The upcoming season of the Emmy-winning show RuPaul’s Drag Race will feature top-notch looks, scalding hot drama, and plenty of jaw-dropping talent.
Among the 13 queens clawing for the crown are a Cirque du Soleil figure skater, a former America’s Got Talent Contestant, and a makeup artist who has worked with Paris Hilton and Lil Nas X.
The new season, which premieres this Friday on VH1, also stars four queens from New York City. That’s nearly the most Big Apple queens in RuPaul herstory!
In exclusive interviews with amNewYork, the four contestants from across the Five Boroughs talked about their paths into drag, why they deserve to be crowned “America’s Next Drag Superstar,” and all the tea (read: gossip) about the new season, which they say is one of the best ever.
“Bad,” “bougie,” and loud, 25-year-old Kandy Muse says that her Bronx upbringing has had a strong influence on her drag persona.
“I pride myself on being a queen that comes from the hood, a rag to riches story,” she told amNewYork. “My culture and the people I grew up around definitely influenced me.”
Raised near Yankees stadium, Muse said she got into cheerleading and theater at a young age, but it wasn’t until Muse’s friend did her makeup that she considered doing drag, she said.
“One day, my friend was applying for a makeup artist job at Sephora and he needed to do makeup on someone, and I said, ‘You could use me as a canvas,'” Muse said. “Once I saw how good I looked after, I said, ‘Hmm.'”
Muse’s friends urged her to do drag because of her larger-than-life personality, and she first took to the stage about six years ago. Since then, she’s catapulted herself to stardom by linking up with former RuPaul contestant Aja and being crowned Brooklyn Drag Queen of the Year.
Muse said that her strong personality is one of her biggest assets — though she hinted that she’ll get embroiled in some drama the upcoming season.
“I think my strengths coming into the competition is that I’m the realest person you’re ever going to meet and I don’t let bullsh— get to me,” she said, suggesting that RuPaul viewers might see her throwing some shade this season. “I’m not going to go in there being shady and being mean and tearing people down, but it’s also a competition.”
Born and raised in upstate New York, Tina Burner is this season’s reigning comedy queen with a sailor’s mouth and an athlete’s build.
“[It’s] sassy, brassy, in-your-face linebacker comedy in a dress,” said the queen, who stands at six-foot-three.
Burner, who grew up one hour north of Utica, starting doing drag about 10 years ago when she was working at a Manhattan gay bar and the owner needed a host for karaoke night.
Burner said she immediately fell in love with the art form because of her experience with musical theater.
“I started to perform, and I realize I come from a performance background,” she explained. “You get to play a character … Tina Burner is an elevated version of myself. Tina lives her life without fears.”
At 39, Burner is this year’s most seasoned queen. After 10 years of presiding over New York City’s vibrant drag scene and being crowned Miss Comedy Queen 2019, Burner said that she’s prepared to fight for the season 13 crown.
“New York City is like the competition of all competitions,” she said. “I had to fight to be at the top of my game. I spent every dollar I had to prepare myself to being a drag queen. I would live gig to gig … It prepared me, being a New Yorker.”
While Tina Burner may be one of the most experienced queens of the season, Olivia Lux is one of the newest to drag, having performed as Olivia Lux for only about a year before being cast for the show. But the Brooklyn-based queen said that she shouldn’t be underestimated.
“I was selected for this really amazing thing maybe without the most experience or notoriety in the industry, but I looked to that as a positive,” she said. “I think girls can look at me and think of me and think I’m an underdog … but I know what I’m capable of.”
Originally from New Jersey, the 26-year-old queen moved to Bushwick about two years ago and dove into drag head first.
“The drag life chooses you,” she told amNewYork. “Olivia Lux engulfed my being.”
Lux describes her style as girly and glamorous and says she thrives when she’s performing on stage. She also loves to sing, she said.
“I love bright sparkly things, I’m a showgirl at heart,” Lux explained. “Although I love the fashion and the glamor, there’s something about the performance aspect of drag that I really enjoy.”
Performing has been a passion of Lux’s from a young age, she said.
“I was that kid — I’d make little performances and productions for the grown-ups,” she said.
Coming into the competition, Lux said she was most intimidated by the comedy and acting challenges. She’s funny, but delivering a pre-written roast is a whole different ballgame.
“Anything acting or comedy-related isn’t really by zhuzh,” she said, though she added that there’s something inherently funny about drag. “Already, there’s a sense of joy … when people see a drag queen, they kind of crack a smile.”
A fan of dusty shades of pink, Rosé is a triple threat who plans to perform the house down this season, she said.
“Anything that has stuff to do with performing — any singing or dancing or acting — is totally my bag,” she said, adding that she also considers herself a comedy queen.
Born in Scotland, the 31-year-old contestant moved around the US before finally landing in New York City eight years ago, where she wanted to pursue her dream of becoming an actor. She said she struggled with the city’s acting scene before decided to turn to drag.
“I kind of wasn’t vibing with the whole scene, and I felt like my artist was really struggling because I wanted to express things that were really related to me and my personality,” she said. “I started really coming into my queerness about four years ago … Drag entered my life at the right time.”
Rosé moved up quickly through the ranks, winning New York’s largest drag competition, Lady Liberty, in 2017. Doing drag not only helped lift Rosé’s career, but it also introduced her to a loving community, she said.
“Some of my very best and closest and surely lifelong friends I’ve made through the nightlight community,” she said.
Rosé added that she was most nervous about the design challenges since she’s not an expert seamstress. But the diversity of talents on the show are what makes this season special, she claimed.
“I think it’s one of the best seasons of the entire series,” she said.