The Vivienne on taking down Donald Trump and why she never thought she’d release a Drag Race single
In the six months since The Vivienne won Drag Race UK, she’s gone from Liverpool to Hollywood via the White House.
When Drag Race UK was first announced back in December 2018, fans were nervous. Would the show manage to grasp the UK’s campy, sarcastic sense of humour? Would the queens be up to scratch? Would RuPaul be able to understand a word any of them were saying?
The series followed almost a year later and, of course, blew away all expectations. It was British through and through, foul-mouthed and rough around the edges, with the cast of 10 queens showcasing the sheer talent and variety our isles have to offer.
Of the competitors, The Vivienne stood out from the very first episode. She wowed the judges on the runway with a Queen at Balmoral realness and an authentic Pete Burns fantasy, and seven weeks later was crowned Britain’s Next Drag Superstar.
Since then, she’s forged her own path entirely separate to that trodden by the American series’ 11 (soon to be 12) winners: flying to Hollywood to film a mockumentary series, teaming up with Baga Chipz to revive their iconic Snatch Game characters Donald Trump and Margaret Thatcher, and to film a Netflix YouTube series.
She’s been so busy, in fact, that it’s taken her half a year to get round to the inevitable Drag Race winners’ single – which as she tells us, didn’t feel all that inevitable to her.
PinkNews: Hi Viv! How’s lockdown treating you?
The Vivienne: Just the same old [laughs]. I’m staying positive, staying creative.
What are you missing the most?
Oh my God, just an audience. That is the one thing I’m missing most, that’s why I got into drag, that’s why I do drag. I’m finding it hard to keep up with this online presence – I just want an audience back!
But you’ve been busy haven’t you?
Well yes, my new single comes out May 20.
Tell us all about it.
I never thought a single would be the thing to do. I just thought, you see so many queens come off Drag Race, who release singles and it doesn’t really go anywhere… but then in the back of your mind you think, well why not? Just do it. It’s content. It’s fun. It’s something I love to do. So let’s do it.
But you’ve been a singer for a while now haven’t you? What came first for you, singing or drag?
I’ve been singing for least the last 10 years up and down the country. But drag came before singing. When I started drag I was a DJ in nightclubs in Liverpool like Superstar Boudoir and G Bar, and you kind of realise that you’ve got to have an act, so I thought well OK, I’ll sing.
I suppose you’re in a different position to the US Drag Race winners, because singing is so much more of a thing here for drag queens.
Yeah, it’s crazy the difference between American and UK queens because you go into London, you know it whether you’re going to Two Brewers or Heaven or anywhere, and usually the queen that is on will be singing live for an hour, and that’s that’s just the standard of the UK drag.
So to come on and do two lip sync numbers, it’s completely different ballgame. So I think the UK has got a really good upper hand in entertainment value for drag.
On to the song itself. It’s very ’80s isn’t it?
It’s got that Dead or Alive, Pete Burns-y feel. Pete Burns as an icon was amazing, his musical influence is just fantastic. Coming from Liverpool and being an outcast and just being himself was life-changing.
Do you have any other big musical influences?
Cher. It’s insane, how do you have a career that long? I’m 28 years old, I’m a healthy person and after being on stage for an hour, I’m f**ked. I saw Cher twice last year and for 73… it was mind blowing.
You met her on your show, The Vivienne Takes Hollywood! Or actually – that could have been Chad Michaels?
[Laughs] Do you know what, the show has been so much fun. The whole point of it was that it’s a rockumentary, it’s a p**s take of the whole Hollywood machine. If anyone thought we were actually serious, then the the joke’s on you. The people who got it got it.
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And you’ve got another web series, Trump Learns Things. What is it that makes him such a great character to do?
Well as an impersonator you’ve got to use what you’ve got. Even if it’s the most horrible person – you can use that to bring him down. If I can take the p**s out of him, then that’s doing some good.
The funniest thing is that what I’m saying is all things he’s said. It’s crazy.
Lastly, it’s been six months now since you won Drag Race UK. How have you adjusted? It must come with so many ups and downs.
Of course. The Drag Race fan base are so, so supportive and loving. But there are haters, there’s that side of it that is really, really toxic and it’s no good for the queens, it’s no good for the fandom, it’s no good for the community. It just needs to stop.
It has been crazy, adjusting to it all and being stopped in the street for pictures. You start doing drag to entertain in a small venue and to put money in the bank, and then all of a sudden you’re thrusted into – I hate the word celebrity, but you are this celebrity drag queen. But it’s absolutely amazing, it’s changed my life in ways you’d never know. It’s just brilliant.