Sneezing is certainly a unique way to make your first moments on "RuPaul’s Drag Race" memorable, and that is exactly what Utica Queen did, both when she walked into the workroom and throughout the competition; she was definitely memorable.
Whether she was crafting a full garment out of a sleeping bag, portraying Bob Ross in the Snatch Game challenge, or performing a roast like we truly have never seen, Utica most definitely, did things in her own unique and vibrant way. I sat down with Utica Queen to talk about her Drag Race experience, what it was like being featured in the pages of Vogue for that buzzed-about sleeping bag garment, and how she came to be such a one of a kind queen.
Michael Cook: I must ask you about one of the biggest questions remaining about the season that fans desperately want to know the answer to: what does paint taste like?
Utica Queen: (Laughs) There is some tea on that; actually I don't know, it was a magic trick. There was a bit of quick hand where I had some food coloring in one hand and the card, and then as I did the upward motion, I put a bunch of green food coloring in my mouth and wiped it at the same time to make it look like I licked it. I actually don't know what paint tastes like, but I am glad that the illusion came across!
MC: So you are a lip sync assassin, a comedian, and a magician?!
UQ: (Laughs) I’ll take it!
MC: You had a very unique and very much-buzzed-about experience on "RuPaul’s Drag Race" this season. How is it to look back on the experience now?
UQ: Honestly, I had so much fun with "Drag Race," I did not expect it to be so much fun. The challenges, the dancing, the fashions, the runways, being in this little hub of creativity to me was so special to me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The ups, the downs, the all-around, and it was really so special for me and I am so glad that I got to share my art on that stage.
MC: Working with World of Wonder truly is a “hub of creativity” and having so many creative forces in one space it truly must make it feel like that energy is almost in the air.
UQ: It really is. Everyone is on top of their game and they are trying to put their best foot forward. Being a part of that and being able to encourage others in our cast and our audience to live their own truth was really special.
MC: How did you develop who the performer that Utica Queen eventually would come to be?
UQ: When I first started doing drag, I came across a realization that this was my opportunity to share my heart and be the best version of myself that I could possibly imagine through this art form. I feel like my living by that realization every day through the art of Utica, that is what you see in front of you. You see me putting on what I believe is beautiful for me and it translates to a wider audience which is so special for me. I feel like I have this light inside that I can't dim and I just want to keep it shining for as long as I possibly can. I am just a little bit wacky, just a little bit wacky….but I believe that drag is so fun and such a blessing and I really want to live it up as best as I can. I am glad that that is palpable when I am on that stage.
MC: You have emerged as much more than a wacky comedy queen and evolved into a true lip-sync assassin on the show, sending home performers like Tina Burner. What was it like becoming such a force in your cast?
UQ: At the end of the day, I am a storyteller. One of my happy places and a place that I feel safe is on that stage. Being in a position where you are asked to lip-sync for your life, for me it is so important and you are asking me to do what I do best; to share the stories and to share an experience and to take people out of this world for just a couple minutes. For the work to be revered in that regard, it really means a lot. It is really cool that I was able to stay as long as I did. To be put against some of the most beloved lip syncers of all time and to be able to come out on top…whoa, it is so cool. I’ll take the lip sync assassin title, its means a lot. It proves to me that I am doing something right. I left on such a beautiful note because that song and that performance are everything. It doesn't land in the cards always, but it really was just so special.
MC: One thing that people loved the most about you is that you loved getting out there and really performing in a lip sync for your life, which many of us had not seen in a performer before.
UQ: Absolutely. It is about learning the work and figuring out who you are through the crazy confines of the show. If you can’t find enjoyment through all of the things that you are doing with your art, your might be doing something wrong.
MC: You created a garment on the show during a challenge out of a sleeping bag and ended up in the pages of Vogue Magazine. Was that completely and totally surreal to craft a garment for the challenge and end up in the pages of the premier fashion bible?
UQ: That was ... beyond. I cannot tell you how floored I was. That look for me was a triumph. I felt like some magic had flown through me that day when I created it. That look didn't take me that long, I actually had a lot of extra time to help out the other girls and to offer my skill set to that challenge and to help the other girls out. That is something that I am all about, helping others and doing what I can. Going on the stage and having the work revered in that regard really meant a lot. Then to be in the fashion bible that Vogue is was so cool to me and the write-up was so good. I am a firm believer in putting things on your body that make you feel beautiful. That moment just proved to me that I was doing something right for me and that it was translating to a wider audience; it was very validating.
MC: Throughout your career, what do you think is the wildest and most elaborate creation that you have made for yourself?
UQ: A lot of my work is very heart-driven; what I am feeling on the inside I want to show on the outside. One of my favorite pieces that really sticks out to me was just bonkers that I wondered how I would do, but just wanted to do was the yarn ball piece with the quilting that I did before, but brought to the reveal. I really love that look, It is definitely one of my favorites. It is the kind of storytelling that I want to tell. It has a message, it is beautiful, it's creative. That piece came about because I was feeling some emotional turmoil at the time when I was creating it and I just wanted to get the feeling that I was feeling on the inside out. I think that piece embodies that and I think it embodies the art that I have inside. That piece is one of my favorites and the craziest for sure.
MC: Your humor became a big part of the conversation after your appearance on the roast. When you have to step out of your box and tell roast jokes, which is already out of your comfort zone, how hard do you find it to make that happen?
UQ: I think for me, even if I am outside of my comfort zone, I am going to make choices, They may not be the best ones and might be a little bit out there, but at least I have the confidence to just put my best foot forward. I think we should all be continuing to do that. It just shows that we can take on these crazy challenges of life. With a challenge like the roast, telling one of the nicest people in the room that they have to do insult comedy, it’s like “okay, good luck” (laughs). I had some dissonance with the judges because they thought I was being offensive. I was like, I didn't understand how humor worked; I know how it feels, but how does it technically work? I remember getting so in my head about it and not having enough time to write more material, so I just tried to go with what I had. That whole challenge is an example, I see it as a burnt bag of popcorn. It's still a bag of popcorn, there may be some good kernels in there, but it is still a burnt bag of popcorn. I believe that even when faced with crazy challenges you just have to put your best foot forward.
MC: What is next after "Drag Race?"
UQ: Once the world opens up, I want to travel, I want to share the storytelling. I want to meet those people that re-sharing their stories on that stage. I want to move the audience that is receiving the stories. I just want to perform, go all around, meet all the people that are doing everything and just share the love. This art form for me is very special and it really means a lot to me. I want to personally share as much as I can with others. I hope that I get the opportunity after all of this to go and do as much as I can, that is the goal.
MC: How have you stayed creatively infused and inspired during this past year?
UQ: I think a gift that I have, I am able to draw inspiration from my emotions and my heart; what I feel. I am an introverted extrovert, so I would love to see more people and be involved in that, but I also have enough care for myself that I can just be my own entertainment. A lot of the things that I put out there are things that I believe in the work and believe it is a story I want to tell to myself. That magically translates to a larger audience. I am able to take account of the wonderful people and show them my story. By showing my story, I am able to shed light on theirs as well. The work that I want to do includes everyone as much as I can. I think it is so important. With this year, we have had to stay inside and be introspective, but to me that has been so magical. I get to hone in on the work and make it truly special; not just for me but for the people viewing my work. I think as crazy as this year has been, it has been a blessing.
Follow Utica Queen @queenutica on Instagram.
Check out the other interviews on the "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 13 homepage.