Every week, NYLON writer Michael Cuby will conduct an exit interview with the queen eliminated from RuPaul's Drag Race Season 13. After making it to the final four, Rose’s competitor Symone won the crown.
This season, RuPaul’s Drag Race flipped the script: immediately after sashaying into the Werk Room, the new crop of Ru-Girls were forced to compete against each other in an impromptu lip-sync, with the losing queens ultimately shipped off to the ominous “Porkchop Loading Dock.” Though this separation was by no means a definitive indicator of any of the queens’ talent, it does stand that, in the end, only one of the “Porkchop queens” made it to the final four: Rosé.
A New York-based queen who originally hails from Scotland, Rosé — like her drag sister and girl group counterpart Jan — is a musical theater queen to the heart. A skilled dancer with a voice that towers high above the competition, she immediately stood out in acting, comedy, and performance challenges. She shook off the “Porkchop” label early on and went on to secure three wins while completely avoiding the bottom two. Though she sometimes struggled to loosen up and let the judges see past her flawless exterior, Rosé smartly used her time on the show to shed some of her own defenses. By the end, she had impressed RuPaul, the judges, and the audience watching at home by learning to just let go and have fun with her art.
Ahead of last week’s finale, NYLON hopped on the phone with the finalist to talk about being the only queen from the Porkchop group to make it to the finale, bringing her Scottish heritage to the national stage, how her drag career has exceeded her musical theater ambitions, her close relationship to Denali, her new friendship with fellow New York queen Tina Burner, and how she would compare her experience on Drag Race to her experience on America’s Got Talent.
You're in the top four. You made it to the finale. How does that feel?
It's so exciting. It's such an honor and it's no secret that it's a huge accomplishment, so I'm very proud. It's a really exciting time.
Obviously, everyone comes on the show wanting to win. But was there ever a moment when you found yourself second-guessing whether or not you could make it this far?
Yes, every single day! With the nature of the competition, with the twists and turns that can pop up around at any corner, any day on the runway or in the Werk Room, with all the things that could haphazardly go wrong — the whole experience is open for interpretation. But I just wanted to try to really focus on keeping my shit together to get to the very end.
You're the only member from the Porkchop group that made it to the final four. What does that mean for you?
You know what? It doesn't mean much because that Porkchop stuff lasted for like a day before we integrated. I will say that I'm very proud of all of those girls — they're incredible queens and artists and I'm really happy that I can represent those sisters of mine who had a very similar experience to me this season. And the fact that I can prove that one bad day doesn't define your trajectory or success? Yeah, I'm obviously thrilled.
Speaking of, you seemed pretty shocked when you found out that you lost the lip-sync to Olivia Lux, who I know you once judged in a pageant competition. You came in very confident, so how did it feel for you to come in and immediately lose a lip-sync to someone you know hasn’t been doing drag that long? What was going through your mind?
Well, first of all, I want to say that Olivia is so talented and I knew that going in. I was never shocked or upset because I lost to Olivia. Also, I didn’t necessarily think that I won that lip sync after we finished doing it. But my biggest fear going into Drag Race was just not doing as well as everybody who was amping me was anticipating that I could and would do, because I've had sisters go through the competition and shockingly not do as well as we all thought they would do. So to come up so short on the first day after really, really preparing myself to be the most confident I've ever been, it was really hurtful. I was like, Fuck. I need to completely restrategize and figure out what I need to do to stay in these lovely little sugar walls.
You’re coming onto the show the season after your drag sister Jan, who you’re obviously very close to and perform alongside in Stephanie’s Child. I’m assuming that’s who you were alluding to when you talked about sisters not performing as well as expected. How does it feel for both of you for you to be at the end? I know you helped her get ready for her season. Did she also help you prepare for yours?
Yes, of course she did. Jan is so proud of me. Jan is one of the most supportive friends I've ever had in my life, so she's thrilled for me. And at the end of the day, we're very similar, we’re very close, and we perform a lot together. But when it comes down to it, we are very different drag queens with very different skill sets. So, I mean, it just boiled down to what it boiled down to. I know that Jan is thrilled for me and I'm just happy that, for our little drag family, I could come home with a bigger slice of the gold cake.
I’ve found that there tends to be a unique pressure on New York queens, especially those that have reached a certain level of ubiquity in the queer bar scene. As you mentioned earlier, so many people knew about you before the show, so coming on, they already had all these expectations. Do you think that pressure helps you or do you think it can sometimes be overwhelming to constantly think about what your fans back home will think?
It only helped me. For anybody in the public eye, for anybody who's a performer, it's a vice that we are always trying to battle, to just really deflect what other people think about us and to just live for us. But my support from everyone in New York really lifted me up. In my scary moments on the show, I was focused on me. I was like, "Bitch, what do you need to do to stay here?" I wasn’t worried about what anybody else was going to think back home. Also, I've seen in the past that that support is undying, regardless of what happens on the show.
On the show, you opened up about the fact that you embraced drag as something of an alternative to your musical theater dreams. Do you think drag has ultimately fulfilled those dreams? Has it lived up to your expectations?
