Warning: This article contains spoilers for the second episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.
The latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK delivered the first Rusical of the British version, a runway full of reveals (admittedly, of varying quality) and, regrettably, another elimination.
For the second week in a row, fans were left shocked by RuPaul’s final decision, with Cherry Valentine sashaying away after losing her lip sync to – what else? – Memory from Cats against fellow contestant Tayce.
Speaking to HuffPost UK the morning after her elimination aired, Cherry explained why she disagrees with the judges’ critiques, how she’s re-evaluated things since her time on the show and whether she still feels like she was “robbed”...
You said after your elimination that you felt “robbed”. Do you still feel that way now?
[Laughs] Do you know what, I always cringe when queens say they’ve been “robbed”, but that must have been how I felt at the time! I forgot I even said it, it was so long ago. But looking back, I do feel like I had so much more to give. And I don’t actually think I did that bad a job in the competition, to be honest.
What did you make of the judges’ critiques of you this week?
With the Rusical challenge, Michelle said that she could “tell in my face” [Michelle said: “The phrase never let ’em see you sweat is important]… but I was actually emoting the track. That was what the whole lyrics were about, I was just acting out the track.
And Alan Carr said my runway was a bit “meh”, but I thought it was fabulous. It was something I’d never done before, it had a beautiful message behind it. I do love Alan Carr, and I love all the judges, but I didn’t necessarily agree with everything.
We’re only two weeks into the competition, but both weeks, the judges’ comments have faced criticism from fans online. Do you agree with their picks for the bottom?
No, not necessarily, this week or last week. But I always think, we’ve all got opinions, but it’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, and their decision is final, isn’t it? There’s a lot more to it than what we see on screen, I think sometimes RuPaul does it to give you a good lesson in life… or maybe he just thinks you’re shit at what you do. But I think sometimes he does it to make you learn something. And that’s certainly what it did for me.
Is there anyone you’d swap out in the bottom?
I don’t really want to name names! But I don’t feel like I deserved to be there. And that’s all I’ll say on that.
You obviously hadn’t expected to be lip syncing. At what point did it become apparent that you were going to be in the bottom?
When it was me, Lawrence and Tayce on the stage. And I was like, “OK. They’re not going to send Lawrence home”. It was that moment I knew I was going to be lip syncing against Tayce.
What went through your head before that lip sync?
“Shit”. [Laughs] Honestly, I was really shocked, and my heart was racing – because I know Tayce is a fabulous performer, and I know what she’s capable of. But I’d never seen her do a slow song. And I never ever perform slow songs, because I really do get emotional – especially to Memory, what a song to lip sync to! I used to be a cheerleader, so I do like backflips, splits, twists, turns… that’s what I do when I perform, so doing [Memory] was really out of my comfort zone, and it shook me up a little bit, actually.
Did you feel differently watching the episode back to how you felt in the moment?
I feel different about the whole thing now. Filming it, going through that, actually really shook me up, and it made me really re-evaluate what I actually wanted to do.
When I came home, we went straight into lockdown, and I threw myself back into nursing and buried myself away for a few months. And I changed my whole perception on a lot of things.
Watching it back last night, I felt a little bit of closure, and I felt like it was something that needed to happen for me to move forward. So I have no negative feelings towards it now, and I feel proud of everything I did when I was there.
After throwing yourself back into nursing and being so involved in the coronavirus crisis, is drag still as big a part of your life?
Drag is as big a part of my life as ever. Even through lockdown, I wasn’t even working doing drag, but after a 12-hour nursing shift, the only thing that would make me feel a bit perky again was getting to do drag. So I would sanitise my whole body and then slap a face on, and just feel so much better. I’ve been doing drag the whole time, literally more than I ever have done. It gives me energy, I know it’s cheesy, but it does.
In the episode, we saw you speak about your background and your traveller heritage, was it important to you that you had those conversations on TV?
Yeah, to be honest, that was one of the main reasons I went on the show. I wanted to show that no matter where you come from or who you are, you can do what makes you happy. And it was actually really emotional – I’m glad they cut out all the scenes of me really ugly crying, because I really went for it. But that was something that I really wanted to talk about, and I’m glad that I did, and I’m proud of what I said. I don’t feel ashamed of anything that I talked about, and I feel a lot more positive about it now. I’m really proud of where I come from, I was then, but I really appreciate it more now.
Similarly, you must feel proud to be the first queen from the North East of England to ever be on RuPaul’s Drag Race?
I really, really do! The drag scene in the North East is absolutely incredible, and I just love Northern queens. We get it, we really do get it. But I did feel really proud when I found out I was the first. And the support from people in the North East have given me… I feel like that’s what we do, we rally behind people when they’re doing well. It’s really inspiring and it’s really humbling, but I really do appreciate it. It’s been lovely.
As someone who’s been watching Drag Race for a long time, what was the most surprising thing about being on the show?
How little sleep you actually get. People talk about it being tiring, and I’m like, “it can’t be that tiring, you go to sleep at night, you wake up in the morning”. But literally, some days I had like two hours of sleep. It’s a lot. And the stress is intense. What we see on screen is an hour, but you’re filming for days, for that one episode. So it’s a lot of filming, it’s a lot of high-intensity work, and it’s really made me respect the queens who go on Drag Race a lot more. It really puts it into perspective.
Has anything about watching the show that also surprised you?
Well, I didn’t expect a romance to blossom between Tayce and A’Whora… but it’s just different being in the room when things are filmed and then seeing it on TV. I really think the music and how it’s edited changes your perspective on things. And HD is unforgiving, Jesus Christ.
Is there anything you’d do differently looking back?
I’d probably have fought a little but more for the role that I wanted in the Rusical. I don’t know, maybe I wouldn’t have cared so much what other people thought about me. Like I felt really reserved at points, but obviously if I went back in, I’d be like, “I need that part, I can do it better than her” [Laughs]. But I don’t know if I’d have changed anything other, I think I did a good job in the Rusical. I don’t know, maybe I’d have cried a bit more during the lip sync, but you can’t force that!
Do you think things had been different had you fought for the role that Veronica Green ended up with?
Yeah because if I’d had the role, I’d probably have won the challenge. I just think it’s really hard to stand out when you’re in a group, and I’m really conscious of other people, and I do want other people to do well, so I was really conscious about Sister Sister and Lawrence. But I didn’t feel the need to list off all the things that I’m good at, like I said on the show, I don’t beg for things, do you know what I mean? I’m happy with that I did.
You were there for two weeks, but do you think we get a good taste of what Cherry Valentine is all about?
You definitely got a good snapshot, a tiny part of what Cherry can do. But my runways that I showed in the first two episodes, they’re not actually my style of drag. I do really creative stuff and full-concept looks – I like doing dark stuff, and stuff that’s really crazy. I’ll be posting everything I was going to do every week on social media, so everyone will see what I was going to be doing, but what I was going to bring to the competition was so varied, and the looks I had were incredible, even I can say that and not be big-headed.
Who are you rooting for at this early stage?
I don’t think anyone deserves it because they’re all really terrible drag queens. [Laughs] No, I really love Ginny Lemon. On-screen and off-screen, that’s who she is and she’s fabulous, and we really had some nice conversations. But I also love Tayce, I think Tayce is an incredible performer and she’s absolutely beautiful. I do really appreciate all the styles of drag that everyone’s got, but I would expect Ginny and Tayce to do well.
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK continues on Thursday on BBC Three.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.