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‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Star Xunami Muse on Why She Didn’t Hate Being the ‘Safe Queen’ of the Season

With the ball challenge, a design challenge, an acting challenge and the Rusical under its belt, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 still had a major staple to give fans — the Snatch Game.

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On Friday’s episode (aired Feb. 23), the nine remaining queens were put through the classic Drag Race gauntlet, as Ru charged them with crafting their best celebrity impressions in a Match Game-inspried show with one very simple rule at its center: “Make me laugh.”

Taking to the Snatch Game stage, Sapphira Cristál impressed Ru with their gut-busting take on the Godfather of Soul James Brown, while Plane Jane took off with her second challenge win for an uproarious impersonation of Serbian pop phenomenon Jelena Karleuša. Meanwhile, Morphine Love Dion couldn’t steal a laugh as fraudster Anna Delvey, while Xunami Muse’s original character the Gold Tooth Fairy found nothing but crickets under Ru’s pillow.

Lip synching to Whitney Houston’s perennial classic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” Morphine and Xunami worked together to make a memorable moment of reality television. Dancing with (rather than against) one another, the pair made good on the promise of Houston’s hit song. But when the song was over, only one could remain — Ru relieved Morphine’s pain by keeping her for one more week, while Xunami’s wave crashed into the shore for the final time.

Below, Billboard chats with Xunami about her Snatch Game performance, her collaborative lip sync, and why she refused to be bothered about constant “safe” placements.

What has your experience been watching yourself on television for the last few weeks?

It’s kind of like an out of body experience, to be honest — I’ve only watched each episode once because I cannot deal, otherwise. It’s interesting to see myself in that world, and living here now with all of the opportunities and all the things I have to do now, and getting to see the fans in all of their different states. It’s really cool!

Throughout this season, you have become the unofficial hostess of Untucked, now and forever known to all of us as Xunami’s Afters

[Laughs.] Girl, that was my favorite thing on the show, no lie. It felt iconic. 

I love that you took your safe placements in stride and let yourself have fun when it came time for Untucked — why do you think you reacted that way, where others got very stressed about it?

It’s definitely a combination of things. Even though it didn’t show, deep down, I was giving the Arthur fist meme, you know what I mean? You always want to excel, and if it was up to any of the girls, they would win every episode, obviously. But, I couldn’t be upset about being safe every time for a few reasons; it didn’t mean I did bad, and it meant that I lived another week to show another look. No matter the situation, I will always focus on the positive side of it. It came from that, and just being genuinely happy to be there. 

Was there any challenge in particular where you felt you should have placed higher?

Oh, girl. I felt like I could have been high for the ball, and maybe for the SNL challenge. But really, it was the girl group challenge. I had a genuinely great week that week, and had it been critiqued individually instead of by groups, I feel like I could have been high. So that’s part of it — going through this experience, being safe didn’t mean you did bad. It’s a big cast, and a lot of these girls are crazy talented. As long as I felt like I was showcasing my drag to the best of my abilities and it was being enjoyed, then it was a success. Getting to watch it now, I’m happy with what I gave, completely. 

Fans know that you are the adopted drag daughter of season 13 and All Stars 8 contestant Kandy Muse. Did Kandy offer you any advice before you left for filming?

The main thing she told me was to have fun and to make it my own. Obviously, in your mind, you’re going to win that crown and $200,000. But she really said, “Remember to have fun and leave your stamp.” And you know what, I had so much fun on this show. There was a lot that wasn’t shown, but watching what they did show, you can tell I was having a ball the whole time. Every moment, you could not tell me I wasn’t it on Drag Race

In this episode, we arrive and the long-awaited — and for some queens, dreaded — Snatch Game. You chose to perform an original character, the Gold Tooth Fairy. What made you decide to go for something original rather than a classic impression?

Let’s get into it. Snatch Game is my least favorite challenge on the show because it is so hard. I cannot stress enough how hard doing Snatch Game is — being quick and in the moment as a completely different character is a tough skill, and that’s why the ones who do well in the game go on to be so successful. But, I wanted to approach it the best way I could. For years, I auditioned for this show and would show Naomi Campbell and Cardi B and people like that, and it never felt like it was giving! 

So when I was cast, I was like, “What if I do an original character? That way I’ll stand out.” I was thinking about how Trinity [the Tuck] and Yvie [Oddly] did their versions of fictional characters like the Boogeyman or the Devil [on All Stars 7] and made them completely their own. But it turns out I bit off way more than I could chew, girl!

Did you have any backup characters ready to go in case the Gold Tooth Fairy wasn’t working?

I would have done Celia Cruz — and you know what, I should have done Celia Cruz. For me it would’ve been all about the “azúcar,” girl! Screaming “azúcar” alone would have kept me safe this week!

You and Morphine winding up in the bottom resulted in one of the season’s best lip syncs. When I was done being shocked that Drag Race has never had “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” as a lip sync song, I couldn’t stop watching the two of you turning the performance into a collaborative dance. What was going through your mind when you decided to dance with Morphine instead of against her?

I think it was the familiarity, being in that moment with someone who is actually my friend. Like, we’d done shows together, we were friends, and there’s just something about performing with your girl where you just want to bounce off of each other. There was this really natural thing between us, and it felt right in the moment. Like, I didn’t want to lip sync against my girl — I didn’t want to lip sync period! But, once I was in the bottom with her, it became, “Oh, okay. We’re going to make this a moment.” 

Last thing before you go — what music have you been listening to lately?

To be honest, the song I’ve had on repeat is my new track with Kandy Muse, which I will be premiering live at the Love Ball with Shea Couleé, Luxx Noir London, Tayce, Monét X Change and LaLa Ri, hello! It’s called “It’s Giving C–t,” and I believe it should be up for streaming by March 1, and we’re gonna perform it live first. I’m really excited for it, I’ve just really been bumping along to it all day.

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