Can Drag Race Be A Career Killer?

Posted on Posted in Diva

by Zachary F. Volkert

When Jinkx Monsoon was crowned America’s next drag superstar this May, it was hardly a shock. In the age where it’s actually someone’s job to aggregate Facebook and Twitter mentions, it was pretty easy to see that Jinkx was coming out just a little ahead of Alaska Thunderfuck, the boyfriend of last year’s winner Sharon Needles. And way, way behind in third place was Roxxxy Andrews.
Roxxxy’s place on this season of Drag Race has been controversial with fans. Almost to the point where if the show was filmed week by week instead of a year in advance, negative reactions might have barred her from the Top 3. Vitriol started after her tearful explosion after lip-syncing against fan favorite Alyssa Edwards, which many fans felt it was a hysterical reaction to keep her on the show.
But as the show wore on and popular top 3 contenders like Alyssa Edwards, Ivy Winters, and eventually Detox, Roxxxy’s closest friend on the show, went home, it was apparent that Roxxxy’s level of consistency made her a contender compared with Alaska, Alyssa, Jinkx’s occasional style errors.
But by the final four, Internet reactions from fans became personal. Reality show commentators in particular gave her no mercy, ending recaps of the penultimate episode with comments like, “We wish it was a 3-queen final with Detox in Roxxxy’s place. Bitch can’t shut up soon enough for us.”
Being a Jinkx Monsoon fan, I couldn’t help but be a little perturbed by the way that Roxxxy dismissed Jinkx and her friend Alaska on the show, especially with little gems of wisdom like “comedy drag is insulting.” (A comment Roxxxy backpedaled on when pressed again about it at the finale). The show actually made it really difficult to still like Roxxxy, kind of the opposite of what a drag queen would hope to reap from the whole experience.
I can’t speak for the effect on Roxxxy’s tour as a whole, but after having Raven, Willam and Jujubee all grace Reno, Nevada, in the last year to crowds approaching maximum capacity, the club felt empty when Roxxxy took the stage. Her second act, a lip-sync to Adele’s “Rumor Has It” had all of the coy smiles and booty hustle that gave Roxxxy a slot at the top of the biggest drag competition in the world, but there was a sadness to the way those hips sashayed. And it wasn’t just an attempt to channel Adele.
The other queens from RuPaul’s crew are snapshots of confidence in person – witty, sensual, awe-inspiring. You can tell from the first look in Roxxxy’s eyes when she hears that you’re a journalist that she has been through a few of these in the last few weeks since her especially acerbic remarks started flying – and that they haven’t left her unscathed.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” Roxxxy says, with a shrug and contained sigh. “They have no idea who I am. It’s TV for God’s sake. They’d be mad if they saw my bank account, too!”
Roxxxy’s flippant sass has less bite here in the dressing room than it did on the show. It still rolls off of her tongue, naturally, illustrating just how fierce a queen Roxxxy actually is – fiery, even after water bas been thrown at her. A commitment to her personality that’s “what they’re looking for in audition tapes.”
“It’s strange to look back on all of it now. There’s stuff on there that I don’t even really remember. They’d show me reacting to Jinkx’s narcolepsy when I didn’t even know it was going on!”
This has been the argument of many reality TV stars who haven’t fared well in the spotlight. The argument is a double-edged sword: they can’t edit what you don’t give them, and you can’t give them what they’re going to edit it into. It’s hard to say that Roxxxy could be completely a victim here – her attacks at Jinkx in the last episode really can’t be spun any other way than ultimate shade – but seeing her here like this, when it should be the peak of her career, you just can’t help but feel a little subdued just like her.
“I didn’t realize I was so angry,” she says with a laugh that she cuts off short, making eye contact with me again as if to plead “please, don’t let my words get twisted.” Her glossy pink lips protruding from a perfectly detailed face, cocking her head to let her gorgeous golden hair fall down off the side of her shoulder – Roxxxy up-close is even more stunning than from a distance.
“It’s just weird to watch because we’re all friends. I never thought of any of us as being enemies.”
When Jinx Monsoon, who will be appearing in Reno in August, was crowned the winner in May, Roxxxy and Alaska looked far from stunned – after all, the numbers had been far from Bush Vs. Gore-election proximity. But on the red carpet, Raven, Nicki Minaj and other celebrities have commented that they are still on team Roxxxy. Ms. Minaj, no stranger to public argument, seems a likely supporter. Raven, too, experienced rough waters for some of her comments on the show. Maybe these girls just understand that sometimes, it’s not the spotlight that makes you look aggressive, but that it’s aggression you need to capture the spotlight.
But from the way that Roxxxy blurted, then retracted, then burst into tears on the finale, even when you could tell RuPaul was trying to approach the situation gently, it seems like this diva might need some time in the shade, and might be taking a break from giving it.

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