Exit Interview: Maddy Morphosis On Getting Cut From 'RuPaul's Drag Race'
"I do have to be a representative somewhat to show that straight people can exist in this space and be respectful."
In recent years, RuPaul’s Drag Race has slowly but surely worked to diversify its ranks. Already known for its racial and body diversity, the casting agents have expanded beyond that by casting trans and nonbinary performers, as well as the franchise’s first cisgender female contestant in season three of Drag Race UK. Their one blind spot? Cisgender heterosexual male queens. Though that all changed in season 14 with the arrival of Maddy Morphosis. Hailing from rural Arkansas, this campy queen broke the mold by proving that drag isn’t limited solely to queer-identifying individuals — even if she’s reluctant to define her drag on those terms.
Despite the controversy surrounding her casting, Maddy started things off on the right foot, making an indelible impression in her first week thanks to a jaw-dropping headless look that left everyone positively gagging. She also showed off some strong comedic chops in two back-to-back acting challenges. Unfortunately, the small-town queen, who freely admits that she’s “never been a high-fashion person,” struggled to live up to her week-one runway. After several fashion missteps, it became clear that the judges were questioning her taste level.
After narrowly saving herself from elimination when she landed in the bottom for her performance in the ball challenge, Maddy once again fumbled a sewing challenge. Asked to create a look from scratch using junk from Michelle Visage’s Glamazon Prime orders, Maddy chose camp over style, haphazardly crafting a patchwork-style dress and using a blowup doll as a prop in a way that felt more confusing than entertaining. Unsurprisingly, she landed in the bottom, and though she seemed determined to save herself yet again, her campy take on Beyoncé’s “Suga Mama” ultimately proved no match for Jasmine Kennedie’s flexible and sultry rendition. Given Jasmine’s technical prowess as a dancer, it was no surprise when Maddy was announced as the queen who would be sashaying away this week.
Ahead of last week’s elimination, NYLON hopped on Zoom with Maddy Morphosis to talk about the cursed death knell of sewing challenges, that instantly iconic Untucked fight with fellow contestant Jasmine Kennedie, how she hopes her run on Drag Race can inspire other “regular” guys to openly embrace their femininity, and the disadvantages of doing drag in smaller cities.
In your own words, what do you think went wrong leading up to your elimination?
It’s just the blatant heterophobia honestly! [laughs] But no, it was just the design challenge. Design challenges get me! As you can see, I made a fun outfit — something stupid. That's something I would throw together to do, like, a dumb number in. But I've never been a high-fashion person. Fashion has never been my forté, has never been at the front of my drag. So whenever they want you to make something for Project Runway out of stuff from Glamazon Prime boxes, it was a little too daunting of a task for me. I think I just need a little more work behind the sewing machine.
Knowing that you weren’t the best sewer, were you always scared about design challenges? That’s obviously an issue for at least a few queens every season.
Well, I've always worked well under pressure, and most of the things I took to Drag Race, I did make myself, so I felt pretty confident. The difference, though, is that the things I took are things that I made over the period of days or weeks, whereas on Drag Race, you have to make it like that night or that day. And it’s just like the time, the pressure, it was just a little too much for me.
You were already in the bottom for a different design challenge — the ball. When you heard that they were already assigning another design challenge, did it feel like deja vu?
Yeah! We had just gotten through a design challenge, and then, we had two acting challenges. So I was like, Okay, so now we're going to maybe do a girl group challenge or a Rusical, or maybe even a big one, like the Snatch Game. And then, they were like, "It's another design challenge." And I was like, "You’ve gotta be kidding me."
So, you are the first heterosexual queen to compete on the show..
The first cisgender heterosexual queen.
Right. The first cisgender heterosexual queen to compete. Knowing that you’d obviously be breaking a new boundary if you were cast, were you at all nervous about auditioning? And when you were cast, what were you expecting to hear from the audience?
I wasn't so nervous for auditioning because, like I said [on the show], I had been doing drag for like four years prior to me even throwing an audition tape out there. It was more so that once I did get on the show, I was very aware that I do have to be a representative somewhat to show that straight people can exist in this space and be respectful, and to also show other cisgender straight men out there that it's okay to embrace your femininity. Hopefully, they get to see someone like me — who's just a regular guy doing something that's considered so hyper-feminine but is still able to go home to a beautiful girlfriend and have a normal life — and see the reflection of [themselves in] that.
But at the same time, it was very nerve-wracking because I knew everything I was doing was going to be picked apart to some degree — like, there’s a lot of eyes. That’s the one thing that tripped me up a lot on the show, was just really trying to think too hard about everything. I seem nervous and shy, but it’s really that I'm just in my head overthinking everything that I'm doing and saying.
What response were you anticipating and how does that compare to the response you’ve gotten?
