RuPaul’s Drag Race has always been in the business of breaking barriers, but this year they took on a very new and very relevant one, with the casting of the first Muslim queen, the astonishingly stunning Mercedes Iman Diamond. Dripping in jewels, Diamond strutted into the Drag Race workroom and looked poised to be one of the biggest contenders of the season. While her elimination on the runway was only weeks into this season, her lip sync talents were showcased several times, showing that she has the chops to go head to head with many of the more seasoned ladies on her cast. I caught up with Diamond post elimination to talk about her Drag Race experience, what it was like being the first Muslim queen ever to appear on the show, and she spills the tea on her viral and “Opulent” meme!
Michael Cook: How does it feel looking back on your RuPaul’s Drag Race experience now that it’s over? You must have some amazing memories of it now.
Mercedes Iman Diamond: Absolutely. I keep thinking back to that first runway walk we did on the main stage. I did not believe that I was there. I was literally like “Mercedes, you made it. This is real, you are not watching it on television”. It was not a dream, it was everything.
MC: You were the first Muslim queen to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race. What did that feel like to be a true trailblazer?
MID: You know, I had to make a decision about coming out as a Muslim person on the show and on camera. At the end of the day, it was my decision to be open and to be public about myself; about being Muslim and gay. If my family loves as who I am, then they will and that is fine. If it can help one other person out there struggling with the same issues than that is fine. Some have reached out to me and thanked me for speaking on the issue.
MC: So the fans response to you coming out as Muslim has been overwhelmingly positive?
MID: Oh my God! it has been amazing, beautiful, positive, and lovingly supporting. So many Muslim people are messaging me to tell me that while I did not win the competition, I won their hearts. When I was reading some of the messages, I just sit there and cry. it is so touching to get messages from teenagers thanking me and telling me that I won their hearts. I am so happy that I talked about it, because I gave them hope.
MC: There are a number of thing that we will remember your Drag Race run from, but your performance in the acting challenge and your now famous “Opulence” dance is definitely going to be one of them. You are one of the newest queens of the memes!
MID: (Laughs) I know! I was not expecting that to happen, and I almost didn’t watch the episode at all. I had to actually host a viewing party with Monique Heart that night and after that part aired, Monique looked at me and said “Mercedes, can you say Opulence”; Everyone loved it! She told me it would be the meme, and she was right! Queens like Aquaria, Bianca Del Rio, Ongina, and Laganja all tweeted about it and Adam Joseph even made a specialized bitch track to it. He messaged me and wanted me to hear it and I was like “that’s my voice”! I may have messed it up, but it became a positive and I am enjoying it and loving it.
MC: Some of your runway looks were absolutely striking; who were you going to do for the Snatch Game challenge?
MID: I had a couple ideas in mind for Snatch Game. I was going to do Aaliyah, and even though many may not recall her now, I learned her songs when I was learning English. I looked up to her growing up so much. The other person would have been Cardi B; I would have had to make fun of myself, but it would have been amazing.
MC: What is next for Mercedes Iman Diamond now that Drag Race is in the rearview mirror?
MID: I do have a little project that I am working on that I will be announcing shortly. I am also touring all over, and will be at DragCon, both Los Angeles and New York City. I am going to be there and opulent (laughs).
What would the Mercedes of today tell the Mercedes that walked into the workroom on the very first day?
Ooooohh I have a lot to tell her, so much to tell her! I would ask her why she was so quiet? That’s not you girl, you are not a quiet person. You are fun and bubbly person, but you were so shy. I realized the reason she was so shy, is that she did not want to be the villain or the bitch. She is the first Muslim to grace RuPaul’s Drag Race and she did not want people to look at her as the first Muslim contestant and a bitch. She chose to be a little bit distant and quieter, and do what she was there for. Now, if the call comes for All Stars, I will be dropping that before I hit that workroom, that I can tell you!
RuPaul’s Drag Race airs Thursday nights on VH1 (check local listings)