From the moment Etcetera Etcetera walked into the workroom, she’d already made Drag Race herstory…as the first queen to enter the competition dressed as a cockroach.
While Etcetera didn’t survive until the end like an actual cockroach, she did make it far in the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, ultimately placing seventh. She never won a maxi challenge, but she was never in the bottom two, either — that is, until her yeast spread challenge failed to impress the judges, and she was found lip-syncing for her life against the legendary Maxi Shield.
Etcetera spoke with NewNowNext about her cockroach couture, the backlash to her Lindy Chamberlain Snatch Game, and bringing more nonbinary representation to the Drag Race franchise.
First off, I need to ask you about that the lip-sync. I think it was my favorite of the season so far. It was just so joyous! What was going through your mind while you were lip-syncing?
Oh, I mean, “Absolutely Everybody,” I’m not sure how well you know that song in the States, but that is an Australian drag queen standard. That’s the number at the end of the night, when the audience wants one more song. Getting to perform that with Maxi Shield — a drag legend, an icon, and someone that I’ve known for many, many years since I started drag — it literally felt like we were just back on the stage at our local bar. There was a room full of drunk yobos in the audience, and we were just saying, “All right, we’ll put on a show for them. We’ll put on a fucking show.” So it really was the best way to go out, to be honest, to be able to perform a song like that.
Did you notice that Maxi had pulled out a microphone, and that’s why you started doing the splits?
Oh, well the sneaky bitch… Every week, she’d be in the bottom, she kept it somewhere on her fucking outfit. She had it there, just waiting for when she’d have to lip-sync, because she was, “I’m not going to be dancing or not going to be doing all that. So I’m going to have to pull out a couple of tricks.” So I knew she was going to pull out a microphone. I knew it was coming. And to be honest, I performed that song like I always perform it, whether I’m on Drag Race or whether I’m at my local bar. And I wanted it to do it that way. I wanted to do it in a way where I could watch it back and be, “Yeah, that’s me performing on a stage.” Because that’s all I can do. All you can do is be yourself.
Were you surprised when you were asked to sashay away?
No, I was actually a little bit elated. I was really homesick at that point. I was really, really homesick. I missed my family. I missed my friends. I missed my partner. I, honestly, was in that competition, and it was stretching me to my limits. And I think you can see that watching the season. I’m not sure if I was 100% ready for a show like Drag Race. Obviously, being the youngest of the cast, I’d never done anything that monumental before. And it felt like the right time [to leave], when I was there. I wasn’t storming off backstage being, fuck this shit, I deserve to stay, blah, blah, blah. I expected it. I was like, Fair enough. I guess this is my time. And also, I was sent home by Maxi Shield, an Australian legend. If a legend sends you home, you can’t complain. You can’t say shit. You just have to go, “Well, fair enough.”
That’s a good way to look at it. So, after the reading challenge, the girls were talking about people being shady. Who do you think is the shadiest queen on the cast?
Oh, good question. To be honest, I think the shadiest queen is Jojo Zaho because she went home first, and made the rest of us go through the rest of it all alone. She was also very shady in that first episode. If she’d stuck around, she would’ve gotten some good zingers in. I understand what people were saying, saying I was the shadiest. Well, sure, give it to me, lay it on me. But at the end of the day, I was honest, and I said it to all of their faces. I wasn’t saying it behind their back. And I don’t think that makes me shady; I just think that makes me a bitch. And I accept that.
In the first episode, you came in dressed as a cockroach, but that wasn’t your first time dressed as a cockroach, right?
Oh, I’ve been dressing as a cockroach all my life. I really have. I started as a cockroach because it represented something about me as an outsider, and about the drag I wanted to do. And I just wanted to cause a bit of a commotion. It’s just been a character that’s stuck with me, with my drag, because a lot of people have tried to tear me down or say shit about me or cause a commotion. And at the end of the day, I will always survive. You can’t kill a cockroach, and no matter what people are trying to do to me, I’m still here. I’ll be here until the end — me and Cher. Just Cher and cockroaches.
