Exit Interview: Jasmine Kennedie On Getting Cut From 'RuPaul's Drag Race'
“You can't control anything that happens out there on the internet and things like that, so if you just relax and take a moment, you'll be fine.”
In the world of RuPaul’s Drag Race, nothing is better for a contestant’s lasting legacy than a good story, and nothing makes for a better story than a visible trajectory of growth. Lucky for season fourteen contestant Jasmine Kennedie, few queens have exhibited more growth this round than she has. A 22-year-old dancing diva based in Brooklyn, New York, Jasmine didn’t exactly enter the competition on the best foot. From the beginning, she bumped heads with her competitors, thanks to her tendency to talk over others and complain about her performance in the challenges. But over the course of the season, the queen has kept an open mind and shown an eager willingness to learn, soaking up criticisms from her fellow contestants and from the judges in a decidedly unfussy way that has endeared her to just about everyone watching.
Unfortunately, such growth doesn’t guarantee you a continued spot in the competition. As the cast shrank, Jasmine struggled more and more to stand out, and by the time she reached this week’s LaLaPaRuZa, Jasmine was the only remaining contestant who had yet to win a challenge. Sure, she had done more than enough to establish herself as one of the season’s most-feared lip-syncers, but her placement in the bottom two on three different occasions was certainly not a good harbinger of what was to come. Though she gave it everything she had, Jasmine continually came up slightly short in each of this episode’s lip-syncs. After losing to Daya Betty and again to Angeria, her fate seemed sealed. So when she finished her final showdown against Bosco, no one seemed surprised when she was the one sent home.
Ahead of her elimination, NYLON hopped on a Zoom call with Jasmine Kennedie to talk about going home on a lip-sync challenge, her theory for why she and fellow contestant Daya Betty never managed to get along, the joy of coming out as trans to a group of supportive drag sisters, why it’s “mind-boggling” to think that she’s an inspiration to others at only 22, how Drag Race taught her to listen to the room but also the importance of not giving a fuck, her dreams to do a crossover tour with her doppelganger Miss Alyssa Edwards, and why she wants to model her post-Drag Race career after Shangela. (If you have a check, she wants to do it all.)
To start, what do you think went wrong leading up to your elimination this week?
I think it was definitely track-record and momentum rate. That's what I would probably say was my downfall. In terms of everybody else in the competition, my momentum and my track-record wasn't the best. When it comes to lip-syncing, it’s something I'm usually pretty good at, if I say so myself. But unfortunately, it just didn't land in the cards for me. I think the judges saw more potential for the crown in other girls — and at that time, rightfully so. I was in the bottom for most of that time, so, yep, it was my time to go.
You’re such a strong lip-syncer though. I think you were one of the earliest queens this season to be crowned a real lip-sync threat. Track-record aside, would you have ever imagined going home on what is essentially just a lip-syncing challenge?
Yeah. I mean, it's a little ding in my armor. But at the same time, I've been told that I never gave up during [my three lip-syncs this episode]. I'm very happy hearing things like that. I’m also happy that it happened because you guys get to see me lip-sync three more times [for a total of six]. Like, why not six? Six is a cute number. Three lip-syncs is cute, but it's not an even number, so let's just add three more.
What was your headspace going into the LaLaPaRuZa lip-sync challenge? You had just come off a legendary lip-sync against Jorgeous, where you both received the season’s much-coveted Double Shantay — but that was also the second time in a row that you landed in the bottom two and your third time there in total. Then, there was that Snatch Game. Were you on your toes a bit or were you relaxed because it was just lip-syncs?
Mentally, when RuPaul announced that it was going to be a lip-sync challenge, I was like, “Thanks, mom!” [laughs] It was like, “Lemme pour one out for you because that is lit!” So I was very excited about it. I was very energetic, just like, Yes, I can do this. This is very cool. Now, throughout the episode, as it goes on, of course I was tired. But at the end of the day, I am a drag queen and I'm not going to not lip-sync and not give it my all.
So basically, I just treated it as Sunday brunch that day. I was like, Listen, you did the first number. Now, we’ve got to get through the next one. You can take your shoes off, have a little break here. Just things like that. Basically, I treated it with that momentum: It's Sunday brunch and we just gotta get through it, so let's put a smile on our face and have a good time.
So I obviously have to ask about your feud with Daya Betty. Drag queens, of course, have big personalities, and on the pressure-cooker that is Drag Race, it’s not uncommon for queens to bump heads and bicker with each other. That being said, you and Daya had a particularly antagonistic dynamic. Why do you think you two could never click?
Well, I will say there are positives and negatives. The positive is that I think Daya is a great person and she really is a great drag queen. I think we are very similar in some ways that we may not necessarily want to admit to ourselves.
But I think the main issue in our scenario throughout this season was that, sometimes, she was upset in terms of how she was placed. And we all get upset, you know? But I think she sometimes took her frustration out on people like me and Jorgeous, just for simple things that we do with our drag. And whenever she came to me about it, it wasn't necessarily a “personal” coming-to, like she wanted me to do [when I called her out about] why she always said ‘no offense.’ She always addressed us in a group. She never came to us personally. So I think it's very interesting that she wanted to be addressed on the side, but thought it was okay to address us in a group.
