Sun. Sep 27th, 2020

Interview: Jan from ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ season 12 dishes on staying relevant during quarantine, becoming a meme and why she’s ready for a run on All Stars

Jan isn’t going anywhere.

The bubbly, sporty queen from Season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race isn’t letting quarantine or a disappointing exit from the show get her down. 

Between becoming a viral sensation with her flummoxed look while dressed as a flight attendant to her affable testimonials, Jan was able to win over many Drag Race fans with her exuberance and spunk. 

She’s been able to translate that into a thriving presence online, where queens like herself fight are fighting for attention and bandwidth. 

Jan is doing just fine, thank you.

AwardsWatch spoke with Jan about her experience on the show, the connections she finds between sports & drag and why she’s primed and ready for an All Stars appearance.

Jan appears on the premiere of the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Out Of The Closet, available on YouTube

First of all, how are you? I feel like we all actually mean that when we ask people these days. It’s like, how are you?

Right! It’s a true check-in. You know, I’m good. I’m lucky that I have the platform that I do right now and I’m able to give my art to people and have it be so well-received. I’m happy and doing pretty well. How are you?

I’m doing okay! I do feel lucky that I’m able to work from home and do my thing and be healthy. 

I watched your episode of Out Of The Closet and loved how the first things you showed off were a dress you wore in a sub-par challenge and the shoes that you got sent home in. Confront those demons! Or…keep those demons in a closet! The losing outfits were kept separate from the more well-received looks. Was that intentional?

Honestly, no! I guess maybe it was me internalizing, just having all of the separate sadness points in different places so that it’s not overwhelming. It is a subconscious thing. 

For whatever reason, I was surprised that you still had all of the looks you wore on the show at home. How did you travel with all of that stuff? I imagine you had like eight suitcases going back-and-forth. It all looks so heavy.

It is heavy! The thing is, I have a bed that I did the interview for “Out Of The Closet” on and, underneath, are all of my suitcases like a Russian doll, a bigger one and then another and another. So that actually gets quite compact. But yeah, I mean to be honest with you, I haven’t really had the privilege to travel with all of the luggage except for going to-and-from “Drag Race.” 

When you open the closet on the show, it almost takes your breath away. It was seeing some old friends.

Totally! I know. It’s so funny. They were just living in my apartment for so long and I just would never show people anytime they came over. I would never show anybody that closet. I was like ‘Oh yeah, it’s not really done’ or something, just to keep it all in there. I didn’t want anyone to see it. But now, I look at them and it’s just such a reminder of the amazing opportunity that “Drag Race” gave me. I go to sleep in that room and I look over at the closet and I can’t believe that I got to do something that means so much to me. It’s something that really changed my life and it’s a constant reminder of all the characters and creations and me and my friends came up with. It’s really, really nice.

Yeah, I think some perspective is always good. I’m sure it was difficult to think about the show for a little while, but it’s nice that you’re able to look back now with fondness. 

Of course. You know, I wanted to be the winner. But just getting there and having everything be so well-received has been such a blessing and it’s really given me a lot of perspective to remind myself how proud I should be about everything that I went through and everything that happened with the experience, just to be grateful that I get to share it in the first place.

I loved your soccer ball look, something that I didn’t think got enough love. It made me smile seeing it again. And also, dribbling a soccer ball on the runway was iconic. Were there other looks that you thought didn’t get the respect or attention they deserved?

I definitely think that one for sure. All of the patches are hand stitched on. Those little shapes that you see are individually sewn and the craftsmanship that went into that was so incredibly difficult. To make it look so easy and effortless was so incredible and it was an honor to wear it, just to represent some of the places I’m from because I love sports. That’s something that’s underrepresented in the gay community. I think a lot of people have a stigma that’s like ‘oh, gays can’t like sports and certainly not a drag queen.’ It’s part of me and my brand and so I definitely wanted to showcase that and where it came from. I think that was a good one. 

And then the other one, I won’t say it didn’t get a lot of love from them, I’m very fortunate that a lot of my runways did get a lot of high praise from the girls and the fans, but I think the one that I really enjoyed that didn’t get the same ecstatic reaction as maybe my ‘bows and buttons’ look was my “Frozen” look. I think that one deserves a little more justice. 

