‘Drag Race UK’: Hear from the first queen to leave the werkroom
Like RuPaul said in the Drag Race UK premiere, “Drag is not for sissies”. The queens of season 2 have brought the fire, and already the first elimination has stoked controversy. Joe Black of Brighton, England was the first queen forced to pack her wigs after losing the lip sync.
But don’t think for one second Joe’s about to be a salty queen. She herself said Insert heartfelt quote about time on the show. She may be a 12th place queen, but she is nothing but cunning, unique, full of nerve, and talent. You can catch all the drama from the premiere of Drag Race UK season 2 on WOWPresents Plus now.
We spoke with Joe about her short-lived time on season 2 of Drag Race UK, and even got some tea on the premiere.
Once in a lifetime chance
Like most queens, Joe is grateful to have been chosen by RuPaul to compete on Drag Race UK season 2. “The moment I got that call, it was such a huge opportunity. I just couldn’t not, you know?”
But she didn’t think season two was her time. “I auditioned for season one and didn’t get it. Then I auditioned for two, and thought ‘Alright. I’m auditioning for two. I don’t think I’ll get it, but I think I’ll get three. I have a good feeling about three.’”
While she may not appreciate being kicked out of the werkroom so early, Joe Black feels her time spent on the show, albeit short, was spent well. “I think I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing. I went into the competition and I was authentically myself at every point.”
Behind the lewks
Joe Black left us all stunned with her walk-in, but you may be surprised to hear that costume has been seen before. “That is an old costume of mine. With the entrances, I always see it as the entrance should say ‘This is who I am, this is what I do, this is what I’m about’. I thought it would be a fantastic idea to take something that is iconically me, something that sums me up.”
Meanwhile, the lewk that sent her into the bottom two, David Bowie, was a very personal lewk to her. David Bowie was her choice for a British gay icon, because of his trailblazing representation of queer culture. “He’s inspired queer people, but also I think people’s perception of queer.”
You can read our full interview with Joe Black below.
What drew you to do drag in the first place?
My journey with it is a bit strange, because it’s a development. I started doing cabaret shows thirteen years ago and aesthetically, where I was with that was very androgynous. I still did makeup and put on fancy clothes and those things, and then over the years elements of what people consider traditional drag started bleeding into it.
Then there was a point where I realized I could just full-on look like all those illustrations I loved. You know, Disney villainous characters. I could look like that and become that larger than life character, and the gender of the clothes just became irrelevant, as long as I was still selling that fantasy.
Why try out for Drag Race UK?
I’ve been doing this a while and I’ve had so many wonderful experiences. I was always such a big fan of the US show, and I always thought “Oh I’d love to do that.” I love that challenge and I think the platform is obviously incredible as well. Then they announced they started Drag Race UK.
I auditioned for season one and didn’t get it. Then I auditioned for two, and thought “Alright. I’m auditioning for two. I don’t think I’ll get it, but I think I’ll get three. I have a good feeling about three.” So I auditioned and you know, I had less pressure on myself because I didn’t think I was gonna get it. I was very natural, very calm in the video.
The moment I got that call, it was such a huge opportunity. I just couldn’t not, you know?
Tell us the story behind your workroom entrance lewk.
That is an old costume of mine. With the entrances, I always see it as the entrance should say “This is who I am, this is what I do, this is what I’m about”. I thought it would be a fantastic idea to take something that is iconically me, something that sums me up.
That costume was for a show I did called A Touch of Evil: A Celebration of Villainy in Song, which was a cabaret show with all the famous villain songs from stage, film, TV, and cartoons, all weaved together to celebrate the queerness & campness of villains. That was my outfit from that show, and I thought that sums up what I’m about and what I’m like and what I love.
I thought it was a good representation of me. I thought “You know what, I don’t need anything new, I am going in as me. I’ll show you who I currently am, who I’m currently being.”
It’s always a moment of high tension when the queens first get undressed in front of each other. Take us into that moment.
When I put on my costumes for a show, I don’t feel that different. So for me, I felt “Oh I’m just changing clothes.” But looking around at some of the people, I mean Ginny looks exactly the same.
But I remember not realizing that Sister Sister was Sister Sister. I thought she was one of the crew. Same with Cherry Valentine because they have these huge ridiculous looks, and then they’re very polite, perfectly normal looking people underneath.
People like me and Ginny, who still look a little bit, well I don’t want to say out there, but we kinda look like we were in drag anyway, you know? But the UK is so small anyways, I knew a lot of them going in. Even the ones I didn’t really know, I knew of. So I met people out of drag and stuff anyways. That felt like a “Oooh, now breathe”, take the dresses and the heels off and be a little bit more comfortable.
Why David Bowie as your UK gay icon lewk?
I think David Bowie represents something. He’s inspired queer people, but also I think people’s perception of queer. I think there are people, speaking from a personal experience, who come to my shows, who we would absolutely not think would come to my shows.
These, I don’t want to use the term normal, but like these manly, macsy, heterosexual men, who are opening to things like me because of people like David Bowie.
It represents a real breaking of a boundary, and opening of people’s minds. I think exposing people to something more queer. And also for queer people to go “He did that, David Bowie did that.” I think all around, in terms of British gay or queer icon, David Bowie is certainly one of the biggest trailblazers.
Do you have any regrets after being eliminated from Drag Race UK?
I think I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing. I went into the competition and I was authentically myself at every point. Every choice I made, I was really pleased with. And ultimately, the judges may not have particularly cared for it, but the outrage and the response online has been astronomical.
The support I’ve received, and the love I’ve received, people being confused and upset and annoyed that I left. Ultimately this is for the audience. There are these judges out there. Once this goes out, they’re not the tens of thousands viewers that are the ones who take it further. The fact the audience has received me so well means that yeah, I would not change a thing.
What did you take away from your short time on the show?
What I’ve taken away from it is a wonderful connection with eleven other people. I was there for such a short amount of time, but I think I fell desperately in love with every single one of them.
With these things, people always say “Oh it’s family, it’s family, it’s family”, and it’s so easy to say “Oh of course it is, you’re just saying that.” Honestly those eleven other people we’ve done something together, and though I was only there for a brief moment in time, we are part of the greater picture and we are the cast of season two.
What’s next for you?
Well, just because I left the show, I’m refusing to back away. I have all my lewks I prepared for the show that I’ll be uploading week after week with everybody else. So people will be able to see all of that.
Over lockdown, I started a Patreon, which has been amazing. People subscribed, which meant I got to up the production quality of things I could produce at home. Suddenly it went from an unattractive looking microphone with a shaky camera to really lovely HD footage with beautiful lights and a beautiful microphone both for exclusive content on Patreon but also public stuff.
You know that stuff helps me be able to make quality content at home, because this is your world now. I can’t pop over to the professionals, I have to be that professional tech person at home now, you know? There’s a lot of Youtube, Patreon, social media, I’ll be going for it.
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK airs Thursday on BBC Three in the UK and WOWPresents Plus in the U.S. & other select territories.