Every week, NYLON writer Michael Cuby will conduct an exit interview with the queen eliminated from RuPaul's Drag Race Season 13. This week, Elliott With 2 Ts was asked to sashay away.
No one had a rockier start on Drag Race season 13 than Elliott With 2 Ts. After losing her first episode lip-sync and landing in the Porkchop Loading Dock, Elliott was voted out by her fellow Porkchopped queens. But because her votes tied with Utica Queen, the trained ballet dancer was forced to relive the horror once more, as the Porkchopped queens voted again in a tiebreaker round, in which they overwhelmingly opted to send the Dallas-born, Vegas-based queen packing.
Nevertheless, Miss 2 Ts persisted. As many viewers predicted, no one was sent home during the initial stretch. Instead, Elliott was sent over to the winners’ circle, where she quickly impressed her fellow competitors and the judges with her impeccable dancing prowess in the first official main challenge. The queen’s dancing would mark her as a threat several more times during her stint in the competition — in the Disco-Mentary challenge; in a lip-sync against LaLa Ri — but throughout, Elliott struggled to connect with her fellow contestants. Hoping to establish a closer bond with the group, she eventually opened up about her history with depression. But in the high-strung setting of Drag Race, she never got over those initial feelings of ostracism and isolation. In the end, her feelings of emotional exhaustion ultimately got the best of her.
In last week’s Snatch Game, Elliott took a bold risk by choosing to impersonate Golden Girls mainstay (and RuPaul favorite) Rue McClanahan — and unfortunately, the gamble did not pay off. When all was said and done, Elliott landed in the bottom two alongside Utica. Tasked with lip-syncing to Company B’s “Fascinated,” the skilled dancer proved no match for Utica’s long legs and charismatic performance style, and was ultimately overshadowed and sent packing.
Ahead of her elimination, NYLON hopped on the phone with Elliott With 2 Ts to talk about how being eliminated twice at the beginning of the season impacted her performance in the competition moving forward, why she opened up about her struggles with depression, how she feels about the positive reactions to her lip-sync against LaLa Ri, the difference between Texas drag and Vegas drag, and how she’s been responding to some of the less-than-savory comments she’s been receiving on social media since appearing on the show.
What would you say went wrong leading up to your elimination this week?
Absolutely nothing. I was incredible. [laughs] I think, once you get to this point in the competition, it really is just splitting hairs. I mean, I feel like we’ve been on this show for 300 years at this point and we've all done so well. I think that we all did a really good job, and it just gets down to the point of who does better, as opposed to who did the worst.
Still, there’s been warnings in the past against picking a Snatch Game character that RuPaul is known to hold close. You talked a bit about specifically wanting to take a big risk for Snatch Game, but why do so with a character from The Golden Girls, which everyone knows is one of Ru’s favorite shows?
Just because I have such a love and an appreciation for The Golden Girls and it's something I'm so very familiar with. I just really wanted to do a character that I was truly in love with. I didn't want to do something that was “just safe” for the sake of being safe. I wanted to do something I was really passionate about. And I mean, it's always a gamble — and if you don't gamble, you can never win or lose. You just kind of float. So I was willing to take that gamble and that risk. At the end of the day, I feel so accomplished and proud of myself because I made it all the way to Snatch Game. That's a huge accomplishment in itself.
Do you regret that choice at all now?
No, I don't regret it at all. Honestly, like I said, I think I did a wonderful job. It just really came down to who was better. When it gets to that point in the competition, you could be the best at something, but if the judges are looking at this person over here, then they're not looking at that other person over there. I loved doing Rue McClanahan. I wish she was still alive to see it.
A couple weeks ago, you lip-synced against LaLa Ri and won. Many people thought your lip-sync was legendary. How has it been seeing that response to your performance?
I mean, that’s all I could ever ask for. Performing is my superpower. It's when my soul leaves my body — I kind of just look down at myself from above when I'm performing. It's something that I know I have in my register. It’s what I do best, so I'm so happy that people have found an appreciation for what I'm capable of doing. It means the world to me because I've worked my whole life to be able to do what I do. All I've ever wanted to do is perform and make people happy.
Did that win help you go into this week’s lip-sync with a certain confidence or were you shaken to be back in this spot only two weeks later?
Honestly, at that point in the competition, I was very depleted. I was very emotionally and physically drained. It’s like you almost feel an acceptance for the situation — which is so bizarre, but in the moment, your body just checks out. Especially during the lip-sync, you kind of blackout and you really don't have any control over what's going on and what's happening. Your body just naturally does what it's going to do, and my body said, "It's your time." I know that sounds bizarre, but your body knows what it needs and what it wants. My body was out of gas.
I think you'd be surprised about how many queens have expressed similar feelings about their bodies shutting down. Do you have any idea about what, specifically, was causing you to feel defeated at that point?
