Of all the queens competing on season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars, Jan was the freshest off her original stint. After finishing in eighth place on season 12 just over a year ago, Jan was quick to accept the offer to return for a second go at the crown.
A New York City-based musical theater fan (who is in a girl-group with season 13 finalist Rosé), Jan was a fan-favorite during her original run, with many saying she was “robbed” after her elimination. So naturally, Jan had a lot riding on her when she sashayed into the Werk Room for All Stars 6. Though she was competing against queens who had years of living and working as “RuGirls,” she still managed to shine in many challenges, impressing fans with her vocal chops in the first episode talent show, placing high for her performance in one of the season’s acting challenges, and even securing her first win for the All Stars Rusical: a halftime performance.
Unfortunately, the perpetually peppy queen struggled in challenges that required her to dial back. During the Pink Table Talk talkshow challenge, the judges criticized her for always being at a 110% energy level, and when tasked with writing an inspirational song, she opted for a funnier take instead, which ended up landing her in the bottom next to Pandora Boxx. Though the votes between the two queens were very close, in the end, the decision fell to the week’s winner, Trinity K. Bonet, who ultimately felt it was time for Jan to be sent packing.
Ahead of her elimination, NYLON hopped on the phone with Jan to talk about going home, how she felt when RuPaul said her performance “lacked soul,” whether or not she thinks she was strategizing too much throughout the competition, how the Little Monsters have responded to her challenge-winning Lady Gaga performance, and of course, feeling the Jantasy.
What do you think went wrong leading up to your elimination?
It just wasn't my day. I think I was definitely confused about what the judges wanted in some of the challenges. Every time I'm in a group challenge, it does not seem to go well for me.
This challenge required writing music, singing, and dancing — all things you've been known to excel at in the past. Did it feel weird to go home on this challenge specifically?
Yeah, it definitely felt weird. I definitely don't think those were the greatest lyrics I've ever written in my life, but I do stand by them — I was writing from my own experience of what I went through in the competition. I thought I did a good job in the performance too. It definitely sucks because when we found out that it was the girl-group challenge, I was like, "Oh great. Right up my alley. It's going to be awesome. I’m not going home. Top six, here we come!" But RuPaul said, "No, no, no, no sweetie. We have some other plans for the girls."
During the critiques, RuPaul said that your performance “lacked soul.” How did that feel?
I mean, it is what it is. I just was not on the same page as the judges this time around. They said they wanted humor and they said they wanted heart. I think that I maybe did not put enough heart in for what they wanted, but I was just writing from my own experiences and trying to make it enjoyable, starting off the number. It was a swing and a miss for me, but onto the next.
The elimination this week was crazy. When Alexis Mateo won the lip-sync, she revealed that there was a tie between the lipsticks pulled for you and Pandora, so it ended up going back to Trinity to make the final decision. Why do you think Trinity chose you?
You know, I don't know. Trinity picked my lipstick the last time [I was in the bottom] as well. Maybe she just didn't think I was ready, maybe she saw me as a threat. I don't know. But you know, I respect Trinity. We have a deep respect for each other.
Do you think you should have had an edge since you had won a challenge and Pandora hadn't?
It was really tough. I could see it going either way. I did have the win and I was in the top the week before, but I also had two bottom performances. But I felt the girls thought I was doing well in the competition overall. I didn't know how it was going to shake out when we were there, to be honest.
You were playing the game quite hard. I think specifically of the whole thing when you won, when you chose a lipstick based on who you thought everyone else was going to vote for and not necessarily who you wanted to go, but ended up being totally wrong anyway. Watching it all play out on TV, do you feel any differently about the way you were strategizing or do you think you’d do the same thing if you had the chance?
Oh, absolutely. I would 100% do the exact same thing. Because A'keria, who is amazing, just did not have the same track record. Unfortunately, when we're doing these deliberations, I don't get to talk to the rest of the group. I get to talk to the two [bottom queens]. I got to talk to A'keria and Yara, and Yara plead her case to me in the exact same way that A'Keria did. I know she didn’t do that for the other girls, but I can only look at what's in front of me and track record. Yara had a better track record and she pleaded her case just as hard as A'keria did, so I completely stand by my decision. I think people were like, “Oh, you should own up to your decision!” But I owned up to my decision. I would have done it again, as much as I love A'keria.
During the Pink Table Talk challenge, several of the judges came for you for being at a 110% energy level at all times, which you seemed confused about. I find that interesting since being a drag queen is, often, about being extra and bigger than everyone else around you. How does it feel to be criticized about that in a drag competition?
It's so funny. For me, specifically, I've gotten the note of, We need you to shine more, and then it’s, Oh wait, you're trying to shine too much. It's very difficult to try to navigate that. The Pink Table Talk, first and foremost, was a branding challenge about who you are, what your brand is, and how that fits into the dynamic of a group. When I watch shows like The View or The Talk, there are characters like me on TV, who are working and doing their thing — characters who are more peppy and have energy. That is a genuine part of who I am, of who Jan is. But I do understand the critiques and I understand where they're coming from.
I went back to All Stars because I wanted to keep learning and growing as a performer — and what better place to do that than in front of the people who have created some of the best careers in the game right now? In front of RuPaul, who is at the top of the drag world? So as hard as that was to hear, I'm doing it because I want to learn and grow and have a life in this industry. As tough as those things might be, it's growing pains for me. I would rather hear that. I would rather hear how I can improve myself for the future than to not have heard anything at all.
