Spoilers ahead for RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. Season 2.
The second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. kicked off with a bang last week when one of the most well-known queens of the bunch, Brighton’s Joe Black, was sent packin’ in the season’s first lip sync for your life. Judging from reactions online, fans were shocked by Joe’s exit — and they weren’t the only ones.
The cabaret queen spoke with NewNowNext about his brief time on the series, dog sitting for Glenn Close, and where he plans on getting a Michelle Visage tattoo to commemorate his time on Drag Race.
So, people are shook by your elimination, myself included. I did not think you’d be going home…
How are you feeling today?
You know what? With the response I’ve had, part of me is glad I left first because it’s making all the news. I think it’s such an iconic placement, isn’t it? Everyone remembers the first one out. I’ve not outstayed my welcome. No one wanted me to go. So, now I’m just receiving all of this love and support, and it’s just overwhelmingly wonderful.
I’m not sure if you’re watching Drag Race Season 13, but the first outs are on the wall in the Porkchop Loading Dock.
Oh yeah. Icons, legends, stars.
You are right that you’ve joined some legends. But I want to know, what was it like walking into that workroom for the first time?
Terrifying. It’s a very amorous pink room, isn’t it? It was just like, waiting there ready to go in, and it’s so… I didn’t know who else to expect being there. I walk in, I say, “I know what you’re thinking. Don’t Glenn Close look rough?” And I hear, “Yas, bitch!” And then I’m trying to focus and look forward. It’s like, “Don’t look around. Don’t look around,” because I’m absolutely certain I just heard Ginny Lemon, who is someone I absolutely adore. And then turning and just seeing loads of familiar faces, some people that I don’t know too well but I’ve heard of, and some people that I really, really love. That was amazing. Then watching the rest of them coming in, and just sitting in that room with all of those people, thinking, “We are Season 2.” It was incredible.
Did you audition for Season 1?
I did audition for Season 1, yeah. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t get it because I wasn’t as ready. But I’m sure people would say that every time. The one that they get on is the one that was right for them. I doubt many people get on and go, “Oh, I wish I had waited.” Because you’re just so pleased to be, out of the thousands and thousands of people that applied, to be one of that 10 or one of that 12, however many is on that particular season. So, I’m really please I got on. And, obviously, I didn’t stick around too long. But it was wonderful to be a part of that journey.
Did you always know that your entrance line was going to be a Glenn Close joke?
You know what? It comes to me closer to the time, because I say that at shows. So I’ll finish my first song, “Oh, well, thank you very much. I know what you’re thinking. ’Fuck me, Glenn Close looks rough.'” And it always gets a nice little giggle. I had to be a little bit more family-friendly for this one at the opening of the show. But I’ve met Glenn Close. She’s very nice. I once dog-sat for her for about 20 minutes because she couldn’t take her dog for the tour of the venue. But I’m hoping and dreaming that Glenn Close sees that clip and has a nice little laugh one day.
Yeah, I saw the photo of you two together on Instagram! So you looked after her dog while she went through the venue?
Yes. It was this historical venue in Glasgow, a large venue called The Panopticon Music Hall. It’s sort of the only music hall in the U.K. And she worked with one of the chairpeople of it on the costumes, I think, for Albert Nobbs. So he invited her because she was there filming The Wife. Even though it’s set in Stockholm, they filmed it in Glasgow. She was there filming it, and it happened to be the two days that I was there doing the show there. And they’re like, “Joe, Glenn Close is coming tomorrow for a tour of the venue.” And I was like, “Yeah, yeah, sure. Of course Glenn Close is…” The timing just seemed too correct, and I thought she wasn’t going to be there. People would say these things, and they never happen. And like, “We’d like to invite you to when she comes to do the tour.” And then I went there, and there was coffee and biscuits and tea set out, and she walked up. It was fate.
What do you think about Olivia Coleman winning the Oscar over Glenn Close for The Wife?
I’m sure Ms. Coleman was absolutely fantastic, but I very much did enjoy The Wife. I watched it on a flight, I had a little cry-watching our Glenn. She keeps losing out on these things. Do you know what? That’s something we have in common, isn’t it? Neither of us has won.
You mentioned your cabarets. What goes on in your cabaret? What can people expect when they go see it?
I think I’m really heavily influenced by the Berlin cabaret of the ’20s and very early ’30s. I love that whole aesthetic and vibe — people are smoking, with way too much eye shadow, with her dress hanging off her shoulder, with a nice strong gin. There’s someone on the piano, and then whoever’s doing the cabaret’s singing sat on top of the piano in front of a ridiculous, dark-sided but somehow sparkly ensemble. That’s the vibe I try to put across. I want to embody the smoky, burning cabarets of yesteryear.
I want to go back to the lip sync for your life. I thought you both were fantastic. What was going through your mind when Bimini started pulling out those moves?
Well, the thing about the lip sync for your life… have you ever done one?
I haven’t. I would be terrified.
That’s the thing. When you’re doing it, the other person becomes basically invisible. I think I could have accidentally kicked her at one point, and I wouldn’t have realized because you’re just so focused on what you’re doing. But I will say I was wearing an outfit that doesn’t really lend itself to much movement. Walking required me holding it up, let alone trying to clown up to Frankie Goes To Hollywood. So if there was any song that I could slowly lower myself and pretend I was in an invisible elevator to, then I’m glad it was to “Relax.”
I was trying to figure out the elevator because with the editing, you couldn’t really tell. I was like, “Okay, she’s going down in an elevator-“
Yeah, the editing was a bit strange. I press the button, I go down. I wait. Oh, I check the watch. Hold the lift up. Press the button, press the button. Doors open. Bing for the beep. They’ve got to show both people. But watching it back, obviously, I hadn’t seen what Bimini had done. I remember turning to her and going, “Come on, Bimini, relax!” From what I knew of Bimini, I knew it was all splits, headstands, very physical. I smoke 7,000 cigarettes a day and can barely walk upstairs, so… two very different approaches. I was like, “All right, let’s sing as clearly as possible.” And Bimini absolutely killed it.
I still think it was close. Watching it, I thought you both did so well. When you left Drag Race, did you take a break from drag for a little bit, or did you get right back into it?
The timing was rather interesting because I left, and pretty soon after, the U.K. went into a national lockdown. So, there weren’t any gigs to be getting to. I started doing livestream shows where I get the piano out, the accordion, the ukulele, play songs and things. So I was essentially straight back into the makeup because of it, right? It’s a strange new world. I’ve got to adapt how I can. Got to get the webcam out and play some songs to my fans.
I love your tattoos. Do you think that you will get a tattoo to commemorate your time on Drag Race?
I don’t know. Maybe I’ll get a lovely portrait of Michelle Visage on the side of my head with a little speech-bubble that says, “I wish you’d done more mainstream Bowie.” That might be nice. I might get Michelle Visage’s face tattooed on my face.
Michelle’s face on the side of your face?
Yeah. Do you know what? That would be quite nice, wouldn’t it? So, I get Michelle one side, I’ll get Elizabeth Hurley the other, and I’ll get Graham Norton on the back of my head. And then I can’t tell you where I’m going to get Ru.