Before making it to American television over the last three months, The Vivienne had already made history — as the first-ever winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K., the Welsh star already proved that she was an icon.
Gaining a reputation for being an exceedingly well-rounded queen, Viv excelled at acting, singing, comedy, fashion and just about everything else the judges managed to throw at her throughout her season. There was little surprise when she was announced as one of the all-winner cast members for All Stars 7 that the queen was more than ready to snatch wigs, and maybe even the crown.
And then the twists happened — after winning three challenges (one of which she did not receive a Legendary Legend Star for thanks to a strategic block), The Vivienne and the rest of the cast found out on last week’s episode that the final talent show challenge would be worth three stars, meaning they needed to win or find themselves out of the finale. Failing to secure the win, The Vivienne, along with Raja, Yvie Oddly and Jaida Essence Hall were left out of the top four, although were promised an opportunity to win $50,000 in this week’s finale after an auxiliary lip-sync showdown.
Ahead of the finale, The Vivienne spoke with Billboard about working with songwriting legend Dianne Warren, facing pressure as the only British queen on the season, and her “heartbreaking” reaction to last week’s big twist.
Viv, the season is almost over, we’ve only got one episode left! How are you feeling about the end of All Stars 7?
Sad! I only realized this morning that we’ve just got the one episode left. It’s been such an event every week, and seeing the online engagement and the fans going crazy for it … yeah, it’s gonna be sad, I’m gonna miss it. But, I do think it’s going to be talked about for a long time.
I know, in doing this show, you’ve gotten the chance to spend a lot more time in the States, and you’ve been touring the U.S. lately — how’s that experience been for you thus far?
Oh, it has been brilliant. Usually when I come to America, it’s either New York or L.A., but I’m getting to see these smaller towns and bring our drag shows there! We were in Sioux Falls, South Dakota the other night, which is a lovely little town. It’s so cool, everyone’s so grateful, the fans are all amazing at the shows. I mean, if you told 12 year old me that I would be touring the U.S. in a big tour bus with all of this production, I’d have lost it. It’s mad, I love it.
Toward the start of the season, you were talking a lot about how you felt a pressure being the only U.K. girl on the show. What prompted that mentality, and did you ever feel that pressure lift during the season?
Well, I think everyone has a lot of expectation when it comes to American drag, and then a different expectation of British drag — they are different in a way, but then I kind of realized that I we’re all just drag queens. We’re all doing the same thing, with the same goal of entertainment! As long as you’re doing your job and giving people a good time, then we’ve got nothing to worry about, have we? The biggest thing, honestly, was the cultural difference in that British people talk at a certain volume level. American queens speak at a higher one. [Laughs.] It was hard getting into conversations at first, enjoying all of the fun of it — I think it took that first win, and I completely snapped out of it. I knew I was here for a reason.
There is so much to talk about in this episode, starting with the fact that this talent show challenge was worth 3 stars. When you heard Ru say that, what was the immediate reaction? Excitement? Fear? Anger?
Oh, God, it was all of the above! Part of me definitely felt like, “This is bulls–t” — it felt like someone had kicked me in the balls. There was an instant realization that I needed to win this challenge, or it was game over for me. I think a lot of us felt like that — to know that I’d one three challenges, been blocked for one, but I still had a chance to make the top four. But then if you don’t win this challenge, then you’re out.
It was heartbreaking, I’m not going to lie, and a hard thing. I know it’s reality TV, but it was a hard thing to watch, as someone with three wins, to see someone get to the finale with only two wins. That’s not the queen’s fault, though, it’s the game! It’s a cutthroat game, at the end of the day.
You can at least rest easy knowing that you got to perform your own original song that was written by Diane Warren. I was so gagged when you said you worked with her on this!
Yeah, that’s true! Diane Warren wrote “B—h on Heels,” I’ve been obsessed with her since I was a kid — she’s written every hit of every one of my idols. Cher, Lady Gaga, Celine, all of ’em. I remember when my manager phoned me and said, “Do you know who Diane Warren is?” I nearly fell off the edge of the Earth. Next thing I know, I’m sat chatting with her, and then I’m in the studio, and here we are!
What was she like to work with?
She’s fabulous, the coolest person. She’s got a potty mouth, she was like, “Let’s make a f–king hit, b—h!” And I was like, “Ok, Diane!”
I mean, to both of your credit, “B—h On Heels” is an absolute banger, so the task was accomplished.
Oh, thank you! I haven’t seen the performance yet, I hope it was alright.
I also want to applaud you for your moment toward the end of the episode when Ru teased the $50,000 side lip-sync, and you just crumpled yelling “what now,” it was so funny.
Oh, did they leave that in? [Laughs.] Yes! I cannot wait to see it. Ok, so this is the crying episode, where I cry a lot. Truly, that was pure raw emotion right then — I put everything I had into the season, and you know… every single emotion just bubbled up to the surface right then. But you know, when you’re told, “This is it,” it’s brutal! And then there’s the twist, and it’s like, “What?” It’s salt in the wound.
Here’s the thing, thanks to your lip sync wins, you are at least walking away with some prize money!
Yes, true! I can’t remember how much I won, but it’s certainly more than I won in the U.K. [Laughs.]\
Well, as we look back on this season and all of the ones that came before, do you have a favorite moment in the Drag Race franchise?
Oh my god, there’s too many! The Shangela monologue, Shannel’s snake dress falling off in season one, it’s all great TV. Oh, but of course, for me, the red wig and a silver dress moment will always be iconic.
Before you go, can you share what you’ve been listening to lately?
Oh gosh — I’m an Aerosmith fan, so I listen to a lot of them when I’m getting ready. Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf, very much that, I’m an old American rock queen.
I would have never pegged you as an Aerosmith fan.
Oh, my musical taste is everywhere. Mary Poppins one minute, “Sweet Emotion” the next.