For every All Stars season, RuPaul surprises audiences with a returning Ru-Girl no one was expecting. For All Stars 5, enter India Ferrah, who took 10th place in Drag Race season three — but not before she solidified her spot in the Drag Race herstory books after being picked up by fellow contestant Mimi Imfurst in the middle of a Lip-Sync For Your Life. This, combined with her very public (but very brief) decision to quit drag, made India the clear underdog of this cast. Still, she managed to stake her claim early, blowing the judges away in the first episode with an energetic performance that belongs in the Hairography Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, her good will seemed to end there. For the next three weeks, she consistently landed in the bottom. And when she landed there again, for the fourth week in a row — after a particularly humorless Snatch Game performance as disgraced makeup guru Jeffree Star — she was sent home.
Nevertheless, India made sure to go out with a bang. After declaring Shea as this week’s winner, RuPaul made the shocking announcement that, from now on, anyone who didn’t win would be up for elimination. India used the opportunity to inform Shea that, two weeks ago, Alexis Mateo and former contestant Mayhem Miller tried to convince her to help them vote Shea out. Alexis vehemently denied the accusations, and while the “reveal” did provide some of this season’s most nail-biting tension, in the end, Shea still opted to send home India after winning her second Lip-Sync For Your Legacy — this time against fan-favorite Vanessa Vanjie Mateo.
Ahead of her elimination, NYLON hopped on the phone with India Ferrah to set the record straight about what exactly went down with Alexis Mateo, how it felt to send home her arch-nemesis Derrick Barry on the very first episode, and how her feelings about her notorious lip-sync against Mimi Imfurst have changed over the last ten years.
What do you think went wrong this week that led to your elimination?
I would definitely say my Snatch Game character. It wasn’t my first choice. It was in the background and I basically had to do it because there was no other option. It was my first time doing Snatch Game and I just wasn’t prepared. I got in my head. I had been in the bottom for the past three weeks. There was just a lot of buildup going into the main challenge.
Why did you do something that wasn’t your first choice?
My first choice was Vicki Lawrence, who plays Thelma Harper on Mama’s Family. It’s this show that I watched growing up and it was a character that I fell in love with. She’s hilarious. But sadly, due to copyright and it being a character vs. the actress, I wasn’t able to do it.
Do you think you would’ve performed better in a standard Snatch Game format?
Oh, absolutely. I think if I was able to do Jeffree just in the regular Snatch Game, it would have been easier to adapt to certain things and play off people. But because it was Snatch Game of Love, it was really hard to stand out. And everyone was so good, so it was really crazy.
You were in the bottom for three consecutive weeks. Did that make you nervous?
Not nervous. It was kind of like, can I do anything that would put me in the top again? Was it possible to top my first performance? That was in my head. I thought I did so well in the SheMZ challenge that I shouldn’t have been in the bottom, so at that point, it was kind of like, no matter what I do, I’m just gonna be in the bottom. It definitely messes with you mentally.
What was going through your mind when Ru announced the twist that everyone was in the bottom?
It was kind of shocking, but I was kind of like, well, it’s another week, another episode, so of course the rules are changing. One week, we have a bottom three; the next week, we have a bottom two; and now everyone is in the bottom if you’re not in the top! It was just like...really? I never knew what to expect, but that’s the joy of All Stars.
When you went backstage for deliberations, Cracker was quick to admit that, even with everyone technically being in the bottom, it was clear that she and you had the worst critiques. Did you agree or did you go backstage thinking it was anyone’s game?
No, I definitely considered myself in the bottom. I knew I performed very poorly in Snatch Game. It was my first time doing it. I knew that me and Cracker were probably the bottom two.
You ended up going to Shea Couleé to tell her about a previous incident that occurred between you and Alexis Mateo. Was that a last-ditch effort to stay in the competition?
That wasn’t my intention. I see how people are painting that picture. But I wanted to tell Shea my truth because of what I was told by Alexis and Mayhem on the side of the stage, where all the chairs are, where we watch the other girls perform. They were like, “So did you vote her out?” This was after voting, before the main stage lip-sync and all that stuff. I was like, “Who? Yeah, I voted for Mariah.” And they were like, “No. Shea!” And I said, “No… Shea didn’t deserve to be sent home. Why would I vote for her?”
So it wasn’t me telling Shea this information to be saved, but so I could leave with a clean slate. I didn’t want to leave with a dark cloud. I wanted this to be a really good experience. I didn’t want to hold onto anything that would hurt me after I went home.
So, just to clarify, this all happened after the voting was finished? Was there any discussion about eliminating Shea prior to the lipsticks actually being chosen?
No. It was all after voting. This was never an alliance thing. I know it may seem painted that way, but it wasn’t that they came to me and said, “We’re all voting Shea off the island.” It wasn’t that at all. It was that they voted for Shea for a reason — because she was competition — and I think that showed in last week’s episode. But yeah, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t vote for Shea. She didn’t deserve to be sent home.