I love theater and I love that there’s a career path that involves everything that you’re trained to do, where you get to do what you love on a daily basis. But as I started to get older, I did not find myself liking some of the rigidity and restrictions that I could sense both on me and on other people. At the end of the day, I want to work for me. I want to make all the decisions and I want to be the head creative at all times, and that is what drag has allowed me to do.
I'm literally doing the same stuff — it's just, now, I'm always in charge. I get to decide what I look like. I get to decide what material I'm performing. I'm always holding the mic. So that works just for me to, I don't know, get all my juices flowing. I think that's the big switch that I really made. Drag is so fun and so influential, so it seemed like a really clear path for me when I started doing it. I was like, Oh, okay, this makes a bit more sense. This is, like, really cute.
You brought a lot of your Scottish heritage to the competition. You had the bagpipe look. You had your finale look. You did Mary, Queen of Scots for Snatch Game. There hasn’t been much Scottish representation on Drag Race, so how important was it for you to say, “I really want to use my time on TV to draw attention to my background?”
Oh, I mean, my Scottish upbringing and my family is such a huge part of my life and of who I am. So I loved bringing that into my drag. It was always a dream of mine to bring it to at least a few challenges and runways on the show. It's funny because we did see [Scottish representation] on Drag Race before, with [season two competitor] Morgan McMichaels. But in more recent seasons, yeah, we haven't really had too much Scottish stuff. But little did I know that we were going to have two top four queens from Scotland at the same time on Drag Race UK. So we're just getting some Scottish overload this spring and I'm obsessed with it.
You had a little bit of a rivalry with Tina Burner coming into the season, but then you were paired together for the makeover challenge and I think you both were able to see more eye-to-eye. How would you say the tension between the two of you started and what was it about the makeover challenge that helped bring the two of you closer?
Well, I mean, I hate the word “rivalry” because I've never really had an issue with Tina. I don't think she necessarily had much of an issue with me either. Tina just loves to stir the pot — and she’s really good at it. And I think on Drag Race, it was the first time we ever really worked together in the same room — especially day after day. We're pretty similar drag queens when you boil it down and I think the makeover challenge was really, really great because it forced us to work together in order to proceed and get through to the next episode. You can’t do that if you don’t like somebody. It forced us to really let our walls down and be friends. I'm so happy we got that experience. Now, Tina and I talk often. We not only like each other and hang out, but we also have a newfound respect for each other. So I'm really happy for that journey for us.
You and Denali also got really close. When I spoke to her after her elimination, she talked about how the two of you essentially became each other's support systems. Because Drag Race can be such a grueling experience, how was it for you to be able to have this one person that you could always turn to? And in turn, how do you think the competition changed once she left and you didn't have that person that you could always rely on?
Well, I always say that, at least from my perspective, everything happens for a reason and I would never change a moment of what got me to where I am today. I think that Denali and I were able to click so early because we have a lot in common and we just liked each other. We're similar people and we vibe. We get along really well. But when the Porkchop girls started going home and Denali and I were remaining in the competition and working together a lot during the challenges, I think we both realized that we were both these little performance divas. We were like, “We can slay these challenges." That was really fun for us.
We really saw the star quality and the winner's potential in each other. It’s just nice to have someone to push you and lift you up and remind you of your power and your gifts on a rough day. I loved it always. We were really lucky to have each other, especially after that first episode where half of the cast was basically told, "You're not as good as these other half people." We really helped build each other up. And when Denali left, that timing for me was fab, because as sad as it was to see her leave, I was like, "I'll talk to her in a few weeks. I came here to win this shit."
What would it have meant for you to win?
Oh my god, it would be unreal. I touched on the Porkchop group earlier. And I just think that if people could see somebody fall flat on their face and rebuild themselves and adapt to literally come out on top, it would just be such a shining example for people to never stop working hard and to never ever give up or lose sight of what they intended to do in the first place.
Do you have a favorite moment from the season?
I think my favorite moment — and kind of my plot twist-defining moment — was the branding challenge, where we made the soda can. We also had the Beast Couture runway that episode, which was one of my favorite looks that I brought. It was so nice to do well on a challenge that really just informs you that you know who you are, what you're doing, and what you're selling. When I won that challenge alongside Symone, I was thrilled. I was like, Okay, mama's here. I was like, You cannot chill, but you can take your foot off the gas a little bit, Rosé. We got this.
Do you have a least favorite moment or one you wish you could do-over?
No. I wouldn't do anything over because, as I said, I believe that every single moment got me to this point and that's just kind of how I live my life. There are a couple of runways I wish I could maybe redo, but in the spirit and essence of the competition, you only have so much time to prepare. Sometimes, you're about to leave for the airport and a couple of your runway looks get delivered and you don't even get to try them on or style them or re-imagine them if you don't like them. There are moments I didn't love watching back, but I don't think I would change anything.
How does your Drag Race experience compare to your America’s Got Talent experience?
I mean, I don't know. I think that they are both lovely programs. It was a huge dream of mine to be on Drag Race and to do it by myself. I think that's the biggest comparison I can make and the biggest takeaway I got from Drag Race, is that I can be really successful on my own accord as well. Sometimes, when you're in a girl group and you do so much together, you start to wonder, What was I doing before this? Drag Race was just a nice reminder that I still got it.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.