By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com March 19 2014 6:30 AM ET
This week on RuPaul’s Drag Race, the queens were tasked with staging a musical, or Shade: The Rusical, a modern-day morality play by composer Lucian Piane that warns of the dangers that can face a drag queen on the path to stardom. Appropriately, the contestants were split into two teams with opposing leads who are both alumni of the Idol competition: the Australian Courtney Act and the American Adore Delano. In two acts, the season 6 cast demonstrated through song and dance how the bright-eyed Good Penny, played by Act, can be led astray by shady queens, drink “fish oil,” and turn into Bad Penny, played by Delano.
Ultimately, Act’s stage presence wowed the judges, who declared her this week’s winner and left supporting actors Trinity k. Bonet and April Carrion to lip-synch for their lives. The contestants battled it out in one of the fiercest lip-synchs yet, but Carrion, the only representative from Puerto Rico this season, was subsequently eliminated.
The Advocate spoke to Carrion about his love of musicals, the differences in drag culture between Los Angeles and Puerto Rico, and the nod he gave to a former Drag Race contestant and mentor in his farewell message.
The Advocate: How did you prepare for RuPaul’s Drag Race?
April Carrion: How can you be prepared for this roller coaster? I just made sure every look on the runway was going to be on point. And the most important thing: Be myself, never compromise “me,” and always stay true to my roots!
What was it like to work with guest composer Lucian Piane?
He's so much fun, and I really enjoy that he doesn't take himself too seriously. I mean, look at the Rusical, which he wrote: fun, quirky, and just hilarious. Plus he's a cutie!
Did you have a musical or theatrical inspiration for your “shady lady” character? If so, which production or character?
Of course! That was Effie from Dreamgirls. In my mind I was doing Effie mixed with a chola from a gang. So, something in those lines! You know, always bring that Latina realness! [Laughs]
What are your favorite musicals, or characters from musicals?
Favorite characters from musical ... Velma Kelly (simply because she a bitch), Elphaba from Wicked, and Dr. Frank from Rocky Horror. Simply love! Favorite musicals: ay Dios mio, too many! Cry-Baby, Repo, Chicago, Wicked, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Nine, Cabaret, and so many more!
What was the most challenging part of your role in the Rusical? Did it help or hurt you to be a member of a team?
I guess the most challenging thing was being in melody. That was so hard! That's why I was lisping. Know I get you, Britney! It's so hard. It really helped being in a team, because everybody helped me.
Do you think the judges’ critiques — of your makeup shading and that you didn’t convey the “big girl” attitude — were fair?
As far as my makeup shading, it was not supposed to be like that. I never do that! But since we have so little time to change, I fucked up my hairline with the wig glue. And I tried to cover it up. Only it made it worse! [Laughs] With the whole “big girl” thing, I truly believed I did have a big girl attitude and didn't rely on my padding. I mean, come on! I'm from Puerto Rico! Everybody is big and juicy here. I know how to be a big girl.
Looking back on the episode, would you have done anything differently to avoid elimination?
I wouldn't have done anything differently, because I'm a true believer that things happen for a reason. I did give 200 percent. And I'm truly convinced that this wasn't my season; I'm supposed to win RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race 2. #April4AllStars2
You wrote “Echa Pa’lante” [translation: onwards and upwards] on the mirror in lipstick for your farewell message. Is this a nod to former contestant and fellow Puerto Rican drag queen Yara Sofia, who frequently used that expression on season 3? If so, what prompted you to write it?
Yes, absolutely! I wrote “Echa Pa’lante” because it's just a positive way to look at everything. I'm going to move forward. I'm not going to be sitting at home crying. I'm going to be busting my ass so everybody can know who April Carrion is. Plus I love Yara; she's so “cray cray” and cool, and before Drag Race she really gave pointers on how to better my drag persona.
In your opinion, what is the major difference in drag culture between Puerto Rico and a city like Los Angeles?
Well, everything! In Puerto Rico, everyone wants to be the prettiest, most fishy, perfect pageant queen. And if you’re not, you get criticized for being weird, which happened to me quite often. In L.A., you can do whatever the fuck you want. But then again, everything has its pros and cons. Yes, Puerto Rican queens are very pageant-y, but they are polished and always look their best. In L.A., since it’s more chilled out, they don't take the time to truly think what they want their character to embody. It's just a party. Well, the world's not perfect, right? [Laughs] But I would consider myself a happy medium in both scenes. One thing that is common in both places: They only pay $60 for a show if you’re not in RuPaul Drag’s Race! [Laughs]
Who are your favorites among the queens this season?
I'm truly in love with Milk. His interpretation of drag is so new and diverse, and I just love it! And he really thinks everything through. I mean, he's not all “cray cray.” He knows his shit.
Was there another contestant from this episode that you thought should have gone home first?
Mmm … make them all go home! Imma be the queen!
What first attracted you to drag?
I first was interested in drag because it's a question of gender. You’re a guy, but you look like a girl and you act like a girl. I just find it, conceptually, so rich. I did start in drag by doing a lot of art projects, until one day I decided to take it a little further and document the whole process, including being in a talent competition, which took me by surprise that I won, and people really enjoyed my character.
What is the inspiration for your drag name?
My name took me forever! But now, I think about [it] and [it’s] just so simple, I love it! I was born in April, so it just fit perfectly. And my last name is Carrión, and I kept it so I would always make my family proud.
Thanks, April! RuPaul's Drag Race airs Mondays at 9 p.m. Eastern on Logo. And watch Carrion perform the song "Sexy Drag Queen" from the album RuPaul Presents: TheCoverGurlz below.