The Vixen came to the season 10 reunion ready to talk about her time on the show. The Chicago queen is one of the most talked-about queens to ever sashay into the workroom, forcing the fandom to confront its racism and talking about what it means to be a Black queer person in America without apologies.
But The Vixen’s time on the floor during the reunion was cut short after a back-and-forth with RuPaul that led to her exiting the stage. In an exclusive interview with INTO, The Vixen spoke about what was going through her mind as she walked out, why she wouldn’t let the show make her the one to blame and what it means to hold the door open for the next generation.
Going into the reunion, did you think that RuPaul would bring up the confrontation between you and Eureka?
Oh yeah, absolutely. You know, in interviews leading up to it and the week we were in LA for all the filmings, it’s a question that me and Eureka both still get asked about. So I knew that would be something that the show would want to talk about because me and Eureka were unresolved when I was eliminated, so I knew it would come up.
Ru specifically brought up “poking the bear” during the reunion and you recently talked on social media about wanting to move past that catchphrase. What do you think about her and others still using it?
Well, I think typically when people use it, they’re trying to follow the narrative that I’m this uncontrollable angry person and when we first started saying it on the show it was more of a … the conversation between me and Monique was like, “If you take me to that place, then that’s what happened,” and now it’s like assumed that I’m always at this angry level. I literally have to be provoked into that. It’s not a place I enjoy going to.
“It felt like I was talking to a Reddit troll.”
At one point, with the drama between Aquaria and Miz Cracker, RuPaul asks you if you were “stirring the pot” to throw them off their game. Do you feel like Ru read a lot of negative intention into everything you did?
Yeah, it felt like I was talking to a Reddit troll. It was like, with her being a person in the public eye, you think that she would understand that I had more layers than that. It just seemed very vapid and I think even on the show I did a good job of showing that I was a person with intention and that there was more to me than trying to get under two girls’ skin for some type of reason. It was an insult to my character. It was very out of touch with who I am.
You said during the reunion that, before you saw the fight playback on TV, you really beat yourself up over it for months, because you thought you were a monster. What were you beating yourself up about?
You know, everything had gone down and I left the show feeling very misunderstood. I didn’t feel like I was going to be accepted or that anyone … I felt like once everything came out, I would be seen as this one-sided evil character and that I had done something atrocious. Even with the fight with Aquaria — when, the day after Untucked with the whole “leave me alone” conversation, the next day when we talked to producers again and did our boy interviews, no one gave me any indication that I had done something good. It was like they wanted to steer away from the conversation. It was more like, “Do you really think she tried to create a narrative?” I was surprised it even aired and that the audience accepted it the way that it did. It felt like the show thought that I was petty for making it about race.
You were surprised that the show would air a conversation that called itself out?
I don’t think they did it with good intention. I think they did it to show me in a bad light. But then with Monet, I think having Monet’s part air, too, I think only added validation and then the validation from the All Stars and former contestants that came out online and had my back, I think that really changed the story. But I don’t think the show expected that to be a good day for me.
During the reunion, you spoke about the way Eureka came up to you after the fight and wanted to produce a kind of “ending” for the cameras. Were you hyper aware at that point, especially after you talked about how black queens come off on TV, that another conversation with Eureka might play into her hand and make you look bad?
Yeah, that’s why later in the next episode, I didn’t want to give her a hug or any physical confirmation, because I was like, “I know you’re trying to put a bow on this” and I’m not going to make you feel like it’s OK because it’s not. I don’t want the audience to think that it was magically solved.
I have to ask, because I don’t think non QPOC can understand: Is it mentally tiring to always think about how you’re going to come off on TV?
On TV?! In the world! I was recently in London for a gig and I went alone because it’s expensive to go and I had a panic attack because it was the first time traveling so far away and not having anyone to kind of be an ally in situations for me. Because of the show, people are looking for a story like, “I worked with The Vixen and this happened…” I was very stressed out about not having anyone there to speak on my behalf. Even going out as a tourist, I was very afraid to be in public without someone to back me up, knowing I was so far from home in that I didn’t have a safety net, someone who could speak up for me.
