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Vinegar Strokes on The Vivienne, *that* runway look, and who she would have done on ‘Snatch Game’

"I look back and go 'Jesus, is that what I was doing?!'"

By Will Stroude

Vinegar Strokes became the third queen to sashay away from Drag Race UK last night, leaving a hole both in our heart and the workroom.

The ‘Queen of Hodge Podge’ came undone during the sewing challenge after the queens were tasked with creating high-fashion lewks from an array of car boot sale items – but despite taking a beating from the judges (including former Everybody’s Talking About Jamie co-star Michelle Visgae), Vinegar is looking firmly to the future.

As she releases her debut single ‘Camp’, we caught up with the 35-year-old London queen to get the tea on her elimination, her friendship with Sum Ting Wong, and the emerging Baga Chipz/The Vivivenne power-clique…

How are you feeling having watched your elimination episode back?

You know what I’m feeling great. It was actually a really good episode: lots of drama, lots going on, and I’m chuffed with the way I was portrayed. I think I went out with a bang!

Were you suprised to leave at this stage of the competition?

I mean, I was gutted that I didn’t get far enough to do like Snatch Game and those performance challenges. I always knew when it came to a sewing or design challenge, it could be my downfall. I was annoyed I didn’t go further but it felt wierdly like a good time to go. I feel like even though I left quite early I made a stamp on the show. It is what it is. Going home third is not painful. I’d rather go home on a challenge I’m not very good at rather than on a challenge where I should have smashed it.

Fans are very exciting for Snatch Game next week – who would you have done?

[Despairingly] I knowwww! You would have loved it. I was going to do Sandra from Gogglebox. Honestly she was going to be wicked, and Bo’ Selecta’ed by 20%. She would have been a star, I’m telling ya!

You went through quite a few different processes bofore deciding on your final look. Looking back, do you think you should have stuck to your guns with your original plan?

So many processes! [laughs] I think I got in my head so much about this, and I think I actually had some cool ideas. Yeah, it might have been a bit costume-y and verging on panto or whatever, but I think I had a couple of great ideas and I should have stuck with it rather than going ‘OK it’s not working, next!’ I think it could have gone completely different[ly]. Even the toothbrush idea, if I’d stuck with that it would have been quite cool, but I got in my head and had The Vivienne saying [adopts Scouse accent] ‘Make sure it’s not a costume girl!’ I was like ‘Oh my God, is a costume not fashion?!’ I think if I’d stuck to my guns it would have been OK, but who knows.

We did notice you had quite a similar look to your good friend Sum Ting Wong by the end – was there a bit of ‘inspiration’ being taken there?

In the sense that it was shite? [laughs] The two-piece with some plasters on the nipples? Yeah they were kind of similar – kindred spirits I suppose! I don’t know, I literally don’t know. We weren’t sitting in the room going ‘OK I’m going to make a jacket and skirt, what are you going to make?’ It just so happened we were both like ‘Let’s just make a jacket and skirt’. Hers was made out of blinds, mine was made out of paper. But the good thing is that we both sewed something, to put that into context.

Sum Ting was one of your closest friends in the competition – why did you bond with her so well?

Me and Sum go way back. We started [doing drag] the same year in a competition called Drag Idol at the bars in London, so we literally started the same day. I think when you’re in that workroom and that bubble of Drag Race, you do kind of click with certain people. And me and Sum, we’re both a bit rotten, we’re both a bit gross sometimes, and we just connected on that level. We’re just two blokes who wear wigs and want to entertain and perform. We’re rough around the edges but it’s fun at the same time.

In last night’s episode we did see the start of a few fractures within the group, with The Vivienne and Baga being a bit cliquey. Was that something that shaped your experience in the workroom?

At the time I wasn’t even aware of it. I was trying to focus on pulling something out of nothing out of these outfits! And Baga and The Viv have been doing this for a hundred years. People are like ‘Oh you’re in your 30s, you must have been doing this for years’ – I’ve been doing drag for four years. I’m still like a big baby queen, trying to find [out] what I’m doing with it and stuff. Baga and The Viv have been on the scene for a long time so they’ve cut their teeth in a certain way. So I get their confidence and them teaming up, because they’ve come from that similar background. But for me personally, I wasn’t even hearing them. It is interesting to hear them talk and hear how it might affect certain people’s dynamic within the group. For me, it didn’t affect me one bit, but I can see how it would affect certain other contestants in there. It makes for good TV I guess!

How did it really feel to have Michelle Visage tear into you on elimination day having previously worked with her?

You know what I think it made it easier. Because babe, when you’ve done something wrong and you look shit, you know. You’re like ‘I know this is crap, you don’t need to tell me, so I’m going to go out there and Michelle can rip the bandage off’. And actually working with her, knowing her beforehand, it kind of makes it easier, because it’s like going to a best mate and going ‘Come on Michelle, just give it to me!’ It’s absolutely fine.

Ru also called your looks ‘hodge podge’. What was your reaction to that? The look on your face seemed to say it all…

[laughs] That bit, he literally took aaaages to say something, and I was like ‘Come on, just say it!’ I thought he was going to say ‘They’re a bit shit’, and I was like ‘Come on, they’re not that shit!’ But it’s funny, the evolution from filming to now over eight, nine months, it’s like Jesus Christ, I can’t believe the difference. The stuff I’m doing now is so different. I look back and go ‘Jesus, is that what I was doing?! God no wonder.’

You said you wanted to inspire people from a similar background to be themselves – what are the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get to this point?

I celebrate working class people. I’m from a single parent family in Enfield and I really celebrate that, because I don’t think we get a lot of representation in a positive light. I’ve always been a big believer that if kids want to do performing arts but don’t have the privilege to go to these posh drama schools, I think it’s important to give that to them. For me to have this platform and say ‘Yes I’m working class, I’m black, I’m gay, I’m a bit fat’, I know when I was a kid there was no one I could see who was like that on the tele. I hope me being on there and showing I’m not perfect, [it shows] it is possible, and it might be harder work to be where you want to be, but you can do anything.

RuPaul’s Drag Race continues next Thursday 24 October at 8pm on BBC Three.