Michael Cook: Congratulations on an amazing turn on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. How do you feel about the experience as a whole?
Mayhem Miller: I feel good! It was fun; I wanted to treat it as a summer vacation and look at it as summer school or summer camp. I wanted my experience filming All Stars to be a pleasant one, and not as stressful as it was for me when I was there for Season 10.
MC: We truly got to see the person behind Mayhem Miller during your All Stars run. What made you want to be so much more vulnerable this time around?
MM: I just wanted to be real. I feel like when it comes to Drag Race, we get a lot of people that come in and give us characters and don’t come in and give us their true authentic selves. If we are going to have reality tv, let's be real. I wanted to share my real story. My first time around on Drag Race I didn’t really get the opportunity to open up and share much about myself and I think it was because I wasn’t ready to be exposed on a worldwide stage like that. I wanted to have control of my narrative and say “I’m Mayhem Miller and I’m this perfect drag queen” and I wanted to have that image. This time around, I was like, no — there are a lot of people out there that can identify with what I have struggled with in my life ad you can bring a lot of awareness to some things and you can probably help some people through the hard times that they are struggling with as well.
MC: There are certain queens like Nina West, Brook Lynn Hytes and yourself that came into the competition with a large name in the drag industry, which only seems to raise people's expectations of them on the show and as performers. Does that make it harder?
MM: It does make it harder. You know, they say don’t read the comments but were drag queens and we want to hear what about ourselves (laughs). When you read the comments and I would see some hurtful things said about me, with people asking what the “hype” is about me or things like that, people forget that tv is different than real life. I mean, if I wasn’t great about what I did, I would not be in this industry for twenty years and be a queens queen. Someone that is well known in the drag industry. There is that pressure that I have to live up to what everyone is expecting from me. I had to let that go though, I had to let that go because the thing is, if you have expectations, expect to be let down. I am not going to allow people to hold me up to a pedestal and then tear me down. I am going to just admit that I am human and I do my best.
MC: What was it like awaiting the final lip sync, the curtain goes up, and there is your best friend Morgan McMichaels being revealed as the lip-sync assassin?
MM: I said, “there’s my sis, let's do this shit” (laughs)! I love Morgan to death, that's my best friend. I've known Morgan since I came out since I was 18. We have had 20 years of friendship. She is an amazing entertainer and I love watching her entertain. I was ready to sit there and be entertained.
MC: The drag family that you come from are some of the biggest names in the industry, whether they have appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race or not. From Delta Work to Rhea Litre, what have you learned from being around people that are so immensely talented?
MM: If you want to be successful and you always want to be on top of your game, surround yourself with those types of people. I have encompassed myself with amazing artists. Whether they are on the show or not, they are talented people. All that does is generate energy around me that makes me want to elevate to the same level.
MC: There has been a sudden reckoning in the drag communities across the country where performers of color are standing up for themselves and demanding that they are paid their worth and respected. What do you think has shifted to make people finally stand up and speak out?
MM: With everything that is happening in the world and with the climate, marginalized voices are being heard. I find it very encouraging that queens of color are speaking out now. They are letting the powers know that we are here, we have been mistreated over the years, we have been overlooked, and felt unheard. It is time that you do see us, hear guys, and respect us and give us the shine that we deserve. A lot of gay culture is based around us, and what we have done and what we have created. I am very happy to see the queens speaking out because it has been long overdue.
MC: When you have experienced discrimination directly, how have you addressed it yourself?
MM: When I started doing drag, drag wasn’t cool then. It was just a handful of queens and not that many shows in Southern California. There were not many queens of color that were spotlighted in those shows, maybe one or two celebrated at a time. Now, there are a plethora of us out there hitting the scene, and I am happy to see that representation. For me growing up, when people did not give me an opportunity I made my opportunity. If you didn’t want me in your show in a certain club, then I went to that club and I performed on their patio or I performed on their dance floor after their show. I had people look at me, I demanded my attention, I made people see me. I say that to say this; if people are not giving you your opportunities, you fucking make em’ — and you create your own.
MC: What opportunities are next for you now that All Stars is in the rearview mirror?
MM: I want to keep partying, I’m the Queen of The Party for a reason, and the party can’t stop. I want to keep doing what makes me happy and drag has made me happy for all these years, and I want to continue to do that.
MC: How have you stayed creatively fueled during this quarantine that we have been under?
MM: To be honest, I have taken this time to work on myself and not worry about being creative and being an artist. I have worked on Dequan. By myself, to learn more about myself. Sometimes my art is my defining moment in life, and I need to make more defining moments as my true self. I have been letting Dequan shine for the past couple of months during quarantine and I have been loving it.