Tatianna Tells All: On ‘Drag Race’ Fans and Family, a Full-Length Album and That Tyra DragCon Drama
One of our favorite queens to emerge from RuPaul’s Drag Race, and one of the show’s ultimate beauties, Tatianna first stepped inside the small screen when she tore up the competition (making it to fourth place) on the famed series’ second season. Since then the Washington, D.C., queen went back for more as part of Drag Race All Stars 2, and we still can’t get enough.
Since All Stars 2 Tatianna has worked nonstop, upping her game onstage and off. In addition to touring the world and bringing her nonpareil skills to venues on every continent, she recently became one of the first Drag Race alums to release a full-length album.
Tatianna recently sat down with Hornet to discuss all that and more, from how she nearly appeared on Drag Race‘s inaugural season (we had no clue!) and how she deals with the show’s oft-unruly fans to what initially sparked that Tyra DragCon drama from earlier this year.
Check out Hornet’s conversation with Tatianna here:
HORNET: I recently read something about you that I didn’t know, which is that you almost appeared on the first season of Drag Race. What’s the story behind that?
TATIANNA: Back then there was an online race where you would have a deadline to upload a certain amount of pictures, or a deadline to upload a lip sync they asked you to do, and [people voted online]. I believe that if you were number one at the end of the entire voting situation, you automatically got a spot of the show, but I think casting was also looking at who else was high up in the rankings. I lasted a pretty long time on there, but I didn’t really read the fine print of contestants having to be 21. So, I believe I was in the running, but I just wasn’t old enough.
And so then Season 2 came around, and you sent in an audition tape and the rest is …
Sent in the audition tape. I also did the online race again. I believe for Season 1 the girl who won the online voting was Nina Flowers. And then on Season 2 the girl from the online race who won a spot on the show was Jessica Wild.
I had no idea! I mean, I watched the show back then, but I just … it’s so long ago now.
Yeah. A lot of the girls that did the online race kind of knew each other, just from that social media aspect. When I first saw JuJu, I was like, “Oh, hey girl.” I just remember seeing all of her pictures on the online race and her video stuff. And Jessica Wild, too. I was a big fan, just from seeing the stuff she was posting because she’s such a great dancer.
So this next season of Drag Race will be Season 11. Nearly a decade after your original season, Season 2, I’m curious how you think the show has evolved. How you think being a contestant now is different than back in 2010?
Well, I definitely think being a contestant’s different in the way that you can already have a huge following outside of your home town or your home bar, thanks to social media. Back in the day we had Facebook and MySpace — those were kind of it.
What I do like about the show is that it’s stayed very consistent in the way it’s laid out, which I think is great, because I think it’s a good format. But I think that especially the fandom has changed.
Yeah. So that’s something I wanted to talk to you about, because there has been a lot of back-and-forth recently about the fans of Drag Race, specifically how they treat the queens on social media. I’m curious what kinds of experiences you’ve had with fans on social media.
For the most part, I think after Season 2 I was a polarizing character. Either you completely understood where I was coming from, or you thought I was a bitch, and with social media people felt like they could let that person know, “I think you’re a bitch.” But the outpouring of love and support that I received after All Stars was amazing.
But I don’t think Drag Race fans on social media are different than fans of any other reality show or any other celebrity, whether it be a singer or an actor. I mean, it’s a lot. You have to learn how to not read things, but I feel like it kind of bodes the same across the whole board of, like, people are gonna let you know if they really like you, or people are going to tell you awful, awful things.
And at this point, with social media and celebrity in general, if somebody’s not threatening to kill you, have you made it yet?
That’s so sick, isn’t it?
It’s disgusting and terrible. I don’t know why that’s the go-to thing, to call people racist things or threaten to kill them. From All Stars I had nothing but positivity, unless I’ve shared an opinion on something, whether it be Drag Race-related or just something in general that someone doesn’t agree with. I think a few months ago a fan threatened to burn my face with acid while I was visiting their country.
That was a first. I was like, “OK. You’re a little crazy.” Really took it from zero to 100, but yeah.
Another thing that comes up regarding Drag Race fans is that all of these people now feel like they’re drag experts, right? People who have never done drag before feel comfortable critiquing these queens, critiquing their performances, their makeup. Is that something you’ve noticed?
I mean, for me, just because I’ve been in this Drag Race game for a minute now, I just kind of learned how to weed out what I’m going to take seriously, what I’m going to care about and what I’m not going to. So like, some 12-year-old fan that’s like, “You’re a terrible drag queen,” I’m like, “Well, in all honesty, Mary, what do you know?” So you learn to tune that out a little bit, but I think it’s the same when people talk about music. You’re not a musician, but we all have an opinion on what songs are cute or what song’s aren’t.
