We are truly living through some historic times. The RuPaul’s Drag Race machine never slows down, but a once-in-a-century pandemic will make even the workroom go dark.
That’s what the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. Season 2 learned during the latest episode, when production was halted due to the emerging COVID-19 virus, and all the remaining queens were sent home. When they finally returned to set seven months later, the girls reunited with one notable absence: Veronica Green, who was forced to remove herself from the competition after testing positive for COVID-19 right before filming resumed.
The remaining queens voted to bring Joe Black back into the competition — but just as soon as she returned, she was asked to sashay away after being read for wearing H&M on the runway.
Joe and Veronica spoke with NewNowNext about surviving as drag queens during a pandemic, returning for Season 3, and what it was like on set when they were told that production was being shut down.
Joe, I want to get to your return. But first Veronica, I want to ask, how are you feeling these days? How are you doing?
Veronica: I’m doing okay, actually. I’ve made my peace with not being able to compete, and I’ve managed to get over that. I think in the run-up to the episode, a few feelings came rushing back and I had a few tears a couple of days ago, but nothing like when I got the news initially, so I’m doing good.
And how are you feeling physically after contracting COVID-19?
Veronica: Physically, I’m fully recovered, but my symptoms were very mild and I didn’t suffer at all. I had a cough and my body did change. There was a feeling that was there, but I didn’t notice it until I got the positive result. And I was like, oh, now I understand what they mean by a persistent cough because I could control it… But yeah, fully recovered.
How soon before you were supposed to go back did you learn that you’d tested positive? Was it right before?
Veronica: Two days before.
And when did you learn that you would be returning for Season 3?
Veronica: I didn’t get the formal invite until production was nearly wrapped. So the queens knew before I did. So when they filmed that segment of Ru inviting me, I didn’t know that had happened until way after one of the producers formally invited me to Season 3 just before production finished. And then it wasn’t until afterwards that I heard through the grapevine, that Ru actually said it on camera.
And that must’ve been a great relief, right?
Veronica: It was a great relief. I do feel like my Drag Race journey is not complete. So the opportunity to go back is definitely something I’m heavily considering, but I haven’t given my final answer yet. I still got a couple of days to decide.
Can you take me back to what that day was like on set, when sirens went off and they said they were pausing filming?
Veronica: Going back to that day, we’d just come off the back of Ginny self-eliminating, and that was a moment that we didn’t see coming. You could see that tensions were rising because everybody had wanted to get their view out. And then people started arguing and bickering about other things, so there was definitely a tension in the air. We just didn’t realize it was all to do with what was happening in the world around outside. And when those alarms went off, we had no idea what was coming. I thought, is this another twist?
Joe, did you hear from the girls once production was shut down?
Joe: Oh yeah. I remember the first person that contacted me. I suddenly got a message from Ellie Diamond saying, “It’s finished.” And I was like, “What do you mean, it’s finished?” And he said, “I can’t talk, on my way to the airport.” And then all I was like, what the fuck is going on? They were like, “Nope, it’s been shut down.” I learned from texts as they were leaving. I had no idea.
— BBC Three (@bbcthree) February 16, 2021
Veronica, was there a time when you thought maybe filming wouldn’t resume?
Veronica: Oh, all the time, because we just didn’t know what the government guidelines were. They were changing all the time about what could and couldn’t be done. And it was hard to nail down crew members — like, Ru’s got a schedule, Michelle [Visage], they’re flying from America. They’ve got things that they need to do in America with the American Drag Race. So there was just the uncertainty of is it going to ever pick back up again? And we didn’t know for a very long time. It felt like the longest time.
Joe, what was it like when you found out that you would be returning to the workroom?
