Strutting into RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 14 as the very first queen from the state of Michigan, Orion Story was setting the tone for queens from her Midwestern state. While she might have departed the competition early, she has certainly left quite an impression (and checks in with the first wig reveal of the season)! Orion Story is still reveling in her Drag Race experience, and sat down with me to chat about it. While her departure may have been early, Orion is already looking forward to DragCon and has received massive amounts of love from the fans. Orion also spoke with me about gatekeeping in the Michigan drag scene and what it’s like being part of the Season 14 cast.
Michael Cook: Congratulations on an amazing, yet short run on Season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. What is it like to be a part of this once in a lifetime experience?
Orion Story: It is really surreal; you imagine this moment for so many years. I am sure that I am not the only one that feels this way, but you always wonder what your Drag Race experience is going to be like? How far will you make it, what will you do, what will the fans be like? There are so many things that go through your head and now that I am finally experiencing it, I still pinch myself. I may not have had a long run on the show, but I think I made a big impact, just in that one episode.
MC: You are the first queen to come from the State of Michigan. What is it like representing your home state and the flavor of drag that Michigan offers?
OS: It feels great. I think first and foremost I am representing myself. I am really grateful; I have been getting a lot of messages from people who don’t even do drag who are telling me that I have inspired them to follow their dreams, that I made it possible for someone like them to feel like they are not on the back burner since they are from Michigan, or that they are not on the back burner because of where they are from in general. I hope that I can open the doors for other girls in the Midwest and specifically in Michigan. I think there are so many talented girls here, I would love to see some of them on the show. It has been great; there are girls in Michigan bigger than me who may have been talking shit, but the majority have been kind, supportive, and amazing. They are sending me so much love and it feels great. The response that I have been getting has been mostly positive; they have loved my entrance and what I presented so far. I hope I am able to open the doors for more girls around here.
MC: What does Michigan drag offer and what is the distinct style and flavor that it has?
OS: Michigan drag is really rooted in pageantry, that is what I think Michigan is really known for. Lately, a lot more different styles have been coming out of the woodwork, with people doing different styles of drag. Now with me getting on the show, it has really made a lot of people step up their game and work harder. I have had a lot of people tell me that wanted to get on the show and step their game up and do their own thing. I think that I really set a good example for the girls who are not pageant girls. I think that there is a lot of gatekeeping in Michigan; who are the only ones booked in the big shows and the only ones that are “successful”; I am here to say “not really”. I am not a pageant girl myself, I did one pageant once and I don’t see myself doing anymore again. I think I have a very unique style, spin, and viewpoint on drag and I think that is why people are enamored by me; it is because of how unique I am.
MC: Your drag, if I had to choose a word, has a very “fresh” perspective. There is definitely a space for that not just on Drag Race, but in the world of drag in general.
OS: I really appreciate you saying that. I make a lot of my stuff, my entrance look and my runway look that you saw, everything head to toe was made by myself and I take a lot of pride in that. I didn’t make everything that I brought with me, but a lot of it I did. I am grateful that I at least got to show that aspect of myself, how creative I can be. there are a lot of girls who all look the same, not necessarily on my season, just in general. Girls will come out wearing a basic dance costume and just look the same. I always wanted to be sure that I stayed true to my style and aesthetic. Even though it may not be necessarily “vintage”, it has a vintage spin on it. I do a lot of sixties and seventies, but I still want it to be fun, creative, colorful, wild, and crazy.
MC: Drag Race is consistently full of twists and turns, What is it like to be eliminated, but know that there is a twist that could change the game totally?
OS: I think you kind of have to go on the show without expectations; you never know what they are going to throw at you. I kind of expected to meet everyone, then they told us that were doing a talent show and one of us is getting eliminated; that is when you knew it was REAL. They are always trying to throw what they can at you and they are always trying to mix it up. This is Season 14; they are going to come out with some really crazy stuff, and they definitely did that. I was not expecting it.
MC: While you may not have met the other half of your cast during the premiere, it looks like you may actually get to tour with your full cast, something more recent casts have not gotten to do.