The fact is that when you have the platform to say all of your opinions and there’s really no repercussions for them, everyone assumes they’re an expert.
I think you’re right. So I’m curious, as a member of the Drag Race family, how in tune are you with rumors surrounding the upcoming seasons? So many fans, especially on Reddit, seem to know which queens are gonna be on the new season. Do you follow all the rumor and speculation, or are you just kind of like, “Eh, not interested.”
I really don’t. From what I’ve learned Reddit is a real weird place to be, and I tend not to go there. When it comes to the new girls — not All Stars seasons, but the fresh seasons — I try to stay out of it. I don’t want to know who’s made it on. I just want to watch it like any other viewer, you know what I mean? I want to have that experience of meeting queens the first time everyone else is meeting them.
I still love watching the show. I don’t watch it just because I have to, because it’s a part of the brand or the family. I watch it because I genuinely like it. So I don’t want it all ruined by already knowing who’s up there and then going on their social media and looking at all their looks, knowing I’m probably going to see half of these looks on television. I want everything to be fresh and clean.
When it comes to knowing who’s on All Stars, it’s only if I run into girls. I don’t go looking for it, but if I’m working with other Drag Race girls who know, and we’re talking about it, then I don’t mind. But it’s also ’cause I’ve already met all of these girls, or a majority of them. I don’t think there are too many girls I haven’t met except for those from this most recent season. And I feel like by the end of the year I will have met them all.
All Stars 4 has apparently wrapped filming. What comes to mind when you think back to your time on that second season of All Stars?
It was a super positive experience. I was nervous but excited. Nervous just because whenever you’re going back for a second time, you have a little bit more at stake, I feel like. You’ve already earned your following and the fans who really care for you, so not only do you not want to let yourself down, but you don’t want to let them down either.
But I was excited for all of the new challenges and the new possibilities of what comes after. We’re all competing on the show for the first or second time to further our careers and to have the opportunity to do different types of things. So I was excited for the prospect of all of the cool stuff I’d be able to do after.
And I was excited to be on a season with a completely different set of girls, you know? That can completely change your experience filming the show and competing.
A lot of the queens refer to their fellow contestants as sisters, saying it’s kind of a family. Is that genuine? Do you consider all of these Drag Race queens to be a family, or is it just lip service?
No, I believe it’s completely true. We’re the only ones who have been through this experience. Different seasons have their own experiences, but we all had a very similar moment. We know what it’s like to walk into that workroom. We know what it’s like to walk that runway. We know what it’s like when they say “cut.” And it really pulls us together.
Also, we’re consistently on the road with each other on different tours or different club gigs where we’ll pull different girls together to put on a show. It’s also very much like a family how you don’t necessarily like your family. Sometimes you don’t talk to your family. Sometimes you cut your family off forever, and Drag Race is no different.
I think that’s well-said. Speaking of cutting people off, at Hornet we covered the whole Tyra DragCon thing. DragCon New York is, of course, coming up in September. I still don’t really understand why you became a part of that whole scandal.
Yeah, me neither. [Laughs]
How does that whole Tyra DragCon incident color your experience? I don’t remember seeing you at DragCon in L.A. Were you there?
No, I wasn’t, but I wasn’t not there because of that situation. I had a previous engagement. I was in Fort Lauderdale working a celebration for Latinos Salud, who work really hard to reduce the stigma and the spread of HIV in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. I had already been booked on that, so I wasn’t going to be going to DragCon at all.
I think the thing that kicked it all off was the video of Tyra saying she was gonna not beat us up but find someone to beat me and Phi Phi up. I didn’t understand that, because we had bunked together and everything. I hadn’t talked to her or conversed with her in a minute, so I didn’t understand where that came from, and I feel like that was the root of everything else that led up to her not being allowed to go to DragCon.
Since DragCon happened — and obviously nothing went down at DragCon, thank God — has there been any movement on the incident? I’m assuming you haven’t chatted with Tyra since then.
No, but I think she tagged me in something on Facebook. It was a very long essay, essentially. But evidently she’s on a watch list for the FBI. They had to investigate her. She has a burner account, which was very quickly blocked or muted, where she was saying something, but it was nothing of importance. It was just like, “OK, girl.” Work that burner account, mama.
Many of her fans have come at me like, “Well, you said this about her. You said that about her.” I’m like, “Do you ever look back at [what caused that]?” A lot of my shadiness is a response to someone else’s shadiness. I don’t really go out looking to pop off on people.
I just tend to be real good at it.
If you’re gonna do something, do it well, right?
