‘Drag Race UK’: Hear from the most recent eliminated queen
Episode three of Drag Race UK took no prisoners, as best friends became fashion frenemies. The dreaded design challenge came to play, with Ru adding a “Who wore it best?” element to keep the queens on their feet. Working with the same materials, each pair had to design a look to outdo their competition. The winning queen was safe, while the losing queen was up for elimination.
Sadly it came down to Tia Kofi & Asttina Mandella in the lip sync, and Mandella was this week’s queen to sashay away. We spoke with Mandella to get all the tea on the episode and her thoughts on Drag Race UK.
Be the very best
It’s no secret the design challenge is controversial. While some queens are talented seamstresses, others have little experience with sewing their own lewks. Considering Asttina Mandella won the first maxi challenge in an ASOS jacket, she knows there were people doubting her abilities.
“I was excited. I was so ready. I’m not a sewer, but you know I do the sewing anyway. I have a sewing machine. I do all my sewing, take lessons, and watching and practicing. And then you get to it, and then I was just like ‘Oh my god I can’t wait to get to sewing!’” Asttina told us.
Being the representation she needed
As one of the two queens of color this season, Asttina Mandella and Tacye opened Drag Race UK with a beautiful talk on the lack of POC LGBT representation in media when they grew up. But now, Mandella couldn’t be more proud to be that representation for the next generation.
“Oh, it’s a blessing. It’s pressure. If anyone says it’s not they’re lying. But, it’s pressure I’m so happy to have on me because there needs to be more. There has to be more people especially with POC queer representation.”
You can read our full interview with Asttina Mandella below.
What made you want to get into drag in the first place?
Oh my God, when I first started doing drag I thought, “Oh my god I never want to do drag. Ew, who does drag? That’s ridiculous.” And then I just kind of ended up finding it. It just became a thing and I kind of started to realized like, “Oh my god I get to like be my own artist, be my own popstar.”
I get to discover myself creatively in ways that I never could have done before just being an adult. And then it just kind of happened from that and then I became Asttina Mandella and went on RuPaul’s Drag Race!
Why did you audition for Drag Race UK, and what was your reaction when you were selected?
I guess cuz I definitely knew it. Like we’ve been watching the US for years like I remember watching season one. I remember when it first came on I was like “This is amazing” and then all the way from season, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so forth, and all the All-Stars as well. Then I thought, “If I ever could do it, would I?”
I was like “Yeah I think I could but no, I wasn’t a drag queen.” and then all of a sudden UK came and I thought “Should I do it? Should I? Nah. But you know what? Do it, test yourself, learn about yourself.” It’s kind of like a checkpoint in my career as a drag artist and going “Let’s see who you are, evaluate yourself.”
And then, yeah, then I got on there and I got the call. I was just like “Wait a minute, you’re lying.” Then I hear, “No, you’re wrong. You’re on season two.” “No, really? Wait a minute, let me just go to the corner of the park quickly because I’m outside. Say that again. Okay.” And then I was going like this, like I am now going “Oh my god, really?” Yeah, it’s something you just never think would happen to you, and then it happened.
You and Tayce made an important point in episode one discussing the lack of LGBT icons of color. How does it feel knowing you’re now that idol to so many young kids?
Oh, it’s a blessing. It’s pressure. If anyone says it’s not they’re lying. But, it’s pressure I’m so happy to have on me because there needs to be more. There has to be more people especially with POC queer representation.
Not just POC and queer, but also just, you know, identity and sexual identity and, you know, representation for our trans brothers and sisters, representation for non binary brothers and sisters. You know representation in all forms of life and all walks of life.
It’s so wonderful that I can get to be a representation for the POC queer kids of the world now. It’s just an honor. If I can make one person go, “I feel seen,” I’ve done my job.
You sound very happy to be able to have such a powerful position, even if it comes with a lot of pressure.
It’s like you just get given like loads of things and you’re just like, “well that’s a lot of pressure to get.” Then they’re like “yeah I need it all in two hours” and I’m like, “And you want me to do all of this in two hours?” That’s a lot of pressure but you know what I’ll do it because I know I have the capability to handle it. I’m a powerful person.
As I’ve grown into myself now, I know that I can do it and it’s my duty as well now, and I’m so happy. I’m really happy.
Obviously this week is the always dreaded design challenge. Considering the queens were immediately reading you for winning a challenge with an ASOS jacket, what was your reaction to this week’s challenge?
