The “Drag Race” journey of Minnesota’s-own Utica Queen was one of great growth, learning and, ultimately, plenty of controversy.
The Season 13 queen morphed into a sneaky lip sync assassin and turned impressive looks on the runway, making a run to the top 6. However, after a difficult Roast performance in which she managed to offend nearly everybody on set, she failed to save herself in her final lip sync, and was sent packing by Symone.
A self-described “wacky waving inflatable arm tube queen,” Utica brought the weird and whimsy, but stumbled on the road to the finish line. Daniel Trainor and Sam Stone talked to Utica about her already-infamous Roast performance, her Bob Ross impersonation on Snatch Game and the lessons she learned along the way.
Daniel Trainor: Hi Utica. We’re happy to have you here.
Utica: Hi everyone. This is a prayer circle. Does anyone have any prayer requests?
Sam Stone: Too many to name, honestly.
DT: There’s not enough time in the day, Utica. How are you feeling?
Utica: Oh my goodness, I’m lovely. I have my Dunkin’ Donuts.
DT: Say no more. Let’s start by chatting about the Roast. How did you feel about your performance?
Utica: Oh my gosh. So, ask one of the nicest people in the cast to do a Roast? It was like a burnt bag of popcorn. There are definitely some good kernels in there and it’s like a delicious kettle corn. However, it’s still a burnt bag of popcorn. I definitely had a difficult time. You have to do insults and, for me, I find it hard to use scripts and what not. When I went off script, I had some really good zingers in there. I think I had one of the funniest jokes. And then you get the double middle fingers from RuPaul? I think you can be happy.
SS: There’s no doubt that you took some big swings. Was there ever a moment where you thought you should rethink your strategy, or was it all about doubling down?
Utica: Oh my goodness, yes. Definitely. I remember thinking that my jokes were going to work, and then Loni Love and Michelle Visage were like “your jokes…you should figure out how to tell them better, maybe try not to be as mean?” I was like “oh my god, am I being mean?” and they were like “possibly.” I went into this spiral of “oh my gosh, am I being offensive?” I remember getting really stressed out. When it comes to insult comedy, you have to get the rhythm and the cadence and you have to come from a place of love. Since I always come from a place of love, when you even get an inkling of trying to put insult humor in there, it just ends up a mess.
DT: I found it interesting when you said were “still learning what’s comedy and what’s offensive.” Why do you think you were still seeking an answer to that question and did the show help you find one?
Utica: I don’t know. I freeze up under pressure and when I’m not doing well. I tell myself to breathe and get through it. I’ve learned that I was trying to fit a mold that was asked of me. I was trying to fit in with the other girls. I attempted to do my version of a Roast within the lens of trying to be like the other girls. I could feel the dissonance. In fact when I went off the cuff during the Roast, I was like “ah, this is what it feels like to be who you are and let the jokes be natural!” I’ve grown to realize that you always have to come from a place of love. I would never want to be offensive or cause any malice. It’s all a learning experience.
SS: As the season progressed, it felt like we began to see the evolution of your shadiness a little bit. Did you feel like you were able to go toe-to-toe with the other girls as you got more comfortable?
Utica: Yes. I got put in this situation with some of the most chatty girls. Sometimes I have my zingers. I like to save them. I feel like I’m a little pressure cooker of nice, and then I pop out a zinger diamond sometimes. It just throws people for a loop because I am very sweet and kind, but I have moments that are like “bam!” People are so eclectic. I have a little bit of shade that pops out and I love it. My favorite thing is when it comes out and the other girls are baffled.
DT: It did seem like you used the platform as a time for growth. This conversation about racial appropriation followed you around, both in Snatch Game and the Makeover Challenge. What did you learn and did you come out of the experience with a greater understanding of race and how that impacts drag?
Utica: Oh, absolutely. Coming fresh off the [Black Lives Matter] movement and going onto the show, I wanted to do the best that I could to share those stories and bring reverence to minority cultures. I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I had a lot of concern for making sure everyone in the room was being heard. I remember talking to RuPaul and Symone and other individuals on set about these issues. I just wanted to put my best foot forward. I really learned that it’s about having those conversations and making sure everyone is heard. I had a few moments with RuPaul and I could feel that she was trying to figure out my choice with the squirrel wig, for example. She was like “it’s a little weird!” But for me as a performer and artistic human, I wanted to put a creative twist on it and I felt like it was the more appropriate choice without me having to purchase an afro. RuPaul was like “it would be more accurate if you had an afro!” Coming fresh off the movement and being an artist, I just felt like it was a better artistic choice for me. I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to wear an afro. I just wanted to stick to my guns. That was the thing with Symone, too. In that challenge, I wanted to make sure that we really did it right. Going into it, with me not knowing the reference, I wanted to make sure we were coming at it with the mindset of love. From having those conversations, we really told the story of what’s happening in the world. I’m very proud of that.
SS: Thanks for the time, Utica. We can’t wait to see what’s next for you.
Utica: That’s it?! That’s all the time that I get with you guys? Call me anytime!