Gary: One of the shows that I’ve been watching religiously, and I don’t do this often, is RuPaul’s Drag Race. I was Team Valentina all the way. I don’t even know who to vote for anymore, you know? But she’s on the line so let’s have her talk to us. Valentina, how are you?
Valentina: I’m doing great. How are you?
Gary: I’m good! I have lots of questions for you. I’m a big fan of yours. I want to just kill the lip sync question first if we can. Tell me what happened. You were my pick. I was rooting for you. I think some fans were upset but just sort of tell us what happened with that.
Valentina: I think what just happened was a true moment and human experience, and we’ve all had it, where everything we want is before our eyes. I just fucked up. RuPaul says, “Good luck and don’t fuck it up.” I just fucked up. I just was in a state of shock and lost all control. I was not prepared knowing the song and I didn’t have the strength or power in me to fight through that moment. I can accept that and live with it, but I also view that experience and episode as a blessing in my life. It’s such a real, raw moment where you get to see a very human side of me. From that moment, I’ve learned so much about myself. It’s now challenged me to grow as an artist and to challenge myself to prove to my public and fans that I am a great lip syncer and artist, and a moment like that will not define me. It’s a great challenge because it kind of pushes me to be better than that moment. I’m very lucky and blessed for RuPaul’s Drag Race and the experience of the show, and even my elimination.
Gary: Did you watch it? Was it hard to watch?
Valentina: I watched it and feel I’ve already answered the question with you. I watched it. It’s in the past for me. It was difficult to watch because I watched it live with the support of a group of friends in front of a live audience. It was a challenge because I’d never seen the episode. I was in a state of shock and don’t remember anything. It was very triggering to see everything happen and just remember it.
Gary: There were some big moments this season. I want to jump back to the first episode and get your opinion when you saw what you didn’t know was Lady Gaga. This queen walks into the room and you don’t know who it is. Who did you think it was?
Valentina: At first glance I thought, “Wow, what a great Lady Gaga impersonator.” Once she completely walked toward the end I looked at her hands and knew, “That’s Lady Gaga!” I knew! I’ve worked a lot with celebrities. I worked at Prada on Rodeo Drive in Women’s Ready-To-Wear. I’m just used to seeing celebrities and I knew that was a biological woman who just stormed through into the work room. I knew it was her.
Gary: How interesting would it have been if she’d participated in maybe the first challenge? How do you think she would have done?
Valentina: She would have been fabulous. Lady Gaga is naturally a drag queen at heart. But I feel it would have been a very unfair advantage if a true star with a lot of experience had been part of the competition.
Gary: Were there challenges for you that you were looking forward to being a part of?
Valentina: Everything unfolded in front of our eyes, right then and there in the moment. It wasn’t something that we were prepared for much. I enjoyed the 90210 challenge because growing up I watched 90210 with my babysitters. That was kind of fun. But to be honest, it wasn’t exciting in that sense. It was more thrilling than anything because when they throw things at you like a TV pilot or acting challenge, or sewing challenge, or getting into drag as fast as you can, these are things that I’ve never experienced. It was such a thrill to throw yourself into something you might have never done, but in that moment, you have to figure it out, find your strengths, and show you can take a challenge and do your best.
Gary: But you’ve got to expect Snatch Game, right? Or the roast or something?
Valentina: Yes, those are things that I know I’m preparing for mentally. Am I excited about those things? No, I’m quite nervous. I’m an artist. The nerves push me to my next level. If I’m not nervous, then I’m not doing my job. When it came to Snatch Game, or picking my entrance look, those things we all know are going to be there, like the roast. There are high expectations to it. There have been many seasons of girls who have done them and done them well. It’s pressure. There is a lot of pressure behind the choices you make there. It was more nerve-racking than exciting because you want to do well and there was a lot of pressure on myself to do my best.
Gary: I was going to say, it’s tough to have that expectation and then go in and compete with eight other seasons of Snatch Game, you know? Do you feel that maybe there are challenges they could switch out, or a different approach with some of the girls?
Valentina: It’s not really my job. I can have an opinion and it would be that I think the challenges could be more based on creativity, where we get thrown into things that connect a bit more with the artful of drag and we can feature our artistry, authenticity, and individual talents. I don’t know what that means or what that could be, but I feel the show has been going on for so long that things just have to transform and change a little bit. I was even thinking in my mind about how fun it’d be for maybe previous winners, or some of the most successful girls, to create new challenges for the new season. What if we used drag queens and involved them and their ideas on challenges? That would be fun and a new approach. I’d consider it a bigger challenge after having so many seasons to not recycle any old, previous ideas, but to present new ones.
Gary: I think that’s a good idea. In terms of future seasons, say they do all-stars three, would you do it?
Valentina: Oh, my goodness. If they would ask me, I’ll be there. I’d love to do it!
Gary: I’m putting my money down on you now.