[Laughs] I was excited. I was so ready. I’m not a sewist, but you know I do the sewing anyway. I have a sewing machine. I do all my sewing, take lessons, and watching and practicing. And then you get to it, and then I was just like “Oh my god I can’t wait to get to sewing!” But then I was just like, “Okay, but what am I gonna do?”
And because at the time I was living like my whole little anime fantasy I was enjoying, I wanted to be an anime character. Everywhere I went I wanted to be an anime character and live this cosplay vibe. I ended up going down that route.
I remember like even in the werkroom, I went to Ellie, and me, Ellie and Lawrence were chatting and then they talk about being a cheerleader. I went, “You know why I agree with you. Maybe I’ll change my outfit and turn myself into a cheerleader.” But then I just didn’t because it was just how I’m feeling. I was going down the whole anime school girl blah blah. But I was excited. It’s just funny that I went home.
While you definitely looked like an anime girl, the judges couldn’t see past an ice skating outfit when it came time for critiques. How did you feel when it became clear your vision wasn’t being seen?
Well first of all, ice skaters are amazing so we’re not going to look down on that. They do crazy stuff at the Olympics and I support that. I was just like, “That’s their view.” I could totally see where they were going with it as well. Also like I had so much planned for the outfit as well, like what I was going to make.
I remember like I started making the primary stuff. And I started making the bow stuff. But at the time I remember I was just like “Nah, don’t like it.” So I can totally see where they were coming from. And also, it’s their opinion and they’re trying to give you constructive criticism and trying to make you a better person, a better queen, a better artist. So it’s just like “Okay, I totally understand it. But I want it to be an anime girl character.”
It seemed like the tears could not stop rolling this episode as well. As one of the queens who got a bit misty-eyed this episode, what was causing so many people to break down during episode three?
We had been there, how long. It’s episode three so week three. We’re away from home, away from our friends and family. We’re already exhausted. The days are really long. We wake up very early some days and then we don’t finish until like 11 o’clock. And then we’re going home again to bed late and waking up, we’re drained and exhausted.
It just happens to be that episode three on the runway, everyone just broke completely into tears and so on. Then everyone starts to tell their life story and the tears are falling. It just came out. I think that you know when one person starts laughing and it just triggers everyone else and everyone starts laughing?
Ginny [Lemon] started crying, then Tia [Kofi] felt the cry, felt the emotions and she started crying. And I was watching her and then I start crying.
It’s no secret people are once again upset over your departure, but this time for different reasons. People were convinced you and Tia would be a double save this week. What was going on when you found out you had to sashay away?
Oh yeah, everyone’s been loud on Twitter about it going “It should’ve been a double save. There should have been a save used.” I was just like, “I can’t even remember what happened.” I just remember doing the lip sync and being told to sashay away. I was like “Oh, okay. I’m going home.”
I was more proud of Tia. I remember just thinking “I’m so proud of Tia.” I remember we ended up getting quite close the past few days. I remember we were talking more, we were just having chats. She was talking about the runway started up the lip sync.
I was just like “If you’re struggling, just get the lip sync down.” At the end of the day, no matter what happens, we’re still friends, sisters, family. We’re always gonna have this. If you beat me, you beat me. If I beat you, I beat you. At the end of the day, we’re both here, we both did this. We both got the call, we’re both winners. After all, we’re all winners here.
Do you have any regrets from your time on the show?
No regrets at all. No regrets. I’m so happy with everything that went on. Actually no, I lied to you and I’m very, very sorry. The only regret that I kind of have is I wish I just enjoyed the process more. I wish I just dove into it and I just told myself to get out of my head, enjoy. Just sit in the process and enjoy the whole journey. Period.
Just have fun, especially towards the last few days where I was really beginning not to enjoy it. But I’m very glad I went through that because that’s exactly what I had to go through to understand who I was as a person and xyz. The universe knows what it’s doing.
Where can fans find you now after your time on Drag Race UK? Do you have any shows coming up?
You can find me in the UK, at my home… just kidding. Next I got a few tours planned with social distancing intact, obviously due to the current situation. Also a festival happening towards the end of the year in the UK. I have much coming out very very, very soon.
I’ve had a lot of people asking me about it, which is coming but I have been telling people to please just wait, as there was a big pause on my merch due to family issues that had to be sorted out. If it wasn’t for that my merch would’ve been out much sooner but family’s important.
The same has to be sorted and made safe before I go and resume being a drag queen and being a drug artist, so that’s now coming out. And just as long as I can tick my goal, tick it off all my aspirations. As long as I can be happy and then start giving back to the world and the community, who knows what will happen?
Drag Race UK airs Thursdays on BBC Three in the UK and on WOWPresents Plus in the U.S. & other select territories.