Art Simone came into RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under with high expectations from the fandom, but even higher ones from herself. While the drag veteran (and star of WOW Presents Plus show Highway To Heel) has left the competition, she still has plenty to share with the legion of Drag Race Down Under fans. I caught up with Simone and she weighed in on the relationship with her Drag Race sisters and why for her, drag is about “making the smallest person in the room feel the best.”
Michael Cook: You have now rocketed the Australian slang phrase “I’m Not Here To Fuck Spiders” into the worldwide lexicon, as you used uttered it when you walked into the workroom.
Art Symone: Yes (laughs)! The phrase is really ingrained in our culture, we all know what it means. It just means “I’m not here to fuck around.”
MC: You had a fantastic, but too short run on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. Tell me about your run on the show…
AS: Hard and fast (laughs)! It was fabulous, it was…a shock. It still is a shock, I am still processing it. I thought it was a fever dream, and now I am here doing press, so it’s like “nope it really happened”. To say I am a bit disappointed would be an understatement still, but it was really fun. I am grateful that the show is finally here because I have been rallying for so many years for a spotlight on Australian drag. We have some of the most talented drag queens in the world here, and it finally happened. I am so grateful for that, and for the next generation and what it means in front of the world and on the world stage; it is so exciting.
MC: You had a very large fan following, the largest on your entire cast actually, in terms of social media followers. You also had the WOW Presents PLUS show Highway To Heel. When you decided to do Drag Race Down Under, was there any hesitation at all since you already had made such a name for yourself in the industry?
AS: You know, I was really in two minds. Originally when I was asked to audition, I said no. Because of my fear of exactly what happened (laughs). I had so much to live up to so if something went wrong, it was going to be devastating. There was no question that I was going to do it though; I had been fighting for us to have this for so long, it would have been stupid for me not to be a part of it.
MC: Aussie drag is so deliciously shady, and that is reflecting in the interactions between the queens on Drag Race Down Under. Do you find the drag there to be ultra “shady” from your own perspective?
AS: It has been a very interesting thing, seeing how the people overseas react to how we interact with each other. I think one thing people may not know is that we all knew each other. The banter you are seeing is the banter you would see between friends. Banter you would see backstage, we all know each other and it is all playful and fun. There is no nastiness behind it whatsoever. Australia is big geographically, but it is a very small community. The girls we had on this season are all professional drag queens that have been working for many years. We all knew each other and knew of each other, so that really opened us up to being able to have some fun and play with each other. There is definitely no nastiness, so I was really taken aback when I saw that people thought that we were being mean. Oh no, you haven’t seen mean (laughs)….If this is mean, you are going to be shocked when you actually see one of us tearing someone to threads.
It was very much all playful banter. I think it really opened up a different dynamic that had never been on Drag Race before and I think that is really exiting. This is a group of friends that are all fighting for the same thing, but there is an undeniable history and love between us. We know everyone else’s story, we have mutual friends. I think it is a very different dynamic but I think it is exciting to see how it plays out.
MC: How did Art Simone start in drag?
AS: I started in high school through makeup, I didn’t like who I was as a teenager, and having the ability to change that with makeup and hair was a really exiting thing to me. I was really obsessed with horror movies and scary things and that was my gateway into my mum allowing me to purchase makeup. It was like “I’m going to do this skull makeup, so I really need this eyeliner“. Meanwhile, I am putting on big cat eyes, fierce brows, and chucking a glitter lip on. It just evolved from that, going from the visual side of it to the performance and getting up on stage.
MC: What do you want to do next, now that the Drag Race Down Under part of your journey is over.
AS: Well don’t worry, I will be showing my looks online, and they are some bloody good ones! I have a new one-woman show called Art Therapy. At the moment due to Covid restrictions, it is a show that I do for only one woman at a time, so it is going to take a while (laughs). Eventually, we will be going around. I didnt have time to write a book, so I am just going to be releasing a book cover; that way you can put it over any other book that you’re reading. I have a lot of exciting things coming (laughs)! Hopefully when these borders open and we get our jabs we can go and frolic among the international people also!
MC: When do you think you as a performer and person, feel the most authentically you?
AS: When I have a microphone in my hand and I get to talk to a room full of people. That is when I feel at home, in control, and when I feel that I can feel special. That is all that I strive to do with drag. It is about uplifting the smallest person in the room rather than making yourself feel like the best person there. I started drag and it was a way for me to express myself because I was unhappy with who I was. Once I got through that, I realized that I had the power to make the smallest person in the room feel the best; they are the people that you need to uplift. That is why they leave the house and come to a drag show. There are a lot of drag performers who think that it is all about them and all about them feeling the fantasy, that is just not me. The stage with a mic is when I feel at home and I can do the best in the world.
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