RuPaul's Drag Race has crowned a new America's Next Drag Superstar. And the winner is... Symone!
Below, Symone discusses the finale, Black Lives Matter, transphobia in her home state, and shares a message for her fans.
This interview was conducted just prior to the Drag Race finale.
The Advocate: What's been keeping you sane during this crazy year?
Symone: Drag! [Laughs] Getting to create and put my focus on just trying to better myself and do the next job is really a good thing to have because otherwise, I think I would be going stir-crazy.
Watching y'all on Drag Race has kept me sane. So thank you very much for that.
Oh, good! I've very happy to hear that.
Congratulations on making it to the end. It's so well-deserved. How do you feel about that accomplishment?
I'm filled with so much joy and happiness. I've worked so hard and it's been my dream since I was a teenager in Arkansas. To be here is just so amazing. I'm just so excited for ... the future. I'm just so happy.
How would you use the platform of America's Next Drag Superstar?
I would want to use my platform to spread what I've been doing on the show ... only just $100,000 richer! [Laughs] I really want to show kids and people everywhere that it doesn't matter where you come from, it doesn't matter. All of those things that are stacked against you, you can survive and do whatever you want in this life if you want it and you work hard for it. So I truly think that would be my message: [to] let people know that there's hope in the world and that there's a way to persevere and really work through.
Your "Say Their Names" runway was one of the most powerful moments of the season. Do you see activism and uplifting movements like Black Lives Matter as part of your drag?
For sure. I think now with the platform I have and where we are, I think it's important to... better the world. I don't want to ever lose that in my drag. I want to always speak for people who do not necessarily have the voice that I do. It's very important to me and it's definitely going to always be a part of my drag.
What was your reaction to the Derek Chauvin verdict?
It kind of was a shock, I'm going to be really honest, because I had very little hope that anything would actually happen. So when the [verdict] came in I was just in utter awe; happy of course, but just shocked because it felt like the country heard us. ... It's a step in the right direction. There's still work to be done, but it just felt like OK, something is happening.... People are finally getting it.
Do you see the role of drag in general shifting because of Black Lives Matter?
I do ... It doesn't need to feel forced ever, because I think that's almost worse. But I do think that going forward, there is a place for it. And I think, inherently, drag is political. We are going against a system that is inherently patriarchal. ... So, if it's your natural inclination to use your drag as more of an in-your-face [approach] to certain things, then absolutely. My runway on the show kind of shows that.
You’re the first contestant from Arkansas. How does it feel to represent your state?
Amazing. Arkansas finally gets the recognition it deserves. There's great drag there —obviously, I'm from there! [Laughs] But there's great drag there and beautiful queens there that have taught me so much about drag and myself, and I obviously wouldn't be the queen I am today had I not had that [background]. It's a beautiful honor to be the first queen from Arkansas.
Unfortunately, your state has made national headlines for its legislative attacks on trans youth in denying them health care. What message do you have for lawmakers there?
I don't think that trans people wanting to be themselves and wanting to have medical attention and all of these things is really the concern you need to be having in our state, specifically when there's so much poverty, and so many people who go without education. ...
How dare you try to legislate someone's existence on this earth? It's disgusting. You don't have the right to do that to people. I would say even more so more to the people who are there, who are being legislated in such a way, don't lose hope. Keep fighting. Don't let them think that this is a win. And to not be discouraged by it. ... There is still hope, there's still light, there's people around the world and the country who are behind you. So don't feel alone and don't feel like it's over just because this happened.
In some good news, California is opening up. Drag is returning to in-person spaces. What are you looking forward to as a performer once quarantine restrictions ease?
I miss the interaction. I miss giving people hugs. I miss being out. I miss dancing. Oh, my God, I miss dancing! I just missed it all and it would be so great to finally meet all these people who have given me so much love and support through this entire thing. ... So I'm looking forward to meeting everyone, just performing and being out in the world doing shows and being in the public eye ... and just having a good time. I missed seeing people. As much of a homebody [as I am], as much as I like to be alone, when I'm in drag and feeling myself I want to be out there ... with the people. I want to have a good time. I miss the interaction, the thumpa thumpa, the pulse of the club.
What message do you have for your fans?
Oh, my God, thank you guys so much! Really, thank you guys so much. I'm just a little girl from Arkansas who had a dream. For y'all to just love me and to receive me and to support me has been so amazing and I do not take it for granted. I see y'all, I love y'all so much, and I wish I could just give everyone a collective hug but I can't. So, right now I'm just speaking through the press! But I love y'all so much and thank you. Let my run inspire you to do anything and everything you want to do in this world.