It was the Ru-veal that truly no one saw coming. After a shocking elimination on last season’s inaugural RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, Art Simone re-emerged in front of her cast members from a trash bin, and worked her way to the Top Four in the inaugural season of the competition. As Drag Race Down Under becomes part of Drag Race her-story, I sat down with Art Simone to chat about her entire Drag Race experience, her comeback and the response from her fellow competitors and fans, and what the next phase of her career might look like.
Michael Cook: You emerged from a trash bin in a shocking return to the Drag Race Down Under workroom and made it to Top Four. What does it feel like?
Art Simone: It feels great! I am super proud, super happy, and glad that I got to show everyone the type of drag that I do. It was really wonderful.
MC: What was it like emerging from a dumpster of sorts in one of the most unique ways of returning to the Drag Race competition that we have ever seen?
AS: The word to describe it is camp, it was bloody camp! They kept it so under wraps also, production had a full code name for it and everything. I was met in the car park, mic’d up, then hooded and kept in the thing of trash. The only people knowing that I was coming back was the person that mic’d me up and the producer, that was it. The cameraman and everyone on set had been told that a Pit Crew member was going to jump out and scare everyone. It shocked everyone even more when I came out, it was so funny.
MC: Some people had opinions that you should not have been allowed to come back, or that you had an unfair advantage. How do you feel about those opinions?
AS: At the end of the day, there is no rule book for Drag Race. There never has been, there never will be. It’s a television show, Ru makes the rules. I did cop a bit of flack, and it was directed at me when it shouldn’t have been. When you get a call from RuPaul saying “I want you back” you go back. I took that opportunity and I am glad that I didn’t waste it. I am glad that me coming back didn’t take away a spot from someone else. I was waiting the whole season for a double elimination or something to get us back on track for the right amount of numbers; but it never happened. I can at least know that I did not have to sacrifice someone else to be there, which is nice.
MC: You had a number of looks that were ready for you to show, and then you ended up being eliminated. It must have been a comfort to be able to return to show those looks that you were so excited to show off.
AS: Yeah, it was super wonderful. I remember packing up my stuff in the workroom and sobbing as I picked up each thing that I had worked tirelessly with my friends to create. It was the saddest thing in the world, I feel sorry for the poor PA’s who had to watch me do that, it must have been so uncomfortable. It felt really wonderful, I knew I had such unique and fun stuff to share and I am glad that it did get to have its moment on the main stage.
MC: Now that the Drag Race Down Under is in the rearview mirror, where do you think you want to go now? Have there been any “a-ha” moments now that you have seen yourself on television and is there anything different you might want to implement?
AS: Yeah! Walking into Drag Race, it was like “this is it, this is the industry standard as the top thing that you can do as a drag performer”. I definitely walked out of it a little bit lost, dare I say. Since filming the show, I have been given a lot of opportunities in television and media dare I say, and that has been this place where I felt so comfortable and excited and empowered and really energized. I have been working on different tv appearances and productions and things like that. I love being in front of a camera so I think there is gonna be a lot more of that happening, I hope there is a lot more of it happening. I am putting it into the universe now! I think the Australian public really responded to me because I was so authentically Australian; they must want more of me (laughs)!
MC: Drag Down Under can be very shady; it is done with love, but the shade is real. Drag itself is very irreverent, but there were conversations on Drag Race Down Under where race, among other topics, were discussed seriously. How do you as a performer consistently ride the line between staying true to yourself as a performer and the culture that is constantly changing in our world?
AS: I don’t think it is that hard to be honest. I think it’s just being cognizant of the audience and what they enjoy. You don’t really have to alter or sacrifice your morals in order to not offend someone, that is not hard to do. Definitely times are changing, and we all change and we all have done things where we said “oh that was ten years ago”. The fact that we can do that is what makes us better people. We can look back and say “that was wrong and that is why I stopped doing that” or “that could have offended this person and that is why I stopped doing that”. I dont think that it is an issue or a hard thing to do, because without people, drag performers would not have jobs or careers.
You do have to be cognizant of people’s feelings; I don’t think I have ever had to sacrifice my drag artistry on the behalf of someone else. That is the hard thing; dare I say it is a lot of the younger people, they don’t have the concept that some of these things are from a younger time and we have changed. They will pull up things from years and years ago and say “you’re awful” without looking at the ten years of community work, this and that, and everything else that these people do. I think we need to just live in the now; it’s not hard.
Follow Art Simone on Instagram