Last week, season seven Drag Race runner-up Pearl unintentionally stirred a few pots when she confided to Hey Qween that RuPaul had told her “nothing you say matters unless that camera is rolling.” Pearl now claims that the comments spun off into “incredibly overly dramatized and exaggerated” headlines saying that she’d “dragged” RuPaul, exposing Mama Ru as an elitist who doesn’t care about the up-and-coming queens, when her intent was simply to explain why she’d been aloof on the show. Pearl did use the phrase “so Hollywood, rotted, and gross” (see the clip here):
We were filming a segment, just kind of chatting, bantering together. Then the camera went down for a moment, and I turned to RuPaul and said, ‘Oh my god, I just wanna say thank you so much, like, it’s such an honor to be here, such a pleasure to meet you,’ just giving her everything I ever wanted to say. She turned to me and said, ‘Nothing you say matters unless that camera is rolling.’ That broke my spirit, and that is the reason why I had one foot in, one foot out the entire time I was on that show. Maybe that was me being petty, maybe that was me thinking it should’ve been something I never should’ve expected it to be, but in that moment it was so heartbreaking because I idolized her, I worshipped her, and I felt like it was so disrespectful…so Hollywood, rotted, and gross. How could you say that to someone who’s just obsessed with you?
The story went viral, and INTO got comment from other contestants Gia Gunn, The Vixen, and Laganja Estranja who seconded Pearl’s experience, saying they were told to “save it for the cameras,” though Laganja Estranja interpreted it more as “teaching the girls the ways of Hollywood.” When you’re squeezing an entire spin-off series purely out of off-stage banter, you really do have to get every second on camera.
In a video posted on Thursday, Pearl asked viewers not to troll RuPaul, called her a “wealth of knowledge,” claimed that she hadn’t gone into the interview planning to discuss the incident, and that the video in its entirety shows that RuPaul was brought up several times before she did.
But then she circled back, referencing many “off-the-cuff” discussions with other contestants who’d had “negative experiences” and said that following the Hey Qween interview, she got a call from producers who told her she would never be on “All Stars.” She says:
If something like this were to happen in any normal work environment where there was a mutual respect or professionalism to be had, there would be some major, major, major repercussions for the way that she mistreats the people on the set. And if you want to know the real tea, I had a producer for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” call me after the interview aired and guaranteed me that I will never come back and do “All Stars.” Now, I was never dumb enough to think that I would be invited back to “All Stars,” and I was definitely not gunning for it...but to openly punish me for being honest about a situation that happened with me after four years of silence is...disgusting and shameful. This narrative about how we drag race contestants owe our lives to “RuPaul’s Drag Race”–that needs to completely change.
So yes, tea was spilled. But Pearl’s last point is valid; the show’s tendency to reward girls who spend all of their disposable income on wow-factor couture (not to mention excelling in dance, gymnastic splits, comedy, cosmetics, acting, and any number of feats of physical exertion and ingenuity) does favor a Hollywood definition of success at the expense of community, which seems to be why dismissing a superfan’s praise so you can use the footage would be hurtful.
I’ve reached out to RuPaul’s representatives for comment and will update the post if I hear back.