She’s a winner, baby.
Symone, the pride and joy of Arkansas, is your season 13 winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” darlings! While her win ultimately felt like an inevitability, her journey wasn’t without its hiccups. In the end, however, she was undeniable.
The queen chatted with Daniel Trainor and Sam Stone about her roots, the iconic Say Their Names runway look and how she vows to never lose sight of her purpose.
Daniel Trainor: Hello, Symone!
Trainor: Oh, to hear your voice. I’ve never been better in my gay life.
Sam Stone: We’re in absolute heaven.
Symone: Oh my god, you two are so sweet. How are you girls?
Trainor: So good. Okay, I have to start by telling you that I’m currently on a road trip and I spent the better part of today driving through the entire state of Arkansas.
Symone: You did?! What did you think?
Trainor: I did. Uh…lots of trees!
Symone: Uh huh. It is The Natural State!
Trainor: Well, it leads directly into my first question for you. What has it been like being able to represent for your home state in such a powerful way? I imagine this is the first time that many people back home have seen your fully-realized drag persona.
Symone: It has been amazing. I’m the first queen from Arkansas that’s been on the show. It gave a lot of people back home the feeling that, wow, somebody made it. It’s been so great to get the love and support that I’ve received. My drag when I left compared to my drag on the show is leaps and bounds better (laughs). So, I don’t think they expected me to bring it like I brought it. I love when people are so gooped. The messages I get from people like “oh my god, you have no idea how you being on the show has made me feel like I can do anything.” It’s been fabulous.
Stone: The reaction from so many viewers, right out of the gate, was that the competition was yours to lose. Did you feel that in real time, and what was it like to watch it all play out from home?
Symone: It was surreal. You just never know. I didn’t know what the other girls were going to bring. So, for people to respond so beautifully to me was crazy. I’ve been asked before about when I knew I was the favorite, and it was immediate. Nobody was secretive about that.
Trainor: Immediately. I love it.
Symone: (laughs) Yeah, it was kind of immediate. I kind of knew. But you just don’t know how you’re going to be perceived. The love has been truly amazing. I just keep saying the same words. But I don’t know how else to say it.
Trainor: When you showed up, who did you think was going to be your biggest competition, and if you had been told then who was going to make the finale, would you have been surprised?
Symone: It would have made sense to me. Wait, no, that’s a lie. I wouldn’t have thought Rosé at first. I’m not going to lie to you. I just didn’t see it at first. And we’ve talked about this. She knows. I just didn’t see it. I thought that Gottmik and, honestly, Tina [Burner] were going to be my biggest competition. I knew she was a campy queen, a New York legend and has been doing drag for however many years.
Stone: (laughs) That’s very kind of you, Symone.
Symone: You know, you know, you know. However many years. So, I was half right.
Stone: All of your looks this season were so carefully thought out. Can you tell us more about the planning process and the layers behind all your looks?
Symone: I’ve always been very conscious of how I look. Even back in the day, I always knew what I wanted to look like. When I got an inkling that I was going to be on the show, I literally had a folder on my phone of images and things that I love from pop culture. Even down to like a nail color. I had all the things. My runways are very thought out and deliberate. I wanted it that way because I wanted to show that I’m not just a pretty face. I have a brain. There is a thought process. So many of these things that I love come with negative connotations or are made to feel othered. I wanted to show the beauty in it that I see, and that the world needs to see. It’s not just for black, queer people. It was for everyone. I wanted to show that these moments are worthy of being on the same level, and deserve to be on the same level, of what we traditionally think of as beautiful. I wanted to say something with my runways and I wanted to have fun, and I think I did that.
Stone: I would love to zoom into the Say Their Names dress, which genuinely made me gasp. It felt like a physical impact. What was it like to design that and then ultimately wear it on the runway?
Symone: Oh my god. Going in, because of the times we’re in, I knew that I wanted to do something very specific and I wanted to be unapologetic about it. Once I was called, I knew the exact silhouette that I wanted. I knew I wanted it to be white. I knew I wanted to be covered head-to-toe. I knew I didn’t want it to be sexualized in any way. I knew the elements that I wanted. It just so happened that the fascinator was one of the categories. It was very thought out. I went over it with a fine-tooth comb with my friends and my family. I knew that I wanted to strike a very important balance, and I knew it couldn’t go too far in one direction, if that makes sense. I wanted it to be beautiful, gorgeous, striking and stunning, but I also wanted the message to be there in a very poetic way, but still in your face. It was an important moment to me. We were filming before the election, as well. No matter who won, I didn’t want to be lulled into a false sense of security. I wanted it to be in the face of America, no matter which way it went. A lot of layers went into that look. It had to be perfect.
Trainor: This all makes me wonder about where your drag goes from here. As you become more famous and perform on bigger stages in front of bigger crowds, are you cognizant about holding onto the nuance, subjectivity and politicalization of your drag?
Symone: I’m very cognizant of it. If I lose that, I lose part of myself. I’ve always been very conscious of that. I don’t see myself losing it because it’s part of who I am. It’s my drag. There may be times when I won’t be able to be as loud about it, but it’s always going to be there. It’s not just for black people. It’s for everyone. If I have a platform to say something, I’m always going to say something.
Stone: We cannot wait to see how your drag progresses and what is next for you. Thank you so much for the time.
Symone: I love you guys. Thank you.