Every week, NYLON writer Michael Cuby will conduct an exit interview with the queen eliminated from RuPaul's Drag Race Season 13. This week, Kahmora Hall was asked to sashay away.
Not many queens sashay into the Werk Room outfitted in an original creation by RuPaul’s favorite designer Bob Mackie, but then again, there’s only one Kahmora Hall. “The Mackie Doll is finally out of her box,” the Chicago-based glamour queen said as she entered, dressed in a feather-trimmed tangerine gown, paired with a huge Beyond the Valley of the Dolls-styled wig. As she would later explain, the gown was one of her many Mackie originals, which she got from an auction house and had “reconstructed to fit” her tiny frame. (“I’m sample-size,” she joked.) A spitting image of polish, grace, and impeccable taste, Kahmora immediately announced herself as a fashion forced to be reckoned with on the thirteenth season of Drag Race.
Unfortunately, while she never disappointed on the runway — she wore vintage Mugler for a mini-challenge, for Christ’s sake! — Kahmora struggled to bring that same level of elegant poise to other areas. In the season premiere, the House of Hall member (yes, last season’s winner Jaida Essence Hall is her big sister) was overshadowed by New York powerhouse Tina Burner, relegating her to The Porkchop Loading Dock. And when tasked with writing and performing an original verse for RuPaul’s “Phenomenon,” Kahmora let her insecurity about not being a strong dancer overwhelm her, resulting in a performance that failed to radiate the same effervescent confidence she has when storming the Main Stage in one of her signature couture looks.
Giving into her inner saboteur quickly became a pattern for Kahmora, and this week, during one of Drag Race’s token over-acting challenges, she allowed her lackluster showing in the previous episode to get the best of her. Though she only had a few lines, she stumbled over them continually, never quite nailing the Tyra Banks reference that was required of her. In the end, she landed in the bottom next to her Chicago sister and close friend Denali, where her “heavy ass train” prevented her from bringing the high energy necessary to lip-sync to a song like Crystal Waters’ “100% Pure Love.” Though her confidence was rattled, on her way out, she made sure to let us all know that “The Mackie Doll is not going back in her box.”
Ahead of last week’s elimination, NYLON hopped on the phone with Kahmora Hall to talk about going home first, her reputation for taking hours to do her makeup, how she’s managed to acquire such a stunning wardrobe, and the best advice she got from Jaida Essence Hall.
In your own words, what do you think went wrong this week, leading up to your elimination?
Honestly, I think what went wrong was how I started episode three. I just let what happened in the mini-fashion show really get to me and it affected my confidence. I just couldn't shake it off. My inner saboteur jumped out very quickly this season.
By the mini-fashion show, are you referring to how long it took you to get ready?
Yeah. I was just really rushing to finish in time. I’ve never painted that quickly before, so I had a lot of anxiety. Then, there was the whole choreography and feeling that I wasn't a good dancer in the group. There were just a lot of things that really affected me. But actually, watching back, I really found that I did a lot better than I thought. For someone who's not a dancer, I kept up with the other bitches!
But for this episode, I felt like I was being given a third chance to prove myself, so I really wanted to do well. I wanted to pick a character that could show personality. But it just didn't work out. I was in my head, and it just happened the way it did. But at least I know that I did my best.
Did you ever imagine yourself being the first to go home?
Obviously, no one wants to go home first. But the funny thing is, even though I did go home first, it doesn't really feel like that, because I had more than just 40 minutes, more than just one episode. So that's why I'm not super sad. I've been so grateful for this opportunity to be able to show multiple looks, to be in multiple episodes. And I think my look as the tree is going to be iconic — just as iconic as my verse.
Going back to the first week, when you first found out that you were going to have to immediately lip-sync, what was going through your head? That’s obviously a first for Drag Race.
It's so funny because watching twelve seasons of Drag Race already, you think you know what's going to happen — but no, there’s always a twist and a turn. So it really threw me for a loop. But I was prepared. This was my moment to shine and I wanted to show the judges what I can bring, what I can deliver, and that I'm more than just a Mackie dress. I had my eye on the prize and I just wanted to do well. I signed up for this, so I was ready for anything they threw at me.
When you heard that you had to go to the Porkchop Loading Dock, were you really convinced that your time on the show was over? Or did you have a slight inkling that this was just a twist?
There was no way in hell they were going to fly me all the way out there with my six suitcases, have me stay for five minutes, and then send my ass home. So I knew there was something that was going to happen, but I wasn't sure of what. But it did kind of suck because you feel like you’re at your prime. This is the best that you're bringing to the table, and then you get the Porkchop. So I was a little upset, but at the same time, I knew this wasn't the end.
This week, you say, “I don’t know why I’m feeling confident on the inside but struggling to show it to you on the outside.” In the months since filming, have you been able to figure out why this was the case?
It's something that I'm still struggling with, but I'm working on it. Being on Drag Race, I learned a lot about myself. I think what I meant was that no matter how many people say you're this or you’re that, in the end, I need to believe it. So even though I was feeling confident on the inside, I wasn't fully believing it. And you can see it in my performance, you can see it on my face. I thought I was nailing the line, that I wasn't giving a stilted performance, but watching it back, I clearly wasn't giving the variation I thought I was.
So then I'm like, Maybe I'm just delusional. Maybe that's what it really is. But what it really comes down to is just telling myself that I am good enough and that I am a star. There's a reason RuPaul chose me to be part of this cast, so I need to give myself a little more credit. For a long time, I just always felt like I was never good at anything and I think being in a competition really brought back those feelings. My inner saboteur, she jumped out!