Because you see it all the time on the news that person of color was asserting themselves in a conversation and they end up dead. So I had a big realization that I carry that with me more than I knew.
What do you think about RuPaul telling you several times that you have a choice to be silent?
I think that sends a horrible message to people of color who want to be on the show, people of color who watch the show, that their only option is to be silent or to be persecuted. That’s exactly what I was talking about in London: you feel like you have no voice in this world. Why would anyone want to put that message out?
Tell me what you were thinking the moment you decided to remove yourself from the reunion.
So, I think, any time I had an answer for a question, it would be like, “But you said you were here to fight!” And it felt like Ru was trying to redirect the story to make sure I was at fault. And so I kind of just realized that there was no way for me — that my side was not going to be told that day. And so I was like, “OK.” It would’ve been one thing if the girls were coming at me in that way. Technically, Ru is there to be a moderator and it felt like I was having a fight with her.
I don’t think any of us ever go on the show expecting to have a battle with RuPaul. So, that wasn’t why I was there. I knew that the reason I even bothered to do the show — a day before we shot the finale and two days before the reunion, I found out that my mother was in the hospital with a tube up her nose and so I called my mom and I said, “Do you want me to come home?” And she said, “No, if you don’t stay for the reunion, they’ll say you’re being petty,” so I was taking time away from family and a serious situation to be there and the reason I was there was being completely overlooked. So that was always in the background of my mind and I’m here because I have to be but I really want to be with my mom at that moment.
So, once I realized that I wasn’t going to get that opportunity to thank the fans or talk about all the amazing stuff that happened since the show … Right now I’m on two “most influential” lists, I’ve like been honored and covered by all these publications and done some really great things that other Ru girls never got to do before because of what I did on the show. To be there at the reunion, it almost felt like they wanted me to apologize for these things that have given me a better life and made a difference in viewers’ lives. It’s like, “This is not what I signed up for and this is not going to get better,” so that’s why I left.
“Technically, Ru is there to be a moderator and it felt like I was having a fight with her.”
After you left, RuPaul invited the queens to comment on your exit and your attitude. Do you think it was fair for her to open up the floor like that while you weren’t in the room?
No, because I think the interaction was between me and her, so it really was for her. That’s what gets me about this whole thing. I wasn’t in the moment having a fight with Eureka. Me and Aquaria are so great. All of this has been resolved and I think instead of revisiting it and talking about it objectively, there was this intention of pointing the blame. I don’t know, a lot of times we get asked, “What have you learned since the show?” and I didn’t go on the show to learn about myself; I came to show the world about myself. I came as a fully realized person. It was just this game of trying to make me be ashamed of what I had done. Even after I left the room, there’s this thought that … I think Eureka understands me. Aquaria gets me and she’s been very supportive. To expect the girls to chime in in a way. I can imagine they’re terrified because they don’t want to say anything that would agitate her or hurt me, so.
After you left, RuPaul argued with Asia, who was defending you, saying you had left the room as a way to de-escalate the situation, and Ru said, “At one point you have to say ‘There is nothing else you can do’ and ‘you gotta let people go”‘ and that you, The Vixen, have to be willing to me meet people halfway. What do you think about her assessment?
Well, that’s what kills me about television. Literally this thing has just played out in the room and she’s talking about it as if facts weren’t facts. I wasn’t the problem in the room. The room was the problem. I didn’t leave the room because I was the problem. I left the room because I was the target. I think that’s really shady to make it out like I’m this lost soul who needs help. I have literally — They put the words in my mouth! My Cher character during the Rusical said, “No regrets, dammit!” They wrote that for me to say. It baffles me that they want me to be ashamed of … and what kills me is that it’s been preached to us since day one that we have to own our story. “Don’t be afraid to be who you are in front of the camera. If you own up to it, you’ll be fine!” I’ve owned up to my personality and I haven’t apologized for it.
