Vanessa “Vanjie” Mateo could not have been more accurate when she got her first look at Plastique Tiara entering the RuPaul’s Drag Race workroom this season; she is “stunning”. Emerging from The Haux of Edwards in Dallas, Texas, Tiara came into the competition with something to prove and as the competition progressed, she did just that. From acting challenges to stunning runway presentations, Tiara started to emerge as a true contender. Now a runway presentation may have ended her time on Drag Race, I somehow think we may be seeing much more of Plastique Tiara. I caught up with her post elimination to talk about her time on the show, her workroom breakdown, and how she feels she has made an impact for the younger LGBTQ community that now look to her for inspiration.
Michael Cook: Your RuPaul’s Drag Race experience is now over , but you had an absolutely stunning run, and definitely made an impact on both the fans as well as your fellow competitors. Looking back, what was the whole experience like?
Plastique Tiara: It was life changing, I have to say. It was something that, going into it, I thought was going to be much different than what it was. Halfway through the experience, I really started to discover a lot about myself. It really helped me to grow, not just as a better drag queen, but as a better person as well.
MC: Is there one part of the experience that really sticks out in your mind as something that you definitely thought would be much different than it ended up being once you got there?
PT: You know, going into the experience, I thought that I was this fully realized person. I had the costume, I had the hair, the makeup; I thought that it would be so easy, but It ’s more than that though. It’s how well you can “snatch” with the judges. I was very happy to have offered queer Asian representation on a worldwide platform and to be able to tell my story. That is something that I think is worth way more than a crown.
MC: Your vulnerability and openness about your family and about being a queer Asian American drag queen was inspiring to all of the fans, and you had a moment with RuPaul himself in the workroom that was very emotional. What has the reaction been like now that everyone got to see that moment that you actually got to experience?
PT: The reaction from the fans has just been amazing. I never intended to break down that hard on national television either. It was a very unexpected, yet vulnerable moment for me. When I started thinking about why I was acting the way that I was, it just bought me back to this place where I felt very badly about myself. I was raised to believe that how I was and what I was feeling was wrong. I spent many years hating myself and just not understanding why I have to be this way. It just brought me back to that place. I actually was ashamed for a little bit because I could not believe that I broke down on national television, I thought that maybe my story would be hard for people to understand because immigrant wise, you can’t write it out or talk it out or translate it to another language; it just has to be lived through. Afterwards though, I had countless messages and stories from people thanking me so much for being the way that I was on Drag Race. It really helped me with my own Asian family. It has really just been amazing for me to connect with so many people worldwide and helping my own community as well.
MC: I think I can safely say that somewhere in the world, there is a little Asian boy watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, even if he is not supposed to be, and he is looking at Plastique Tiara as someone he can look up too.
PT: Exactly. That was me. Growing up, I never had someone like me to look up to. I am very blessed and very thankful to be the way that I am.
MC: Some of your Season 11 sisters have had their own opinions about your journey, and some of them have decided continue their own narrative even after they’ve left the competition. What are you thoughts on that?
PT: You know, during the show I felt like I was friends with everyone, that was my impression. To watch everything back and see how everyone reacted, it was very different for me. As sisters, we all fight. I guess we just have to see at the reunion right?…
MC: Tell me about your single “Irresistible”. The video is visually stunning!
PT: I did the song to pay homage to the confidence that drag has given me. Plastique has helped me so much in my own daily life, because without Plastique I would not have been able to do any of this. I spent so much time worrying and I was scared for such a large time. Doing drag and being on the show really helped me to come out of my shell and taught me that who I am is okay. I just wanted to give back to a community that has supported me along the way.
MC: I suspect that one of the biggest cheerleaders for both your music and your career in general is your drag mother, Alyssa Edwards. I am thinking she was extremely proud of your time on Drag Race?
PT: She was! She is one of my biggest supporters out there. From the beginning, every time she saw me, she would always say “you are always a star”. Growing up, I did not have that. For someone like her, someone that I have idolized for such a long time, to say that to me, it was amazing to say the least.
MC: Speaking of being a star; could we possibly see you on a future edition of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars?
PT: I guess we will have to see…yes, we will definitely have to see about that!
MC: The Plastique Tiara that walked into the Drag Race workroom is most likely remarkably different than the one that walked out the day of your elimination. What would the Plastique that walked out that day go back and tell the one that originally walked in?
PT: To have fun. I had fun after I had my breakthrough in the workroom halfway through the season. Going into it, I just wanted be this prim and proper America’s Next Drag Superstar queen that I think RuPaul will end up crowning me for, rather than just being who I am and really enjoying my experience being there. If I had to say something to the that Plastique, it would be not to worry so much; just have fun. Let them see who you are.
MC: What gives you the most pride as a performer and as a person?
PT: I am a Vietnamese first generation immigrant drag queen who is trying to make her way in the world. What gives me the most pride is being able to share my story. Maybe I can help some people out there who felt like me once upon a time and I can connect with them on their level. Maybe I can tell them that that what they are feeling is totally normal and who they are is fine with me.
(All Art Courtesy of VH1)