From the moment Naomi Smalls took to the runway on Season Eight of RuPaul’s Drag Race, this high fashion queen showed that she was a force to be reckoned with. From a Top 3 showing on Season 8 to a Top 4 showing on All Stars 4, Smalls was stealth about her ascent up the ladder, but had no problem taking out fan favorites like Manila Luzon and making no apologies.
While she did not snag a spot in the All Stars Hall Of Fame, she has grabbed herself a legion of new fans, and for the first time, is presenting her own music. I caught up with Naomi post elimination to talk about her Top 4 showing this year, the new appreciation she has for a certain genre of music, and why the moment you put your wig on before you take the stage is definitely the most important one of all.
Congratulations on an amazing showing on All Stars! What made you want to return for All Stars after such a fantastic Top 3 showing on Season Eight?
On my season I was a kid! I was twenty-one years old and had been doing drag for about two years. You grow up a lot in your twenties, but for me it excelled a lot being on the road constantly with professionals and having so much alone time to find yourself. It was nice to go back into the completion with a whole new sense of confidence. I was able to go in there and was able to say, this is what I do well, as opposed to figuring out what I was doing while on Season 8. I was definitely much more comfortable.
Who were you surprised not to see in the workroom when you first walked in?
I had heard rumors that Adore Delano was going to be back this season. Her time on All Stars 2 was cut short, and I had heard she’d had some regrets. I was very excited to see her!
You had a very strong showing on Season Eight; do you think you got the Ru-demption that you wanted?
I definitely think I got the Ru-demption that I wanted. I don’t know, there is something about makeover challenges with me (laughs). It is very flattering though, my favorite part of drag is conceptualizing and creating something out of nothing and trying to tell a story out of it. The fact that I could do that for both seasons is amazing. I definitely wanted to go in and get the crown, but then I kind of saw that that was not going to happen, but I did not let that stop me from trying to give the judges and the runway my best every single week.
Is there any inner saboteur that you had to conquer on this season of All Stars?
I thought that I had gotten rid of it on Season Eight, but then the same thing was happening to me during All Stars 4. It is really hard in a competition setting to not compare yourself to your competitors. What I have realized is that I cannot do what Bob the Drag Queen can do, but Bob the Drag Queen cannot do what I do. You have to have that confidence and be able to say this is what I do, this is what I do well, and this is why I am here. You cannot get distracted about why you are “not like the other girls.”
You will now go down in history as the queen who sent home the iconic Manila Luzon on All Stars 4.
And I would do it again (laughs). I came to play a game and to get myself to the top. If I had bombed during the Sex and The City challenge and Manila had still been in the competition, I don’t know that she would have necessarily saved me. RuPaul’s Drag Race fan-dom can get a little intimidating though, especially when you are going to make decisions; because you are concerned with what the fans are going to say. At the end of the day though, I was definitely more focused on the competition.
The fandom for Drag Race definitely can get a little intense, is that fair to say?
Yes, absolutely. I was kind of a crazy fan when I was in middle school myself. You have so much emotion in your little pubescent body, sometimes you just don’t know where to take it. (laughs).
You did the video for “Go Fish” with Manila Luzon, so all is thankfully forgiven. Speaking of music, you have your own music coming out I hear.
You know, I used to be one of those girls who would go on Drag Race and say “I will never make any music, I am not that girl.” Then I realized you could have so much fun creating videos and visuals and tour and present to your audience something that you came up with that is one hundred percent you. Music has been really fun and when I moved to Chicago I really go into house music. That was not a style of music that I was not really familiar with before, and I can really identify with it now! Frankie Knuckles, Derrick Carter, Michael Serafini, all those guys; Smart Bar in Chicago has really opened my mind to another whole style of drag.
As a performer and as a person, what continues to give you the most pride?
At the end of the day, it is really amazing to have a goal. When we are sitting on our own putting on our makeup or putting on our wig, there is always this end goal and image in the back of your head. I always try to quote RuPaul with this one; “when we can see ourselves in the image of our own imagination, it is the most powerful thing you can ever do.” That gives me so much pride to have a plan and make it happen. To have an audience be there and also enjoy it is definitely the cherry on top.
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