RuPaul's Drag Race fans enjoyed a long road with Derrick Barry and her Britney Spears impersonations. But this week Barry hit us, baby, one last time and sashayed away, losing a lip-synch battle to Bob the Drag Queen. This means, on the Drag Race runway at least, Barry will never again "Gimme More," "Work, Bitch," or be a "Slave 4 U."
The drag performer spoke with The Advocate after this week's episode, which saw a puppet-show feud between Barry and Naomi Smalls, a Book Ball featuring Amy and David Sedaris as guest judges, a mother-inspired runway look, and a musical adapation of Comedy Central's Strangers With Candy.
Below, Barry talked about these challenges. She also revealed her favorite book, gave advice to LGBT youth, addressed anti-LGBT legislation in North Carolina, outlined the challenges of being in a polyamorous relationship, plucked out the problems with her eyebrows, discussed her surprise reconciliation with Bob the Drag Queen, opened up about her relationship with her mother, and showed how she is indeed "Stronger" than yesterday.
The Advocate: The Book Ball was incredible. What is your favorite book, and why?
Derrick Barry: I love The Wizard of Oz. I think I love the movie more, but obviously, things are created in books first. But I love the story, the fantasy, the characters Dorothy meets along the way, and it has such a strong message.
Were you a fan of the Sedaris siblings before coming on the show?
I knew Amy because of Strangers With Candy, so yes! I think that she is hilarious and that character is so weird and creepy and funny and all of the above! I love everything about improv and comedy. It was nerve-wracking to do her character in front of her, like it would be performing someone’s character from SNL or Madtv, but also so exciting.
How does one prepare oneself, emotionally and physically, for an impersonation of Jerri Blank?
Oh, gosh, well, "ugly" was the first commitment, and I have no problem taking that risk! I looked at a picture of her and tried to do my makeup exactly that way. So I physically prepped by looking at photos and watching her characterizations. I wanted to do something bigger since it’s an acting challenge. I wanted to be larger than life, especially since this challenge is with five girls. And I learned through watching and learning.
There were a lot of barbed remarks between you and Naomi, beginning with the puppet show. Why did it come to a boil in this episode?
I think it had gotten to the point where I knew she was not really happy with my drag, and it was starting to come through, so it was kind of inevitable. We took low blows at each other in the puppet challenge, but that was the challenge. I think that once we kept talking about things, more stuff came up that was actually the root of the issue. She didn’t think I should be there because I am character-based instead of a drag persona. But I had still made it that far. We were still sitting in the same room!
As a viewer, it seemed as though neither of you was really processing the other’s critiques. After seeing the episode, do you see where she was coming from in her urging to do less Britney and more drag?
I definitely see where she was coming from, I just don’t think it came across in a positive and constructive way. It came across in a mean-spirited way because she was already upset with me. Now that I’ve watched the show I wish I would have done more drag looks from the beginning, but I did what I knew how to do and she has a very different aesthetic — very high drag and different from my makeup.
How has your experience on RuPaul’s Drag Race improved your drag? Do you feel you’ve grown from a Britney impersonator to an artist in your own right?
Oh, I completely feel I’ve grown, and moving on to more than Britney is the number one reason I wanted to do the show. I was so stuck in what I do and only ever booking Britney shows, because that’s my career. I could never do my own look, because that wasn’t what the client was buying. It was up to me to change my path, and now I can do anything and am having fun exploring with makeup and wigs. The fun of drag is at my fingertips.
There was a lot of talk — and critique — of eyebrows this episode. What would you say in your eyebrows’ defense?
Oh, lord. I have always used my own brow because Britney’s is not very high. When I see people draw them on their forehead, it doesn’t look realistic, and I have to pass for a real feminine look. So for me, the brows were very different. I even tweezed my brows before the show to make them higher. and now I’m like, ugh, why didn’t I block half of them out? There is so much more than I could have done. I was not happy with the brow on the show!
This episode was all about mothers. What has your mother’s reaction been to your appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race?
I actually don’t talk to my mom anymore, which is really sad. But there were some texts sent to me during filming because my mom didn’t know where I was. I didn’t tell her I was filming, and I think since I kind of went missing it hurt her feelings, and it was very sad. But I have cut off contact and haven’t talked to her since last summer. And I have no plan on doing so.
What advice would you give to LGBT kids whose parents aren’t accepting of them?
You can create your own family within any environment you are in. Just because you are blood-related doesn’t mean you are family.
What would you say to lawmakers who pass anti-LGBT legislation in states like North Carolina?
They have no idea what it’s like to walk in our shoes. In a perfect world, there would be no hate, and unfortunately, there still is. I don’t understand why it still exists, but until it comes into their home or their family, they won’t get it. Maybe that’s what needs to happen to change their minds.
What was going through your head when RuPaul announced you would be in the bottom 2 and throughout the lip-synch?
Right away, when he said my name, it was terrifying. There is a sense of confidence I got both times, like overwhelming and overpowering, like, I have to stay and have to do this. I never felt doubt which I feel was the key. If you doubt yourself then the audience will doubt you. I committed 100 percent, and there was an out-of-body experience like I didn’t even remember everything I did until I watched it back! But that’s what’s invigorating about performing live.
Looking back, would you have done anything differently to avoid elimination?
I would have taken more risks when it came to creativity, and I would have taken more risks when it came to my makeup. I definitely wish I changed up my features and done different looks to my face – that was my journey, though. I had to experience this to understand how important different looks are to drag. I’m very happy with my time on the show, but obviously wish I could have gone further. But that was as far as I was meant to go at this point in life.
What would you have shown the world, if you had more time on Drag Race?
My costumes that I brought. I had things made by Britney Spears's, Lady Gaga's, and Katy Perry’s costume designers. I have so many pop looks but didn’t get to show them, since we were creating so much. I wasn’t prepared for all of that.
Who are you rooting for among the remaining contestants?
I mean, I love Kim Chi’s drag. I think it’s so over-the-top, and she is by far the best representation of the title. But I do find winning qualities in all of them.
Viewers saw a lot of bad blood between you and Bob throughout this season. But he had very sweet words to say to you at the end of the episode. Did your feelings about Bob (and his drag) change throughout the season?
As soon as we worked together, I knew we were a strong team. We butt heads because we’re not afraid of taking risks. When we worked together, we proved two lights shine brighter than one, and that really changed my perception of him. Then my worst nightmare happened: Derrick versus Bob. But I couldn’t believe what he said about me at the end. He didn’t have to do that. He could have just walked away, and he took the time to talk about me. I think he’s a great person and was on a journey just as much as I was to change his makeup. He’s doing more now too, and that’s what the show is supposed to do — to challenge us.
What is the biggest challenge of being in a relationship with two men?
There are a lot of personalities at all times, and that is not always easy. Now, with Nebraska, there are five of us — two girls and three boys — a lot of closet space and a lot of personality.
After being on television, how do you hope you moved the needle for polyamory?
I hope that people have a better understanding of an open and closed relationship. Our dynamic is important for me because for over four years it has been just the three of us. A big misconception, especially in the gay community, is that it’s like a revolving door, and it isn’t like that. I hope people can see that it’s possible to be in love with two people and be in a committed three-way relationship.
What's next for you?
Well, Tour Live is hopefully gonna continue forever! This summer is packed. I want to push my single release and continue on my EP, and do an album by the end of the year. I’m excited to do music and act and everything!
Thanks, Derrick! Don't miss the next episode of RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo at 9 p.m. Eastern. And check out this week's behind-the-scenes moments in Untucked below.