I think a lot of queens competing on All Stars feel similarly. They want to compete fairly.
My whole goal from day one was that I wanted competition. If I was going to be in the final top three, I would want to compete against real competition. I didn’t want to send my competitors home just so I could have an easy win. That was never my forté.
Last week, you and your SheMZ scene partner Mayhem Miller were together in the bottom. Mayhem seemed very adamant about not disparaging your performance and only wanting to praise you. But you were telling people that she dragged the scene down. Were you using this as a strategy to stay or were you just speaking your truth?
Ummm...I would say it was 50/50. I obviously had to prove why I wanted and deserved to be there. I didn’t want to be like, “Oh, I give up. Just send me home.” I felt strongly about the challenge. I felt like I stood out and did very well. Me and Mayhem were incredible together. It wasn’t anything to shade Mayhem or throw her under the bus. It was just how I felt in that moment. We were both in the bottom and we didn’t deserve to be.
Most people go on All Stars to show the world how much their drag has evolved. What did you want to show off the most?
I think the main thing was growth and maturity. I’ve grown into this phenomenal character and this beautiful goddess. Moving to Vegas eight years ago has really shaped me into the performer and the entertainer that I am. So I was just so lucky to be brought back and get to show the world and Ru. And to win the Variety Show the very first episode? That was a win.
Do you think you had the opportunity to show that?
Oh, absolutely. I was able to show fashion, I was able to show a little personality, I finally broke out of my shell. I was able to show the world what I can do. I entertain and I love to perform.
This season kicked off with the beef between you and Derrick Barry. What were you feeling when you realized this would probably defines your time in the competition?
My biggest fear was to have a whole nother experience just like the Mimi Imfurst thing. With me being brought back to All Stars, I didn’t want to be associated with another queen and drama. So when I saw Derrick there, I was like...oh, okay, is this what’s going to happen? I had to get out of my head really quickly and had to focus on my talent. I just didn’t want to be known as “The Girl That Fought With Derrick Barry” this season just like “The Girl That Got Picked Up” on season three.
How did it feel to have that storyline nipped in the bud almost immediately when Derrick got sent home on the same week you won?
It felt really good. The main thing that I wanted was to show these girls that I came here to compete, that I came prepared, that I’ve grown over the past…I think we filmed season three ten years ago? So now, I’ve grown a tremendous amount and I was just happy to really show Derrick what I could do. I mean, I know he’s seen me perform, but in that moment, I was a complete powerhouse and I was determined to stay and show who India Ferrah is.
Speaking of coming to the show a decade later, what shocked you the most about how it has changed?
I think the production value and how amazing it has become — the fandom, the phenomenon. The first day I showed up on set, it was this completely different experience than season three. It was incredible. Everyone was so welcoming. You can definitely tell that it is a worldwide phenomenon now and that they are really on top of it, and I was just really thankful for that.
Did you ever imagine back in 2010 that Drag Race would be what it has now become?
A part of me knew that it would be huge, but I never imagined that it would be this incredible — where we’re getting Canada’s Drag Race and Drag Race UK. This is worldwide. It’s kind of insane. It was such a frowned-upon art ten years ago. It wasn’t in the mainstream. We’re just all so blessed that the world can see us — that we’re not freaks and we’re not these dirty people that people make up in their minds. We are real artists and real entertainers who have a love for the art of drag.
Typically, when a new season is airing, the competing queens are out touring, hosting viewing parties, and soaking up the spotlight. This year, it’s quite different because of the pandemic. Does it feel like you’re missing out on a crucial part of the experience?
It’s really bittersweet. It’s kind of heartbreaking. I was doing eight shows a week at Drag Brunch here in Las Vegas. I got accustomed to performing for about 200-300 people a day and I was really looking forward to viewing parties and interacting with all that. But, you know, the pandemic happened, and we just had to adapt to a completely different lifestyle. It’s insane. But luckily, the fans are still there. They’re sitting at home supporting us, watching us, following us. So it’s good that we didn’t lose that, and we’ll be back soon to party with everyone again.
I’m curious to know if you only think about your Mimi Imfurst experience negatively. It makes sense that you wouldn’t have enjoyed being picked up in the middle of a lip-sync, but on the other hand, that moment is now considered Drag Race canon.
Right. I think the old me, like eight or nine years ago, was really upset that that was all I was known for. I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know how to separate myself from that moment. But now, with the new person I’ve become, I can realize that that is a piece of Drag Race history. Pretty much every YouTube video you look at with the most iconic moments from Drag Race, that’s usually #2 or #1. It’s crazy to be a part of that, and now I am able to separate that from “India.” That’s in the past. It’s part of history now.
Now that you’re gone, who are you rooting for?
Oh my god. They’re all really so good. I definitely love Shea, and also, I would say...Juju. Both of them have kept me so entertained over these past few weeks. I love them so much.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.