I think it was the Double Shantay [from the week before], to be completely honest. You have to remember, we did four full episodes before anybody was eliminated. And before that, we had to quarantine for X amount of time. So it had been a really long journey by that point. And then, once two queens have stayed, there was this feeling of, oh, we're never going home, this is never going to end. That feeling lingered and it was like, "I don't know how much longer I can keep going." Every day in the Werk Room, I was wearing less and less boy makeup. Some days, I wouldn't even draw my eyebrows on. You get to this place where you just run out of steam. We all have our limits. You just have to hope that what you’ve done in the time you were given was fulfilling — and I'm so fulfilled. I feel so accomplished.
Speaking of the longer-than-usual introductory stretch — going all the way back to the beginning with “The Pork Chop,” you were eliminated twice in a row. How did that feel and do you think that it had any lasting impact on your performance in the competition?
It really, I hate to say, kind of set me up for failure, just because it was the first few moments I was there. You always have this idea of what you think Drag Race is going to be like on the first day, even though, every year, queens from past seasons say, “Don't ever have an expectation. Don't ever think you know what's going to happen. Don't ever set yourself up to believe it's going to be a certain way.” And so, because of the way that it went, you’re trying to mentally catch up. But you're already onto the next thing even though you haven't caught up yet. It was just this cat-and-mouse situation the entire time because it was full steam ahead.
You opened up about your struggle with depression, which I think was such an important conversation to have on the show. How and why did you decide to discuss your history with mental health on such a public platform?
Well, I knew going into the competition that it was something I wanted to talk about because I feel like it's something that a lot of people don't understand. It's something that somebody who's never been through it couldn't understand — like, how you can be in the best situation in the world (we can be at Disneyland riding Dumbo), and it can just hit you and you have no control over that. So even though I was making my dreams come true by being on Drag Race, with depression, I don’t get to decide when it happens. And it really affects your productivity and your energy and inspiration and artistic abilities. It affects every part of you.
Also, for me, personally, it affects my ability to make friends and my ability to communicate. Sometimes I try too hard. There's this desperation behind trying to make friends and trying to get people to like you, and that all comes from my depression. So I shared it with the group to explain myself and give them an opportunity to get to know me a little bit better — so they could understand where I'm coming from, so I'm not just super awkward and weird in the corner.
Did you get the intended result after opening up about your struggles? Do you think it actually helped connect or bond you more to your fellow queens?
To be honest? No. I feel like right after I shared that information with everyone, they just went back to normal. You still had the Mean Girl clique over there, other girls over here, and I was still kind of off to myself. But I'm happy that I shared that information for me and not to try to get anything out of anybody else. In the competition, unless you're in a clique, you're kind of to yourself and you kind of exist by yourself. I wish that it would’ve been different, but at the end of the day, I didn't go to Drag Race to make a whole bunch of best friends. I went to compete and to show my drag and share my art with the world.
You knew Alyssa Edwards prior to the show. Did she give you any advice in advance?
No. She's way too busy for anybody, for any of us. But in Vegas, I'm actually really close friends with Alexis Mateo, Coco Montrese, and Kahanna Montrese. They've become my clique in the real world. They come over to my house to have dinners and we hang out at my viewing parties. They've really been a lifeline for me and have been an incredible support system. And I mean, Alexis and Coco are OGs. They're incredible allies and I'm so happy to have a friendship with them.
How would you compare the drag scene in Vegas to the drag scene in Texas, where you’re originally from?
Dallas is completely just pageants. If you don't do pageants, they think your drag is invalid. But in Vegas, there are no pageants. So your drag is [judged] on how many gigs you do, or what gigs you do, or if you do things outside of the gay bar. So Vegas is more my hustle. I never wanted to do pageants, so nobody really validated my drag in Dallas. In Vegas, I'm so lucky to have created my own show every Friday for my viewing parties at this massive venue on The Strip.
As the season has been airing, you’ve come under fire on social media for a variety of things. Receiving hate on social media is something the queens have to deal with every season, but how have you personally been adjusting to the new spotlight and attention?
It's been really difficult. I've actually lost a lot of weight. I’ve had trouble sleeping because of the stress of all of it. But I think the most difficult part of it is that people have decided who I am without ever once hearing from me, speaking with me, or getting to know me. I think that's the most frustrating part of it, is that they think they know who I am based on seeing me in a television show where the whole premise is stress and anxiety and pressure and competition and challenges. It's not the best light to see us. The best light to see us is when we're in our element at shows or at meet-and-greets or at viewing parties, when we’re our most authentic selves.
I think it's really frustrating and almost disappointing that people have decided who I am based on seeing me in a really stressful situation. I just wish the fandom would consider the fact that we are people and that we all worked so hard and spent countless hours and countless dollars to put together our packages for Drag Race to entertain the fans, who then turn around and attack us. I wish they would consider that before they decide to say nasty things to us when we're just trying to entertain them.
In the wake of all that, have you also been able to connect with fans and people that actually appreciate what you’re doing on the show?
I've gotten so many incredible messages from people thanking me for talking about my depression. They see us [drag queens] as these perfect, unachievable beings, so to see us talk about real things like depression — these things that other people deal with that they don't feel comfortable talking about — connects with them. So I'm really happy that something very real and significant came out of this. I'm very proud of that. I appreciate all the love that I’m getting. It's a lot more love than negativity, but the negativity is usually louder than the love.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.