As one of the standouts on Glee (and prior to that, Sesame Street), Jenna Ushkowitz was practically born on the stage. As she took to the RuPaul’s Drag Race main stage on Secret Celebrity Drag Race, the actress now known as Milli Von Sunshine fully inhabited her stunningly fierce drag persona. I sat down to chat with this Secret Celebrity Drag Race standout and we chatted about her Drag Race experience, the interesting personal twist that made her experience that much more meaningful, and what drag truly means to her.
Michael Cook: With the departure of Milli Von Sunshine from RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race, you get a break from lush lashes and sky high hair. What was the experience like?
Jenna Ushkowitz: It was wild!
MC: From shows like Sesame Street and of course Glee, the preparation for hair, makeup and performance definitely is amplified on a show like Secret Celebrity Drag Race, is that fair to say?
JU: Definitely. Glee was definitely a precursor and helped prepare me, but not to this extent (laughs)! This is a whole new level of layers, of everything! Glitter, diamonds, everything (laughs)!
MC: What was the experience like for you to have the opportunity to inhabit Milli Von Sunshine?
JU: It truly was one of the most fun things that I have ever done. It is just so out there and yet such an art form. I have to say, I was just newly pregnant as well. I was in my first trimester, I found out right before I started. I was about nine weeks pregnant and I was…ill (laughs). it is a fun story to share with her though, that is for sure.
MC: Were you a fan of Drag Race prior to becoming an official Ru-girl?
JU: I was. I didn’t watch religiously and I was not an avid watcher, but I was aware of the universe that Ru has created. I love drag, the art form, and everything that it stands for and the impact that it has. I was just so thrilled when I was offered to do this.
MC: With your own background, participating in Secret Celebrity Drag Race seems like such a natural fit. From Sesame Street to Glee, your background seems to definitely seem like being in the spotlight and in front of the camera comes almost effortlessly. Has it always been that way?
JU: Yeah I think so. I have been performing for a very young age in front of a camera since the age of three. With singing and dancing came training, and just loving class, being around people and other kids who loved it as well. Performing on Broadway at nine is when I fell deeply in love with theater. Between performing on Broadway multiple times and being on Glee, this was totally in my wheelhouse and really felt like a no-brainer and sounded really fun. You add the other elements on top of it, and it was so challenging, it definitely felt like I had an edge over some of the other contestants due to my background in dance, performance, and all of the training that I had done.
MC: When you walked in did the Queen Supremes look at you and think “oh this one is going to be one of the people to beat” based on your experience?
JU: The choreographers were just so excited to be able to play with people that were able to pick it up very fast, and the experience itself was very fast. I think they were like “great, she’s go this we don’t have to worry about her” (laughs)!
— RuPaul's Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) August 13, 2022
MC: Glee was such a moment in pop culture. and was a landmark show for the LGBTQ community. When you were in the snow globe known as the Glee experience did you realize it? How do you look back on the experience now?
JU: We were definitely in a bubble. A lot of the time, especially in the beginning of the early seasons, I don’t think we realized the kind of impact we had. Especially Chris Colfer, I don’t think there was that general awareness to the nth degree of what that was at the time. Looking back now, in the Obama era when gay marriage was being legalized and not seeing that many gay couples on tv kissing and talking about hard issues…That is also a testament to Ryan Murphy and his upbringing and experiences that he and the writers brought to the show. I don’t think we realized until much later that it really was a moment in time.
MC: What are you taking from the Secret Celebrity Drag Race that you are going to take into your future career endeavors?
JU: Having experienced a lot of the aspects of this competition before in terms of performing and dancing in front of an audience and confidence building, I think the drag element was so specific. It is so true, “if you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love someone else”. I think for me, taking away and bringing out my inner self and elevating her even more, even the scariest part, just embracing that and your identify and what makes you so unique, is something that I am going to be able to take away.
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