Words: Tim Heap
As RuPaul’s Drag Race UK nears its climax, it’s harder each week to say goodbye to one of the remaining queens – and this week’s episode saw Crystal become the latest contestant to sashay away.
The East London queen has been able to turn looks and impress with her circus skills in the competition, but this week’s girl groups challenge didn’t play to her strengths and she faded into the background next to teammates The Vivienne and Cheryl Hole.
Contestants competed in teams of three to write and record versions of original song Break Up (with help from MNEK), before performing choreographed routines to judges Ru, Michelle Visage, Graham Norton and Little Mixer Jade Thirlwall.
After her team were deemed the worst of the two, Crystal faced off against The Vivienne in a lip-sync battle to Little Mix’s Power, and Ru gave her her marching orders.
Catching up with Crystal the morning after the episode aired, she’s taken the elimination in her stride and tells Attitude how she plans to take over London’s drag scene, why she was surprised by Geri Horner and what her favourite moment was.
How did it feel to watch the episode back last night?
You know, it was hard to watch but I was expecting it to be much harder to watch because I assumed that I had really fucked it, and actually, you know what, I don’t think I did fuck it that much, I think I did a good job, but two people needed to be in the bottom.
What was hard to watch was that bloody wig reveal, which did not work! That look was never designed to come off, and I just knew that I couldn’t lip sync the whole song with that hat on, so I needed to do something and, yeah, goddamn that hairline!
You represented East London’s drag scene on the show; were you surprised that you were the only one from that sphere?
Yeah, I was, because that’s really the only drag I know. The East London queens, the alternative queens, if you like, we all work in this bubble together I think.
So we all know each other but we don’t typically mix with the other scenes. You don’t often see an East London queen doing a show with someone like The Vivienne or Baga.
So I didn’t really know anyone on the show, which I was surprised about, but that was also probably to my advantage.
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Was it nice to be interacting with queens from beyond that sphere then?
Absolutely. Someone like The Vivienne, who I had followed beforehand on Instagram, I had assumed was a certain type of way, because of the way that they paint their face and the way that they do drag, and my preconceptions of everyone I knew of beforehand completely changed, so it was just really cool to be exposed to all of the other kinds of UK drag that there are.
Did you know any East London queens that had applied for the show and hadn’t got on, or do you think they were a bit unsure about how their drag might fit in on it?
It’s hard to know, I think a lot of people say they didn’t apply but maybe they did. I think probably quite a few people that I know applied, but I also know lots of people who were holding back and will apply for next season.
Hopefully we will see a bit of an influx of them, but I did it first!
Did you hope you’d be able to show off some more of your circus skills in some of the challenges?
Yeah, I mean, I knew that I wouldn’t really be able to, because of the confines of the show. But, you know, I jumped on a pole, I cracked a whip, I did some axel grinding, so I think I gave people a bit of a show.
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You’ve spoken about your decision to not shave your body hair – a few seasons ago, that’s something that Michelle and Ru might have taken a queen to task about, like when Violet Chachki came out flat-chested in Season 7. Do you think it’s encouraging to see their idea of drag evolve with each season?
Absolutely. I did worry beforehand if Michelle would ask me to shave, and what I would do if she did – whether or not I would.
But thankfully, that was just not an issue. Surprisingly, it was Graham Norton who seemed to have the most traditional idea of what drag should be, and he was the one who probably gave me the hardest time about my body hair.
But, it’s really cool, and I think that Michelle has also had her eyes opened, and I don’t think she does it anymore, where she says, 'I want you to change.'
You know, she knows that there’s all different kinds of drag, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to win, but it is great that you can express yourself how you want to.
Before the show, some people were worried that it might not honour and celebrate British drag as well as it deserves to be celebrated. Are you proud of the way it’s been shown?
Yeah, I think the way it’s come out is amazing, and if anything, the way it’s come out is so British that it’s almost alienated other countries a bit because they have no idea what’s going on [laughs].
If you listen to any of the US recap podcasts, they are so confused, it’s really funny. So I think anyone who was worried about it not being British enough has been proved wrong.
But it’s nice, because the structure and the bones of it were all the same, so it felt familiar but it’s just a new telling.
What was your favourite moment from the competition?
I loved doing the runway for the Posh on a Penny challenge, because I was just so proud of that look, and the work that had gone into what I’d made.
And I really had fun doing that girl group challenge. Like, the amount of time that you’re given to write and record and choreograph and then perform is ridiculous, and the fact that I did it… OK, so maybe I wasn’t the best out of six, but I had fun doing it and it was an amazing experience.
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Who did you bond with the most? You called Sum Ting the heart of the show after her elimination…
She’s absolutely dreamy, we speak on the phone all the time. I can’t get her off the phone, to be honest with you, and Divina also.
Since the show, her and I have become much closer, and we really have a similar point of view when it comes to politics and drag. She’s great.
Are you rooting for Divina going forwards, then?
I’m rooting for everyone. I think everyone who’s left would be a deserving winner in their own way… And that’s my politically correct answer.
What surprised you in the competition about yourself?
Oh god, so much. Ideally, you don’t go on Drag Race to learn about how to do drag better, ideally you go the best you could ever be and show that.
I think it was a real learning experience for me, I’ve realised how much I hold myself back in group situations… I’m like an introvert that pretends to be an extrovert when I’m in drag.
I think a lot of what you saw when I was retreating was a lack of self-confidence, and it’s been interesting to watch myself feeling that way, because since the show, I’m so proud of what I did, but while I was in that situation I was so worried and scared and I felt so much like I wasn’t good enough to be there really.
I was constantly trying to build myself up, to show something great, and then getting negative critiques at the same time.
Was there any critique that you particularly disagreed with or that cut a bit deep?
I don’t think they said anything that was unfair. The only thing I was surprised by, I guess, was Geri’s response.
Because I see her as this camp, larger-than-life figure – basically, she’s a drag queen – and she was terrified of me.
I was so surprised; I felt like someone had replaced Geri with a Geri-bot. There was so much more that she said that you didn’t see.
The first thing she said to me was, “I like to be entertained by a drag show, but I don’t like to be horrified – and you horrified me.” I was like, “Is it wrong that I feel really happy that I’ve horrified Geri?!”
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Is there anything you would have done differently?
I don’t think I could have done anything differently. I did the best that I could with what I was given and in the place I was at, at the time.
If I could go back knowing what I know now, then yeah, I would approach it with so much more confidence, and with a sense of fun.
I think you can even see in the episode last night, after I did that lip-sync against Sum Ting Wong, I felt really energised, and I just wish I’d have shown a bit more of that, because I think I did fade into the background sometimes.
There’s going to be a season of Drag Race in Canada next year; what is the scene like over there, in terms of the contestants that we’ll see? Will you apply and go for the double?
I think it’ll be more US than anything else. But to be honest, I don’t know the drag scene in Canada very well, because I only started doing drag when I moved here, so it’ll be great to watch that and see it through a Canadian lens.
But no, I cannot imagine doing two seasons of Drag Race in a year – I think I would lose the rest of my hair.
What’s next for Crystal then?
So I am going to take over the London scene, I’m going to dominate. I’ve got an amazing grand finale viewing party happening in London, and then I’m working on an Edinburgh Fringe show.
You can just expect to see me hanging from the rafters in a venue near you very soon.
Cracking a whip?
Yeah, exactly. Taking out punters’ eyes.
RuPaul's Drag Race UK continues on Thursday 7th November at 8pm on BBC Three.