This article contains spoilers for the fifth episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.
Six queens were whittled down to just five in this week’s Drag Race UK, after a challenge that saw the formation (and swift break-up) of two rival girl groups, tasked with recording their own versions of what was, quite frankly, a total banger of a song, titled Break Up (Bye Bye).
While we saw a rare stumble from frontrunner The Vivienne as a member of the brilliantly-named Filth Harmony – rivals to the even more brilliantly-named Frock Destroyers – it was contestant Crystal who fell at this week’s big hurdle (yes, that was a very clever “day at the races” reference, thank you for noticing).
The morning after her elimination aired, we spoke to Crystal about her ill-fated lip sync, what she’d have done differently in hindsight, and an emotional moment that didn’t make the final edit...
This week’s episode began with you having just survived the lip sync against Sum Ting Wong. How did you feel going back into the work room that day?
I felt energised, to be honest with you. It lit a bit of a fire under my ass, and I felt quite hopeful. It’s an adrenaline rush, I guess, and at that point in the competition, you’re so exhausted that any moments like that are really useful, because you need all the energy you can get.
You ended up absolutely smashing the reading challenge, how much fun was that to film?
It’s really fun. It was great when we found out we were doing it, and I’m proud of winning that, I thought it was really funny. At least I won something!
After winning that mini-challenge, it was up to you to form the girl groups. You picked the strongest singer and the strongest dancer – an understandable move – but does any part of you regret that now?
No. I still think I made the right choice with everything I knew at the time. But with hindsight, I probably would have taken Divina over The Vivienne. Watching the episode back, Divina tried so hard to make it work for everyone’s different strengths, and I don’t think we worked quite as cohesively together as a group.
But I’m really proud of what we did, and I don’t think we did a bad job, to be honest with you. Two people need to be in the bottom, and I probably would have been in the bottom regardless.
How was the experience of watching your group’s performance back all that time later?
The judges didn’t feel it, but I’m proud of what I did. What you don’t see is the tiny, tiny, tiny amount of time that you’ve got to write the song, record the song, learn your own lyrics, choreograph and then perform it. It’s absolutely crazy.
So what I did, I’m really proud of. Obviously, people did a better job of it than me, but I think anyone would have struggled in that scenario. I was really prepared to watch it and be like “my god, I was so shit”, but I don’t think I was.
Did you expect at the end of the performance that you would be in trouble?
Only because The Vivienne came off stage and said “I really fucked up the lip sync”, but I felt [at the time] like I had done a pretty good job. You perform it twice, and I think on one of them I’d missed a tiny bit of choreo, but I felt pretty good about it.
But then, watching [The Frock Destroyers] it was like “oh… yeah, they’re really good”. But I think our lyrics are better! Theirs were shit. I wrote half those lyrics!
When you all went back to the work room after the challenge, everyone was very emotional, and Cheryl was sitting talking about how much she loved girl groups. It felt like she’d completely misread the room. Was that as bad in real life?
Uh… yes. But, in Cheryl’s defence, I think what she was trying to do was she could tell I was upset, and I was gathering myself and trying to figure out what I wanted to say, and I think she was trying to take the attention off of me, and give me a bit of a breather and some space.
I do think she did misread it. But her heart was in the right place!
In that same scene, it felt like The Vivienne was empathising with you, but then she said that she planned to destroy whoever she was up against. How was it being with her in moments like that?
It’s really hard to explain all the ways that you feel in those situations, but I remember really feeling like my time was probably going to come. When I realised I was going to be lip syncing, and that it was going to be against The Vivienne, I was like “there’s no way I’m going to stay, I’m going to do the best I can, but even if I win this lip sync, I’m tapping out”.
I even said that in the group – they didn’t show it, but I said that if I won the lip sync, I wasn’t staying. And I would have left, had I won. I felt exhausted, I felt like I’d used up all the reserves of my confidence and strength, and I felt like, at that point, Vivienne was going to win. She had been performing so well, and I didn’t want to take that from her, because I could tell at that point that I wasn’t going to win. So it just didn’t feel right to stay over her. If I’d been lip syncing against someone else, maybe I’d have felt differently, but because it was her.
Watching the actual lip sync back, were you proud of how you did?
*groans* I mean, yes, but I wish that I’d had a better wig reveal. I spent the entire time preparing for that lip sync trying to figure out how to get a wig under that face-kini, and because the hat was so tight and there was a strap under my chin, I couldn’t really open my mouth very well.
So I had to get the hat off, but it wasn’t designed to ever come off in that kind of way. And then I pinned that wig on so hard but the face-kini coming off messed it up and screwed up the hairline, and I could tell that it was all going wrong… and you could just see me floundering and flailing. Yeah, that’s a shame.
But people want to see you fight for it, even though you’re feeling shit, and you know that it’s your time. You’re not going to go out without giving them a bit more.
In the real world, you’re known for your very avant-garde and experimental style of drag. Do you feel the show allowed you to show that off?
Yeah, I do. I think it’s really cool that the show embraced that with me. I was worried that someone was going to ask me to shave, or ask me to change, and no one ever did. So, it’s cool that they just let me be myself and express myself how I wanted.
How did the experience of being on Drag Race compare to your expectations as a fan?
It’s so hard to separate the two now, but I think the main thing that feels really different is how isolated and challenged you feel. Like, it’s not just that the things they’re asking you to do are hard, but the situation that you’re in at the same time is also really hard.
You have to really find wells of confidence to do well in the show that the time I did not have. You’ve got no support network, and you don’t really even have anyone to talk to about how you’re feeling, because the only people you can talk to are the people who are your competitors.
So how did you cope with that?
I just don’t think I did, to be honest. It was so much harder than I expected. I think what you saw was my confidence slowly being chipped at and eroding away until I’ve broken down and then I leave. Looking back, I wish that I had been able to just tell myself “you’re doing great, and you deserve to be here”.
But at the time I didn’t believe any of that, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to, to help me process how I was feeling. So, you end up in this echo chamber of your own doubts and fears, and that’s ultimately what sent me home.
You must feel proud of what you achieved, though?
Oh, I’m so proud. I challenged myself in ways that I never thought I would be able to. I got laughs in places that I never thought I could be funny, and just the whole experience has changed me and changed what I’m like as a performer. And really shown me that I can do all sorts of things.
Has anything surprised you as you’ve been watching the show back?
Uhhh… no,. I think what you’re seeing is what it’s really like. I guess The Vivienne has been given a bit of an over-confident edit, and I think that even though she was an incredibly confident person, people are taking that to mean that she’s bitchy, and she’s really not. She’s a really warm and caring person. So, I think that’s maybe one thing that’s kind of missing right now, people aren’t seeing the good stuff about Vivienne as well.
Are there any changes you’d like to see if we get a season two?
As always, I’d love to see more diversity, and an ever-expanding idea of what drag is, and who can be on the show.
Would you like to be more specific?
Probably not. I probably shouldn’t.
New episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK debut on BBC Three every Thursday at 8pm.