Every week, NYLON writer Michael Cuby will conduct an exit interview with the queen eliminated from RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Season 5. This week, Alexis Mateo was asked to sashay away.
After first competing on Drag Race season three (where she placed third) and then returning for All Stars season one (where she and her partner Yara Sofia came in 5th/6th place), Alexis Mateo sashayed into the Werk Room for All Stars season five with a newfound confidence. Dressed in a stunning Puerto Rican flag ensemble, the queen who once popularized the phrase “bam” was determined to prove that the old adage third time’s the charm is, indeed, correct.
And for a while, it seemed like she might. In the first episode, the Puerto Rican queen fulfilled a lifelong dream by performing in front of her childhood idol Ricky Martin. And though she may have never secured a Maxi Challenge win, she consistently landed near the top. But everything changed during episode five thanks to fellow competitor India Ferrah, who, in a last-ditch effort to save herself, lied to Shea Couleé, telling her that Alexis had secretly been campaigning to send her home. While India’s strategy didn’t pan out in her favor that week (she was still eliminated), suspicions about Alexis’ gameplay stuck around and most queens found it hard to separate fact from fiction. As one of only two remaining queens with no wins, even Alexis knew that if she did not win the following week’s challenge and guarantee her safety, her competitors would not hesitate to send her home next. Sure enough, after receiving lackluster critiques for her Backyard BBQ ballgown, Alexis was sent packing by the group.
Ahead of her unceremonious elimination, NYLON hopped on the phone with Alexis Mateo to finally set the record straight about what went down between her and India Ferrah, how it felt to perform in front of Ricky Martin, and how a years-long struggle with an eating disorder negatively impacted her enjoyment of Drag Race season three and All Stars season one.
What do you think went wrong this week that led to your elimination?
With mine, it’s clear. After India’s elimination, I think the girls just had in their head, Did she do it or did she not do it? There wasn’t enough proof, so nobody could know who was telling the truth at that point. In this episode, I felt like the kid that nobody wanted to play with on the playground.
Given how confident you felt about this challenge because of your sewing skills, did it feel weird to go home this week as opposed to any other week?
Yeah, especially because my dress was one of the best ones. I know my style of drag very well, I know my body type, and I know my taste, and I think I did everything to be in the top this week. I think it was gorgeous, I think it was well-executed, and I don’t regret anything about it.
You came into this episode already nervous because, based on track record, you and Blair St. Clair were the only ones who had yet to win a Maxi Challenge. Do you think that nervousness played a role in how you performed?
Ummm, no. My performance was clean. It was consistent. But what I did know in my head was that if it was between me and Blair, I was going to go home. The other girls shared their seasons with this girl, they traveled the world on several tours with this girl. They’re very close, so I knew I was on that path of going home, no matter what, if I didn’t win the challenge.
As much as India’s actions last week played a role in your elimination, I do think she was only able to instill so much doubt in everybody’s mind because people were already questioning your gameplay after you voted to send home Shea a few weeks ago. Looking back now, do you wish you had never done that?
When I voted for Shea, it was an honest vote for me as a competitor. I’m a pageant queen and I was trying to keep it fair. Even though the other girls felt like they didn’t want to do that to Shea, Shea did have the worst critiques that day on the runway. Mariah is one of my best friends, and India, I work with everyday here in Vegas. So yeah, it was a clean vote for me and it was a no-brainer choice, even though it started a fire drama. I don’t regret doing it because it was my vote and that’s what I wanted to do. I thought, judging by critiques, it was the right thing to do at that time. There had only been two episodes, so nobody really had a “good” record by then.
Speaking of, I want to settle the India drama. From your perspective, what happened?
It was a lie. It was a fucking lie. It was a desperate moment to stay, it was a survival skill. She was smart, she played it cool, and it was a great TV moment. But it was still a lie. Me and India have become Roxie and Velma from the Chicago musical. Literally, nobody remembers anything else about that season other than India and Alexis. It was a great story for frenemies, but to be honest, it’s still a lie. People always ask me, “Do you think she misunderstood you?” And I say, “Bitch, my English ain’t that bad, bitch.” I know how to talk. I know how to communicate in several languages, so I know there was no misunderstanding. It was just a lie. It was a great TV moment. But at the same time, there’s nothing you can say to me. I asked the girls several times on the show if I campaigned against Shea, and everybody said no. So I don’t understand what this “campaign” is about. If I was to have campaigned, trust me, Mariah would have voted for Shea as well, especially since me and Mariah are the closest on that show.
I talked to India last week.
[laughs] When I asked her about the situation, she admitted that you didn’t say anything about sending home Shea prior to the voting, but that you did ask if she voted for Shea after all the lipsticks had already been drawn. Is that true?
