Scarlet Envy’s time on the eleventh season of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race was cut tragically short, but luckily, she was able to leave an indelible mark at the final hour. In the lip-sync that would eventually send her home, to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance,” Scarlet let loose, literally cutting up the gold gown she had been wearing to reveal a perfectly-in-theme sequined jumpsuit that she proceeded to jump around the stage in, seemingly without a care in the world. As the story goes, the Brooklyn-based queen didn’t end up winning that very memorable lip-sync — but the joy she exhibited that night nevertheless endeared her to the Drag Race fandom forevermore.
As such, it was no surprise to see Scarlet return for All Stars 6 — and it was even less of a surprise to see her do well in the competition in its first few weeks. Laidback, funny, and a talented seamstress, Scarlet effortlessly glided through the beginning of the season. But when it came time to participate in this week’s “Pink Table Talk” challenge, she struggled to find a balance between being “real” and putting on a performance. Scarlet clearly used the opportunity to let her guard down, opening up about the special relationship she shares with her two just-married moms and how seeing them live their truths helped her embrace her own.
Yet despite her clear vulnerability, RuPaul and the judges felt that there was a disconnect between what she was saying and the way she was saying it, calling her too “performancey” and chastising her for always being in “show-mode.” Scarlet ultimately landed in the bottom, where she was joined by last week’s winner, Jan, and her even-tempered teammate, Kylie Sonique Love. But despite her efforts to convince the week’s winner, Ginger Minj, that Jan’s critiques were across-the-board harsher than her own, Scarlet ended up being sent packing after Ginger won her lip-sync against assassin Mayhem Miller.
Ahead of her elimination, NYLON hopped on the phone with Scarlet Envy to talk about her confusion over the judges’ critiques, her disappointment about not getting to compete in any acting challenges, why she was so excited to show off all her new runways, and why it was so “crushing” to hear RuPaul say her performance in the week’s challenge made the host feel “uncomfortable.”
In your own words, what do you think went wrong leading up to your elimination?
It's hard to say because I haven't seen the episode yet, but I was sharing something that was very personal to me. I think I was trying to lean into vulnerability while also playing a character, and those two things don't work together. My critiques were that I was in and out of a character while trying to be vulnerable — maybe I should have just been more myself. I don't know.
When you say you were sharing something very personal, are you referring to the story about your two moms?
Yeah, my family life.
Backstage, when it was time to talk to everyone about the judges’ critiques, you seemed almost confused about the fact that you were in the bottom. You essentially said that you didn't think you would be asking for a second chance that episode and were surprised that you were being forced to. Looking back, are you still surprised that you landed in the bottom?
Yeah, I am. Again, I don't remember the challenge going poorly at all. I do remember Ru saying that no one did a “bad” job. But this is All Stars and we have to split hairs — I understand that. I just feel like if any runway was going to save me from the bottom, it would’ve been this dress made from my grandparents' love letters, which tied into the stories I was telling about my mom. I thought maybe my runway would save me. But, yeah, I don't know. I'm sorry.
Earlier, you said you were torn between being vulnerable and playing a character, which I think ties in with some of the critiques you got about being too “performancey” and in “show-mode.” I found those critiques interesting considering the fact that Drag Race is, of course, a drag competition, which is inherently a performance. How do you respond to the judges’ implications that it’s possible to be “too much” of a character while literally competing on a show that asks you to be a drag queen?
Honestly, Michael, it doesn't make sense to me. I'm just as confused as you are in that way. Sometimes, critiques are easier to get. But believe me — [I give] all the respect to the judges’ panel and to my critiques. I will obviously take them and I take full responsibility for not measuring up this week. I don't want to blame anyone else; there’s no one else to blame.
But I still just don't quite understand it. I am a character. Maybe I just wasn’t prepared to be as vulnerable as it felt like I was going to be up on stage, or maybe I should have just given Ginger the motherhood topic to begin with and talked about body or sex instead. But I was just really inspired to tell the story about how my moms inspired me. I'm just a little bit confused by the whole thing. It's unfortunate.
There was a big moment during the critiques when RuPaul said that watching you switch back and forth between your drag persona and your quote-unquote "real self" made her feel “uncomfortable,” which I don’t think has ever been said before. How were you feeling in the moment when you heard Ru say that?
Well, that was absolutely crushing, specifically because I was embracing my vulnerability in telling that story and sharing this aspect of my world. Now, I'm trying not to let this turn into, Don't be vulnerable, because I don't think that's the lesson here for me. But it's difficult to find a different lesson in there. My response to RuPaul would be that maybe being uncomfortable isn't such a bad thing. Why are you uncomfortable? Maybe we can look at that. What makes you uncomfortable? Why don't we like this? Is it something that I need to change? Sometimes, art makes us uncomfortable. But, yeah, that's a crushing blow to hear from someone who's judging me. But I still don't think I got the worst critiques. I don’t know though, maybe I did.
While you were preparing for the challenge, you suggested to your teammate Kylie that she turn her energy up and not be so soft-spoken as the group's moderator. In response, she asked if moderating was something you’d like to do instead. You rejected the offer and assured her that you believed in her. But looking back at how everything turned out, do you think the challenge would have played out differently with a different moderator?
Yeah, I do. And thank you for reminding me about [that exchange] because I do think things would’ve definitely been different if I had been the moderator. I really enjoy a job like that. But I think it was more important in that moment to support my sister and make sure that she knew I believed in her, especially before we went out on stage to be judged. So, I do think that it would have been different, but I stand by letting her have the role that she wanted.
