This year’s cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race was one of the most talented yet. Between established queens from the East Coast to Midwestern queens who made it to the top of the competition, both the talent and the drive of the queens this year was virtually unmatched. While this year’s finale was one like we have never seen before, it truly showcased the Top Three queens raw talent and ultra creativity. Midwestern beauty Jaida Essence Hall wrapped up a stunning run on the show by snagging the Season 12 crown, with a killer performance of Ciara’s “Get Up” direct from her apartment and showing queens all over the world, truly what is possible. I sat down with Essence Hall on finale day and we talked about her Drag Race alumni-filled drag family, what she has planned post-crowning, and why her win shows that with hard work and determination, absolutely anything is possible.
Michael Cook: It’s been a very unique experience this year on RuPaul’s Drag Race for all the girls, and mainly much of it is due to the fact that you have not been able to leave your homes.
Jaida Essence Hall: Yeah, it really is. One of the times I went out, I was in a store and someone saw me and said “Season 12, Season 12”! Since we have been in the house, we are not grasping how known we are going to be when we leave the house. It’s so weird.
MC: Now that the experience is over, what do you think your favorite part of the whole Drag Race experience is?
JEH: Honestly, one of my favorite parts of the whole experience was meeting the girls. Going into the show, I thought that it would be a competition, it was going to be a bunch of girls and myself fighting over who would win. Now, we did fight it out to see who would win but we did not necessarily fight with each other to see who would win.
MC: This year is really seemed like a true sisterhood, and ironically, it happened during a year that we all needed to come together.
JEH: Yes, and I literally did not expect that, that was really the last thing I expected. I thought it would be girls with some attitudes and we would have to deal with that, but it really was not like that at all.
MC: The drag family that you come from is an interesting and is filled with Drag Race alumni is that right?
JEH: Yes! It’s crazy, because Milwaukee is not the biggest city. To see Jaymes (Mansfield) make it on the show, and then Trixie (Mattel). I mean, Dida (Ritz) is my drag sister and Mercedes (Iman Diamond) is my drag sister, to see so many people be successful on the show, it was like “when am I gonna get my turn” (laughs)?! Now it finally came.
MC: One of your best qualities on the show was that you were very direct and you say what you mean. Do you think that it was fair in the way that you came across and that you were accurately represented?
JEH: I am very happy with the way that I came across and the way that I was represented. I think that when you leave for the show, you get nervous and hope that people love you and like who you are. Then, I said to myself that people at home, my family and my friends all love me. What I can do to make sure that hopefully people at home will love me is to just be myself. That way, if they don’t like me, at least I know that my family and friends will be “yeah girl”!
MC: You recently were on Facebook live and you were extremely vulnerable about coming up in the drag scene and compared coming up in the scene and not having a lot and how life has changed. It’s a very emotional time for all of us right now; what brought this on for you?
JEH: That was literally after we had watched the episode and they announced the Top Three. I would always go online and do an Instagram live, it was a way for me to stay connected to everyone. I don’t even know what it was, we were just talking about what the show has meant to me and how grateful I am for the fan base. I was talking about how people perceived me before that point and the journey to where they see me now.
MC: How do you think people perceived you?
JEH: People were saying things like “this girl will have pretty dresses, she’s a pageant queen, she’s going to have all these beautiful things that someone made for her”. Literally, the nice things that I had on the show were because growing up, I didn’t have nice things. I had to teach myself how to make nice things. Even when I’m in drag, people will say “oh she’s glamourous”. The glamour is something that I had to teach myself because I was so poor and did not have money to pay people to make things for me. I don’t wish that I had to make my own things, but there was no other way for me to do it. I think that when people look at a queen or sometimes look at other people, they think that they can judge people right away. I think that me being on the show shows people that you don’t have to assume one thing about them. People are a lot deeper than what you see on the surface.
MC: Making it to the Top Three is probably that much sweeter and that much richer for you, since everything you have is based on sheer determination and your own hard work.
JEH: Oh yeah, absolutely. That is one of the things that also made me emotional in that video. If I win, it shows people that hard work pays off. When I started drag, while I may have a drag family now, I had to literally learn how to do my makeup and to sew myself. My boyfriend taught himself how to do hair and jewelry. All so I could have the nice things that other queens had that I could not afford. It was a message to so many people that if you really want something, you can teach yourself how to do it. You can make things happen for yourself, you can make dreams come true. My hard work will show people that right now you may not feel like you are winning in life, but continue to work hard; it will happen for you. I have been doing drag for a very long time now. I did not think and fully believe that this would be a possibility for myself. I said to myself that “the hard work you are doing should not be for nothing. You need to do something to make the hard work you are doing pop and to make it shine”. So I auditioned for the show….
MC: If anyone has learned hard work this year, it is this whole cast. The year has been truly one like we have never seen before.
JEH: Absolutely. This year is the year that I feel that every damn person on the planet was sure that it was going to be a good year. This year, everyone was like “this is my year, we are turning 2020 around”! The year started we were like “look at us”-then it all fell apart (laughs).
MC: What’s next for Jaida Essence Hall post Drag Race?
JEH: You know, I think I want to leave a little bit of room open for myself. Being on the show, I always thought I would be on the show and I would be amazing, but down deep in your mind you think that it never would really happen-and it did. Right now, I definitely want to do some makeup stuff, it only makes sense that if you can yourself “The Essence of Beauty” that you could probably do something beautiful with some beauty products. I wanted leave a slate open for myself, a dream space almost. A space that I thought would never be a possibility and see those things happen. Honestly, I got that idea from Vanjie (former contestant Vanessa Vanjie Mateo dropped by the workroom this season). When she stopped by this season and talked to us she said “when the journey is over, there are going to be so many thing happen for you that you had no idea would even be a possibility; so dream things. Wait to see other things and then dream of those things happening for you because those things will really be possibilities.”. I want to take the opportunity to do exactly that.
MC: What are you doing during this momentary pause in our world to stay creative and to stay motivated? Many have found that to be a challenge.
JEH: You know it is really crazy. The things that I am doing to stay creative are things I am sure that other people have done. I am trying to work on sewing, those kind of things, and things like that that I already do always. I have really being different with social media. Before, I would take a random selfie and throw it on Instagram or Facebook and never really connected with the people that support me through social media. As much as people will say “you come into our house every Friday and you help us through all of this”, literally the supporters have been doing the exact same for us. With this time, I have been trying to find a way to connect with the people who keep me sane through all of this. That is one of the things that I have doing a lot of. I have been doing a lot of Instagram live streams, and bringing a fan onto the live or some of the girls from the show or some of the past girls, and we just have a good time and embrace each other. I’m here for you and you are here for me and we are family. When I do the live streams, I tell people that if you see someone commenting and you like what they are saying, screenshot their name and add them after this live. We are a family and we have to keep each other sane and held up through all of this together.
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