Interview: ‘Drag Race’ season 13 finalist Rosé on the future of New York’s drag scene and her perceived feud with Jan
Rosé wasn’t going down without a fight.
The Scottish super queen outlasted many expectations, riding a second half wave to reach the season 13 finale. Along the way, she let her guard down and let her raw talent speak for itself.
Daniel Trainor and Sam Stone chatted with Rosé about defying the odds, the future of drag in New York and plans to see her name in lights.
Daniel Trainor: Rosé, thank you so much for being here!
Rosé: I am here! How are we doing, divas?
Sam Stone: We’re doing amazing, divaliscious diva!
DT: Rosé, how is this week? Are you feeling nervous? Excited?
R: I’m feeling everything. I’m very very excited. I can’t wait for the world to see what we’ve created for everybody. Just like with everything, I’m feeling all those things. I’m a little bit nervous, I’m very thrilled.
SS: We’re so excited to watch. To dive into the season, who did you think was your biggest competition when you first arrived? Did that change?
R: Well, when I first got there my biggest competition was Olivia, because she was the only person I saw that day, and then it changed because I met ten other bitches. No, I don’t know. When I think of that question, I always say the girls who are most similar to me. It’s the girls who are performance divas, the one’s whose looks might be a little more camp. Because, at the end of the day I don’t think the world wants to see a top four that’s like three of the same people. So, to promote diversity, I gotta take out the bitches who can do the same gigs as me. So, even though I became good friends with both them throughout the course of the season, I definitely had my eyes set on Denali and Tina.
DT: What did you learn about yourself while watching the season?
R: I think what I learned more than anything was that I am not as fabulous and entertaining as I imagine myself to be in a competition setting. Because, I definitely get really focused and it almost removes a layer of the fun bubbly aspects of my personality at times. Watching that was reallyweirdformesometimesbecauseIwaslikebitch,areyouamotherfuckin’robot? like what is the tea? And, thank god, towards the end of the season I was able to shake things up and let loose a little, and many of my friends and audience members were like oh there she is. So we got there, but the whole season was a reminder that I really need to not take things so seriously, even if the stakes are super high and it means the world to me. You know, you gotta let things breathe.
SS: And that’s the hardest thing to do, is to feel the pressure and unclench anyways.
R: Oh my God, yeah! The only thing that could have taught me that was literally doing it and watching it back and being like oh well could have done that better.
SS: I feel like that’s the experience of auditioning for musical theater. It’s like everything is riding on this, let me just unclench and do what I do. Do you feel like your audition experience translated to your Drag Race experience?
R: Absolutely. I’m a really competitive person by nature, and maybe especially because I grew up in musical theater and was always compared to the bitches who were standing next to me. I think that there’s a rigidity attached to the audition process, and obviously you’re more likely to book stuff if you are not in that. But, it exists. It exists especially when it’s as big a deal as Drag Race. it felt like my whole life was riding on this.
DT: When you look at your future, what are your biggest goals for yourself? And also, secondarily, are we at a place now where a drag queen can be a Broadway star without being labeled a drag queen who can sing?
R: We’re absolutely at that place, and it is my mission in life to be that bitch who carries the flag. With the success and expansion of Drag Race over the last few years, drag has been pushed so far into the mainstream. RuPaul really lit and carried that torch for us over the last few decades. But at this point drag is not only participating in, it informs and inspires fashion all over the world. I think where I fit in, I would love to be the drag queen who could be on Broadway or just working as an actress in scripted television. I think if you’ve got the chops there’s a space for it, because obviously the public adores it. People love drag.
SS: Rosé, I’m curious, because you’re a New York City icon, legend, and I am a homosexual who lives in New York City so I’ve seen some shows, and I’m going back to bars that are slowly reopening. As we slowly inch towards reopening queer spaces, do you feel that the future of drag will change with the way that we approach reopening?
R: It depends. Almost every bar in a city that requires a legal capacity, the way they’re making money is that they’re charging for tickets which is not a typical thing for a New York city bar, right? People have asked me this before, they’re like do you think that shows will be ticketed events, and my initial response is no because when we can get bodies in the room, that’s where the money is and that’s where the spirit lives. I really hope that when the coronavirus does cease and dissipate, I think it would be terrible if we lost that nightlife charm, especially in places like New York, where nightlife is so important. I don’t know, I mean drag is always changing, but I hope that nightlife on a local level will never change.
DT: You started dipping your toes back into performing live right? What has it been like?
R: It’s really weird. The only performing I’ve done in this past year was really my run on Drag Race. So, A, we’re all heavily out of shape. Can’t quite do the twirls that I’m used to on the first night back. We still have to wear facemasks which, as lip sync artists, and for me as a singer can get kind of complicated and it’s hard to adjust to. But I think the theme of season 13 and the theme of drag altogether is that drag finds a way. Drag continued to inspire and evolve with season 13 while the rest of the world was scrambling. It’s different, but we’re figuring it out.
SS: One last question, Rosé. I feel like I’ve heard so many people ask you about any perceived competition with Jan, and I am not asking you about that, but I do want to ask you if it’s weird that people keep asking you about that.
R: It is not weird! I’m used to it, and we’d be fools not to expect it. It is tiresome to talk about after a while though, because, Jan and I, we are similar, we obviously work in the same circle, but we’re very different drag queens and very different artists. There’s definitely a fixation on our drag family. You don’t hear people asking Kandy about Dahlia, or Symone about GiGi, but it’s a very similar family structure. But hey, baby, all press is good press so I’m happy to talk about her until the cows come home.
SS: Thanks for talking with us Rosé!
R: Thank you!