Winning RuPaul’s Drag Race UK has given The Vivienne a taste for success and, gagging for more glory, she is now click-clacking her heels across the pond to try and crack America.
Hold on to your wigs, ladies, it’s quite the trip.
The fierce queen’s prize for snatching the crown was her very own spin-off show (the Beeb can’t give away cash, taxpayers’ money innit) and here it is: The Vivienne Takes On Hollywood, as she hobnobs with the rich and famous while trying to become the first drag star to shoot a music video (hehe).
Credit: BBC/World of Wonder
In a chinwag with Attitude, The Vivienne spills the tea about fame, shaking off the haters and, on a happier note, her newlywed life after tying the knot to beloved hubby David at G.A.Y Heaven last year – belated condragulations.
Armed with our giant shade button, we did press the 27-year-old Liverpudlian on her recent run-in with fellow Drag Race finalist and former squirrel friend Divina De Campo after she publicly ended their friendship on social media – but she very politely declined to discuss it, perhaps a sign she's keen to leave the drama behind as she starts this new chapter.
However, The Vivienne did have a lot to say about how she is helping her drag sisters who can’t perform at their usual spaces during lockdown. We’ll raise a gin and tonic, her favourite tipple, to that.
Credit: BBC/World of Wonder
How’s it going? Surviving self-isolation?
Not too bad. I’m plodding along and keeping busy. I know it’s so hard and everyone’s jobs are kinda up in the air, but you have to stay with the hope that we’re all going to get through this and it’s going to blow over.
We find that screaming into the abyss really helps.
[Laughs] Yeah, and drinking loads of gin!
Something that is going to keep people entertained during all this is your new series The Vivienne Takes On Hollywood. So, was Hollywood ready for The Vivienne?
Erm, I don’t think so… Winning Drag Race and finding out the prize was to film your own show was super daunting. You go in thinking, ‘I’m going to win loads of money!’ then you realise the BBC can’t give [cash] prizes because of taxpayers’ money, or something like that. It was an added pressure: I’m in the running to win, but the prize is to film another show that is completely different. It’s a bit of acting and everything else, a mockumentary mixed with reality. What if I don’t produce something that people want to watch? The fact that the BBC have even picked it up has been a dream come true.
What hole were you looking to, ahem, fill in Hollywood?
I don’t take myself too seriously and I don’t buy into the whole ‘fame’ thing. I’m still just a drag queen trying to make it in this world that everybody’s trying to make it in, and the show really captures that in a fun light. It mocks the whole, 'I’m going to be a star!' thing.
The Vivienne with Hairspray's Marissa Jaret Winokur/Credit: BBC/World of Wonder
They do say fame changes a person. Do you think you’ve changed in any way since snatching the crown on Drag Race?
Oh my god, no! I’ve got a bit more Louis Vuitton, but that’s about it [laughs]. I still wake up, have a ciggie, have another ciggie, some toast and then crack on with what I’ve got to do. I treat everyone like I’d want to be treated. Wherever I go to do a gig or something, it’s like, 'We had a ball with you, you’re just completely normal'. It’s important to stay like that. You go on TV and a lot of people can buy into the whole fame thing super quick and sometimes it’s not a good look. I’m just happy I’ve stayed myself and, you know, being married to David helps with that, [him] always being by my side. We go to a gig and people go, 'Are you coming out after?' 'Oh no, girl, I’m going to bed!'
In the first episode, you joke about being another drag queen making a music video. Is there anything you’d like to branch into that no other queen has managed yet?
I wouldn’t say it’s something that other queens haven’t managed yet, but there’s a huge gap in the UK to have that drag queen face you see on TV all the time. We had Lily Savage for years and then once she hung her heels up, it went dry until we had Drag Race. Becoming that drag queen face, that’s my goal. You see Alan Carr and Graham Norton, I want to be that for drag.
What are your do’s and don’ts for making it in showbusiness?
Do work super hard and know that it’s never going to happen overnight. Also, just be yourself and don’t ever try to be something you think people want. Not everyone’s going to like [you] and that’s fine. It’s so hard to look online and see negative comments, but for that one negative comment, there’s probably 2,000 positive ones. Don’t give them the reaction they want, just go, 'You know what, I’ve just filmed a show in Hollywood and you’re probably sat on your phone using someone else’s credit to send s*** to me' [laughs].
One of your mentors on the series is the legendary Chad Michaels. What kind of advice has he given you?
Chad is one of the most amazing souls you’ll ever meet. I mean, he performed at our wedding. Whenever I see him, he always holds my hand, looks me dead in the eye and says how proud he is of me. He calls me Vivvy. He’s someone that I’ve looked up to since I was 14.
