From the moment Naomi Smalls took to the runway on Season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, this high-fashion queen showed she was a force to be reckoned with. From a Top 3 showing on her original season to a Top 4 showing on All Stars 4, Naomi Smalls was in stealth mode during her ascent up the ladder, but when faced with the opportunity she had no problem taking out a fan favorite like Manila Luzon — and she made no apologies for it.
While she ultimately did not snag a spot in the Drag Hall of Fame, Naomi Smalls grabbed herself a legion of new fans, and for the first time is presenting her own music.
Hornet caught up with Naomi Smalls after All Stars 4 to discuss her time on the show, her new appreciation for a certain genre of music and the TV moment that has become her newfound namesake: sending home a fan favorite.
Here’s our sit-down with the legs of All Stars 4, Naomi Smalls:
Congratulations on an amazing showing during All Stars 4! What made you want to return for All Stars after your Top 3 showing on Season 8?
On my season, I was a kid! I was 21 years old and had been doing drag for about two years. You grow up a lot in your 20s, but for me it accelerated a lot being on the road constantly with professionals and having so much ‘alone time’ to find yourself.
It was nice to go back into the competition with a whole new sense of confidence. I was able to go in there and say “This is what I do well” as opposed to figuring out what I was doing while on Season 8. I was definitely much more comfortable.
Who were you surprised not to see in the workroom when you first walked in?
I’d heard rumors that Adore Delano was going to be back this season. Her time on All Stars 2 was cut short, and I’d heard she’d had some regrets. I was very excited to see her!
Naomi Smalls had a strong showing on Season 8, but did you get the ru-demption you came for?
I definitely think I got the ru-demption I wanted. I don’t know, there’s something about makeover challenges with me. [Laughs] It is very flattering, though, my favorite part of drag is conceptualizing and creating something out of nothing and trying to tell a story out of it.
The fact that I could do that both seasons is amazing. I definitely wanted to go in and get the crown. Then I kind of saw that was not going to happen, but I didn’t let that stop me from trying to give the judges and the runway my best every single week.
Is there any inner saboteur you had to conquer on this season of All Stars?
I thought I had gotten rid of it on Season 8, but then the same thing happened during All Stars 4. It’s really hard in a competition setting to not compare yourself to your competitors. What I have realized is that I cannot do what Bob the Drag Queen can do, but Bob the Drag Queen cannot do what I do. You have to have that confidence and be able to say, This is what I do, this is what I do well, and this is why I am here. You cannot get distracted about why you are ‘not like the other girls.’
You will go down in history as the queen who sent home Manila Luzon on All Stars 4.
And I’d do it again! [Laughs] I came to play a game and to get myself to the top. If I had bombed during the Sex and the City challenge and Manila had still been in the competition, I don’t know that she would have necessarily saved me.
RuPaul’s Drag Race fandom can get a little intimidating, though, especially when you are going to make decisions — because you’re concerned with what the fans are going to say. At the end of the day, though, I was definitely more focused on the competition.
The fandom for Drag Race can get a little intense.
Yes, absolutely. I was kind of a crazy fan when I was in middle school myself. You have so much emotion in your little pubescent body, sometimes you just don’t know where to take it. [Laughs]
You recently appeared in the music video for Manila Luzon’s “Go Fish,” so it appears all is forgiven. (Read Hornet’s interview with Manila Luzon here.) Speaking of music, you have your own music coming out, I hear.
You know, I used to be one of those girls who would go on Drag Race and say, “I will never make any music; I’m not that girl.” Then I realized you could have so much fun creating videos and visuals and tour and present to your audience something that you came up with that is 100% you.
Music has been really fun, and when I moved to Chicago I really got into house music. It wasn’t a style of music I was really familiar with before, and I can really identify with it now! Frankie Knuckles, Derrick Carter, Michael Serafini, all those guys. Smart Bar in Chicago has really opened my mind to another whole style of drag.
As a person and as a performer, what gives you the most pride?
At the end of the day, it’s really amazing to have a goal. When we are sitting own putting on our makeup or putting on our wig, there’s always this end goal and image in the back of your head.
I always try to quote RuPaul with this one: “When we can see ourselves in the image of our own imagination, it is the most powerful thing you can ever do.” That gives me so much pride — to have a plan and make it happen. To have an audience be there and also enjoy it is definitely the cherry on top.
Featured image of Naomi Smalls by Todd Diederich