Who could have predicted that Pandora Boxx would go home on a Snatch Game? When the queen first competed on season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race, she dominated in the franchise’s first iteration of the now fan-favorite celebrity impersonation improv challenge. Playing legendary comedienne Carol Channing, Pandora was quick and witty, delivering a host of instantly iconic one-liners that are still quoted by Drag Race fans to this day. (Who can ever forget about “Raspberries?”) While she didn’t win — that honor went to Tatianna for her delightfully ditzy Britney Spears — her performance solidified her spot in the Snatch Game Hall of Fame, and probably played a role in her ultimate crowning as season two’s Miss Congeniality.
Unfortunately, Pandora could not reach those heights again when, over a decade later, she returned for her second stint on All Stars. (The Los Angeles-based queen also competed on the ill-fated first season of the spinoff franchise.) Opting for a Samantha Jones-heavy version of Sex and the City starlet Kim Cattrall, Pandora’s deadpan declarations of sexual innuendos failed to illicit laughs from RuPaul. Making matters worse was her seating placement next to Eureka, whose larger-than-life Divine frequently overshadowed Pandora’s comparatively small gestures. In the end, Pandora landed in the bottom next to fellow contestant Trinity K. Bonet. But with Trinity currently occupying the frontrunner spot (two wins) and Pandora in the bottom for the second week in a row, the writing was on the wall well before this week’s winner, Ginger Minj, pulled out a lipstick with Pandora’s name on it after beating lip-sync assassin Heidi N. Closet.
NYLON hopped on the phone with Pandora Boxx to talk about going home on a Snatch Game challenge after delivering one of the franchise’s best years before, butting heads with Eureka, getting into her head, competing as a slightly older queen, and how she now feels about partnering with Mimi Imfurst on the first season of All Stars.
What do you think went wrong leading up to your elimination this week?
I don't know, at this point it's a very tough competition. I think everybody is bringing their A-game, and everybody's doing really well. So any minor flub or jokes that don’t land [can hurt you]. And I didn't make RuPaul laugh! So, hey, it's my time to go.
You did really well in your season two Snatch Game — your Carol Channing is widely considered one of those legendary performances. Coming off that, did you feel excited to revisit this challenge and get the chance to prove yourself again?
It's a mixed emotion. Yes, I was excited, but Snatch Game of Love is different, and certainly in it, I realized what a different dynamic it is. Also, I kept thinking about how everybody talks about my past Snatch Game, so I was too much in my head trying to live up to that. I think that's the biggest reason why I didn't succeed in landing some of the things I was trying to do.
So your past success ended up being more of an impediment in the end?
Well, as we went on during the game, yes, that definitely popped into my head. When I first started, I was good, I was confident. I thought I had the cadence of her voice and her mannerisms down — and that's a huge part of any Snatch Game. But there was a point where I was like, "I'm not sure anyone is feeling this," and that was the point where I was like, "Oh." Then I started to get in my head a little bit more. Also, when something from me isn't working out, I tend to retreat. So I was forcing myself to not run, and I was like, Okay. Well, at least we're staying in character. We're going to stay in character, finish this, and keep on trucking.
It can be tricky to embody a character in Snatch Game as opposed to a real-life person. Though you were playing Kim Cattrall, a lot of your performance was very specific to Samantha Jones, which Michelle Visage even noted can sometimes force you into a small box that’s harder to play around with. Do you think that contributed to it?
I can't really answer that because I don't know what another character would have done, or if I would have gotten in that same headspace, or if I would've landed a laugh when I thought I had a funny bit. So it's kind of hard to say. Also, I think Kim Cattrall does possess a certain sexiness in her own self. So, yes, I was definitely bringing Samantha Jones, but I thought I was bringing in a little of who Kim Cattrall is too. I mean, she's not Samantha Jones, but she very openly talks about sex and she's very positive and comfortable in her age.
You butted heads with Eureka a little bit this episode, saying that because her impersonation of Divine was so large, it sometimes made it hard for you to play off of. Looking back on that, do you stand by your assertion that being next to her was hard?
I think that I was very honest in what I was saying, but it wasn't to say anything bad about Eureka. It was just a fact to me — because Eureka said some pretty wild things [as] Divine, which Divine did, it was just kind of like, Oh, I'm not sure how to react to that. That's why I was glad that she [called me out backstage], because I was like, "No, that's absolutely not what I was trying to do. I'm sorry that you took it that way because it wasn't meant that way."
You were in the bottom last week, and were very close to going home since your fellow queens pretty evenly voted for you and Jan. Did that make you nervous coming into this episode?
