INTERVIEW: Vanessa Vanjie Mateo On All Stars 4, The Reunion And Life After RuPaul's Drag Race

17 May 2018, 14:01 | Updated: 17 May 2018, 15:18

Miss Vanjie
Miss Vanjie. Picture: VH1
Woodrow Whyte

By Woodrow Whyte

Vanessa Vanjie Mateo on her elimination, what she thinks about the other queens and entering All Stars 4.

If you needed proof of Vanessa Vanjie Mateo's rise to legendary status among Drag Race fans, perhaps the great lengths it takes to get a 15 minute interview with the breakout star from season 10, squeezed before her second ever UK show, might be a good place to start.

It takes several weeks and multiple contacts before we meet at a boujee hotel near Heaven nightclub in London, where Miss Vanjie (…Miss VanjieMiss Vanjie!) will later be performing and judging at Porn Idol. She is, to put it in her own words, gagged about the show.

“I can't wait to get on the mic so I can just talk shit and read the boys”, she laughs through plumes of foundation that float between us as she beats her face in her hotel room mirror. There’s so much foundation, in fact, that at one point I actually choke. “If they don't come packing, you know what I'm saying? I'm gonna read the fuck out of them. You couldn't put a cock ring or something on there, Mary? Come over here and show us that little limp noodle.”

By now, most people will be familiar with Miss Vanjie’s iconic exit from RuPaul’s Drag Race. After RuPaul asked her to sashay away, Miss Vanjie walked backwards off the runway and slowly repeated her own name three times. Being booted out in the first week would usually be the death knell for most queens but for Vanjje it turned out to be career-making move, albeit an unintentional one (she didn't plan her exit - she was in shock and couldn't think of anything else to say). It immediately went viral.

Riding high off the continued exposure on the show – thanks to mother Ru and the other queens who quote Vanjie’s name every week - she is working hard to keep up the momentum. As we discuss her next moves, the possibility of a spot on All Stars 4 and the realities of post-Drag Race life, it’s obvious that Miss Vanjie is a queen with ambition who's journey is only just beginning.

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What's a day in the life of Miss Vanjie like now since the show?

Now? Child... get on a plane, go to the booking, finished the booking, get out of drag, go on another plane, go to the next booking. Recently, it's been really crazy because of Drag Con and on top of that you travel. Everywhere you travel [to perform], you want to have new stuff, new numbers and new outfits. So, whenever I do have days off I like to meet with people to design some costumes and come up with new ideas. I haven't been home for like two months now. Yeah, I've been really go, go, go, go... Like I've not been in Florida for like two months.

The rise in your popularity has been so big since the show, especially considering you were the off in the first week. How would you describe what's happened to your life?

Crazy. Other than myself, I feel like they compare or say it's like a Shangela situation because she was probably the most popular from getting eliminated first. It's a blessing. I'm just grateful. I think it's funny as hell that they love the Miss Vanjie thing; I'm like, 'thank God'. I didn't have a plan. I didn't even know what the hell I was thinking. Clearly, I wasn't thinking so thank God I said my name three times like that.

I think the show has quoted you every week so far...

Mmhmm.

...since your departure. RuPaul loves you. That’s got to be one of the most gratifying things. Tell me about that.

It's so crazy to have RuPaul say your name all the time, and even the fact that they're just kiki-ing up there about it. Bitch, I live! For me, I think it's hilarious and I'm happy he loves the name because, I don't know, who doesn't want RuPaul to laugh and kiki about them? And you know the clips they show, that's him breaking out of character and she starts giggling! I was like, oh my god, because I didn't see that. I was already off. I was off the runway.

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Did you hear from the other queens before the show aired that it had become a thing in the workroom and with the judges?

Oh my god, yes. But I was like 'Oh that will get edited out'. I didn't think it would make the cut because, girl, they have so many things to show. But then they were like RuPaul loves it, he's saying it all the time and I'm like, really? It was a thing.

The judges really seem to be behind you.

They were behind me when they kicked me off the show too, as I walked away! I was like 'Y'all love me that much, you could have let me stay or give me one more like grace of God moment! Let her live her fantasy'. I was like, God damn. Ya'll love me but you gave me the boot? Which was fair though...

Well...

No, I mean she did deserve to stay. Kalorie’s lip sync was better. But, of course, I'm not going to tell you that I think my outfit was the worst because if I thought it were the worst I would never have worn it.

I liked it.

I liked it too. I knew what I was going for which was Rihanna Met Gala when she wore that floral origami and she wasn’t trying to feature shape. I wasn't either. If I wanted to show shape, I would have went out butt ass naked and served body.

Have you kept it?

I did not. I left it there at the show and I heard that they were wearing it around the work room - the crew and the girls.