And Etcetera, Etcetera. It’s also about my name. Etcetera, Etcetera — it goes on and on and on and on. Doesn’t stop, it’s a continuation. All my drag is about changing, evolving, moving forward, and just being there forever. I’m going to be here forever. Mount me on the wall.
Speaking of walls, did you really lick that wall in the workroom?
I absolutely did. I said, “I am here. I am claiming my space. I’m going to leave my saliva on the poster board,” and look, it didn’t do much good. I wasn’t there until the end, but no one went near the wall.
Do you remember what it tasted like?
It actually tasted like happiness, I think. It tasted like happiness and a little bit of sweat.
Moving onto Snatch Game, has there been any backlash to your Lindy Chamberlain?
Oh, I think we’ve all seen the backlash in the media, but I had so many people reaching out to me saying that it was their favorite Snatch Game, that it was hilarious, that it was funny. Humor is always going to be divisive, especially dark humor and especially things that poke at, I suppose, the horrors in our cultural psyche. Like, the case of Lindy Chamberlain was a horrific case, but it became a cultural phenomenon. It became this thing where Meryl Streep was playing her in movies, and it was on Seinfeld and even The Simpsons. I mean, I didn’t really look like Lindy Chamberlain. I looked like Meryl Streep did in the movie. I was playing a version that they embedded in our cultural psyche. And I think it’s important to resurface those things and to comment on them and to bring them up into pop culture again because it started the conversation, and a bunch of people who never would’ve known who Lindy Chamberlain was, what her story was, suddenly became aware of that. And I think that’s important. I understand some people were upset by it, and I accept that. They are totally valid in that feeling. Everyone’s entitled to their own feelings and beliefs, but I think it’s also important to keep drag toeing the line a little bit, keep it edgy, keep it on the side of dark humor, and taking risks.
With your yeast spread infomercial, do you think you went too far with the piss? I feel it’s hard when you want to push it for the judges, but then sometimes they can be like, “Nope, you went too far.”
Oh, look, to be honest, I was going to go further. I was going to make the pit crew pretend to piss in my mouth and drink it, so I’m glad I didn’t do that. Drag is filthy. If you look at Divine and Leigh Bowery and at all these iconic drag artists, who are pretty much mainstream in a certain era of time, especially for queer identity. These people have pushed the line in terms of what is too far or not too far. I mean, on [Drag Race] Season 7, they had the challenge where Fame and Violet ate dog shit off the ground, and that wasn’t too far. So I think it’s interesting how cultural context shifts and changes. I think it wasn’t too far. And I think that Australian audiences will find it funny. If you’re talking about going out, having a drink or getting drunk, we’d say you’re on the piss. And so I was channeling that whole energy. But I think Ru just didn’t find it funny. And, I mean, at the end of the day, she is the one that runs the show.
What are your thoughts about Art returning to the competition?
Look, Art Simone is an Australian drag legend. She’s incredible. She’s an incredible drag queen. I certainly was shocked. The one thing to say is, you better bring it. I mean, she better give it a go and prove that she deserves to comes back. That’s all I have to say about that.
You’re nonbinary, so you join other nonbinary Drag Race legends like Bimini Bon Boulash and Gigi Goode. How does that feel?
To be honest, it’s really nice to give more representation to nonbinary identity. Even though we have had some amazing representation on Drag Race, a lot of people have still come to me and said, “This is the first time I’ve heard someone talking about their nonbinary identity, or this is the first time I really paid attention.” And that, to me, is really important. I mean, for me, being able to inspire young trans and nonbinary people around the world, being able to provide visibility, being able to show that nonbinary people come in all different types, and showcase other trans artists as well, is something that I’m really passionate about. In my mind, that’s the most valuable part about Drag Race for me.