That did happen. I asked her, “Hey, who did you vote for?” We all did it. It was not just me. We were all trying to figure out who has who’s vote. But I don’t think that’s campaigning. That was my issue right there. “Campaigning” is trying to make you do something before you vote. If I ask who you’re voting for in this election coming up, that might be campaigning. But if the election has already passed, you just want to know who you did it for, you know? We all wanted to know. I didn’t even have to ask her because we normally see the votes right after anyway.
But let me tell you one thing. If she did say this to you, it’s actually very fucked-up because my competition run finished because of a stupid-ass moment. I was doing very good in my track record and I actually did really good in this challenge. Going home for something that someone thought was a campaign and then it turns out that it was not is actually fucked up. It ruined my entire track on the competition.
Were you worried that a rumor like that could have a negative impact on your career outside the competition?
Oh my god, yes. We already know how toxic the fandom can be. I’ve had plenty of phone-calls from my castmember sisters in the middle of the night, crying about everything that is happening to them on the internet, in private messages, and things like that. So you already know going onto the show that you need to not be the girl who’s the target. I knew that people would have not known whether I did it or not, so I was just an open target for everyone at that point. I was going to end my competition at that point because the girls didn’t have any proof that I did or didn’t do it. It was a very frustrating moment.
Seeing Vanessa Vanjie as the lip-sync assassin, I think it was the top of the cherry at that point. Not only was I thinking I was going to go home unfairly, but I thought that my drag daughter was going to read my name from a lipstick and it was going to be the most humiliating moment of my life. This is somebody that I literally created and put on TV, and to have her eliminate me from the competition would have been devastating. It has just been a very difficult moment — not only for me, but for everybody on the show, because everybody has questions about it. Even though people always go, “Oh, girl, don’t worry about it. You are giving good TV, girl,” it’s not about that. At this point of Drag Race, it’s about being a great competitor. I think I did that, but this incident kind of erased all the great moments I’ve had on the show.
So much of All Stars is about showing the world how much your drag has evolved since you first competed. What did you want to show off the most?
Alexis has been on season 3 of Drag Race and then season 1 of All Stars, and even though people can see that I’m a great competitor that has won challenges and done a lot of great things, people kind of forget about me. So this time, I said I wasn’t going to be afraid to speak. I wasn’t going to be afraid of who I am, and hopefully, I would be memorable. I think I did what I needed to do. I don’t think I was mean. I think I was bitchy when I needed to be bitchy and fabulous when I needed to be fabulous. And I introduced people to my Latin culture, which is so important to me. Even if people don’t like it, it’s who I am.
Speaking of your Latin culture, I know you were very excited to perform for Ricky Martin.
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to win a challenge so much — and watching it back, I thought I should have won! I don’t care what people say. I grew up watching Menudo and it was one of the biggest groups that influenced my performing. So seeing him in person was crazy. I couldn’t even complete the reading challenge because he was there. It was one of those moments. Performing for him was amazing. I remember when he walked into the Werk Room and looked at me because I was wearing a Puerto Rican flag outfit, and he immediately said to me in Spanish, “You’re the Boricua one, right?” I was like...oh my god. My life is complete. I just won Drag Race. Thank you so much! But yeah, it was very important to represent my culture.
What is the biggest difference between All Stars 5 and the other two times you competed?
I had a very difficult eating disorder going into the first two seasons. I thought the key to winning Drag Race was to look like a supermodel. But I was never built like a supermodel, so I went through a lot of pain and a lot of regret. I feel like I didn’t enjoy my experiences back then because I felt like I was hiding something the entire time. Even though I looked fabulous to other people, I did not feel like myself. So this time, it was very important for me to accept how my body has changed, how I have aged, and how I have become the character that I am now.
This one has been my favorite and it’s just because this was the season that I got to be who I am, say what I want to say, and have a good time with the girls. The girls were so welcoming. This was the first time that we’ve remained close as a cast. We talk on a regular basis, we call each other on the phone. Regardless of the drama you see on TV, we always laugh about it.
When you competed almost a decade ago in season 3, did you ever imagine Drag Race would become the worldwide sensation it is today?
No. I remember how excited I was when I got my promo picture and I updated my MySpace account because, back in the day, it was MySpace. Facebook was just starting, and there was no Twitter and no Instagram. Then, when I went on All Stars 1, that was when the social media era kind of exploded. But it wasn’t until later seasons that the show got really famous. And for some reason, the fans go by [the logic that] whoever has the most followers is the best drag queen. I fell behind on that because, of course, none of the season 3 girls were in that caliber.
Now that you’re gone, who are you rooting for?
I would love Jujubee or Blair to win the show. I love Cracker and Shea, but I don’t feel like they need it. I feel like Shea is a fan-favorite and doesn’t need to win the crown to continue being fabulous. I think Cracker has an amazing career. So I think Jujubee or Blair are my favorites. I love Blair — she’s one of my favorite little girls. I feel like we have a mother-daughter relationship. And Jujubee cannot do any wrong in my eyes. Point blank.