Yeah, I know you do a lot of hosting-type stuff in Brooklyn. Do you think you would have been able to bring a different level of familiarity to that setting? Especially considering Kylie’s confessional where she says, “I don’t really have any background in this.”
Yeah, I do. I mean, I've hosted shows for years that were talkshow situations. That's actually what I'm embarrassed about, is that the challenge I went home on is something that I'm generally very comfortable with doing. And you know, these Pink Table Talks are based on Red Table Talk, and I'm a big fan of Jada Pinkett Smith and this whole amazing thing she's done. But a lot of conversations that happen on Red Table Talk are not supposed to be comfortable. We're addressing things that maybe do make people uncomfortable. A lot of these topics are not easy to talk about in that way.
I’ve done this for years, interviewing people in Brooklyn, and sometimes, we are bringing people together after they've had a big fight or we're talking about a venue or something like that. It's not always going to be a comfortable conversation. So I think it's a double-edged sword to say, "Yeah, while watching the Pink Table Talk, I was a little uncomfortable." I feel like it's okay to be uncomfortable sometimes. Either way, yes, I do think it would have been a lot different if I was the moderator. But I wanted Kylie to know that I believed in her as a friend and as a competitor.
Most queens come to All Stars wanting to show off how much they’ve grown since they last appeared on the show. What was the main thing you wanted to show off this time?
Well, I was really excited about my runways honestly. The first time around, I made almost everything I wore and I handled it all by myself. I was a little bit paranoid to ask for any help or let anyone know that I was going to be on the show. But the second time around, I was definitely better at pulling resources. I wanted to work with an amazing team that did what they do better than I do, whether it be hair or costuming or styling. Most of the designers I worked with have never been featured on Drag Race before, so it was just so cool. I got to work with a lot of Palestinian and Lebanese designers, and of course, Casey Caldwell, who’s always designing for the show. I just feel like my runways were really strong.
But I was also so happy that I got to show off my sewing skills because I do still like to make things for myself when I have the time. The Blue Ball was a really, really cool moment for me — and I want to say that my whole dress was structured on the inside with unconventional materials. There was a giant metal piece over my right shoulder holding the structure in, I hot-glued all these little plastic straws to keep my breast-cups up, and the whole dress was lined with this sleeping bag material. So there were a bunch of unconventional materials inside!
Is this in response to my interview with Yara Sofia?
I interviewed Yara last week and she specifically had some words about your look in that challenge, so I was wondering if that’s why you were bringing it back up.
Oh no, it's not in reference to that. I just wanted to clarify for the kids that it was unconventional materials on the inside of the dress. They were just upholstered with sequins — but sequins are actually really flimsy and see-through, so it never would have worked unless I had the structure with all of the unconventional materials on the inside. But that's just me standing up for my work.
You came back for All Stars not too long after your original season. Did you still notice any big differences between how the competition felt then and how it felt now?
Good question. I feel like I was just more comfortable with myself and with the environment this time around. I obviously had the experience of being there already, so I knew a little bit about what to expect, and I think I was just more comfortable — with myself, with where I am in the world, with what I'm doing, with what I want to do, and with where I want to go. I just had more fun and I think it showed. I feel like I was a little bit more relaxed in my confessionals. I had a great time, honestly. I don't know. I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess!
No, I completely agree! I think you did too. I’m just always curious about the queens who return because, as you said, you do come back feeling more comfortable. Was it weird to watch yourself back on TV after competing the first time? Did anything stand out to you that made you go, “Oh, I didn’t know that I’d come across like that” or something?
Yeah. Absolutely. It was definitely eye-opening to watch myself on season 11. I had some walls up and I was just at a different place in my life. I wasn't sure what they were going to do with me. The way that the girls were treating me on my original season, I really didn't think I was going to be a villain or that I was going to be hated. And then, it was kind of a shocker when I turned out to be a fan favorite from the season. That was so eye-opening. It was a hard year to go through — we film a year in advance, so I kind of spent a year sitting there waiting for my world to fall apart when it actually ended up being the opposite.
When the season aired, I think that I broke through on my elimination with the “Last Dance” lip-sync. I think I made more fans in that last few minutes than I did throughout the whole season because I let myself be myself and I owned up to what I had to own up to. I was just more genuine in that moment than I think I was the whole season. So I've just learned to let the fans speak and remember that it's actually bigger than the thirteen queens in this room and the four or five people on a judges’ panel. The real story continues in the eyes of viewers. The viewership is a much bigger machine than the girls I'm with in the Werk Room.
I love hearing that. I’ve been interviewing the eliminated queens from Drag Race for several seasons now, and usually, if they have an opinion on the power of the viewership and the fan base, it’s quite the opposite. So to hear you say that you thought you’d be a villain and ultimately had a more positive response than expected is a nice flip of the script.
Yes, it was a pleasant surprise.
We all know the Drag Race fandom can sometimes be a little less than “welcoming.”
To put it lightly!
Are there any specific challenges you're upset you didn't get to compete in?
Absolutely. I'm an actress first and foremost, so I was really looking forward to the acting challenges. I won the acting challenge on my season and it's unfortunate that they chopped me before I could show off my favorite skillset.
Now that you're gone, who are you rooting for to win?
I really think it would be fun to see Ra’Jah [O’Hara] take her redemption to the end. I also was very, very close to Kylie [Sonique Love] in the competition, so it's a toss-up. It's hard to choose between sisters, but RuPaul wins every season anyway, so maybe I'll just say her.