Valentina: Thank you so much.
Gary: We’ve got a top four. I’m wondering if there is anybody that you’re rooting for or would consider endorsing to win.
Valentina: No, I don’t. Me!
Gary: I’ll stay on the Valentina train then.
Valentina: I love you!
Gary: I love you too! I think you said in the first episode that you’d done drag for maybe then months, and then there were ladies on the show who’d done it for a few more years then you. Did you ever feel that the experience was something that outweighed the creativity?
Valentina: I feel like experience can matter. It can help mold and shape you. Although I didn’t have lots of experience as a drag queen performer on stage or as a professional, because I had my debut ten months before, before that I experimented with drag. That means I may have gone to the first Drag Con. I did maybe one random event and pushed myself to try it out. I dressed up for Halloween. But that didn’t make me a drag queen because I was not a performer yet. I didn’t have anything really. It was just me collecting a wig, dress, heels, makeup, and throwing it on and going out to experiment. How would I walk? Talk? This is fun. I just want to put on a look, you know? Those were the first experiences and they were so fun for me. It was this idea of, “I don’t have anything! I have to get an outfit together. What am I going to wear?” Me being me and extra from the start, I got an evening gown. My first time in drag was in an evening gown for Halloween. I said, “I’m going to Miss Universe and you’re going to be Miss World. We all know I have a bigger [inaudible] with the Miss Universe pageant.” Those were my first kind of experiences with drag. All my life experiences of studying the performing arts since I was eleven, being a patron of the stage and performer, studying acting, dance, staging, lighting, choir, and improv, all these things I studied, along with fashion design and modeling, have molded and helped create my persona, Valentina. They are part of who I am, all that technique. I have the privilege of being a natural-born performer. I dreamed since I was a little boy of being a star. All those things mixed together, although I have a lack of experience as a professional drag queen, I felt like I was mentally prepared to take on any challenge in that moment. If you ask me, I feel I did a very good job. Before I left the show, I tried tucking in the bathroom and on the show was my second tuck ever, to be honest.
Gary: Really? Wow. I just want to say, the looks were everything on the runway. Are you one of the queens who sews those looks? Do you have people who help you make them? What goes on behind the scenes?
Valentina: Behind Valentina is a big team of friends, Latino artists who’ve helped me. I don’t come from a drag family. I don’t come from a big community of drag queens who have supported or shaped me. I’m talking about previously, before the show. I now have a lot of drag race sisters who’ve been very supportive of me. I have a group of very talented friends in LA, one of which helps me with my hair, another with all graphic design, another who is a photographer, and another who [inaudible] my lashes, plus various friends who are designers. I visualize everything in head. I am a designer and kind of the artistic director of everything. I always have this vision. It’s always been an amazing, beautiful prospect of creating a look. For instance, my finale dress is going to be very beautiful. I’m going to describe the process to you. I have a friend who is a designer, Alex. I said, “Alex, we have a week. I need to make a gown. I want this to be the most beautiful gown, the biggest challenge you’ve ever had. I want it to be the biggest article of clothing you’ve ever made.” He said, “OK. What’s the silhouette?” We drew it on paper and I said, “I want this. I want it to have this signature part of me. I want it to be this length and have these textures. I’m not sure on color, but let’s go shopping for fabric and see what speaks to us.” I go out and look at the fabrics, following in love with something. When I fall in love with it, it gets me to think of what textures I can mix or other elements I can add, crystals or lining, maybe a bustle or shoulder piece, or fresh flowers. Who knows? I start to see what hair color I then want. After that, we start to create and have fittings. During those fittings, things can change. For instance, for my finale dress I wanted this idea of an Audrey Hepburn shell bubble that would come out from my back and was huge, and made of tool. As we were doing it, we realized it would be better to have all that tool on my waist. It would have this length and longing. In the moment, we allowed ourselves to change it. It’s a long process behind making Valentina perfect because I work one-on-one with everyone. It then goes onto my hair stylist and he now sees the design of the dress and the color. We then shop for the shows. Once everything is completely done, I have another friend, and I’ll say, “Let’s cover everything in crystal.” There is a motif with the dress, with the shoes, and with everything, the hair, and it all gets blended together. That’s part of the process behind how we create looks for Valentina.
Gary: What is next for you? Are there things out there that you want to go out and get that you may not have right now?
Valentina: Right now, I want the world. I’ve been so embraced by the fashion world. I’ve been embraced by the Latin community. I’ve done interviews with Univision, [inaudible], and Telemundo. There are so many opportunities for me right now. I’m completing a lot of contracts that I signed earlier on and pulling through with all those shows, meeting all my fans in different cities. But I want to grow so much bigger and elevate the art form of drag with my own unique experience of becoming a Latin sensation while being a drag queen. I want to be the face of drag in all Latin America. I’m working on it and hope to go very far.