For the acting challenge, I found it so interesting that whenever Ross told you to say the actual Tyra Banks line — "We were rooting for you!" — you nailed it. But whenever you had to translate it to your own line, it was a struggle. You clearly knew the reference, so do you think the difficulty was coming from overthinking?
Most definitely. Like I said, I felt like I was getting a third chance. So I was just so focused on trying not to fuck up. But the thing I forgot was that this experience should be fun. When you're put in such a high-stress environment, it's sometimes hard to remember that. I was just in my head, trying to nail the line, trying to make sure I was perfect. I'm a Virgo — I'm a perfectionist and my Virgo-ness definitely got the best of me. But at least I know what it means to emphasize certain words now.
With the structure of this show, you can very easily find yourself lip-syncing in very inconvenient outfits. This week, you had one of my favorite runway looks, but a long, heavy gown is obviously not conducive to a high-energy lip-sync. And when you’re standing next to Denali, who’s basically wearing a feathered leotard and can move around freely, you’re at a clear disadvantage. How do you reckon with that reality in the moment?
Lowkey, I was really hoping my outfit would save me from the bottom. It didn't. But anyway, I know Denali is a fierce performer. We've worked together many times and I know that she's going to do what she's going to do best. I wouldn't expect anything less. But I also know that Denali would want me to perform my best as well. So yeah, I was in a corseted, fitted, long ass gown with a train. But you know what? I'm going to do what I do best and that's serve face and look stunning. Like I said in my Meet the Queens, a performance doesn't have to be all these stunts and splits. If you have stage presence, that's all that matters.
Speaking of your fashion, you've quickly ascended as one of the most stylish queens of this season. You’ve literally worn Bob Mackie and vintage Mugler! How have you managed to amass such an exclusive wardrobe filled with all these incredible designers?
I'm a very thrifty bitch, okay? A lot of people think I have a lot of money or something; I get a lot of comments online asking me how much I spend. But the reality is that I’m broke. I have so much student debt. I’m just a lucky, thrifty person. I think a lot of drag queens can also relate. We have to be very thrifty and smart about picking our costumes, especially during the pandemic when money is so tight. But you just have to find ways to fulfill your fantasy. You have to be really dedicated to finding these pieces, to scouring the internet on second-hand stores, like PoshMark and whatnot. I've been doing drag for a long time — like 10 years — so I've had plenty of time to find these amazing couture pieces, and I've been waiting for this moment to share some of them on Drag Race. Now, I’ve done it.
Last week, you opened up about being afraid to truly embrace your drag artistry because of your boyfriend's disapproval. Has coming on Drag Race changed that relationship at all?
I will say, he's always been supportive of me. But I think seeing me in this competition just shows how passionate I am about drag and how much it means to me. All I want to say about that is I do have the support that I need and it's been great. Drag Race has not only brought my relationship with my boyfriend closer, but with my family as well.
You're the drag sister of last season's winner, Jaida Essence Hall. Did you feel any pressure because of that, especially coming on the very next season?
Yes and no. I felt pressure, obviously, because she just won. I knew there would be a lot of eyes on me being another Hall, being her little sister. But at the same time, I've been waiting for this moment for so long. This is my moment to shine. This was my time to pave my own way and start my own legacy, even while I'm still holding the Hall name.
Is there any advice that she gave you that has stuck with you?
Yeah. Okay. I’ve read a lot of comments online since that episode where I was running late, like, "Why does she not finish her makeup? Oh my god!" Jaida, Shea [Coulee], they all told me, "You need to hurry up and do your makeup [when you’re on the show],” because I am notorious in Chicago for taking hours. Don't get me wrong — I practiced in the hotel room, I practiced before coming to the show. But it's just different when you're there!
But Jaida did give me a lot of advice. Of course, I didn't listen to the advice. But she told me, "The purpose is just to have fun and don't take it too seriously." But my neurotic, Virgo ass was almost always in my head.
This season has been so different because of the ongoing pandemic. You obviously have nothing to compare it to because this is your first time on the show, but could you still feel that things were noticeably different because of COVID-19?
Oh, definitely. Even getting ready for the show, a lot of fabric stores weren’t open and money was tight. So I really had to be smart, thrifty, and dig deep into my Rolodex of connections, like, "Who can help me out? Who can get me into these fabric stores?" With Drag Race, yes, you’re not supposed to tell anyone, but it really takes a village to help you get ready for the show. So I'm so grateful for all the people that I worked with that helped me get ready for this competition.
And yes, it’s my first time on the show, but production did such a great job taking care of us and making sure we were all safe and COVID-free. It was just really cool to see everyone in masks and making sure we were in masks, going from set to set. I always felt very safe.
Looking forward, who are you rooting for now that you're gone?
Obviously, I’ve got to root for my Chicago sister, Denali. She is such a star. I've watched her grow up in the Chicago scene and I'm just so proud of her and happy that she gets to share her talent with the world. She truly is a Lip-Sync Assassin and she could beat anyone.
Who did you meet that you’d love to see in the future?
I would love to see Tamisha [Iman]. I love her so much. She truly is the mother of the season. That's someone who I always turned to when I needed to be comforted. She always lifted my spirits up and I'm so happy that she’s getting the love and respect she deserves. I want to see her go all the way.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.