What did you think of Snatch Game the other week?

I thought it was funny. Eureka was funny as hell. Oh my god, I live for Monét as Maya Angelou. It was hilarious. I thought Beyoncé was crazy. And Blue Ivy was crazy. It was a fucking shit show but I lived for it though. Since I know them it's even funnier to watch. But you have to understand when you're there it's like...it's crazy.

There was an interesting conversation between Miz Cracker and Kameron Michaels on Untucked that week about the huge cost of entering Drag Race. Was that true of your experience as well?

Oh my god, yes. I didn't have that much money but baby - when I tell you - I use all my resources and I work like a dog to make my life. First of all, even if you're a queen who has been working for a long time, nine times out of ten, the stuff that they ask you for you're not always going to have it. And if you do have something that fits the category, you want to elevate the look to a level of high fashion. You want to look perfect. So, in order to get everything in the act or hair or everything brand new to look good, it's a lot of money. Drag is not cheap.

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Who have you enjoyed watching the most?

Every episode changes. Sometimes people have a better episode and I'm like enjoying them and then sometimes they're not airing much of them. I've been enjoying Eureka. I've been enjoying watching Asia's commentary and her looks and stuff. Another one that I enjoyed that got eliminated was Monique Hart. Take lip sync... what did think of that?

Well the problem with Monique was that in Untucked she spent a lot of time arguing with The Vixen rather than learning the words. Obviously, that might be editing but...

No because who was the one that as soon as they got into there, they started to listen to the song? I think it was Asia because she thought she was in the bottom.

Exactly. And then The Vixen got in there pretty quickly once she said what she needed to say. Monique just seemed to...

Sit there and chit chat.

She said in the talking head afterwards that she spent most of the evening the night before making her dress rather than learning the words.

But you could have put headphones on? That's very true. I didn't even think of that. Very true. Are the excuses true or are they fake? Maybe not. I will say this that it could have been one of those songs where it wasn't coming natural for her and it wasn't enjoyable. They do tell you what the song is going to be the night before. They say, this is the song for tomorrow. Here's the paper with the lyrics.

The night before your elimination were you staying up all night reading the lyrics?

Me? I already knew the song. It was Christina Aguilera and I was a big fan but of course I listened to it just in case. The thing for me I think, I was very nervous in the beginning. Towards the middle of the lip sync I started to warm up and I started to feel more naturally but, in the beginning, I was so nervous.

It must happen quite quickly.

It does. I remember when we were lining up to go to the lip sync and I saw money in Kalorie’s chest and I was like, what is she about to do?

You saw the trick coming?

Mmhmm. And I was like 'Oh great'. If I was to know, bitch I would have put barbies in my chest. In my pussy too, and threw them at the judges and say ‘Here bitch get these Barbies’ and I would have made it rain flower petals like Sasha Velour or something. I would have pulled a trick but I was not well-prepared for the stunts.

You could have thrown the Barbies at Kalorie.

Throw them at Kalorie and start beating up her with the Barbies. I'm just joking, I actually love her.

You must have a reunion coming up soon as well. Are you looking forward to that?

I am. My God. I can't even imagine. We did something during our press week where we were live on Facebook and we were doing like a trivia thing. When I tell you, we were so fucking loud and crazy - I can't imagine how this reunion is going to be. You know how some seasons are a little bit quieter or whatever? Us? We are so loud and crazy. I know that reunion is going to be a hot shitty mess in all the right ways.

Everyone wants to see you on All Stars 4. Is that something you would consider?

If they asked me, of course. Bitch, if they asked me to come clean the bathrooms, I would do it. If they say 'Miss Vanjie, we can't bring you on, but can you please be the janitor for All Stars?' I'd say, yes of course. Give me the gloves, Mary. Let me start cleaning.

If you could, would you swap the one week you had on the show for a longer shot at the crown?

Hell no. I'm happy the way I am. I'm glad everything worked out because who knows I could have stayed longer and not went viral or been legendary. I'm actually happy with the way things turns out because I feel like I'm one of the most popular ones from my season. And there's always a second chance. I could be on the All Stars. I'm a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. I could have lasted longer and been hated. I could have said something stupid because I would probably have started feeling like 'ooh bitch I got this in the bag!' Who knows. You never know.

I guess because you had that period between filming and the show coming out. Were you dreading it coming out?

I was like, what the fuck happened? What is going to happen? I was freaking out. In my head I was like, okay, for the next few months you better go to every little event and win everybody over. Like every opportunity I have to be on my A-game, and I'm still like that in my head because you should be like that.

Watch the latest episode of RuPaul's Drag Race tonight (May 17th) on VH1.

Catch with our latest RuPaul's Drag Race episode recap over here.

Read our interview with All Stars 3 icon Shangela

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