Drag Race UK winner Lawrence Chaney shares the incredible advice RuPaul gave her
Lawrence Chaney beat stiff competition to be crowned Drag Race UK winner, and now, she’s ready to bring Scottish drag to the world.
The Drag Race UK final was the gay World Cup, X Factor final and sit-down Oprah interview all in one – and at the end, it was Lawrence Chaney who was crowned a winner, baby.
The first Scottish queen to win the franchise beat off stiff competition and her own inner saboteur to claim her prize, charming RuPaul with her wit, warmth and talent. It’s been a long journey – about a year since the series began filming – but the morning after the night before, Lawrence Chaney told PinkNews of her pride, her hopes for the future, her off-screen chats with RuPaul, and what her win means to her.
PinkNews: Congratulations Lawrence! How are you doing?
Lawrence Chaney: I am mentally somewhere else. I can’t believe it. So I’m just trying to believe it and not fan girl too much.
Were you confident when you sat down to watch the Drag Race UK final last night?
[Laughs] Nope! This is the thing, I have crippling anxiety and depression. Genuinely, I was very proud of myself, because I’m one of those people that can beat myself up quite a lot. I’m very hard on myself. But this time I was like, do you know what Lawrence, if you lose, that isn’t a bad thing on you. You’re not an awful human being, you’re a good queen, it just isn’t your night. But I cannot believe that I won, it blows my mind. For Scotland, for me personally, it’s just life changing.
You’ve been vocal about supporting the Scottish drag scene, what do you hope you win does for the scene?
The only taste we’ve had right of Scottish drag has been Rosé in season 13 doing Mary, Queen of Scots and Morgan McMichaels. They were both born in Scotland, but their drag grew up in America, their sense of humour, their style choices, their costume choices, their ability to sew is a reflection on America, not Scotland. So I it was really important for me and Ellie to come on the show, and show what Scotland has produced as a queer scene. And the fact that the Scottish scene has produced a winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, that is amazing.
About a year ago, I did my last gig before COVID and I got paid £30 for it. And it was to 23 people or something. So I want this to be a testament to what it was, and let’s make sure that for the other up and coming queens, let’s try and make that smoother, let’s support our local queens, and get fairer pay as well.
As well as the being the first Scottish winner, a lot of fans were celebrating you being the first big girl to win Drag Race.
Yes! You know, I have always had struggles with body weight. I’ve always resented losing weight. No one around me is like, ‘OK Lawrence, you need to get in shape because you need to become the next Lara Croft’, no one’s saying that. And if you’re happy with it, it’s not hurting anyone else, why can’t you be big? Why can’t you be small? My message, if there is one with being a plus-sized winner, I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter if you’re fat. It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or thin, just be proud of your body! Embrace every curve and swerve.
You talked on the show about growing up queer and dealing with bullying at school. After having such massive success, has anybody from school come crawling out of the woodwork?
Check my Facebook Messenger inbox! There have been a lot of people that messaged me from school, who have literally tripped me up in a corridor, made fall flat on my fat face, and now they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe that you won. Oh, my god, RuPaul loves you.’ And I’m like, ‘Is this fake? Or have you just come to terms with the fact that you were wrong?’
But that’s why are we on TV as queer people. We’re there to educate, we’re there to showcase, hopefully to show audience members at home who maybe one day will have a gay son or a trans child, this is what I went through, don’t do it to the next person.
Let’s talk about the final itself, it seemed like you had a bit of a breakthrough in the final challenge, you just went in and had fun with it.
The whole journey of Drag Race UK for me has been a road of lovely challenges, all fabulous, but it’s been a road of self-discovery. I’ve always loved throwing a glamorous look together, but in the Rusical I shut down because I was like, ‘No, I am funny. I must do this. And not this.’
I was putting myself in boxes. When you’re auditioning for the show, you kinda need to do that, you need to go, ‘Hello RuPaul, I’m a comedy queen.’ But then you need to get rid of that mindset when you go into the competition, because you need to be everything. And then I proved that to myself in the ‘UK Hun’ challenge where, yes, I was panicking about the choreo. But we did it. And then what we saw in the final was a further breakthrough of, well, I know I can do it. I’m fluffing it right now, because it takes me longer than Tayce to pick up moves. But we know that. So it was no longer embarrassment, if that makes sense.
Emotions must have been running high anyway, but how was it when all the eliminated queens came back?
Oh, it was an emotional couple of days. We were in an empty werk room where we could hear the echo. It was the end of the road, and it was this thing we’d all been fighting for for a year, there was COVID in between and somehow we managed to make it. So the fact that we got to share it with all the eliminated girls really, really warmed my heart. Veronica, luckily she had a negative test result, she’d recovered, and I was so proud and glad that she was able to join us. That was a real full circle moment.
And how was your sit-down with RuPaul and Michelle? Did Ru give you any nuggets of advice?
You know, she did actually. It’s not like me and RuPaul to talk for ages! [Laughs]. She asked if I had any questions, and I asked, ‘How did you do it? How did you become the drag superstar without the show?’ Because whether you win or lose the show, there is a world outside of this and I was like, whether I win or not, I want to be the second coming of RuPaul.
She said, ‘The trick is, know your craft and be able to take criticism from those that you care to take the criticism from.’ But she also said, ‘The trick is being around long enough to reap the rewards of the work you put in 20 years ago.’ And it makes sense, because we still quote the songs she was singing in the ’90s, songs like ‘Supermodel’ are very much still the building block. So and it was really nice being able to pick her brain. And the fact that she was willing to give that advice was amazing.
Where do you want to be in 20 years?
I want to be doing Lawrence Chaney’s Drag Race! I want to travel the world and make everyone laugh. I believe the internet is the future, so I would love to have a Netflix stand-up show. I love these Netflix specials where you’ve seen it 700 times, you know all the jokes, you know the punchlines, but it lifts your mood on a bad day.
And before world domination, what are your plans right now?
My plans right now are to sleep for about three days, because I have been styling wigs and doing Zoom calls. I’m very excited to have a nap and resurface and just get ready to big up the Scottish people. Winning Drag Race can seem like a vanity project, and it was, and I’m very proud of myself. But I’m very proud of my country and I want to share the rewards.
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is available on BBC iPlayer.