Yes, I knew that my position was in danger because, this season, I really do think the queens were trying to vote as fairly as possible — it had been constantly discussed. I hadn't won anything and I was in the bottom, so I was like, If I don't do really well, I might be going this week.
Was that pressure at all compounded by the fact that you and Eureka were the only two competitors without a main challenge win under your belts?
Yeah, I'm sure. We're doing this competition and it's tough. All these queens are amazing, so it’s a lot. I was certainly exhausted emotionally and physically by this point, compounded with the fact that I hadn't won a challenge. So there were a lot of things going on. When something's not working exactly how you want it to, it all floats into your head, and you're like, "Oh, shit."
So many queens come back to All Stars wanting to show how much they’ve grown since their last time on the show. You came back almost a decade later, after competing in season two and in All Stars 1. What was your main goal this time around?
Well, I guess for me, I didn't want All Stars 1 to be the end of my story. I felt that it was not a great experience. I certainly was not at my best, just mood-wise. There was a lot going on with me then. So I wanted to come back and go, "Hey, that isn't me. Yes, it was me, and it can be me. But it's not who I am as a whole person."
Going off that, I’d love to talk more about All Stars 1. I think your stint during that season is now part of Drag Race infamy. You ended up paired with Mimi Imfurst, who was coming into the competition as one of the most disliked queens in the entire franchise, and you certainly made no qualms about how disappointed you were to be working with her. A decade down the line, how do you look back at that entire experience?
Well, the thing is that Mimi and I had already worked together — we were friends, we knew each other, so it wasn't anything personal with her. It was just the fact that she had the most controversial exit on her season. So it was a little like, "Whoa, Mimi's here?" It just felt that we were automatically an underdog team, and I was upset because I didn’t want to be the underdog.
But, you know, we did the photo challenge and had a lot of fun. I mean, I made out with Mimi! Like, damn — I was in it to win it! But yeah, I look back and I don't like the way that I acted. I can't change it — that's reality TV. But, yeah, Mimi and I still talk, so it's not anything.
Drag Race has some of the best representation of any reality show, but I do think that we, as viewers, have been trained to expect tons of younger queens competing. Coming back as a slightly older queen who has been working in this business for a while, was it important for you to provide representation for queens of your generation?
Coming in, I was like, "Oh, damn, they're really young!" But yeah, there's so much ageism in the entertainment industry, and even in the Drag Race fandom. So I’m just like, "I don't know if you all realize it, but you're going to keep getting older." Everybody keeps getting older. This notion that you should just lay down and die when you're “too old” for drag is ridiculous, so if I have helped break down some of those walls, then I'm happy.
You mentioned that there is ageism in the Drag Race fandom, but do you think that also exists in the drag entertainment industry at large? This season, you talked about how many Zoom comedy shows you’ve done during the pandemic, which suggests that you still have a fruitful career. Do you think drag is unique in allowing queens to continue working as long as they want or is it still an uphill battle to remain relevant?
I mean, it's always a battle to remain relevant, no matter any type of entertainer you are. But I mean, look at Lady Bunny, who's, like, the oldest living drag queen alive. She's out there DJing and dancing with her skirt up to her cooter! So hey, if that bitch can do it, anyone can.
Who are you rooting for now that you're gone?
I really think the top five are all so talented. But I really formed a great friendship with Ra’Jah and I would love to see her win. And Kylie, my season two sister, would be amazing. But also, it would be great to see Trinity or Eureka or Ginger.
You started the season off on a high note, with the judges falling in love with your Variety Show performance. But last week, when you did the girl group challenge, and decided to replicate that same style, it ended up backfiring, with the judges saying that you were wasting valuable space in your verse with all the stops and starts. How did it feel to have them respond so well to that style one time and then not respond well the next time?
Well, the verse wasn't my full fantasy, and doing it, I was like, "Oh, I wish I could go back and change a few things." But Leland and Freddy [Scott] were really great. At first, they were a little scared, but then they kind of got what I was doing. But yeah, I wish I could've sat down and gone back and forth a little, which is what you do in music production.
But I'm making a track based off of that, that's going to be on my new album — the debut album of Pandora Boxx. I have a Kickstarter for it, which actually reached its goal in two days, so I'm excited about that. But you can still donate! It means I get to wear more fabulous outfits in my music videos.
Looking back at the three times you’ve competed, which has been the most fun?
I guess it was this time. I did have fun in season two, but I don't know. This time, especially in the beginning of the season, that's what I wanted to do — just kind of go, Okay, I'm just going to enjoy this experience. Whatever happens, happens. Ra’Jah and I talked a lot about that, because we both felt like we had similar redemptions since we weren't so nice on the last season we were on. So we were like, "Let's just enjoy the experience and have a good time. If we're having a good time, then the audience and everybody around us will have a good time."