It was a sickening premiere of RuPaul's Drag Race season 6. On Monday night's episode, the contestants were shocked to learn that RuPaul had changed the rules by splitting the competing 14 queens into two separate groups for the early stages of the race. As a result, the viewers have only met seven thus far, and one of them, Kelly Mantle, has already sashayed away.
The Advocate spoke with Kelly Mantle about this game change and the challenges of the episode, which involved a photo shoot of a free fall into a pit of foam and a television-inspired ensemble (Mantle's look, which was meant to conjure Downton Abbey, was criticized for serving more bacon than Britain, a barb that he spoofed in a recent music video), as well as the final lip sync against Vivacious, the veteran New York club kid.
How did you prepare for RuPaul’s Drag Race?
I stopped eating and started reading Sewing for Dummies. I didn't learn how to sew ... but I ended up with a 28-inch waist.
What was your reaction to RuPaul’s rule change of splitting the queens into two premieres? Do you think this helped or hurt your chances?
It hurt my chances because I could've just hid behind Darienne Lake and the judges wouldn't have seen my horrible skirt.
What is the hardest part of jumping into a pit of foam during a photo shoot?
Getting out of it.
A few of the judges read you for your Downton Abbey ensemble — Michelle Visage said the top resembled bacon, and Santino objected to the fabric of the skirt. Adam Lambert, however, thought it was very feminine. How would you defend your look?
Well, I defended it by writing a song about it. It's called "Eliminated." You can buy it on iTunes and watch the video on YouTube.
Looking back on the episode, would you have done anything differently to avoid elimination?
Yeah ... use a glue gun instead of trying to sew. I thought I would get props for actually using a sewing machine since it was a "sewing challenge." I didn't realize it was called a "glue gun challenge."
Who are your favorites among the queens this season?
Bianca Del Rio, Adore Delano, Milk, and I've got mad love for Vivacious.
Was there another contestant from this episode that you thought should have gone home first?
Gia Gunt — misspelled on purpose.
Your uncle was Mickey Mantle, the famed baseball player for the Yankees. Was he a major influence on your life? Do you see parallels between the worlds of drag and professional sports?
Most definitely I see a comparison. That's why I love that it's called Drag Race. And there's always a sense of sportsmanship among drag queens, just like athletes — although that fell short with a few queens in this first group of seven. And yes, Uncle Mickey was a huge influence on my life. He's mentioned right up there with Uncle Sam and apple pie. He's an American legend. So it was very surreal to grow up around. And we've got a lot in common, ya know. We're both switch-hitters.
What was your reaction to college football star Michael Sam’s coming-out?
I was thrilled! So proud of him. I'd love to take him dancing. Or put him in drag. His drag name could be Michelle Samantha Fox.
What first attracted you to drag?
When I was little, wanting to play the role of Annie in our community theater ... and not understanding why they wouldn't let me audition for the role.
What should a drag queen always keep in her purse?
Her iPhone, so she doesn't spill her drink on it.
You have quite an acting résumé. Are there any films that you’ll be rooting for this weekend at the Oscars? What are some of your favorite television shows? Other than RuPaul’s Drag Race, of course.
I am obsessed with Cate Blanchett's performance in Blue Jasmine. She's such a brilliant actress in everything she does. So I'm definitely rooting for her to win. As far as television shows, I really dig Boardwalk Empire. My friend Paul Sparks is on it. We actually went to high school together. And of course, I've got to tune in each week to my favorite diva, Ms. NeNe Leakes, on The Real Housewives of Atlanta. She slays me.
What’s next after RuPaul?
I'm trying to get cast on The Bad Girls Club. What do you think? Ha ha! As I mentioned, my new single and music video called "Eliminated" is out. You can get it on iTunes and watch the video on YouTube. I'm starring in a movie called Confessions of a Womanizer with Gary Busey and C. Thomas Howell, which is premiering at the Oscar-affiliated Cinequest Film Festival in March. And I've got lots of new music being released this year. Keep up with me on Facebook, Twitter, and my website at KellyMantle.com.
Thanks, Kelly! RuPaul's Drag Race airs Mondays at 9 p.m. Eastern on Logo. And watch Kelly's new music video, "Elimination," below.