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‘Drag Race’ Contestant Vanessa Vanjie Mateo Talks Being “Banjee” and Which Puerto Rican Queen She Wants to See Compete

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Season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race had its very first casualty on Thursday when Puerto Rican queen Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, daughter to Season 3’s Alexis Mateo, was sent home after a lip sync for your life against Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams. The Puerto Rican queen from Florida sashayed into our hearts with her “tens tens tens across the board strut” and won us over with her winning face-to-camera commentary. But, she was sent home after the show’s first lip sync.

After her elimination, Mateo spoke with INTO about what advice her drag mother gave her, her friendship with Kalorie and who she wants to see compete on Drag Race.

Hi Vanessa, how are you doing?
I’m doing good and yourself?

I’m doing well, thanks. Just wanted to say, I’m a fellow Puerto Rican and I’m a huge fan of yours!
I appreciate it, us Puerto Ricans, we gotta stick together!

Truly! So, did your drag mother Alexis Mateo give you any advice before your time on the show?
Yeah, she gave me a lot of advice. She gave me a little bit of 411 on how the show worked. She taught me as much as she could. One thing that stuck with me is that she said if you read somebody on the show, make sure you’re smiling, so you don’t look crazy.

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But I watched Untucked and you didn’t really read anyone!
Well, that was before, just in case I made it on further. I’m sure there might have been some altercations you know how shit happens. But everyone ended up loving me.

Everyone seemed to love your loudness and vivaciousness during the camera commentary. Did it take you a long time to like want to embrace your loudness and boldness, or were you always like this?
No, since I was young, I’ve always been super talkative, all my teachers would tell me, “We love you, but you don’t let us teach.” That’s the problem. I’ve never been a bad kid, I’ve always been this way, super talkativemy voice always carries, so I feel like I’ve always embraced it. Even if I try to shut the hell up it’s super difficult.

Speaking of which, in your name and on the show, you took a lot of pride in being called “banjee” and you wanted to use that in your name, and on the show you used the word “ghetto.” Did it take you a while to find pride in that word? Did anyone ever knock you because of it?
To me, it’s kind of like, I don’t see it as a bad thing. I love the show Love and Hip Hop and all reality TV and I find myself in that. I’m carefree, I don’t give a fuck I like to act a fool, I don’t give a fuck. I’m from the dirty South and it’s something I’ve embraced. It’s what I’ve grown up with. Being ghetto and benjee to me isn’t a bad thing. If that’s what you’re giving, that’s what you’re giving, girl.

It would be much harder for me to pretend to be like, [feigns polite voice] “Oh my god, how are you?” If I tried to do that, it wouldn’t happen.

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Have you spoken to Alexis Mateo since the show aired last night?
Yes, she was proud of me and she was making sure I was OK and saying, “Make sure you know I’m not disappointed in you.” RuPaul says it all the time:It’s not what you do on the show, it was what you do after that defines you. This is the beginning. She was giving me a words-of-encouragement-type of situation last night.

How long have you been her daughter?
I’ve been Alexis’s daughter, I want to say, six years. Well, at first I was her friend, then I started doing drag two years ago. I’ve been her daughter for two years, but I was her friend before that.

You were her friend first?
Yeah, and I stared to do drag after.

What is one look or outfit that you didn’t get to show off that you really wanted to?
I had so much nice stuff! I was well prepared with my wardrobe. One thing for sure was that Alexis would not have me on the show without clothes. If you seen the littleall of the premieres and stuffI’ve been getting really good reviews about what I’ve been wearing. This is something we do, is we know how to make great costumes.

When it came down to you and Kalorie, right off the bat, it was the two Latinx queens lip syncing against each other. Did you two bond at all about being the only Latinas there?
Yeah, me and Kalorie are actually really close friends. It was sad that it was both of us because we were over it. There were a couple of people that were safe that I was like, “That bitch should not be safe!” But it’s the name of the game, and she also knows a lot of pageant people and she understands it and so do I. We’re both very professional. But I was sad, we were both Latina and we’re good friends.

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There’s a long history of Puerto Rican queens on the show. Is there another Boricua you’d wanna see come on the show next?
Anyone from Puerto Rico. I would love to see Queen Bee Ho. She’s so fucking fierce. Go to YouTube, type in Queen Bee Ho. She’s fierce.

I’ll definitely do that. Obligatory question: who would you have done for Snatch Game?
I would’ve done LaToya Jackson or Linda Blair. I was going to be completely possessed.

Hopefully you can release a video of you doing that on IG or YouTube!
I’m probably going to release what I did for my audition video, I’ll put it out.

Tags: Drag, TV
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