As you said, Chad performed at your wedding at G.A.Y. Heaven – the first time the venue has hosted a ceremony. How was your big day? Any bridezilla moments?
We were kind of planning it remotely from hotel rooms. I was away on tour, David was at home and Jeremy Joseph, who owns Heaven, was instrumental in making sure the day went smoothly. He was kind of our wedding planner. I walked into the venue and I was blown away – Jeremy had pulled it out of the bag. It was the first time that some of the family had met as well, and everyone got on like a house on fire. There were no arguments. It was just amazing.
Were any of your Drag Race sisters in attendance?
Yeah, most of them came: Gothy, Baga, Divina, Sum Ting Wong, Scaredy Cat, Blue, Cheryl… pretty much all of them were there.
What was the cheekiest wedding gift you were given?
Erm… Gothy collects clocks, so she got us a vintage clock with our names engraved, but she hasn’t given it us yet. So, that’s probably the cheekiest because we’re still waiting for it!
How is married life treating you so far? Has anything shifted between you and David since tying the knot?
No, not really. Going back to the whole being on TV thing and staying the same after it, the same applies to getting married. It just makes everything official. Nothing should really change, I don’t think. Married life is the same as before, it just solidifies it, it proves you love each other and that you’re not going to f*** off with someone else! [Laughs].
What’s next? We hope this isn’t too personal of a question, but are you planning to start a family one day?
Not in the [foreseeable]. We haven’t got time to bloody take a s*** at the minute, never mind have a kid! Maybe in the future we’ll start thinking about that, but at the [moment] we want to get our house bought. We don’t know whether we want to move to America [yet]. That’s going to be in the distant future, it’s always [been] our end goal, to live in America, somewhere in Florida so we can go to Universal every day.
OK, let’s address the red-wigged, silver-frocked elephant in the room: what is the current situation with you and Divina De Campo?
I think we’ll leave that one.
Our only other question on the matter is, what are the chances of you being squirrel friends again? What would need to take place for that to happen?
Going back to more showbiz-related things, what has been your most memorable celebrity encounter thus far?
Running into Ross from Friends – David Schwimmer – backstage at the NTAs was a bit bloody surreal, and not realising who it was for about three minutes. I was looking at him thinking, where do I know this guy from?! Then having a drink with Catlin Jenner at the bar. You go on Drag Race and you know you’re going to become this gay celebrity, where the gays know who you are, but when you walk backstage and Caitlin is like [puts on Caitlin’s voice], 'Hey, how are ya? Loved the show,' you’re like, what the f*** is going on here?!
Have you had any strange encounters with fans yet?
Meet and greets are always an interesting one… There was a girl a few weeks back who asked me to rip a hole in her tights and then sign her leg underneath it. I was like, 'Can we just sign the print instead?' [Laughs]. You’ve always got to remember that they’re here to see you and this is probably the best night of their year. Just be grateful that they’re so invested in you. Give them a good night.
You and your bestie Baga Chipz are also hosting Netflix’s I Like To Watch UK. Are you now officially the British Katya and Trixie?
It seems so online! I can’t believe how well that has been received. Again, what a great time for it to be coming out, giving people a laugh and I’m so proud that’s it free content as well, no one’s safe in their jobs and everyone’s scared about money.
Lockdown is hitting drag queens and kings hard up and down the country, because they’re unable to perform in their usual spaces. What can we do to support them?
Being from Liverpool, [I’ve seen] all my sisters that I worked with for years stuck in the house, with no option to make money, apart from going on, you know, Facebook Live. So, I jumped on with my friend Tiara, who is supporting Dorothy’s show bar in Liverpool, to, you know, bring my following to them, 'Look, these queens are in their homes, performing for you every night, if you can afford it, I’m not asking you to pay anything, but if you feel that you can help…' That’s what I’m trying to do to help the situation.
OK, final question… what would it surprise people to know about you? You’re not into fracking, right?
[Laughs] Don’t you start with me! Sometimes there can be a preconceived notion, because my drag is so polished and I’m quite outspoken, [so when] people go, 'You’re actually a really nice, stupid, silly person and we’ve had so much fun with ya' that always touches me. I don’t care if they say, 'You’re amazing on stage, blah, blah, blah.' I’d rather people know that I’m still Vivienne from 10/12 years ago when I started drag, I’m just putting my face on and treading the boards, trying to make a few bob and make people happy.
The Vivienne Takes On Hollywood arrives on BBC Three on 9 April at 6pm.