Valentina of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Is Back, Mi Amor!

El Espace is a column devoted to information and tradition related to Latinx communities. Expect politics, arts, evaluation, private essays and extra. ¿Lo mejor? It’ll be in Spanish and English, so you’ll be able to ahead it to your tía, your primo Lalo or anybody else (learn: everybody).

“I feel like La Virgen de Guadalupe is my drag mom,” mentioned Valentina, the 27-year-old Latinx queen of Season 9 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” earlier than kissing a botanica candle devoted to the Mexican patron saint. This was one of the numerous moments during which she invoked her Mexican heritage on the present, sprinkling references to María Félix, mariachis and Catholic bodas all through the season. Valentina’s longevity within the competitors made her a Latinx fan favourite (she’s not the primary Latinx queen to compete, however she had one of essentially the most profitable runs on the present), and lots of had been upset to see her eradicated after she forgot the phrases throughout a lip sync battle.

But excellent news! She’s again — this time, within the subsequent season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” which premieres Dec. 14 on VH1. The performer, whose actual identify is James Leyva, additionally landed the position of Angel in “Rent: Live,” which can air on Fox on Jan. 27. During a rehearsal break, she talked with me concerning the challenges of being a Latinx drag queen, the “real tea” behind her elimination and the vitality she dropped at All Stars.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

How did you get began in drag?

I’ve all the time type of been doing drag. When I used to be little and I’d be taking a shower, I’d drape the towel over my physique in ways in which performed with gender with out me actually figuring out it — making it a robe or a practice or a hat or a shoulder piece or a cape. In faculty, I began to check dance, music and theater, and play with make-up. Then, having watched “Drag Race” and actually loving the thought of placing an outfit collectively, thrift retailer purchasing, getting a wig and pondering of a drag identify bought me actually enthusiastic about it. Before my “Drag Race” season, I had been doing drag for roughly a yr.

Were your mother and father supportive? I really feel like there’s nonetheless loads of stigma within the Latin American group in the case of drag or males taking over historically female traits.

I do keep in mind my dad correcting my female habits, whether or not or not it’s too emotional or too tender or simply too flamboyant. When I lastly determined to return out, it was a shock to my mother and father that I used to be homosexual, which is absolutely odd to me, as a result of I used to be learning the performing arts, and after I was in center college I cherished Britney Spears. I cherished watching telenovelas with my babysitters. I cherished glamour, and I’d all the time hang around with my mother when she was preparing.

They’ve come round, but it surely took a while. Sometimes we wish to have the assist of our mother and father immediately, however for somebody like me, who’s Chicano, first-generation, we’ve got to have persistence with our mother and father. Sometimes they’re coming from actually closed-minded spiritual backgrounds or from a unique nation with legal guidelines that didn’t defend them. We should not be so judgmental. Sometimes it takes them some time to show round and see the larger image: that we’re comfortable, that we’re deserving of love, that we’re identical to anyone else.

Last yr, loads of followers had been upset by your elimination. You had been doing rather well and had been a favourite to win. But then throughout a lip sync in your life, you forgot the phrases. What occurred there? And what did you study from that have?

There is that this notion like “Maybe she refused to learn it,” or “She was lazy,” or “She didn’t care,” however no. It was another music, after which it was switched the day earlier than. That evening, I needed to go residence and memorize Ariana Grande’s “Greedy.” I didn’t have the lyrics sheet with me, so I needed to study it by ear, and write down the lyrics as I went. I stayed up till like three:30, and I needed to be up at 6. I tried to study the music. Before I went to sleep, I knew the music. By the time I awoke, I didn’t know the music.

People don’t acknowledge the truth that we’re busy working the complete time. We will not be simply sitting there studying songs in our free time, as a result of there isn’t any free time. And so by the point it got here time to carry out, I used to be in such a state of shock and I freaked out. That is the true tea!

It was very troublesome for me to course of all that on the time. But as soon as I calmed down, I used to be in a position to understand that every one of the drama and all of my trauma apart, that is an iconic moment in reality TV. People are going to remember me for that — and good. It’s a problem when they don’t remember you, baby.

You made it a point during your season to showcase your Mexican heritage. Should we expect the same during “All Stars”?

I can never deny my culture. Even if I give you a simple black dress with some simple hair, I am imagining María Félix walking down a long hallway in my mind. On my season, I made it a plot to reference things that maybe people didn’t know. I was name dropping people and things that I found so beautiful, like Mariachi Plaza in Los Angeles and María Félix and the bridal look with my mom.

My upbringing, coming from a Latin family and being first generation — that is a really big part of everything. I just got to work with the Latina goddess, my childhood icon, Thalía, who I grew up watching on “Marimar” and “María Mercedes” and “María la del Barrio” and “Rosalinda.” I worked with Gloria Trevi. These are people I grew up idolizing. It is such a blessing, because what I am aiming for with my art is to be part of Latin excellence.

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