As part of the second selection of contestants from the split premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Daya Betty was able to showcase her own distinct perspective and talent with only six of her fellow contestants joining her.
While Daya sashayed away at the conclusion of that episode, she made a definite impact on both viewers and her fellow queens during her time on Season 14. I caught up with this Midwest sensation to talk about her start in the drag scene and when she knew it would be much more than a hobby, the advice she got from Drag Race alumni Crystal Methyd, and why intimate moments with fans and that personal connection is what it is all about for this dynamic performer.
Michael Cook: Congratulations on a short, but absolutely wonderful run on Season 14 of RuPaul's Drag Race. How does it feel to be part of such a talent-packed season?
Daya Betty: It feels so good. Everything that I have done up to and leading to this point, (this experience) has been validated. Coming from Missouri and not being able to fully express me as a queer person until I got to college, a lot of the time you feel alone in that journey. I am just happy that I can be one of those people that people can resonate with on television, and if I can do it you literally can too. It's cliche, but it is 100% true.
MC: Being a part of Drag Race is always a surreal experience, but being part of a split premiere and having the ability to truly showcase yourself and personal things like your own experiences with diabetes immediately; is a jarring experience?
DB: With my diabetic journey, I don't want people thinking because you deal with something like that you cannot do what you want to do. It is a major thing for me and it is a big part of who I am, but it is just that; it is a part of who I am. I figured, let me talk about it and be vocal about it; if a 15-year-old queer kid is watching this and also has diabetes, that is everything to me. I also think that it is important regardless of what disease or immune issue you may be dealing with for example; to raise awareness, talk about it, and shine a light on it. It is funny, whenever I am out in public and I see someone with an insulin pump I will tell them that I have that one too, or "your insulin pump is way nicer than mine". It is about that connection, I resonate with that.
MC: What do you think was your favorite part of your Drag Race journey?
DB: I think the best part of it, as cliche as it is and while people have probably heard it already, our cast is close. It is just so nice being able to have thirteen drag race family members that you can lean on literally about anything. For example, I had to call June Jambalaya the other day to ask her about a lamp I had purchased without the light bulbs; it was like "do you have any experience with light bulbs"? Being able to call someone about light bulbs, is awesome. We are the only ones that have experienced this; there are only thirteen other girls that know exactly how I feel. Walking into that workroom, being nervous; I really lean on them for that kind of thing.
What I would have done differently...I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so I don't think I really would change anything. Maybe get on anxiety medication before I get to the show (laughs).
MC: Who gave you the best advice for Drag Race and what was it?
DB: Well it was obviously Crystal (Method). Crystal is my drag family, but I also consider her just family, she is everything and she is so sweet. She told me just don't expect anything; don't try to figure things out in my head, let things happen as they happen. go with the flow; the second you start playing games in your own mind is when you fall down and you stumble, and she was one hundred percent correct. She is always right about everything, it is crazy (laughs).
MC: When did you fall in love with drag and know that it would be much more than a passing fancy and it would be the passion that you would follow to the world stage?
DB: I would say about a year into performing in Springfield as local bars, I was starting to feel a sense of community. I grew up in a small town outside of Kansas City Missouri and I did not express my queerness as much as I would have liked to now in retrospect. I was scared, I was terrified. I resented being gay in a way. because I didn't know any gay people from where I was from, maybe one person and it felt awkward to talk to him because I knew I was gay but I didn't want people think that I was. Once I moved to Springfield and became Daya and doing weekly gigs, seeing the community and seeing people rally behind you and coming out just to watch you perform in a show, made me really realize that I could use this platform for good. That is the only reason you should have a platform in the first place, as long as you are spreading love and kindness. Just giving back to the community that has given so much to me I think is the most important part.
MC: Drag Race gives people a global platform and gives you the ability to speak to so many that don't feel heard or represented; what do you want to make sure you showcase now that you have this platform?
DB: There is nothing stronger to me than going to a club that you have never been to and having two performances lined up and knowing nobody in the audience. Then after the show being able to talk to people who say things like "the first song you did, it made me think of this time when I was riding in the car with my grandma before she passed away". Little personal stories that people can relate to in their own lives and being able to have conversations with people and speak with them face to face. At the end of the day we are all just human beings trying to figure it all out and I don't think people should ever lose sight of that. Selling merch and having your name on posters is great don't get me wrong, but if you are not using that for the betterment of your community and trying to be a good role model kicker out. Lady Gaga is a huge inspiration to me, I am obsessed with her, I love her very very much. One thing she has always been very vocal about and she has used her platform for is being kind, and talking about mental health and to connect with people, I think that is something that is very important. At the end of the day, we are all struggling with the same emotions, some people can just talk about it better than others. I just think being able to have that vulnerability and that connection with other people, is what it is all about for me.
MC: I recently heard someone say on a podcast that our brain is one of our largest organs, and there seems to be a shame and a stigma attached to taking care of that. That is the kind of thinking that hopefully we are seeing a shift.
DB: Absolutely, it is so wild to me. Especially for me and my own mental health, it started at a very young age. I didn't talk about it and I didn't know who to go to in order to talk about it. I think being able to raise awareness about it and for people to not be afraid to have open discussions with people that they trust, would just make a world of difference.
MC: The last couple years have been chaotic for many artists all over the world, who had their ability to perform turned upside down and for many. What lesson do you think you are taking from the past couple years into your new career phase as a Ru-Girl?
DB: Resilience. Not letting things put you down, especially with Covid and everything. we found ways to still make money, and you really have to roll with the punches. For me, that is what I love about being an artist. I love the challenge being things the rough parts; as much as the payoff is awesome, I really love the journey to the destination. Being able to pick yourself up and keep going!
Follow Daya Betty on Instagram @dayabetty.
Read about the other contestants on the homepage.