RuPaul’s Drag Race shocked us last night, and not just because it staged a ballet based on the exquisite life of its star. Ru dared to eliminate both of the lip-syncing queens who flunked the performance challenge, and thus, we lost two ferocious contestants this week. The first to go — and the less expected evictee, based on her standing last week — is Vivienne Pinay, a.k.a. 26-year-old Michael Donehoo of New York City, who touted her good looks and comely femininity, but couldn’t quite redeem her performance in the ballet as “America’s Next Drag Superstar” or her uninspired lip-sync of Britney Spears’ “Oops!… I Did It Again.” At least she’s in good company: Her competitor Honey Mahogany was also eliminated, and we talked to her as well about the dramatic episode. (Editor’s note – We’ll have Honey’s interview tomorrow morning).
But first: Let’s catch up with Vivienne Pinay about the competition, whether her approach to drag is respected, and her favorite fishy queens.
AfterElton: Vivienne! The competition’s over and you’re finally able to take it all in. How would you describe your experience overall?
Vivienne Pinay: You know what, it was a lot different than what I thought it was going to be. It’s a lot different than what you see on television. But at the end of the day, I am absolutely so completely honored and blessed to have been a part of it because Drag Race really puts us on the map, you know? Now there are the possibilities we can all achieve because of the show. I’m very, very thankful. I mean, if Ru told me now that something went wrong and we had to reshoot season five but keep it all the exact same, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
AE: How was the show different than you thought it was going to be?
VP: I think the whole energy. It’s a really big production! Whenever you’re watching it — I mean, I thought it was two cameras, maybe two producers in there, but it’s a really big production. There’s a lot that goes into it that I had no idea about. It’s also very, very intense. It was very intense for me because I was so focused on the competition. I feel like I was a little too focused. I wish I could’ve been right where I needed to be as far as headspace goes. Living in the moment, that’s what I feel like I should’ve done.
AE: RuPaul’s Drag Race is different than, say, Project Runway in that your attitude and “focus” are basically part of the judging criteria. Do you think the judges sensed you were too focused?
VP: Yeah. I definitely think so. I work on energy, a lot, because I’ve been in the hair industry for nine years. I can instantly read energy. At the same time, certain feelings that I have, I can’t hide. I’m sure people can read my energy as well. Maybe the judges did see that I was a little too in my own head, you know what I mean?
AE: Did you sense that this challenge would be your waterloo?
VP: Well, in the previous challenge, I was almost in the bottom. I pretty much had no choice but to do well at this week’s challenge. But from day one, I told people I’m not a dancer. I’m just not! For some odd reason, I didn’t get the dancing bone. Still, I dove into it and I told myself I have to tackle this challenge! I have to do well! Quite honestly? I think I did do a good job. I did a lot better than I thought. Unfortunately, it didn’t play out right. Watching it back, I don’t think I made any mistakes. So I was little surprised that I was in the bottom.
AE: Your role in this episode’s spectacle, in which you played “America’s Next Drag Superstar” in a ballet about Ru’s life, could’ve been approached from a thousand different directions. Meanwhile, roles like Diana Ross can only be played a couple ways. Did the vagueness of your role make it hard to perform?
VP: Yes, actually, and that’s a really good question. I was trying to pull inspiration from past winners, from myself, from some of the girls that were in the competition with me because — and you guys didn’t really see this — people kept telling me I was really quiet and needed to talk more. I’m the kind of person you can’t make talk, but if I have something to say, you can’t shut me up. I knew I was being looked at in a way like I was a little too quiet, so I tried incorporating different points of inspiration as well. I guess it didn’t work out! I thought I did great though, I’m going to be honest. I thought I looked great, and I thought I did good. So again I was a little surprised.
AE: You and Honey Mahogany were both sent home after you were asked to lip-sync to “Oops!… I Did It Again.” Did you have an issue with the song? Did you not like it?
VP: Well, I love Britney Spears, so it wasn’t that I didn’t like the song. I just don’t think I could’ve done — for me, personally — too much with that song. I don’t know that there was much emotion I could’ve put into that song. What I am good at is serving face and looking beautiful. I said that from day one, and that’s just my thing. It’s absolutely not an excuse and even in my interview with Michelle this morning, I’m just saying it’s my thing. I’m not saying it should’ve been good enough, but that’s how I perform. I’ve never been a big dancer or an over-the-top drag queen. That’s the way I do things! I think that drag, for me, is not all about lip-syncing and acting crazy and being drama-filled and bitchy. It’s about art for me. It’s about art and self-love.
AE: The judges criticized you for relying on your looks to get by. Do you feel you did that at all? Or do you think the judges are too resistant to applaud other approaches to drag?
VP: That’s a very good question. I definitely don’t think I rest on that because I put a lot of effort and time and my talent into my look because that, as I said, is my thing. I am a beauty glamor queen, and I’ll say that ’til the day I die. Unfortunately for RuPaul’s Drag Race, I’ll say there needs to be a little more [support given] to that. However, having said that, obviously it was enough — and I’m talented enough — to get on the show. It’s all about being yourself. There’s no wrong way to do drag, and that’s the one thing that kind of upset me the whole time. Even the viewers who have no idea about drag other than RuPaul’s Drag Race, a lot of people think there’s one way to do drag, or there’s one stereotype that drag queens fit. That’s not true. There’s no wrong way to do art. Like I said, drag is art for me.
AE: Did you think you deserved to stay more than Honey?
VP: Quite honestly, yes I did. Obviously I’m not watching Honey the whole time as I perform, but — and of course the lip-sync is edited — I felt like I moved around the stage more, I connected with the judges more, so if I had to pick, I would’ve said, yes, I should’ve stayed.
AE: On Untucked, you seemed to criticize Jade Jolie for being less than extraordinary and getting away with it. Does seeing someone you’re critical of skate by without critique grate on you?
VP: I don’t think so. My performance is not based upon someone else getting praise or getting a little more praise than me. The only reason I said something about Jade on Untucked was because of what I’d heard. I’d not experienced Jade being nasty or experienced her saying that she was over it. Only a little bit. A little bit. I definitely didn’t feel like she was getting by more than me. I will say that in that challenge, the dancing challenge, I definitely think Roxxy should’ve been in the bottom because she had three dance moves and couldn’t even do that. And she was dressed in a leotard. The fact that she couldn’t do that when it was a dancing challenge, I think the judges got that one wrong.
AE: Who are your favorite fishy queens in the show’s history?
VP: Gosh! Well, if we’re going based on fishy, I did like Tatiana. I know a lot of people didn’t really care for her. She was fishy and gorgeous. Of course Carmen. Carmen! She’s like the ultimate fish. Kenya was fishy last season. She was pretty fishy. I thought she was beautiful. I think that’s it? Hands down, this season has the best fish in the history of RuPaul’s Drag Race. And if I don’t say so myself, I think I am THE fishiest girl!
AE: Finally: If you could only throw your support behind one remaining queen, who would it be?
VP: Gosh, that is a very hard one. You know what, based on talent, beauty, and the fact that we had a really, really good connection, I’d have to say Alyssa Edwards. I love her. She really is very talented and so drop-dead gorgeous.