But because it has started this conversation on real issues, which they glossed over — they skipped over the most important conversation of the series! I think so much of the conversation that we’ve started has been about the problems of the fandom and I think this reunion shows the problems on the show. I think when [the issue] first came out, the show was fine with me pointing fingers at the fandom, but I think this reunion shows that the show has some growing to do and has to take responsibility for what comes out of it.
I also feel like what Ru said, that’s something a lot of QPOC youth hear, too. Like, “I can’t help you if you don’t act right” — it’s very much in the spirit of respectability politics.
Yeah, even like the reason I look up to RuPaul or ever looked up to RuPaul, is — there’s an awards show she was on years ago when she was presenting with some actor named Uncle Miltie [Milton Berle]. I remember she was there in full drag presenting with this older actor and I guess the shtick he was trying to present was this tongue in cheek, “It’s a man in a dress” [thing] and Ru was not having it and she was very Vixen in the moment. She spoke up and she called him out on it and she raised hell and it was very inspiring to see someone say, “You’re not going to make a mockery out of me.” Here we are years later and that’s the reason I took the journey of the show and it’s being done to me by the person who inspired me in the first place.
Asia O’Hara becomes very emotional when you leave the room and says that, especially during Pride season, it’s so unfortunate that the queens let someone leave the room without trying to help her. Do you think a queen coming to you would’ve helped in the moment?
I think, and this is how I explained to the girls later, if you saw a black kid on the street being stopped by the police and a cop pulls a gun on him, there’s nothing the kid can do. He can’t make one move: he can’t reach for a cellphone or put his hands in the air. That’s how I felt in the moment. The only way I was going to be saved was for someone else to step in. One false move and I was going to take the bullet. That’s why I left. And so I think it is really sad for Ru to say that I couldn’t be saved. One, I don’t need to be saved. I wasn’t an issue. I don’t think I needed help. Apparently, based on how things went, the reunion wasn’t designed to help me. They weren’t interested in talking about the good I’d done or interested in addressing issues or celebrating what my journey has really been. I think they wanted to teach me a lesson about speaking up and they failed really horribly.
Well, it’s telling that Ru chose to begin the segment by saying that she was going to talk about your confrontational moments and now how you started a conversation about racism on a national level.
The fact that that was the first thing they wanted to talk to me about. Not even like, typically you get a “How you been?” and you look at Vanjie’s segment, it was more like, “How has your life changed since it started?” My segment started from the gate like “Vixen, why are you such a bitch?!”
“Here we are years later and that’s the reason I took the journey of the show and it’s being done to me by the person who inspired me in the first place.”
Did any of the queens reach out after the reunion?
Yeah, so when I went up to my room after, when I walked off stage, I walked directly to my hotel room. A production assistant followed me, I gave her the microphone that was still on me. I got out of drag the fastest I ever had. A producer came up to try to get me to come back down and by that time I was already in jeans and a t-shirt. That conversation didn’t go well. And a few of the girls, Asia and Miz Cracker especially, had stepped out, they had taken a break and they talked to me and wanted me to know they loved me. The following night I talked to most of the girls and they just wanted me to know that I was supported.
Later, RuPaul says that you and she came from the same place, but she does distance herself from you and says, “I fucking learn how to act around people and I deal with shit,” in reference to you walking away. What’s your take on that?
That’s the problem, you know what I mean? And I understand that to get to the level Ru has gotten to you have to play the game and you have to deal with shit, but you would at least think that she’s gotten to this point and I’m glad she acknowledges we’re cut from the same cloth, because I felt like I wasn’t recognized on the show, like we spoke a different language.
But I think that’s exactly the reason that she should’ve been more of an ally, because we are cut from the same cloth. The point is to make it better for the next generation, not become part of the problem and make it harder for the next one. I didn’t make Black Girl Magic so Black girls have a harder time getting gigs. You should open the door even wider fo the next generation.
But she’s just become a part of the system.
Hero Image Credit: The Vixen/ Adam Ouahmane