OS: I really hope so, and I hope we get to do DragCon also. I went to DragCon LA a couple years ago and I think that is one of the things I am most excited about, to tour and get to do DragCon. To meet the fans, meet people that look up to you, face to face. I am so ecited for the fan art, and really just getting to experience the people that connect with you. I love meeting people and being social and just spreading positivity and being kind. The messages have been great so far, people have been so sweet,. There is obviously a lot of stress that comes with Drag Race, but for everything that is stressful, there is something so much better and that is the fans, It is very hard to have a bad experience at Drag Race, I actually feel like it was therapy for me, You learn so much about yourself when you get on the show, the fans love you and send you all of this love and support, it is very overwhelming. It makes me feel like all of the hard work that I have been putting in for so long is finally paying off.
MC: What are you emerging from Drag Race with in terms of lessons learned from the last year?
OS: It has been one of the hardest years of my life. When I was getting ready for Drag Race, I was moving out of my apartment, so I went to Drag Race homeless. I was struggling with substance abuse issues and my cat is severely diabetic, I just had so much going on. When I got on the show, I was harboring a lot of stuff when I came in. I really had a guard up and the show really helped me let it all go. I dont really take myself too seriously, but it really was like therapy for me. I learned how to have fun. Let everything in the past go and move on from it. I feel like a brand new start for me. I man taking this new year and the season finally starting as “this is the start to the rest of my life”.
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*Editors Note: Following her second elimination from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 14 (after being brought back in a surprise twist) I chatted once again, with Orion Story. Here is that conversation;
Michael Cook: How did it feel to return to the competition in a surprise twist?
Orion Story: It felt really good, it felt correct
MC: Some of your competitors were less than thrilled to see eliminated competitors like you and Daya Betty return. How did that feel to rewatch?
OS: I didnt’ care (laughs). I wasn’t there for them.
MC: When you returned, you got a “mini-Ru-demption” of sorts. What is the one thing you wanted to show the judges and your competitors when you returned to the competition?
OS: I think I wanted to show more of me, my. personality. I think I got to show a little bit of it, but not nearly as much as I had hoped.
MC: You got to tell the viewers and your fellow competitors how much you are influenced by your mother, which helped flesh out not just your drag style, but who you are as a person.
OS: Absolutely. That is really only a small part of my story also. I am so glad I got to share, but there is so much more of me that I didn’t get to share, you know? Drag Race is a stepping stone for me to share even more with people.
MC: If you had had one more week or another challenge, what is something you really wished you go a chance to share?
OS: Some of my runway looks, some of them were really good and I wish I had gotten the chance to share them.
MC: Who were you thinking of doing for ‘Snatch Game’?
OS: I am actually going to keep that one secret, but I will tell you that it was gonna be really, really good; it was a good one (laughs)!
MC: To get to do a challenge for queens that were eliminated first, it was probably surreal to say the least. Did you get to chat with any of the queens that joined that challenge and get any advice at all?
OS: I have become friends with James, we chat here and there and Kimora as well. They have helped put things in perspective for me and given me a lot of advice. You think “I didnt know very well on the show” and having other people go through the same experience and having them talk to me about what they went through, it changes the way you think about things.
MC: What has been the reaction from the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fandom as fans have gotten to know the competitors and you returned and left the show?
OS: I have gotten so much love and the fans have been so amazing. Peopler have been recreating my mushroom look, I have been getting so much fan art, and people have been just so excited to see what I do next. I think that has been really gratifying also, you think about these things on the show and when it happens it really crazy. It is something you spent all this time on and something you worked hard on, these looks, and people are creating fan art and recreating your looks; it just makes it all worth it, you know?
MC: For so many of us, strong women like our mothers or grandmothers are, intentionally or not, a massive influence on who we are. What is the one thing that you think is a trait of your mother than in turn, has become a huge part of your drag persona?
OS: There are a lot of things, but I would say my humor and just being kind. That is one thing that she always instilled in me, just be a good person, don’t be an asshole (laughs). Especially in drag, I think that is one of the biggest things that I try and do, meeting the fans you are setting the tone. I have had a lot of people that even when I had responded to their message, they thanked me and told me how much I had helped them. Even just a simple sentence can completely change someone’s life.