I wore a gown — because no one had seen me perform on the show without doing some kind of stunt. But I realize that’s what makes me unique on the stage. So it kind of felt like the universe made me do a roll [laughs]. I thought I had blown it, honestly, but I still was like, “Don’t stop, give it all you have.” Even watching it back, I was like “Oh god, they’re gonna see I slipped.” I have been thinking about this the entire time since we filmed! Like, “I fully f—ed up!” But it clearly worked out [laughs]!
— RuPaul's Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) September 3, 2021
Another performance of yours that fans can’t seem to stop talking about is your Dolly Parton impersonation on the Snatch Game. When you’re in the moment, improvising with Ru, how do you come up with a full song and still offer perfectly in-character witty banter like that?
You know, I just made the song up! I don’t know what to tell you. I did say that it was going to be available on iTunes, so I’m still working on that [laughs]. But yeah, I mean, everything I said I came up with, for the most part, on the spot. Truly, there’s stuff that I said while in the game that I just don’t remember saying at all. Like the whole “Jurassic Park” bit? Don’t remember saying that!
That’s wild! I have to imagine doing so well in that challenge had to feel good, especially considering that you went home after Snatch Game in season 2.
Oh my god, girl [laughs]. I was like, “Honey, whatever you do, we’re gonna make sure that we do our homework for Snatch Game.” I studied Dolly, I watched her do interviews and talk shows and looked at how she would respond to people. What I learned was that Dolly Parton listens a lot, and she speaks directly from the heart. So that’s exactly what I did — there were a lot of times where I wanted to jump in and say something, but then it was like, “No, don’t come across as stealing the spotlight. Wait for the right moment.” And it just turned into a conversation! I simplified what Snatch Game is supposed to be, instead of turning it into this big monster of a challenge that I have to defeat. I made it fun for myself, didn’t overthink it, and it worked out!
There are a lot of young fans at home who get to watch Drag Race and look up to the queer and trans people representing them on television — what would you say to the young folks that are looking up to you after this historical win?
It don’t matter who you are, how you identify, or where you come from — if you have a dream, and you have the passion and the will to survive, then anything is possible for you. And just know that there is no such thing as a perfect childhood, you know? I think that’s something that toughens us up and prepares us for the world — but the truth is, the world is only as scary as we all allow it to be. Perception is everything, so find the good in every situation. Whatever is meant for you will be for you, as long as you work hard and follow your truth.