Essentially, I think she was fighting things in her head. But instead of focusing on herself, she saw me, saw that I was also struggling, and saw things that she could point out to push the focus elsewhere and onto other people.
We are very little sister-big sister, but at the same time, there is a line that I think got crossed a little too much sometimes. Some of the things that she said in the interviews, I am not necessarily fully comfortable with or appreciate. But right now, we're fine. I've talked to her, just letting her know, like, “Hey, I feel a specific type of way.” But I also think she realizes as well that she wasn't acting the best that she could. But all that aside, it is what it is. And at the end of the day, I did get my last little, I'm gonna pick you.
Speaking of that, how did it feel when your lip-sync against her didn’t go as planned? That showdown felt like a long time coming, and given your proven lip-sync prowess, I think we all were working under the assumption that you were going to annihilate her.
[laughs] Baby! Literally! When Ru pulled out my name and said, “You get to pick,” oh, it was over in my head! The producers were probably just sitting there like, “Oh, she's going to do it. She's going to do it.” I was just like, “Let me hit that button.” And then poof, it’s Daya. I was just very happy. And even though I did lose to her, I was not upset. It kind of gave her her closing chapter with me, to send me home. Her storyline with me got to finish out, which is great. But, yeah, I wouldn't have changed anything about it. I felt like I still did good.
Season 14 has been unprecedented in terms of its trans representation. There are now five confirmed trans queens in the cast, which is just incredible and amazing.
I’m like, Who's next?! [laughs]
In an Untucked from earlier this season, you came out to your fellow queens during a very emotional conversation. How was that experience for you and what were you feeling in that moment that made you go, This is the time that I want to open up about this?
I guess you could say it was a melting pot of a lot of things just aligning perfectly in that situation. Me and Kerri [Colby] had a conversation a couple days before that about my gender identity and where I want to go with it. And with Ts Madison coming in and talking about her trans identity, us opening the conversation about it, and then Bosco talking, there was just this very warming, comfortable [energy] where I felt comfortable enough to talk to the girls about it.
I honestly wasn't going to talk about it at all. But I felt that, for myself, I needed to talk about it, because I had just been holding it in so long. The fact that I had Kerri and other girls near me to feel comfort about that, it was a very nice feeling. It was a very emotional moment.
And honestly, when that happened, the cameras weren't even there. Actually, the cameras were not there for me for a majority of the season. Yes, they were there, of course, but I didn't care. Out of the whole cast, I think I'm the only one that didn't think there was a camera in the room.
Since [the episode aired], there's been an obscene amount of love and respect outpouring from the community. I still get messages to this day from kids, from grandparents, from family members, just talking about what they're experiencing. To see that I've connected with so many people and touched so many people is still mind-boggling to me because I'm only 22. I’m just getting my own life on! To think that I'm inspiring other people is a very meaningful and humbling experience.
More so than almost any other queen this season, I think you, specifically, have really given audiences a chance to see your growth. In the beginning, you bumped heads with others, just because they thought you talked too much or complained too loudly about not winning challenges. But by the end, you’ve actually become many people’s favorite. How do you think Drag Race helped you evolve both personally and professionally?
It helped a lot, to be completely honest. Going into that scenario [of a competition like Drag Race], it’s something I've never been in. I would definitely say that I’ve worked very hard over the years on my tendencies with my ADD, and I’ve gotten used to them. But going into a new environment, I didn't necessarily have a full grapple on that. So I definitely think that, in the first couple of episodes, I was just very spastic while trying to get a grapple on that. I think a lot of the girls could sense that, and that's why things were brought up, and it was appreciated.
I think, throughout this whole competition, I learned professionally to always listen to the room and also to be present. You may want to go say your piece and things like that, but maybe wait until someone else says theirs, because maybe what you wanted to say will already be said. That was definitely a big learning thing for me, at least from being in a group setting.
But personally, I learned to not really give a fuck. I mean zero fucks — like zero! Nothing! While you're there, you worry so much. But it really doesn't matter if you worry. It's actually easier if you just are chilling in the moment. You can't control anything that happens out there on the internet and things like that, so if you just relax and take a moment, you'll be fine. Being carefree, giving zero fucks, and not living life for other people has probably been the other thing.
Your life is about to change now that you’ve been on television thanks to Drag Race. What are you most looking forward to in your career as an official Ru-Girl?
Oh, so, so much. Of course, I want to tour. I mean, I would love a little me and miss Alyssa Edwards crossover tour, if that's ever possible. Listen, [the show] plugged it in enough — we gotta get it to happen now! What else? I mean, I would love to go into a small little fashion line. I know fashion lines are hard to get into and break out with, but I would love to do an activewear line, a very small niche line where it's a couple things. I love activewear. I'm still very sporty. I’m a sporty tomgirl, so I would love to go into that market. But also modeling. Things like that. I'm basically like Shangela: If you have a check, I can do the job. I will take anything and everything.