TV

Jiggly Caliente: “Janet Jackson Has Never Been Justified on ‘Drag Race'”

"I've already got RuPaul's attention. I know I'm a bad bitch."

You can call her Jiggly, Miss Caliente if you’re nasty.

Jiggly Caliente has been a legend since she originally competed on Season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, ultimately being sent home by Willam. It’s been a few years since she last sashayed into the workroom, but Jiggly finally made it back on set for Drag Race All Stars Season 6.

In the most recent episode, the queens’ sewing skills were put to the test when they were asked to show three different looks in the Blue Ball. Jiggly landed in the bottom two, and after Ra’Jah O’Hara and Brooke Lynn Hytes were both declared winners in the lip-sync, Jiggly was sent packin’.

It’s been a few years since Jiggly’s last appearance on Drag Race, but the New York-based queen has kept busy. She was a regular cast member on the Emmy-winning FX series Pose, and she came out as trans in 2016.

Jiggly spoke with NewNowNext about returning for All Stars, why she doesn’t need RuPaul’s attention, and why she thinks Janet Jackson has “never been justified on Drag Race.”
 

First off, you finally made it on All Stars! What took so long?!

I mean, she’s been busy. I was in a thing called Pose. It’s good to be back on, and I’m a firm believer of when it’s time it’ll happen. So I guess this was the right time at the right moment. Of course, in the height of a pandemic, that’s when God decides to put my ass on Drag Race.

I know this was filmed a while ago now, but can you take me back to what was going through your mind before you walked into that workroom?

Why the fuck am I doing this again? Am I a glutton for punishment or what? I’m going to get ripped by Michelle. Why am I doing this? That was the one thought that definitely crossed my mind as I’m about to walk through the doors and then I’m like, what is my line again?

And it’s such a strong crop of queens.

Yeah. It was really amazing to be part of this cast. Walking in and seeing all the girls, and the first person I see is Eureka and I was like, oh, bitch. And then all the girls just kept coming in. And then I was like, that’s a lot of hoes. When we got to nine we were like, one more bitch, one more bitch. And then after the 10th girl, another bitch walked in. I was like, oh Lord!

But it must have been nice to see Ginger, right?

That felt great because that’s family. And to see a friend, somebody I’m close with, that felt really good to me. I felt at home.

So, in the first episode, you had to do the reading challenge and then the talent show…

The reading challenge, that is a cakewalk!

How about the ball challenge? You had to show three different looks. What was going through your mind while coming up with each outfit?

Usually in All Stars, the ball is at the end. That’s how the thing goes. I didn’t realize that they were going to do this in the beginning. As soon as I found that out, I was like, oh fuck my life. I know I can style myself and I have creativity, but not in the manual sense. I can tell people what I want and how it should look, but not actually do it myself. I’m a princess. My hands — do you see these nails? They don’t do manual labor. You’re lucky I do dishes.

So were you surprised that you were in the bottom?

You know, I want to say yes, but yeah…no, bitch. I’m a realist, so when I knew I had to make an outfit I was like, oh, I got to figure out a way how to talk my way out of this, that is what I know how to do, talk my way out of something, but not this situation.

What about the scene in Untucked, where you’re in the parking lot and you’re talking about how you’re frustrated that you can’t lip-sync for yourself and save yourself? What was going on in that moment?

It frustrates me because in All Stars, your fate is not in your hands. It’s in the hands of bitches that want the spot as much as you do, if not more sometimes because these girls are desperate for RuPaul’s attention. I’ve already got RuPaul’s attention. I know I’m a bad bitch, do you know what I mean? Ryan Murphy has my name on his phone. I’m not desperate for attention, but in this situation where I can’t even fight for myself and I always feel like the sidekick of all my friends, it sucks to not be able to fight your way to show them your worth. And it’s just like you just have to talk to them. I can show you what I’m capable of when you put me on that stage, not when you have to put me with a sewing machine. Do you know what I mean? That’s not my strength. And realistically, I don’t think that will ever be my strength. I’m just a diva. I said it the first season: Beyonce doesn’t sew shit, and neither does Jiggly. Same energy.

But it was such a good Janet lip-sync. It looked like you were living your life during it.

I was. Okay, so low key, I have been saying this forever, Janet Jackson has never been justified on the RuPaul’s Drag Race stage. That’s only because I haven’t been able to do it. And honestly, the only two queens that can do Janet Jackson right are Coco Montrese and myself. And how do you do “Miss You Much” and not do an ounce of the choreo? That is such missed opportunity. There is so much amazing choreography with Janet Jackson, but they didn’t do it when they did this, they didn’t do it when they did “Nasty.”
 

So you’re saying that you would do a better Janet lip-sync?

Oh, yes. If I had to fight my way back with a Janet lip-sync, trust and believe. The choreography for “Miss You Much,” I know that like the back of my hand. It’s easy. That’s why it was super frustrating because I know the song. That was a tease. How do you do that to somebody? Like, here’s your way to free yourself, here’s the key, but you’re not going to get the chance to use it.

You mentioned it before, but being part of Pose must’ve been so special. What was it like being part of that show, especially in the final season?

For me it’s really very sweet because, first of all, that was my employment for the past three years. But you know, the financial part, that sucked. But it also sucked because you get to know these people. I wasn’t just background. I was a cast member for three years. To have a recurring role and to be the only Ru girl to have a recurring role in a scripted series…how many queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race can honestly say that? You know? I felt so blessed to be part of that. And I can honestly say I am one of the luckiest people in the world because I have been part of not one, but two groundbreaking LGBT shows that empowered queer people of color and just the creativity of queer people. Our stories are being told by the actual people who lived this life, and that’s why it felt so empowering to be part of, not just Drag Race, but also Pose. That’s what that meant for me.

What’s it like now as the seasons go on, and we are seeing more trans contestants on Drag Race? What does that mean to you?

It’s so important for kids to see themselves on screen. There are so many little children out there that are watching it that probably want to partake in the art form of drag, but they’re afraid that, because of their gender, because of who they are, that they are not able to participate. When in reality, drag is the art form that is for everybody. The umbrella of drag is so huge, and there is room for everyone. There is so much space. Because this world that we live in, you make it what you want. Growing up, I never saw anyone like me on television. So, for little kids to see that representation with Gia [Gunn], myself, Kylie, Peppermint, Carmen [Carrera], all of us, that have walked through those doors. So this isn’t brand new, that trans people and non-binary folk are in the art form of drag. We made the fabric of this art form so much more beautiful.

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 6 is streaming now on Paramount+.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
@chrisreindeer