I like when you talk about the intersection of drag and sports. Because, at its core, drag is a sport, especially Drag Race. I mean, just look at a lip sync. It’s life or death.

It’s truly the penalty kicks of the drag community. It’s a do-or-die moment and I definitely think that people can have more respect because, at the end of the day, going on “Drag Race” and getting to that point in your career is not just by luck. It’s hard work and opportunity and discipline. To be able to get there, you have to be disciplined in so many different facets of drag. That’s the place where you get to showcase it. That’s why people call it the Olympics of drag because you have to do so many things at the highest level that there is in the community. Especially, you know, as everybody keeps getting bigger and better. 

How has life changed since you became a meme?

You know, it’s so funny. I can’t believe this happened. I knew that people would probably be upset that I didn’t win that challenge. But I had no idea the reaction that it would cause and no idea that my face would be in there because, when it all happens, you can see my expression go from zero to 60 in 3.5. But I didn’t know how bad it was. I just think about that algebra meme where it’s like there are all these numbers around my head. That’s what I was feeling! So I’m happy it at least translated and will live in “Drag Race” history forever.

For somebody who relies so much, not only financially, but just physically and emotionally, on being around people and crowds, the current situation must be difficult for you.

Totally. It’s definitely a bittersweet moment because, as you said, I’m somebody who thrives off the crowd and the energy of the crowd. I can’t experience that at the highest point of my career so far. 

To post things from my living room has made it very strange and not something that I would have ever anticipated while we were filming the show. However, while it is strange, I’ve also been able to tap into the whole digital realm and I feel like I’ve made connections with my fans that I would have not been able to if I was busy traveling on the road. I get to talk to people from all over the world everyday. I do digital drag shows, I go live when I’m doing make-up. It’s just amazing to be able to talk to people from different places in the world and connect with my fans. We’re all in this together. It’s such a strange time we’re living in. So obviously, artistically, I wish that I was out on a stage doing what I like to do. But again, I’ve been able to create a stage and I always think that art finds a way. I think the drag community has definitely been spearheading that, putting all of the emotion into our work and just trying to make other people feel good. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m just going to continue to do that until we get back onto that stage.

I love how unabashedly open you are about wanting to be on All Stars. What do you think you’d bring to a new season that you learned from your previous one?

Until you’re experiencing it for yourself, you have no idea what it’s really going to be like. I think the one thing that I did was try and show the judges how much they and the show meant to me as a queer kid. I felt like that might have come off a little green, in a way. Not that I am green. I had a lot of experience in the short time that I’ve done drag, but I think my greenness was taken as weakness. I know I’m a fierce competitor. I know I’m a really, really great queen who works really hard. I just think that I have to go in there and be sure to not be like ‘crown me, crown me, crown me…I’m the one, I’m the one!’ Just know that I’m good enough and that I have to rely on my talents and my personality to get me there. I think having that confidence a little bit more next time would do me wonders and take me that extra 10% that felt like I was missing. 

The reunion airs on Friday night. You guys have already filmed that, right? What was that like?

Yeah! I’m very excited for everybody to see what we got cooking for the reunion.

I can’t wait to see it. I think what you were saying earlier about drag queens really pushing the artistic boundaries under these circumstances is so true. I think drag queens just know how to work. They know how to promote themselves. They know how to be independent and self-sufficient. It’s given me an entirely new appreciation for the community.

Well, thank you. That’s why drag is such a pleasing art form to watch and brings such feel-good and joy to everybody who experiences it. On our end, it really is a business. While it is your art, it’s also a business and it’s hard to be able to figure out how to adapt to the situation, while still doing well from a business standpoint, but also fulfilling myself artistically. That’s what I think I have a strong suit in. When I started doing drag, I definitely did not do numbers and things that made other people happy. It made me happy, to an extent. But I wanted to be able to create and connect with people in a way that was fulfilling for me as an artist. I think that’s what we’re trying to do with all the digital drag shows and connecting with our fans online. It’s such a song and dance, but I’m happy that people appreciate and see how hard it is to do all of those things, especially from our homes. When you’re on “Drag Race” and you’re in the spotlight, people still want you to have new costumes and new outfits and new hair. It’s like, where am I going to this from? It’s just about trying to find different ways to make everybody excited and still subscribed to what you’re laying down, you know?

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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