Yep. When it comes to that stuff, though, I kind of wash my hands clean. I’ve got too much other stuff in the works and things I’m working on that I’m not gonna concern myself with that type of stuff.
With that in mind, I do want to talk to you about some of your recent projects. I know that releasing music isn’t necessarily new for you, because you released a few tracks around the time of Season 2, but now, you have a full-length album out. What was that process like?
It was so great. I kind of started with “The Same Parts,” where I tapped this awesome DJing producer in D.C., MadScience, to help me create a dance track around it. That did so well that we followed that up with another single, “Transform.” It was his idea, just in conversation: “We should do an EP or an album.” So when I had a little bit of free time — I believe it was May 2017 — we started recording, though we didn’t know how many tracks we were gonna do.
DJ MadScience and Mark Berry, who’s based down in Orlando, would send me over tracks and I’d write while I was on the road. Anytime I’d come home, I’d come in. I’d cut the tracks, experiment, see what sounded good, what we liked, what we didn’t like. That process took about a year. We finished recording altogether in December or very early January.
It was a really, really fun process, and I’m happy that it ended up being a full-length album. There were talks of doing just multiple smaller EPs, and even though that’s where music is going now, I wanted to do a full-length album, dance music videos, cute stuff. It was kind of like a bucket list thing.
Because you enjoyed the process, does that mean there could potentially be more in the future?
I mean, absolutely. I love doing music, and I really hope that in the future there’s more to come. At the moment, because I do have a full-length album, I kind of want to promote it like girls used to do where it wasn’t just like one or two singles, but like five. I worked so hard on it for a year and I kind of don’t want to go on to the next yet. I’ve got so many plans for the rest of the year to drop more music videos, more performances, all of that awesome stuff.
And you’ve already released two music videos right from the full-length album, so which do you prefer more, the recording process or making the music videos?
I like both. I think I probably like the recording process more just because it’s relaxed. Like, let’s try this, no let’s try that. Doing the music videos is a lot of prep, and then I feel like it all comes together very quickly. You’re shooting for one day but you have to get all these shots done. I kind of like the relaxed moment of being creative. But both are super fun. I mean, get me in front of a camera and give me a wind machine, I’m going to give my all.
You’ve also released your own fragrance, called Choices. Tell me about how that came about and what inspired you to go down that road.
I was at DragCon last year, and I got to meet Killian Wells who runs Xyrena. He introduced himself and explained how he does fragrances with Pearl, William and Trixie. He gave me a whole bunch of their stuff and said, “I’d love to work with you on a fragrance.” I was totally down. So over the course of the last year it was kind of us back and forth. It wasn’t super rushed. But it was nice, as we got to play around with formulas. I got to be very hands-on with the scents and the notes that we wanted to incorporate. He asked for a big list of the fragrances that I wear most, and we got to an understanding of what kind of scents I like to wear and all that fun stuff.
Since you were involved in the process did you learn a lot?
Oh yeah. I learned about the top notes, the mid notes and the base notes. I learned about how certain ingredients when they come together may seem like a great idea but when they’re together you’re like, “Oh, this is awful.”
Yeah, there was one formula — like, a white musk — that I enjoyed, and it had a lot in it, and I realized it wasn’t working. There’s something weird and grandma-esque about how that smells on the skin. So we went back and reformulated. The finished product came out as exactly what I was going for. I wanted something super fresh, light, clean. I’m not big on sweet scents, so it’s none of that. It’s very unisex.
I love unisex because when I’m on the road I like to pack one thing. So I can wear it onstage or I can wear it when I go out to dinner or meet-and-greets. It’s multipurpose.
It’s so great that you’ve been able to crank out all of these projects — the scent, the new album. What is next? Is there anything you still want to try your hand in?
A couple things. I would love to do a makeup collaboration. I’m obviously a big fan of makeup, and there are just certain colors and textures that are hard to find. I’d love to collab with a cool makeup brand like Sugarpill or NYX, where it’s affordable and everyone can get hold of it. Sugarpill did a collab with Kim Chi. I love that lip color, and it was very tailored to her; it was a tone she likes to wear. And it also smelled like donuts, because she likes donuts. I enjoyed that tie in. I would love to do something like that.
Also, I’d love to throw my hat in there and do a little acting. I would love to try and do that. If nothing else just be a background girl in some music video or something.
At least a Law and Order episode or something!
Right? I love that. A lot of the girls have gotten into that. And I was so proud watching Jiggly [Caliente] on Pose. I was like, “Yes, girl.”
I’m also coming from a place of yes. I’m down to work on a lot of different things. I’m learning just don’t turn down things you might be scared of. Go with it and see where it takes you.
You’re so awesome. Thank you for taking the time to chat. Congrats on the scent, and congrats on the album!