Monday was a big night for RuPaul's Drag Race. Having weathered the better part of a decade, America's favorite drag queen reality competition celebrated its 100th episode. The season 8 premiere also saw the 100th contestant, Britney Spears impersonator Derrick Barry, prance through World of Wonder's workroom doors.
Legacy was clearly on the producers' minds for the first mini-challenge, which is traditionally a photo shoot of the new contestants. Shot by RuPaul's creative producer, the wig whisperer Mathu Anderson (whatever became of Mike Ruiz?), the challenge had each drag permormer tasked with holding her own among the pantheon of past winners. Afterward, the contestants had to create looks from the ghosts of themed challenges past, sewing and hot-glue-gunning together materials like curtains, mistletoe, prosthetic limbs, and the like.
Unfortunately, Naysha Lopez was selected as a bottom two contestant and then lost a lip-synch to the wig-whipping, runway-splitting Laila McQueen. The Advocate chatted with Naysha about her time on Drag Race, her experience on the pageant circuit, and some must-see destinations in her hometown of Chicago.
The Advocate: How did you prepare for Drag Race?
There’s no real way to prepare. The one thing to remember is to be yourself. If they’re going to love you, they’ll love you. If not, there’s not much you change, so just be you.
Last night marked 100 episodes and 100 drag performers to have competed on RuPaul's Drag Race. How does it feel to be part of this legacy?
It’s a blessing. There are so many drag queens all over the world, and to be able to say that you are part of an elite 100 girls, is truly amazing and a blessing.
You've won a drag competition before — Miss Continental! What skills did you learn on the pageant circuit?
Pageantry requires discipline and it’s similar to Drag Race in that you come out on stage and you’re being judged from that moment. You have to look and be your best from the second you step out in front the judges, and that definitely translates to Drag Race. Pageants [teach] you this, and that work ethic is important.
How did that experience differ from the competition on RuPaul's Drag Race?
When you are in a pageant, judges give you a score. On Drag Race, you hear exactly what they are thinking. It is the best and the worst thing about being on the show. I love constructive criticism, but sometimes it can hurt a little. The judges just want to help you to be better than you were yesterday.
What was it like to model with the past winners of the show during the photo shoot?
That was intimidating! They all evolved into these amazing entertainers and [had] grown so much since appearing on Drag Race. It was surreal and overwhelming, but overall a beautiful experience.
Which of these past winners has most inspired you?
Sharon Needles inspires me the most and has a special place in my heart. She has never compromised who she is as an entertainer and person. She’s in your face, but she’s just telling you “this is me, like it or not,” and I appreciate that. As a shy person, it’s something I struggle with, but Sharon inspires me.
You told RuPaul you were disappointed that you didn't get to showcase all you had to offer. What would you have shown the world, if you had more time?
I wanted to show more of my personality and who I am. Not only has Naysha, but as [my boy name] Fabian. It was short-lived, so people didn’t get a chance to see my personality. Beauty is skin deep. There’s much more to me than that.
Looking back on the episode, would you have done anything differently to avoid elimination?
No. I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I don’t think I should have been in the bottom two. However, I’m a positive person and I have learned from every experience. Don’t let regrets rule you. But maybe I would have taken a sewing class before I got there!
You gave great advice to another contestant, Chi Chi, when you said, “Anything you do is a gamble,” and the possibility of failure is no excuse not to try. Are you glad you took the gamble of being on Drag Race?
Absolutely! I mean … my booking fee tripled since then! I’m kidding, but I’m glad I did it. I’m a former Miss Continental and a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Not many people can say those things. I take pride in it. No regrets!
Who are you rooting for among the remaining contestants?
Laila McQueen, Bob the Drag Queen, and Thorgy Thor hold a special place in my heart.
You're from Chicago! What are some must-visit destinations there for an LGBT tourist?
So you have to go to Boystown. It’s epic! I’ve been to many cities, and I can’t tell you of another place that is quite like it. My favorite bar is Hydrate Nightclub. It has the best DJs in the world. If you want to have a cute night out on the town, start at Wood for cocktails and food, then go to Hydrate to party after. If you are really feeling your oats and ready for some real-girl realness, you have to head to Michigan Avenue and be ready to shop. And Wrigleyville is stunning if you like your boys straight. After a few beers, everything is negotiable.
What inspired your drag name?
There was a girl named Naysha that I saw in a pageant booklet years ago, and she was stunning, amazing, and had won so many competitions. I Googled her and saw that it meant “special,” and knew I wanted to use it. Lopez is an homage to Jennifer Lopez, a true goddess.
Everything is next. I’m going to work and continue to do me.
Thanks, Naysha! And to readers, revisit happier times and take a look at Naysha being crowned winner at Miss Continental below.