RuPaul's Drag Race has crowned a new America's Next Drag Superstar. And the winner is...
Below, Kandy Muse discusses the finale, her journey from "the hood to Hollywood," the future of drag, coping with bullying from the fandom, and her instantly iconic Untucked fight with Tamisha Iman.
This interview was conducted just prior to the Drag Race finale.
The Advocate: Your red carpet look was so beautiful, and I'm rooting for you to win!
Kandy Muse: Thank you.
I love an underdog story. Do you feel like one?
Well, I definitely feel like the underdog because I feel like a lot of people have discounted me from trying to win the crown, based on the track records. But I've always said this, Drag Race is like a world baseball tournament situation. The track record is only as good as to get you to the next episode. Once you get to that last final play, the world cup? Baby, it is anyone's game, and it really comes down to what you do in that night.
If we learned anything from season 9, is that it's anyone's game. You never know what will happen and how the tables turn.
Also, if we base it on track records, how boring would the show be? My God.
Yeah. That's why they changed it up. We had eight seasons of track record and now it's a different game. I can't wait for the finale. As a messy gay, I love the drama. And I loved your fight with Tamisha Iman. It was so entertaining.
[Laughs] Thank you.
The problem with that these days is that the fan reactions can escalate into bullying.
Listen. From zero to 100. I don't understand. ... Those girls in season 14, they're going to walk in and they're going to have a boring season because they're going to be afraid to even say anything because of the fan reactions. Now, imagine the fans watching season 2 or 3 or 4. My God, those were some seasons where the drama was turned up to a hundred.
There are just so many iconic moments that wouldn't be looked at the same today. "Look how orange you look" and Shangela's Sugar Daddy monologue. It's entertainment. It's fun. Some fans take it all so personally. There's so much time between when Drag Race is filmed and when y'all actually get to watch it, when the world sees it. Did you expect the reaction? How did you feel about it?
No, no. You know, actually, when me and Tamisha had the argument in Untucked, to me it was like, OK, we had the argument and like, we went off or whatever. The next episode, we kind of made up. And then, obviously, I sent her home, and I continued on with the rest of the competition. So I had forgotten about it until I got back home. I knew that we went off in Untucked and it wasn't until when the episode aired, I was like, "Oh, OK. So this is the reaction people are having towards this episode in this moment."
But I never let it affect me. At the end of the day, I know that when people watch this season back in five years, in four years, they're going to appreciate it for what it is.
Yes, exactly. How do you cope? Because a lot of girls, and especially the girls of color, get bullied in this way. On Twitter, you've been responding to the haters and putting those ugly comments on blast. Is that how you navigate that and empower yourself?
Oh, my God. Absolutely. I have amazing fans. If I sat there and picked fights with everyone who hated me, my God. I would be we wasting my time. I have incredible fans, incredible supporters who love me for who I am, and I would much rather give them attention than not give them attention. Than fighting with trolls. That makes no sense to me.
What does RuPaul say? "I'd rather love the people that love me." Very that.
Your entrance line in the werkroom was "From the hood to Hollywood," and I think it kind of encapsulates how drag queens have risen from the fringes of society, and even in the LGBTQ community, to this massively mainstream show and platform. What does it mean to you in that aspect of looking at where you came from to where you are now?
Listen, I have fought so hard to get to where I am now. And the thing from the hood to Hollywood is exactly that. It's me. It's a rags-to-riches story, honestly, and I fought, and I have put so much time and effort into my drag to get to this place now. And being on Drag Race and being in the final four is incredible and just feels amazing. And it feels correct, it feels like all the hard work that I've done has paid off. I have had a very tough upbringing, especially being from the South Bronx, it was very tough growing up.
But now I'm at the stage in my life where I'm happy, content with where I am. And I'm here, filming one of my favorite TV shows ever, it just feels incredible. And I've gotten the opportunity that not many queens get. Only 12, 13 queens get this golden ticket a year, so it really is incredible.
What does it mean to you to also be the big girl in this Top Four?
Being here having a one in four chance to win the crown, and maybe be the first big-girl winner in the U.S. and be the first Dominican winner in the Drag Race franchise, it's just so much firsts. It just, to me, represents my people. Of being this big brown loud bitch in the top four. Yeah, it feels incredible.
We've talked about the legacy of the show a little bit in its 13 seasons, but what do you think is the future of drag? Where do you think drag is going and where you hope it goes?
I'm hoping that people are more open-minded with drag, now holding up a little more inclusive with not only just cis men but also trans performers. I'm hoping that at some point in the future, we've opened that door to having more trans contestants to on the show. I want a full trans woman on the show. There's so much that I want to see with drag. It's not just what we see on Drag Race. There's more to drag than what we see on Drag Race.
Has the pandemic changed you as an artist? You went on the show during the pandemic, and we're still in a pandemic.
I went to go film Drag Race in the pandemic, and I've been able to watch myself do it independently. It's been an interesting thing where I haven't been too focused on like, what is happening during the pandemic, because I'm so focused on what's happening with Drag Race and stuff.
The show has definitely made me grow as an artist. I don't feel like the same queen that I was when I walked in the first day of Drag Race. I feel like a brand-new person, honestly. It just feels amazing. And I'm excited to go into this finale and slay, and possibly win. I'm excited. I'm excited for it all to start a big chapter of my life, and I definitely feel like a more mature version of who I was on that set of Drag Race.
Last question. What's your favorite moment from the season?
I love when me, Mik, and Tina were outside in Untucked. It was after the Tamisha fight and we were running away from that bug. Because it was moments like that that just reminded me how lucky and blessed I was to be on that set with amazing people that I really adored. Yeah. Everyone on set, everyone behind the cameras were dying. It was just so funny.