Looking back on all the winners of the Emmy Award-winning drag crossover hit RuPaul’s Drag Race, it certainly is an eclectic crowd. But there is a special sort of triumph when the dark horse of the season—like the irrepressible and flexible Yvie Oddly (Jovan Bridges)—rips through the competition to win the race.
On a rare day of rest from the RPDR season 11 tour, Oddly spoke with us about his newfound fame, the future of his career, and representing those living with invisible disabilities.
On fame, the Denver native says, “I’m glad people like my art, but that’s really the only thing I’ve ever wanted to get out of this experience. I don’t really care a whole lot about the rest.”
It was Oddly’s creativity that set him apart and eventually ahead, and he says, “That’s where all of my love for drag came from—it was [a] place where I could constantly experiment with a bunch of different things—whether it be makeup, whether it be my performance—and it was just birthed from there. It was the place where I found the best way to channel my… chaos,” following the comment with a burst of his trademark baritone laugh.
For someone so dedicated to preserving the art of drag, how does Oddly feel about it now becoming sort of mainstream entertainment? He says it’s great as long as that means “more progress and more credit for the queer community actually being given for all the art that we do put into the world,” but adds that he hopes viewers will also “really delve into why drag is a thing in the first place—this punk exploration of identity. For me, as long as that never really gets lost, I don’t care how many people across the world are exposed to it. The fact that drag is stating, ‘I am…’ and then filling in the blank with whatever you want—if that’s still there, then I’m a happy camper.”
Oddly can imagine following in the footsteps of other victors who have been embraced by the fashion world—including season 10 winner Aquaria, who made herstory as the first person to grace the Met Gala’s red carpet in drag.
“I mean, [fashion is] intrinsic to my past and my career up to this point, so, you know, I think that’s more whether or not anyone in the fashion industry wants to take a risk and work with me! I like the creative aspect of it—I like modeling it, I like the fantasy you get to [feel] when walking down the runway. I think some people might be down for some creative collaboration.”
Oddly—who is now on the 2019 Werq The World Tour—also pulled ahead of his competition on Drag Race due to the deliciously devilish humor he displayed in some of the acting challenges.
“I’ve never been particularly shy, but my humor definitely was developed from feeling a little bit like an outsider.... So it’s a little bit self-deprecating to start with, and then just shocking [and] grotesque.”
Oddly’s brutal honesty is also something he became known for on Drag Race and it led to clashes, especially when fellow finalist Silky Nutmeg Ganache said Oddly should leave the competition because of his health condition.
“I felt I was being authentically who I was and whatever I was feeling at that moment,” Oddly says now. “I was proud of how I carried myself.”
The queen wasn’t just honest about his opinions on the other queens’ performances and outfits. After struggling with some particularly demanding choreography, Oddly bravely revealed on the show that he suffered from a rare, painful, and debilitating genetic condition, type 3 Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (see sidebar). EDS affects the connective tissue in the body, including in joints, ligaments and tendons, skin, and organ tissues. Although he was reluctant to share this information at first, for fear it would be seen as a weakness or cheap grab at a storyline, the revelation ultimately helped humanize the outspoken queen and further endeared him to fans.
“It’s also another difficult feeling to process,” admits Oddly of becoming a face for those suffering from invisible disabilities. “Because I’m glad that there is that representation out there and people do have some sort of visibility for our invisible illnesses, but at the same time, it’s still a very personal struggle that I have to deal with on my own terms and in my own ways. So it does get difficult every now and then, having already started that conversation, because it allows people to come up and finish it.”
“I’m not at all ashamed of the fact that I’m suffering,” he adds. “It’s just not something I really want to spend a lot of my life talking about necessarily. Especially since, in the back of my mind, this is always eating away at me anyway.”