After three episodes filled with about five thousand new twists, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 finally sent its first queen packing.
On Friday’s episode (Jan. 19), the now-united cast of 14 queens were tasked with throwing The Mother of All Balls on the main stage. Cycling through three looks on the runway, the contestants showed off their best Mother Goose looks (themed after nursery rhymes) and their best Significant Mother (themed after famous moms), before finally revealing their Call Me Mother/Father Eleganza, which they crafted one day prior in the work room out of nothing but menswear.
But of course, in this season of twists, Ru couldn’t just let the girls off that easily — the hostess revealed that the girls would be using the show’s newly-introduced Rate-A-Queen system one last time to determine the week’s tops and bottoms. After 14 rounds of voting from the contestants and classic judges’ critiques, Nymphia Wind was crowned the winner for her inspired look using men’s ties.
The news was not so good for Geneva Karr and Hershii LiqCour-Jeté, who wound up in the bottom for their lackluster looks. Performing in a high-energy, all-out lip sync to Ava Max’s “Maybe You’re the Problem,” both queens gave it their all, but only Geneva was permitted to stay.
Below, Billboard catches up with Hershii about performing in the ball challenge, speaking about being a queer parent on national television, and why she felt that the Rate-A-Queen system lended itself to “more shade than fairness.”
You made it to Drag Race, queen! How are you feeling after watching your run on the show?
I don’t feel bad at all — I genuinely feel like I gave it all I could, and I did the best that I could, and I did not quit at any point. I feel like nobody wants to be the Porkchop, but the best I could do is what I gave. I’m pleased!
I wanted to say, before we get into the episode, that it was so cool to see you talking about being a parent and how that affects your view on anti-LGBTQ legislation trying to limit children’s interactions with queerness. How have you been dealing with the ongoing release of these bills?
Honestly, I’m queer, so it’s not anything new with everything that’s going on. This has been happening. I do my best to actually try to not focus on it too much, because when I dwell on that stuff, it makes me sad and I don’t want to put that on my children.
I want them to have the most normal life that they could possibly have — whatever you consider “normal” being. They remind me every day that this normal is just fine for them, too; they don’t look at me as a queer person, they don’t look at me as a drag queen, all they see is Baba. They wanna make sure they get their cereal in the morning and their hugs at night. They are my focus; when it comes to everything else, I do my part in the voting booth, and I do my part being as visible as I possibly can. I mean, even just being a parent who is also a drag queen, even just being visible is political for me.
Did your kids get to watch you on the show?
So, they’ve seen it, but I don’t think they realize that it’s actually on TV. As far as they know, that’s just me at work!
Let’s get into the work, then! This season, we were introduced to the new Rate-A-Queen system — what did you think of this twist when it was first introduced to you on the show?
Oh, I hated it! [Laughs.] I did not like it at all! I just knew that, to an extent, it was going to mess up some chances for me. I knew that people were either going to play the game and be shady, or they were going to be fair — and there was going to be a lot more shade than fairness! I feel like I could’ve potentially gone further had a few of the girls played it a little more on the fair side.
What did you make of Plane Jane’s “best are bottoms, worst are tops” tactics she used in your premiere episode?
Girl, I saw her wheels turning in the work room! I don’t know if the other girls caught it, but the second she said, “I’m going to make sure I play fair,” I gave her a look, like, “Yeah, sure you will, girl.” She turned out being exactly the girl I knew she was. But, that’s part of the game! The fandom wants TV, they want some mess, they want somebody to come in and shake things up — Plane Jane is your girl!
If you had the opportunity to go back, do you think you would’ve done your Rate-A-Queen picks differently?
Absolutely! I went in there trying to be all integral and nice to everybody and fair — no, if I could go back, I would mess everybody’s placement up. [Laughs.]
It’s episode three, and we’re already at the ball challenge, which is easily one of the hardest challenges on the show. What was your immediate reaction when you found out the ball was happening this early in the show?
I love the ball challenge, because it’s the one challenge where you really get to show the most of yourself and your style on the runway, so I actually really like that they put it this early. My problem was with the design element — I can use a machine, but if you’re asking me to be a Q or a Sapphira or a Nymphia, I’m not that girl!
Completely, and I feel like we always have the same discourse around the ball challenges, where people are shocked that some girls can’t sew. Where do you fall on that debate — do girls need to know how to sew when they go on Drag Race?
Oh, interesting. I don’t think it’s about knowing how to sew, because being a designer is a different type of talent. Everyone can know how to sew or not; I didn’t have to ask for any help with the machines, I didn’t need any glue guns, I could put an outfit together. But I’m not a designer, I cannot see fashion in that way. My drag is heavy on the performance side. It’s about being able to design, not being able to sew — like, when I saw what Q had wrapped around her neck, my jaw dropped.
Sadly, you wound up in the bottom this week, lip synching to Ava Max’s “Maybe You’re the Problem” against Geneva Karr, and I was obsessed with the unhinged, church-lady energy you brought to this lip sync. What was your strategy going into that performance?
To be completely honest with you, I already felt like everybody had decided that I was going home. There was no need to ask Sapphira or Jane for immunity, because nobody was coming to save me. Plus, if you know me, you know that Ava Max is so far outside my wheelhouse — I love her as an artist, but that is not my wheelhouse. My thought process was, “If I’m leaving, I’m going to have the best time of my life on that stage.” So, the second the music hit, and that one camera swung in front of me, that was all I needed. I was just living my life on that stage.
Well, before we let you go, I wanted to ask — is there any music you’ve been obsessing over lately?
Actually, yes there is! I just ran into this artist, his name is Dre Scot, and he is so good. I cannot listen to club music in my downtime, I need some relaxing, good vibe music, and Dre Scot’s voice is so relaxing, I love him. Oh, and Victoria Monét! Both of them are on constant repeat in the Hershii household.
Powered by Billboard.