Words: Alastair James; pictures: BBC
Scarlet Adams, one of the final four of RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under, says she had to be honest about her previous use of blackface on the show and that she hopes her experience can be a "catalyst" for more conversations about racism.
The queen, who enters the final with three Maxi Challenge wins under her belt, also says being called out on the main stage for her past behaviour was a scary experience. (She apologised before the show began after being called out, also for cultural appropriation.)
Speaking to Attitude ahead of the grand final, Scarlet reveals all about the doubts she had on the show and what her mum said to her when she found out she was a contestant.
What’s it been like for you being on the show?
It’s been such a crazy whirlwind experience. It’s the most insane thing I’ve ever done in my life.
What were you doing when you found out you were going on?
I think I was getting ready for a show that night. The interview process is quite long and I was getting further and further along and they sent me a visa application to enter New Zealand. So, I applied for my visa, and [later] I got a call and they said they’d like to offer me a place and I think I said "Thank you very much, I’ll see you there" hung up, screamed and called my Mum!
How did she take it?
She loved it but asked who was going to take of the dogs when I was gone!
Aren’t mums always practical?! And, how does it feel being in the final?
Amazing! I went into Drag Race not thinking I was going to win. I went in thinking I want to have as much fun as I can and enjoy the experience because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I think I’ve done that.
And how’s that journey been for you?
I think the challenges on the show were in my wheelhouse, like sewing and performing. It’s what I do, so I feel I was very lucky in that regard. But the process of filming Drag Race was the most physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining thing I’ve ever done.
They were long days; they were really hard, and I think when we finished filming, I slept for two days. I was knackered.
And did you ever have any doubts while you were on the show?
Every time I walked on that runway. You never know what they’re going to say and a lot of times we were really shocked with the judging and who was in the top or bottom. I never counted my chickens before they hatched. We thought that was the best Snatch Game there ever was and it was the worst! The delusion is real!
Watching it all back, has it changed how you remember things?
Totally, there were moments where I could see what the judges were saying.
At times there was some tension in the workroom, especially between you and Elektra [Shock]. What do you think about that and how it came across?
We’re there to make TV. I didn’t care, I was not that bothered. I was there for me and to do the work and present my drag but obviously, producers want to make it interesting. They’d ask things like “do you think Elektra deserves to be here?”
I would say “of course, everyone deserves to be here” but they’d ask what I thought of her costume, and they’d cut it to make it look like [I said] “her costume is s***! Blah blah blah!” Etcetera Etcetera said this a few weeks ago: “If it’s too spicy, go watch the Antiques Roadshow.”
Obviously, there’s been a backlash over some of your past and you’ve apologised for that previously, and on the show. What do you think of the way it was dealt with on the show?
When I brought it up on the show it was in response to someone asking a question. ‘Have they done anything they regret?’ And I couldn’t sit there be silent. So, I opened up about that and it is something I do regret. I guess I didn’t know it would be used as the storyline.
But if I can be a catalyst for that kind of conversation to be happening, which really does need to be happening, then of course I’m happy to do that.
And it was brought up on the runway by RuPaul. How was that?
It was scary, I’m not going to lie. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Being accountable is a difficult thing to do, but it’s a very important thing to do. Ru gave me the opportunity to speak, and I let her make her own decision based on that and her decision was her decision.
And in one of your statements, you point towards larger issues in the community of Australia and New Zealand. Is that the case and is that a conversation you can now help with given your experience?
Totally. With conversations like this, it’s important to include people of colour and not just have two white people talking about what the issues are that people of colour (POC) are facing in society. That’s not my place to tell you. But there is definitely a lot of racism in Australia and a lot of ingrained and systematic racism. It is getting better but we can go so much further.
And have you had an opportunity since all this has happened to take on that role you’ve talked about having and helped call this stuff out?
I’ve spoken to a lot of people from the POC community and had conversations with them about things that I can be doing to be better, and the things communities can be doing to be better. I haven’t been working very much since Drag Race so there’s not a lot I can do. But hopefully, yeah.
If you’re crowned the winner over the weekend, what would you do?
I would take a couple of friends of mine who’ve been really helpful over the last few months and my Mum – take them out for a really fancy dinner to say thank you. I would buy myself one thing that’s really nice, maybe a nice Gucci top. I would spend the rest of the money moving to the other side of Australia and following my dream.
The finale of RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under airs on BBC iPlayer on Sunday 20 June 2021.
The Attitude Summer issue is out now.