Joe: I wish I’d had the whole seven months to get myself together, but I didn’t. I had for about three weeks. I remember I was going to a costume thing to go pick up something for my Meet the Queens promo. And then my phone rings, it says Drag Race is calling. What do they want now? And they said we would formally, like to invite you to possibly return to the competition. And then they wouldn’t explain of course, ’cause it’s been very hush and secret, isn’t it? They wouldn’t explain the method in which you would reenter, but they said you have a one-in-three chance. So that was all the feelings, ’cause I was sort of emotionally tapped out with that. I was like, cool what’s happened, has happened. I now get to be a viewer past Episode 1 and just enjoy the talent of everybody else. And then suddenly, I had to get everything ready and put it all back together again.
Take me back to being onstage when Ru was talking about wanting to see the girls step up their game, and calling out your H&M dress. What was going through your mind? What was that like on set?
Joe: I thought, what fantastic television this is going to be! I almost disassociated. I was like, “Ooh, this is very dramatic. Isn’t it?” And then suddenly realized that “Ooh! He’s talking to me!” I didn’t realize a High Street retailer could invoke such deep, powerful emotions within someone.
It was good TV.
Joe: It was very surreal.
And you said you were tapped out before you returned. This must have like a bonus round for you, right?
Joe: Absolutely. I think bonus round is a great way of saying it because also speaking realistically, everyone that had survived episodes, one, two, three, and four, [and] if I was to come in and someone else was to go home, that wouldn’t have been fair. I know these things don’t have to necessarily be fair, but you know what I mean? I was more than happy to walk in and walk straight back out again. I was quite happy to accept my fate.
And Veronica, if you formally accept the invitation to come back for Season 3, are there certain things that you’re going to prepare or work on for your return?
Veronica: I think I want to keep doing what I was doing. If I’m going to go back, I want to just not police myself. The need for me to be accepted and get validation from my peers is a struggle that I’ve had since childhood, and I know that that’s a negative part of my personality. So I would hope to try and keep that in check, but I’m a competitive person and I throw myself into the challenge 100%. I can’t promise that I’m not going to have a few diva moments.
Joe: I mean, that’s amazing as a viewer for me, Veronica. ’Cause I didn’t get to know you as much as I would have liked from the show. But seeing your drive and determination, and everything you have with it, is just incredible.
Veronica: Thank you.
Veronica, I thought it was really powerful how they showed your depression over the summer during the pandemic, especially when you said you didn’t leave your house for 12 weeks…
Veronica: When I retell the story to people, I remember it as six weeks or eight weeks. It wasn’t until I watched the special that it dawned on me that it was 12 weeks. That’s three months. I stayed in my bedroom for three months and only left to go to the loo to shower, to come down to the kitchen, to make tea, coffee, and food. I didn’t even go into my backyard. I didn’t go for walks. I didn’t go to the shops. I locked myself away and shut myself out from my friends and family for three months. And I didn’t see anything wrong with it at the time. And then it wasn’t until I was out of it on the other side, that I had an intervention with my brother and sister, they said, “Look, there’s something wrong here.” And then my fiancé, Steve, was very supportive and here he helped me through it. I wouldn’t have got through it so quickly. I mean, quickly — three months is not quick, but I wouldn’t have got through it in that timescale without him by my side. So yeah, I feel it’s important to show what really happened. I think it’s so, so important because you know, it’s a worldwide pandemic. And I know now having spoken to people that there are lots of people who went through exactly the same thing.
I think it will resonate with people because I think we’ve all gone through a degree of that this past year.
Veronica: Yeah, absolutely. My whole world crashed around me, and I didn’t know what to do to make it right.
Joe: And I think it can show people that no matter how much drive you have, it’s a pandemic. It can just crush your world.
So my final question is: How are your cats? Joe, how’s Klaus?
Joe: Klaus is well. He got a new pink turtleneck that arrived yesterday for him. Not H&M! And he’s just chilled up on the blankets being all hairless and gorgeous.
And Veronica, you have a cat too, right? I don’t think I caught its name.
Veronica: So our cat is a rescue, he’s called Seth but he responds more to “Cat.” So we call him Cat, but he’s gorgeous.
Two proper kitty girls now!
Veronica: Absolutely. I never saw myself as a cat person. When people look at me, they don’t think cat, they think dog.
Joe: Oh, Veronica.