As one of the names that was most rumored to be cast on the last few seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Ariel Versace certainly had a great deal to prove the moment she hit the workroom. The queens very quickly learned that this self proclaimed “Life Sized Bratz Doll from New Jersey” is much more than an Instagram filter. With looks that were consistently on-brand and a willingness to try things outside of her comfort zone, Versace showed that she was more than prepared for the competition. While she sashay-ed away following a lip synch against Shuga Cain, Versace has plenty more to show her fans post Drag Race. I caught up with one of my favorite fellow Jersey girls to talk about her Drag Race experience, proving the naysayers wrong, and what exactly it was like taking the now viral tumble on the main stage during her lip sync!
Michael Cook: You were one of the girls who was the most talked about to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race for some time. What was it finally like to get into that workroom and really get into the competition after trying out four times?
Ariel Versace: You know, it was just super surreal. There are many girls out there who start doing drag to get on Drag Race or to get a social media following, and that is a common misconception about me. I have been doing drag for six years before I even made it on the show. This is my fourth year auditioning, and I finally got in. Once I got into that workroom I said “I am here to do work and show them while I am here”. The moment you walk in there, you say to yourself “holy shit, this is real-it’s happening”! It’s super exciting, and once you walk through the doors and the cameras are on, you feel that all the hard work has paid off and it is time to work.
MC: Many of the girls knew exactly who you were the moment you walked in the door. Was it intimidating for them to have misconceptions and expectations about you the moment you hit the door?
AV: Oh absolutely. You even heard Mercedes Iman Diamond say “Is that Ariel Versace”? I knew coming into it that some of the girls would know who I was, and I am glad that they did; I was hoping that it meant that they knew that I was someone that they should watch out for. Obviously, I built a name up for myself before Drag Race, so they knew that I was a hard worker. It is definitely hard because these people have these pre-conceived notions about you and you really need to prove that you are not just someone who wants to take a picture. I am a hard working entertainer, I have been doing this for six years, so let me show you why I’m here.
MC: It might be an East Coast trait, but you were extremely honest person with your cast mates and with RuPaul himself, especially where it conceded the personality of your cast mate Silky Nutmeg Ganache. Did you find it easy to be that honest?
AV: Hello, Jersey girl (laughs)! In a situation like this, you want to be honest and it is never good to be fake; you want to be “you” the whole time. What is the point of lying about something you said? You are on RuPaul’s Drag Race and the cameras are on you the whole time, so if I said something I said something. Bitch, if I said you were annoying, I need to own up to it because I said it. I would rather be honest and vocalize how I am feeling that be this fake person lying in the background. Let me just be up front with you, because that is how we do it in Jersey!
MC: You are a big name in the Philadelphia and New Jersey drag scene, but coming into Drag Race, everyone is a big name in their individual cities. What was it like having your established and successful style judged all over again?
AV: I went into Drag Race knowing that I had a name for myself, being comfortable with my drag and the aesthetic that I own, and was ready to kill it; that is not the case. It really is anyone’s game. I went into it thinking that I had a great social media following and was gonna kill it-that was not the case. It is so in the moment, you never know what to expect, and it is not called Drag Race for no reason; the whole thing is a race. It is fast paced, put the petal to the metal or you’re gonna crash.
MC: Speaking of crash-you had a slight stumble on the runway during your lip sync with Shuga Cain that is now going to go down in Drag Race herstory!
AV: Oh no, that was part of the choreography. I am actually an aerialist and they edited out the rope (laughs), I kept thinking that I could slip on the train, and I was actually going to lift up the train while I was lip syncing but I had sewn it on and I wanted to just let it flow. As soon as I started to go down, it was like “I knew it”! It is not the first time that I fell and it won’t be the last. It just happened to be on national television. If I fall in person on the club, at least I am keeping it consistent. At least I had the opportunity to fall on national television, right?
MC: Who were you considering doing for the Snatch Game challenge?
AV: I was either going to do Miranda Sings or Jennifer Coolidge, either one would have been amazing!
MC: There are so many girls from your home state(s) who could absolutely kill it on Drag Race. Who do you think would really be a game changer on Drag Race if they were cast?
AV: There are a lot of girls who I think would kill it on the show. Obviously, I have to shout out Chastity St. Cartier, she is an amazing lip syncer and she can dance, sew, and the paint is definitely good. The only thing about Chastity is that she has a hard time picking up lines and music sometimes, but I also think that would make for amazing television because she gets frustrated so quickly. Chastity is also the queen of popping off also, so there is that. I think Broolyn Ford would be amazing, she is like me. She speaks her mind and is also really visually appealing. I think Iris Spectre would be amazing on the show also. She is an amazing designer and I think she would definitely kill a lip sync. She gets in her head, as do I, and I think she would be mental breakdown Mary in certain situations. All of those things always make good television though!
MC: With Drag Race in the rearview mirror, what is next for you?
AV: Honestly, I have been traveling for the past six years, so I am going to just keep doing the damn thing. This was an amazing platform and I have a full schedule of travel for the next four months, which is an amazing blessing. I have brand deals that I have coming, DragCon is coming up, and I am going to be dropping music. I just have to keep dong what I have been doing for the past six years and keep moving; you have to keep it consistent.
MC: What inspires you to keep being creative and moving forward with your art?
AV: The support that you get from the people, really. That is one of the reasons the I really love social media, I get to talk to people that I don’t really even know. They message me and may say that my drag makes me happy, or they met me and I was sweet and you realize you are someone that people can look up to and you can make them smile. I have been an entertainer my whole life, performing for my parents and grandma in a t shirt dress in the living room, then performing in theater all through high school. Performing is something that I am super passionate about and it is the thing that I always want to be doing. The fact that I get to keep doing it is an absolute blessing.
AV: One last thing: Remember; goodbye is not the same as see you later….