Now that you’re actually watching yourself on TV, are those critiques resonating a bit more with you? Or are you still a little confused about what exactly they meant?
I mean, that segment was obviously a lot longer than what everyone got to see. Ross [Matthews] said something to me that was very informative, which was, “You have that energy, you just need to find the peaks and valleys within that energy.” That critique alone was everything that I needed to hear wrapped up in one. I understand. I mean, it does hurt and it is confusing because I feel like it's more of a critique on myself than it is about how I'm doing in a challenge, but I embraced the critique. You sign up for that.
In this episode, you go backstage and end up talking about the pressure you often put on yourself — I believe you said you were “strict with myself and my work ethic.” After going through this process, are you finding it easier to take some of that pressure off?
I think the pressure that I put on myself is just because I really care about what I do and I really want to be successful at it. I want people to see that I care about what I do, whether that's being on stage, showing up on time, or going out of my way to do things for my fans. I put that pressure on myself because I feel like I have to be accountable for my own career and opportunities. People aren't going to just hand you things. You have to have hard work.
Leading up to Drag Race, when I started in New York City, everything that I did was driven by hard work and wanting to reach for higher and more within the drag community in New York. One of my goals was to be on Drag Race, and anytime that I really put my mind to something and set myself up for success by working hard, it paid off for me and I got what I wanted. So when season 12 happened, I was like, “Okay, this did not go as planned.” On All Stars, it did not go as planned as well, but I stopped putting so much pressure on myself that it becomes a burden. I've learned to talk myself down a little bit and say, If you give yourself a little leeway and look at what you've done in your five-year drag career, you're doing good. You're in the right place at the right time. Just keep on going and maybe enjoy the ride a little bit more.
Most queens return for All Stars with a mission to prove something they feel they didn’t get a chance to the first time around. What were you wanting from this experience?
I wanted to show off that I can have fun. I don't necessarily know if people took that away from my run this season, but I left having had the time of my life and really enjoying my experience. There wasn't really anything that I wanted to go in and prove. I felt that I had done a great job on season 12 of proving to myself that I was capable of being in the room. For All Stars, I really just wanted to have fun and show my drag off a little bit more. I thought that my package this time fashion-wise was much closer to my heart than in season 12 when people were like, "Oh, the looks are great. But what is this and who is she as a drag queen?"
I'm like, “Literally, watch any musical theater show and watch anything that's campy and you will understand in two seconds what my references are.” I like to be theatrical and big with my fashion on the runway, and I think people got that [this time]. People have been liking most of my runways for the most part. People liked me in the first two challenges, in the Rusical, and in Rumerican Horror Story. I got to show that I can sing, dance, and act, and that's what I love to do, so that's good for me.
You came back for All Stars very soon after finishing your original season. After seeing how everything played out, do you think you came at the right time or do you now wish you had maybe taken a bit more time off before immediately coming back?
Well, I ultimately did say yes because I did feel like I had a lot to prove. I felt like I watched myself on season 12 and could grow in All Stars. I knew that I grew a lot and I'm proud of it. I see a different person on All Stars than I saw on season 12. Regardless of what other people think, I see it and that's important to me.
But also, I mean, it's the entertainment industry. When you get an opportunity, you don't know if they're going to say yes another time. You don't know what can happen. Sometimes, you can be considered for an All Stars season [once], and then, if you say no, you might not be considered for the next one or the one after that. I had the opportunity in front of me. Obviously, they were interested in having me come back, so of course I was going to say yes.
Many people thought you were robbed in Season 12. Do you think the fan response to you has been pretty much the same on All Stars? Or do you think it’s changed at all?
With the whole “robbed” thing, I will say that I think this season’s cast is so incredibly talented and everyone who's won their challenges has been so deserving. But I don't know what the fans are going to think about my elimination. I know that in the first two weeks, people wanted to see me get some critiques for the talent show and the ball. But you know what? I don't like to think about it in that way. All I want is for people to just acknowledge that they enjoy my drag. As long as they can acknowledge that, I don't care what they think about who should’ve won this or that. As long as you appreciate my drag and what I'm presenting, that's all I care about.
Speaking of being robbed, you lost the Rusical challenge during your season, but came back to win the All Stars equivalent with the halftime performance challenge, where you channelled Lady Gaga. How did that moment feel? Full-circle?
Yeah, it was amazing. I'm really happy that I got to do it as Lady Gaga. She's my pop girl. She is such an icon in my life and somebody who I have looked up to from a very young age as a Catholic school-going closeted homosexual. To be able to do that was amazing and I'm very grateful and proud of myself for that one.
The Little Monsters are known to have high standards. What has their response been?
Oh, the Little Monsters have been thrilled. We got a little shoutout on Haus Labs, which was awesome. I know that Gaga’s team and the Little Monsters definitely approve this message and that's all I can ask for.
Who are you rooting for now that you've been eliminated?
I hate to be this girl, but I really do have so much love for all the girls remaining. I want all the success for all of them, and whoever ends up taking it will be great. But I got really close with Ginger on the show and she really taught me so much. She gave me so much love and validation, especially at times when I felt really low. So I hope that she has a really great run, for sure.
Final question. How hard were you feeling the Jantasy this season?
Oh, baby. The Jantasy is being felt at every single moment. We were feeling it hard. Even when she was crying, it was 110, baby.