DeJa Skye’s RuPaul’s Drag Race journey showcased her stunning lip sync talents, and had her making herstory by not just winning ‘Snatch Game’, but by having her watch the remainder of the cast land in the bottom, forcing them to lip sync against each other. While she departed alongside fellow competitor Jorgeous, this beloved queen has plans as big as her shoulder pads for the future. I sat down to chat with DeJa about her Drag Race journey, why she thought she may not be cast on the show to begin with, and how she plans to merge her love with cheer competition, mentoring & coaching kids, and drag.
Michael Cook: Your season on RuPaul’s Drag Race showed you doing everything from winning ‘Snatch Game’ to killing lip syncs to having fans everywhere fall in love with you. What does it feel like now that the experience is in the rearview mirror?
DeJa Syke: It means a lot; I never thought that I would ever be on the show, so the fact that I made it this far and I was proud of what I did, I felt content. In fact, I was more than content, I am damn proud of myself!
MC: What made you think that you would never be on RuPaul’s Drag Race?
DS: You know, at one point in my career I thought it was more who you knew. I was from a small town and thought that no one knew who I was, that was where my mindset was at the time. I was optimistic, but I was also realistic. I didn’t really know anyone, there was no one to vouch for me, so I had to just go into it with myself and my talent. That did it; third times the charm.
MC: You definitely showed that you didn’t need anyone to vouch for you, and you truly rose to the top of the competition a number of times. The secret to your success seemed to be to lay low and really showcase what you could do at the perfect time.
DS: Absolutely. I told myself “what is one episode”? I didnt make it to the finale, but I’ll still be there. I think that I was a big personality, but I wasn’t an overwhelming personality. I was very much that voice of reason that was in the room also. I was the one who kind of kept things on track; if I can alleviate stress and drama, then I have done my job!
MC: You won ‘Snatch Game’ this season, and it was like nothing else we had seen in the past. You won the challenge (portraying Lil’ Jon) while all of your fellow competitors ended up lip syncing against each other. What was that like?
DS: Going into ‘Snatch Game’, I had so many preconceived notions about who was going to be strong and who wasn’t, it completely flipped. ‘Snatch Game’, and Daya Betty specifically, we were the ones stressing out and dreading it the entire season. Going into it and seeing what was taking place, it was like “Huh? How does that make sense”? I think the best thing that I did was to go into it with a nonchalance and more or less like, it if lands and if it doesn’t, I had tried my best. And hello, it worked.
MC: So many people go into Drag Race and emerge as a stand out queen in one aspect of the competition or the other, be it lip syncing, acting, or just being a beloved queen. You have come out of the show being beloved for everything from your on-stage talents, as well as your off-stage personality. What does that feel like?
DS: I think that I have a lovable personality so in that sense I really hoped that people would like me. I just didn’t expect to have so many “titles”. I mean, I know that I am a strong lip syncer, I just didn’t expect that day one, from RuPaul, to call me a “lip sync assassin”. I never, ever thought that I would get top anything for ‘Snatch Game’. These are literally titles that people will remember. When they think of Season 14, I won’t be a queen that they forget. They will remember me as a queen that will be “oh yes, Deja was this or that”. That is what I am excited about.
MC: When did you decide that drag was going to be the passion and career that you followed?
DS: My first time performing, I got the bug immediately. I would go out looking like a sweaty, greasy, ugly mess in the club and I would just dance on the dance floor. I was approached to do a show and I took it very seriously. I had my two girlfriends backup dance for me, we had full choreography, all of it. When I did it and got such positive feedback, I said “this is what it is”. I am the type of person, I tend to do things for other people. I have coached, and I am a choreograher for cheer and dance. I do for that for the girls, and drag has been an outlet for me that I could do “me” in and be completely happy with what I do. It also encompasses every creative outlet that I have. I can dance, I used to draw when I was younger so that is good for makeup; it kind of encompasses every creative outlet that I have found. I can also be as flamboyant as I want; who doesn’t love a drag queen?
MC: What is something that you have learned during your Drag Race experience that you are able to impart onto the kids that you teach?
DS: You know I learned to stop overthinking things a lot of the time and just go with the flow. Sometimes, I have a tendency to do what I say and not what I do. In my own mindset, every day I kept telling myself “que sera sera, whatever will be will be. Whatever is for me, will be”. That is the positive mindset that gave myself every single day. I tried to just implement that in general also. Maybe yesterday I had messed up and felt down about that, but there is always another day and another time. First and foremost, it is about making yourself proud. I understand as a coach they want to make me proud, but just seeing the light and seeing how much they enjoy what they are doing…I would have for me to make someone feel like they hate going to practice or feel like “I dont want to do this anymore”. That doesn’t happen and it is because I have that tactic of just “be proud of yourself. You are already making me proud, now it is time to make yourself proud. Dance for you and your teammates of course, but dance for you”. That is how you are going to succeed. And also, stop focusing on other people. Don’t focus on other people all of the time. Are you doing the damn thing? Keep it up!
MC: What is next for you post Drag Race Season 14?
DS: I want to reap the rewards of being a Ru-girl. I want to tour, some things are planned. I want to travel and meet the world, meet my fans and my supporters, and I want to gain even more fans. I think being on this season you have an equal opportunity to create even more fans. I think once the season is over, people will respect you for you and love you for you, as opposed to not liking you because you were in the bottom one episode or didn’t do well at something. I think the fans will just love you and respect you. Something else I would like to get off the ground eventually is Deja’s Cheer Camp. The cheer world and the drag world are huge worlds, but they almost never collide, and I am like “why not”? I want it to be primarily with youth, since that is who I primarily work with. I think it could be something that could really take off and it is something that I could see myself doing for a while. So why not see if I can make my two favorite worlds be as one?
MC: What do you think that your own drag reveals about who you are?
DS: Being Deja reveals that I am not afraid of emotion any longer; I used to have a guard up. When I put on Deja, I don’t become anybody else. I don’t put on a character, Im not a character drag queen. When I put on Deja, it is just an extension of myself. When I look in the mirror, I still see Willie; I still see myself. With drag, it made me confident in just being a human being. It wasn’t that false confidence when you are little bit younger and you want to please everyone and you want everyone to like you. Deja really taught me to trust myself fully and don’t live life with regrets. My integrity is everything for me. I may not have the crown, but I still have my integrity and I played the game how I would have played it.
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