It was the Hey Qween episode heard ’round the world: RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7 contestant Pearl came for RuPaul. The top 3 queen spilled a particularly potent bit of tea on Jonny McGovern’s interview series, claiming that before her season was even shot, Ru quickly proved she wouldn’t be the motherly figure that Pearl expected.
“We were filming a segment, just kind of chatting, bantering together. Then the camera went down for a moment, and I turned to RuPaul and said, ‘Oh my god, I just wanna say thank you so much, like, it’s such an honor to be here, such a pleasure to meet you,’ just giving her everything I ever wanted to say,” Pearl explained. “She turned to me and said, ‘Nothing you say matters unless that camera is rolling.'”
That statement devastated Pearl, who explained that her apathetic performance during the early weeks of season 7 was due to this initial encounter. “That is the reason why I had one foot in, one foot out the entire time I was on that show,” she said. “Maybe that was me being petty, maybe that was me thinking it should’ve been something I never should’ve expected it to be, but in that moment it was so heartbreaking.”
The interview went viral, with many seeing it as the latest example of Ru not quit living up to the Mother title she asks everyone to call her. Other such examples include not remembering Nina Bo’Nina Brown’s name despite saying she was part of her family, and Ru forgetting who Tatianna is during filming for All Stars 2.
INTO reached out to a few Drag Race queens to get their own takes on Pearl’s interview. The answers were a bit of a range, with the general consensus being, “it depends.”
“As contestants from RPDR we all have a different story and experience to tell,” season 6 queen Gia Gunn said in a statement. “However, for me personally I couldn’t agree more with Pearl, as I can relate and also validate my sister’s point of view.”
Season 10 queen The Vixen confirmed that to be her experience, too. “I’m not surprised,” she said via Twitter DM. “We were often told to ‘save it for the camera.’ Ru almost never spoke to us without a camera rolling.”
The idea of saving things for the camera is a common one in reality TV — a show doesn’t work if it isn’t getting the most crucial moments on film, of course. Season 6 queen Laganja Estranja referred to it as Ru “teaching the girls the ways of Hollywood.”
“I think what happened to Pearl has happened to several of the other girls,” Laganja said. “In my eyes, as insensitive as it may have been, it was her way of passing the knowledge she has fought to learn down to the next generation. I myself hope that I am able to be more cognizant of others’ emotions and intentions as my success rises, but it’s really hard to say what RuPaul feels.”
Though Ru has endured her share of controversy recently, she remains the world’s preeminent drag queen — despite the scores of queens that Drag Race has brought to the fore.
“RuPaul has created a movement, yes, but is she the only person to be thankful for? Absolutely not,” Gia said. “We as a community don’t give ourselves enough credit for creating all of what we have. After all, if it weren’t for us alumni who travel the world spreading this message of everybody say LOVE,’ I really don’t think there would be much love to be had.”
For her part, Laganja said that she sympathizes with Pearl’s feelings after her interaction with Ru, and that it took a while for her to break through with the superstar.
“It was so hard for me when I got kicked off the show and did not receive any acknowledgment from RuPaul,” “But after I talked to him about the situation and my feeling on his podcast, What’s the Tea?, he’s always been sure to give me a hug when he sees me.”
Though plenty on Twitter are swift to call Ru “canceled” over this incident, the fact is that Ru has endured far worse. It’s a predictable cycle: Someone spills tea on RuPaul, everyone is ready to declare her over, and then they’re back at the gay bar on Thursday for a new episode of Drag Race. Perhaps the more realistic — if less fair — route is just to expect less.
“At the end of the day, none of us owe RuPaul anything,” Gia said. “Just like she doesn’t owe us a simple ‘hello.'”