After nearly four months of grueling competition, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14 is finally coming to a close.
On Friday (April 22), the top five queens of the season — Angeria Paris VanMicheals, Bosco, Daya Betty, Lady Camden and Willow Pill — will duke it out in a lip-sync smackdown for the crown. The winner will not only walk away with the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar, but a boosted cash prize of $150,000, while the runner-up queen will also take home an additional $50,000 thanks to a new rule introduced just before the finale.
Since the start of the season, Lady Camden has proven to be a force of nature in the drag competition. Whether it was her gut-busting overacting on the ostentatious “Daytona Wind” acting challenge, her slip-and-fall-into-a-mustache-reveal on the runway, or her glorious performance in the Rusical challenge, Camden has quickly become both a fan-favorite and a frontrunner for the crown.
Below, Billboard chats with Lady Camden ahead of the finale airing about the key to a good Rusical performance, why she’s currently “obsessed” with Arana Grande, and her on-camera journey from shy background character to a queen telling herself, “Oh, b–ch, I got this.”
Congratulations on making it to the finale, Lady! How are you feeling about making it to the end of the competition?
It’s probably sappy to say that I’m proud of myself, but I am! [Laughs.] That s–t was so hard! I’m proud of getting to the finale — a lot of people, I think, were surprised with my journey. Was I surprised? No. I know myself, and I knew that I was going to have a hard time with believing in myself and having the confidence I needed, because I like to show my talents and prove who I am rather than talking about it. So, I’m just really proud that I made it far enough to show everybody who I am.
I love that you brought up the journey, because I was fascinated by your trajectory — you clearly built up to that first challenge win in “The Daytona Wind,” and then from there, you were practically unstoppable. Did you feel that momentum while you were in the competition?
I think I just realized that everything stopping me up to that point was all self-talk. It was all, “Oh, I don’t know if I can do this, I don’t know if I can do that.” Especially after my second win, I was fully like, “Oh, b–ch I got this. Hold my purse, let me go.” I think that the only thing that really changed was that I believed in myself — I didn’t change what I brought, I didn’t change who I was, I just let myself have fun with it. I know that’s been advice given by past Drag Race contestants is to have fun with every challenge, but you can’t help but feel like, going into it, that’s easier said than done! You don’t end up listening to that advice.
So yeah, I think that it was my mentality that changed, because I remember thinking, “The biggest risk right now is to not worry about failing.” I would constantly use that mechanism, because if I could preemptively imagine all of the things that could go wrong, then I was protecting my feelings. I could “catch myself before I land,” which is something that Angie told me once. But I realized that I could take that emotional parachute away, and it got me all the way here.
Speaking of that second win — your performance in Moulin Ru, I’ll just go ahead and say, was one of the best Rusical performances that we’ve had on Drag Race. What advice would you offer to queens looking to excel in the Rusical on future seasons?
See, I think the shift that happened when I realized that this actually was a really good part for me was ultimately me understanding that it’s not about the part that you get, because every part on the show is designed to be an opportunity. As much as people want to be like, “Oh, this part is kind of small,” it’s not about the size of it. Every role that the writers gave us for this Rusical had something. I mean, look at Willow! She was not in the entire show, and then as soon as she came onstage, she lit that s–t on fire! That’s an example, where it’s not the part you get, it’s about how you can make it yours.
I went to acting school, and my training is very much about “bring yourself to the situation.” Usually, you as a person have so much more ammunition than you could add to a new character that you just made. I’m not the emcee of a nightclub with a beard, but maybe I know what it’s like to run a show, and to make sure everyone’s doing what I need them to do! I know what it’s like to want money! So I was literally just channeling what it would feel like to be in that situation. So, the long-winded advice here is to find yourself in whatever role you get, and you’re going to turn it out into something magical.
I love that you recently shared that short film showing off your incredible ballet skills — were you at all bummed that you didn’t get to show off your ballet skills more on Drag Race?
