By West Village Bill
Providence in midtown was filled to the rafters with drag queens and the queers who love them: It was a party for the season finale of RuPaul's Drag Race.
Before the winner was crowned on the Logo network on the big-screen TVs and then again on stage, by season 1 winner BeBe Zahara Benet, I was part of a QNY team who got to talk to the three finalists—Manila Luzon, Alexis Mateo, and Raja—and some of the other season 3 contestants. (The winner will be revealed after the jump, so if you recorded the show but haven't watched it yet, sashay away. For now.)
For much of the season, I've been rooting for New York's own Manila Luzon. Originally from Minneapolis, Manila lives in Harlem with her boyfriend of five years, season 2's Sahara Davenport. "I love Harlem," Manila said. "It's out of the way but still in Manhattan, so you can catch a cab." And it's still inexpensive, she said, though it may not last that way, what with the million-dollar condos going up.
Manila said her favorite look from the show was her pineapple dress. "It's so me," she said. Last night, she was showing "Queen Elizabeth II realness."
Moments after I took this photo, Manila complained that the lighting was bad in that part of the room and so was relocated to a spot that had been reserved for Alexis, who hadn't yet arrived at the press meeting area. And that's why we love her! Actually, I loved her because she always put on a fantastic runway show and transformed herself into a beautiful yet often charmingly quirky Filipino princess.
Alexis Mateo, who grew up in Puerto Rico, said she first visited New York during the taping of RDR, but it all went by so fast, she didn't have a chance to see the city. Two nights ago, she got to see Times Square and described it as "Las Vegas and Puerto Rico together."
I asked Alexis why she thought she made it to the final three, and she said she exemplified the four CUNT-y qualities RuPaul says on every episode that America's next drag superstar should possess: charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. She noted that the three finalists had each won three of the challenges and so all deserved to be there at the end.
Alexis said she's pondering a move to New York or Los Angeles from Florida and wants to keep performing. "I'm still young despite what Shangela says," she said.
Raja, who was named the winner, is an LA doll but lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for two years. She met a guy in Provincetown and moved to the city to live with him. After they broke up, she moved back to California about a year ago.
When questioned by QNY's Riot, Raja said she'd probably live on the Lower East Side rather than in Brooklyn if she ever moved back to the city and said her favorite New York bar is the Stonewall Inn. She said she prefers the West Village over Chelsea as a nighttime destination and would rather hang out in a piano bar than Gym Sportsbar. Suck on that, Chelsea! Ha!
Raja said she didn't think she was going to make it to the final three, figuring the judges would see her as "too weird." But she decided she wouldn't censor herself and would keep doing what she always does, which is "fuck with people."
Asked what her favorite look was, Raja said, "The tribally look." She said that was the first challenge that allowed the contestants to do whatever they wanted for the runway and she was considering three different outfits. She said she thought, "How do I fuck with them but still look beautiful?" Other girls, whom she declined to name, were shocked at her appearance, she said, and asked what the fuck she was doing as they were heading out for the judging.
After the show aired* at Providence and Raja was revealed to be the winner, she gave a short but sweet speech after being handed the microphone by season 2 and 3 contestant Shangela, who was the emcee for the first part of the night's festivities. The show had finished taping last August, Raja said, and she cried again when she saw her name being announced as the winner. She said it felt like coming out again, only instead of being out as a gay man, she was relieved to finally be able to come out as America's next drag superstar.
Condragulations to Raja!
I'll post on more of the night's festivities, including interviews with Shangela, Mariah, and Yara Sofia, in a little while.
*The feed cut out at Providence about 45 minutes into the show, just after Alexis said that the only queen she wanted to punch in the face throughout the production of the show was Manila. The TVs all went black for a while and then showed that someone was trying to select Logo, channel 155. But even though channels 154 and 156 were working fine, 155 wouldn't come in. The humanity! Eventually, the show came back on, but it was starting over at the very beginning. The crowd chanted "Fast-forward!" Finally, at 11 o'clock, the show was fast-forwarded to a couple of minutes before it had cut off.