The response has kind of been what I thought it would be, but to the extremes. I thought there would be some people that were like, "Oh, cool,” and some people that were like, "Oh, I don't really like that that much." But instead, I got people that are like, "Oh, this is amazing! This is wonderful! This is exactly what we needed." And then, there are other people that are like, "I hate this! I wish you didn't exist! You should leave and never come back!" I expected this response, but just not to the polar extremes that it has actually happened.
We have to talk about your fight with Jasmine Kennedie in this week's Untucked, which I think is instantly legendary — and might just be the most legendary Untucked moment of season 14 so far. Why do you think that whole ordeal went so left so quickly?
I think a lot of it comes down to the high pressure of everything that's going on because Drag Race is just a pressure-cooker. There's been high emotions the whole season, and then you get to a moment where everything is going to come crashing down on one of us — you know, one of us is going home. It's a lot of emotions and there’s just a lot that’s psychologically weighing down on you. So, in that moment, I think there was just a lot of misunderstanding about what we were saying. I felt and thought Jasmine was being disrespectful towards me and I felt it was unwarranted. But then, I think she misunderstood me and felt and thought that I was being disrespectful to her. And then, somehow, the argument just kind of started devolving, and I feel like we were eventually having completely different arguments, and it was just making everyone even more frustrated. So it was just a perfect storm for whatever that was.
How did you feel when Jasmine tried to reject your apology hug?
I love Jasmine. We are very close. We're very tight. It's just that thing — siblings fight. But in that moment, I was just like, "Okay, we had a lot of high emotions but we understand that it's just this moment and everything that's happening. I'm just going to say sorry so she knows there’s no hard feelings." So when she was like, "No, no," I was just like, "Okay, so you really feel some kind of way right now." It was cemented for me. I was like, "Okay….so we’re not good in this moment..." Either I'm going to send her home and she's going to be upset or she's going to send me home and that's going to be the last thing said between us. But it is what it is.
One of the things you mentioned was that you thought Jasmine’s attitude was representative of queens who come from bigger cities and automatically assume they know the game better because they get to do their drag more often. Jasmine said she wasn’t nervous to lip-sync against you because she “does this every night,” while you may not have that many opportunities to perform. How do you think coming from a more rural town and establishing your drag in a smaller place impacts you in the competition?
I think it definitely hinders a lot of people. That's why, when you're watching the show, I didn't think it was possible for someone coming from where I came from to even get on a show like this. Even [last season’s winner] Symone — she was from Arkansas, but she had moved to LA a few years prior to that. So I thought that was something you had to do. Coming from rural Arkansas, we don't have drag every night of the week. In my city, there is one bar that does drag shows, and they do it one day a week, and you can't be in every single show. So I'm doing like one show a month, and I have to travel hundreds of miles if I want to do another show.
Even some smaller resources, you know. We don't have fabric markets or just places to buy [stuff for looks]. We don't have a Santee Alley where you can buy some cute dance costumes. Also, designers! We don't have a lot of designers to reach out to. So for me, I had to make a lot of my things for the show. I had to piece it together, and a lot of [the materials and fabrics] came from Joanne’s or Hobby Lobby — just wherever I could find the materials for my pieces. So it is a hindrance. It is a lot harder to really grow in a space like [Arkansas]. Like, we're all really supportive of each other, but it is not as conducive of an environment to grow as a drag performer as you would find in other bigger cities that have a lot more opportunities.
This episode, you mention that your dad supports your drag. How has having that support been?
It was very unexpected. My parents grew up with very different mindsets — they’re from Texas — so I really thought it was going to be, at best, just a, Well, as long as you're happy, but we don't want anything to do with it. But instead, the reaction was like, "Oh, that's amazing! We want to see pictures! What's your drag name? When's your next show?" Just really unexpected.
My entire family has been so supportive of [my drag], and I've kind of taken the opportunity to educate them to a degree as well, because there's a lot of stuff they don't know about the community and what goes on in it. It's a really amazing opportunity. I know a lot of people, especially in the drag scene and in the queer community, that don't get that kind of support. Obviously, I'm not a queer individual, but I am really appreciative and I recognize that I am very privileged to have a family that does support me and what I do.
You're officially a RuGirl now, and soon, your entire life is about to change. What are you most looking forward to now in your post-Drag Race career?
I think, honestly, it’s just traveling and seeing new things. Like I said, being from Arkansas, there aren’t a lot of opportunities. There's not a lot to see and do. And I think that's one thing that hindered me in the competition, is that my viewpoint of drag is just what little bit of drag we already have here in Arkansas. But now, getting to travel around… I'm going to go to different cities and different venues to see how they do drag in different places and different countries and then just take a lot of these pieces back home and [use them to] help grow myself as an individual and just really polish up my drag. I just want to have these new experiences.
RuPaul’s Drag Race airs every Friday night at 8:00pm ET on VH1.