Right, I got to a little bit in the premiere with my talent show, but it wasn’t really real ballet, it was sort of drag ballet. I think Ru gave me some advice then, which was “Why is it drag?” And I know that it’s a drag show and we need to entertain people, but I think I took that throughout everything and was like … ballet is who I was. It’s a beautiful time of my life, I loved being a ballet dancer, and it was some of the hardest years of my life, and also some of the most ecstatic feelings I’ve had on stage.
The downside of that is that my actual personality was not really on display, it wasn’t free — I was dancing in roles that were choreographed by other people, and being perfected, and rehearsing so that they would be consistent. Drag is like, “No, b—h, we’ve seen that. Fall down, get up, wear a mustache, whatever!” I’ve learned a new inner confidence from all of this — like, honestly, I never felt sexy until now. I’ve never felt genuinely beautiful until I became a drag queen, and I don’t really want to go back. I love ballet, and I will still go to the ballet and love it. But I think what I needed as a human was to sort of let go of that perfectionism, because I felt so trapped in this shyness. The journey of Drag Race really let me step out of that.
Now, things have changed for the finale — the winner is now taking home $150,000, while the runner-up will win $50,000. What was your reaction to this news?
At first, I was very much like, “Ooh, yay!” Of course, who wouldn’t? Duh! Like, “Great, f–king awesome, more money!” And then I thought that the other queens of previous seasons were going to be pissed! [Laughs.] But truthfully, I’m not someone who tries to focus too much on what I’m going to get out of something, because that never really satisfies you as an artist. Like, if you’re an actor, if all you care about is money or admiration, then we’ll smell it!
You have to focus on nothing but what you’re actually doing, and not what’s on the other side of it. That way, you’re not expecting the money, and you’re not disappointed if you don’t get it, you’re just focused on what you’re doing — and then afterwards, you can wake up out of the dream and be like, “Ooh, yay, money!” So I’m trying not think about the money, honestly — I know that’s a pageant answer, but it doesn’t produce good work! I just wanna give the people a show!
If you were to make the pitch for yourself, why do you think you deserve to be crowned the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14?
I think I’ve had the best journey, in terms of finding myself. I feel like I represent someone who never believed in myself anywhere near enough, and then rediscovered who I am during the process. I know that I have the talent to work forever, I know I have what it takes to be a superstar. I know that I am going to continue to kill it! I mean, just look at what I did on the show — I am a theater baby, I always will be, and I am going to do big things with that! I’ve always been a dreamer, you know? I’ve always lived in a fantasy, and even at times where it feels like a silly idea or a silly dream, I’ve never listened to anyone when they’ve told me all of that, and it’s gotten me this far. So I will continue refusing to listen to the naysayers, because it’s a waste of my time!
Before I let you go — is there a particular song, album or artist that you’ve found yourself going to lately for inspiration?
Ooh, I have two here. First, I’m obsessed with Ariana Grande. I’m a huge Ari stan. When she first followed me and commented on my page the first time, I’m not even embarrassed to tell you that I drunk, messy-cried for like a good hour. Now, I’m trying to be cool! I’m trying to be her friend, like, “What’s good.” [Laughs.] So yes, of course, Ariana. When I first sort of departed from being a bunhead into someone that’s interested in pop culture, she was the first person I obsessed over.
But in addition to that, I’ve been listening to “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen a lot. I just feel like, you know, Queen is already a huge inspiration in general for me. But there’s something about the words of “Don’t Stop Me Now,” of the trajectory of that song, that’s kind of how I’ve been feeling since I stepped into the workroom. Like, “Don’t stop me now/ I’m having such a good time/ I’m having a ball,” it’s just like … I am! It’s good to have a f–king ball sometimes! Life is meant to be enjoyed, and I think that song has been sort of a reminder lately, telling me, “Don’t worry about the ride ending, just go forth!”