Words: Alastair James; pictures: BBC
RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under's Karen from Finance has said she is "reflecting" on what more she can do after backlash over her past racist tattoo and doll collection.
The queen apologised earlier this year after criticism, saying at the time: "Even though there was of course never any intention of malice, I realised how irresponsible and stupid I had been and so I disposed of the dolls to landfill and had my tattoo covered.”
Speaking to Attitude ahead of this weekend's grand final, Karen discussed what she's doing to move on from the past, what's been challenging about Drag Race, and what she'd do if she won.
What’s it been like for you being on the show?
It’s been one wild rollercoaster. I know it’s such a dull answer, but it truly is just so overwhelming. It’s crazy! Being on Drag Race has been a dream of mine and it does feel like that.
How does it feel to have got to the final?
Just crazy. Everyone who’s lucky enough to get on does it wanting to win, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see myself in the top four. But after everything it took to get here, I’m extremely chuffed and very overwhelmed.
And in terms of what it’s taken to get here, what’s that journey been like for you? More challenging or as challenging as you thought it would be?
There are two journeys that that consists of. One is the journey of doing drag up until getting asked to do Drag Race. That journey is just the most beautiful journey I’ve been on in my life. You get to be a part of an amazing community; a supportive network of sisters and you get creative control over everything you want to do.
Then you have that short period of time on Drag Race, and that is the hardest period I’ve ever experienced in my whole life. It’s so demanding. The effort, willpower, and mental strength it takes to get there is a lot.
What’s been the most challenging element and the most rewarding element for you?
The most challenging moment was losing control. RuPaul sets the challenges up in a way that she takes control from you to put you out of your comfort zone and wants to see the magic fly. Whereas in my world – the world of Ms. Finance – I am a very controlling woman! So, losing control was so difficult.
The most rewarding bit is the sisterhood. I was lucky enough to know most of the girls before the show. Being able to spend time with JoJo [Zaho] was so beautiful, getting to know Elektra [Shock] too. Coco [Jumbo] is someone I’ve known for a while but never got the chance to work with and we just created some beautiful memories.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I think you could probably go back through every episode and find something I would have done differently. I would approach the Snatch Game differently. I would have approached the girl group differently. The only one I don’t think I would have done differently is the design challenge where I dressed up as Schapelle Corby.
That is the most outrageously dumb thing I’ve ever done. I did a terrible job, but I had so much fun in that episode I wouldn’t change a thing!
There has been a backlash – before and during the show – about your tattoos and dolls. What do you make of that?
I was shocked when the information came out and the internet started talking about it. I’m grateful it was brought up. Personally, it’s old news. It’s something I dealt with and got rid of and [moved] on from a long time ago. But having it thrown into the public sphere like this gave me an opportunity to reflect on myself, who I am, and what I do with my every day as well as with my platform.
And it’s given me an opportunity to reflect on what more I can do. I released a statement earlier this year which was more of a response to the public finding out about my past. I talked about committing to a journey of doing better. That’s a journey I’ve been on for a very long time.
Now with the Drag Race platform, I’ve really got an opportunity of making an example of myself for the community and I want to use that platform to make a good example. It’s also been traumatic.
What have you learned from Drag Race and what are you going to take moving forwards?
I love my drag and my character. I think Karen from Finance is the funniest and dumbest thing in the world, but I learned that there’s a lot to be said for showing vulnerability in drag. That is something I really am enjoying already.
But being more vulnerable in the drag I offer to the community I think there’s something special to be had there, and I want to try and find a way to not hide behind my character so much as I have in the past and offer more of myself through my character.
As a potential winner of Drag Race Down Under, what would you do if you won?
I’ve such big plans and dreams for the world of finance. I have such a unique take on drag and there’s so much I want to explore not just in the world of fiance, but in the world of the office, I want to explore the other characters, explore the storylines, and get into the world of narrative comedy like no Drag Race winner has before.
The finale of RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under airs on BBC iPlayer on Sunday 20 June 2021.
The Attitude Summer issue is out now.