By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com May 06 2014 1:52 PM ET
In one of the shocking twists of season 6, BenDeLaCreme, a strong contender for the Drag Race crown who first dazzled the judges in a Golden Girls-inspired ensemble and again as Maggie Smith in the "Snatch Game" challenge, lost the lip-synch to Darienne Lake in last week's episode. In the main challenge, which asked the contestants to construct three gem-inspired outfits in casual, workplace, and formal attire, Adore Delano emerged victorious, a surprise win for a contestant who had confessed to being a poor seamster.
BenDeLaCreme spoke to The Advocate about the series of upsets in last week's episode, including his elimination, a controversial comment to Bianca Del Rio, and future plans to perform with Peaches Christ and Jinkx Monsoon.
The Advocate: Your elimination caused more than a few gasps at viewing parties last night. How did you feel when RuPaul asked you to sashay away before Darienne Lake?
BenDeLaCreme: I was, of course, very disappointed that I was going home, but it had nothing to do with Darienne still being there — I just thought I had more left to give.
Why do you think RuPaul made that call, particularly after every other contestant said that Lake was the weakest link?
I guess I just didn’t lip-synch as well as Darienne. Performing straight-up lip-synchs isn’t what I usually do as a performer, so it’s not a surprise to me that Darienne slayed it. She is fantastic.
Looking back on the episode, would you have done anything differently to avoid elimination?
I guess I would maybe would have maybe made a gown instead of a onesie, but who knows? I’d already worn a lot of gowns at that point too. Truthfully, I think I brought my best to this competition. I fought hard, and I stayed true to who I am. At some point, it just comes down to the judges’ personal preference. I feel really good about what I brought to the competition.
Before elimination, you made a comment that Bianca Del Rio was “sailing” through the competition, which resulted in a very heated response from your competitor. What did you mean by “sailing”?
I think I chose my words poorly — but if you listen to the context, I’m talking about how most of the queens had shown the ability to adjust according to the negative critiques given, and as a somewhat clumsy aside, I say that Bianca is the one person who has not had to, because she is consistently good.
Why do you think Bianca responded so vehemently?
She responded the way she did because she thought I meant she had it easy somehow, but that is certainly not what I meant. Bianca did sail through this competition, but she did so because she is extremely talented, very focused, and works incredibly hard.
How did you approach this week’s challenge, which tasked you to create three ensembles inspired by a jewel?
I just glued a bunch of shiny rocks to stuff! I figured the more jewels the better — shows what I know!
Do you believe Michelle Visage’s criticism, that the judges had seen those looks from you before, was fair?
I don’t know, I guess. I have a certain aesthetic and I believe I pushed myself within that aesthetic — but I’m not gonna come out in a studded leather harness and a Mohawk. If I’d done something that betrayed what it is I do, I may have gotten farther in the show, but I would have lost what’s important to me along the way.
Were you surprised that Adore won this week’s main challenge?
No! She totally shined after really struggling with some of her silhouettes on the runway. The judges love to see growth.
Who is your favorite among the remaining queens this season?
I don’t really have a favorite. I love all these girls a lot, and they are all really good at what they do. [Whoever] takes the crown will be deserving and make the most of it.
How did you prepare for RuPaul’s Drag Race?
I worked with my two designers, Danial Helman and Jamie Von Stratton, to make sure that I was going in with the wardrobe that would best reflect me. I watched Maggie Smith films everyday. And I spent a lot of time soul searching about what I wanted to get out of the race and how I was going to conduct myself with integrity while in the midst of the insanity.
Going on a reality competition like Drag Race can be a double-edged sword for an artist. You’re promised greater visibility, but you are also asked to sacrifice a degree of privacy and perhaps compromise who you are as a performer in order to “play the game.” Was this risk worth it?
Yeah. This was totally a tough decision for me because I am a very private person, and I do have strong opinions about why I do what I do they way I do. But ultimately, it was worth it because I held my ground. I never let the show push me into something that I didn’t feel represented me or where I wanted to go after the show. Hanging on to that may have cost me a place in the top four, but I’m getting what I really wanted out of it, which is the opportunity to continue doing what I love on my own terms.
What was most challenging part of your Drag Race experience? The most rewarding?
All of Drag Race is challenging. And rewarding. You are out of your element, you have none of the support systems you have in the real world, you are constantly pushing yourself, navigating a lot of big personalities, and under constant scrutiny. In many ways it’s an endurance test. At the same time, you are engaging in a whole lot of really fun challenges, meeting some incredible artists, and getting to show the world what you love to do.
How did you respond to Logo TV’s recent apology for airing the controversial “Female or She-male” mini-challenge?
I was really proud of them for acknowledging that the mini-challenge was problematic and apologizing. I just don’t think any joke or word choice is so important that it is worth hanging on to if it’s hurtful to someone.
What first attracted you to drag, and what inspired your drag name?
I’ve always loved drag. It has just always been a part of me. As a kid I was always pretending my bath towel was a dress and trying on my mom’s heels. I guess I love the fantasy of it. BenDeLaCreme is a play on “Crème De La Crème” or “The best of the best.” BenDeLaCreme is the best of Ben.
I hear you’re from Seattle. Where would you recommend a first-time LGBT visitor to the Emerald City go for a good time?
Pony and the Wild Rose! Hands down my two fave queer hot spots in the Emerald City!
What should a drag queen always keep in her purse?
Powder, mace, lip gloss, glue gun.
Who is your role model?
What’s next after RuPaul?
So many things! You can check me out in my new show Terminally Delightful at the Laurie Beechman in NYC. opening May 21. In Seattle, come see my Fourth of July spectacular, DeLouRue Presents: Freedom Fantasia at the Triple Door, and in San Francisco, Sept 27, I’ll be doing Hocus Pocus with Peaches Christ and Jinkx Monsoon! And of course lots of touring in between, both solo and with my burlesque troupe, the Atomic Bombshells!
Why did the drag queen cross the road?
Don’t worry about the road. Just never cross a drag queen.
Thanks, BenDeLaCreme! RuPaul's Drag Race airs Mondays at 9 p.m. Eastern on Logo. And watch YouTube episode of Ask DeLa, in which he addresses the controversial “Female or She-male” mini-challenge, below.