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“That’s a good word to use,” Queen Priyanka says after I highlight how she’s “slaughtered” her post-Canada’s Drag Race career. Truly, it’s apt when you reflect on the various achievements of Drag Race’s first Indo-Caribbean champion, a few of which I will list now: first drag queen to cover Elle Canada; 15 million streams for her debut EP Taste Test; starring alongside Kim Cattrall on Netflix’s Glamorous; and co-hosting the new season of HBO’s Emmy-winning series We’re Here with Jaida Essence Hall, Sasha Velour and Latrice Royale.

There’s more, obviously, such as her iconic lip-sync assassin stint on All Stars 8, lead film debut in It’s All Sunshine and Rainbows and (long-awaited) face-to-face sesh with Priyanka Chopra. But, if we listed all of her ‘slay!’-worthy moments since her crowning, we’ll never get to the interview.

“It feels like the renaissance of Priyanka, which everyone keeps telling me. It also feels nice to be so proud to be Brown,” she tells GAY TIMES. “The thing that makes it feel like the best year of my life is, firstly, those accolades, but also that I’ve found myself in all this chaos and craziness.”

As well as recruiting small town residents into her drag dynasty, confronting bigots and sashaying into the Tennesseee State Capitol (in full drag) on We’re Here, Priyanka is about to unleash her debut album DEVASTATIA on 23 August. Fronted by the massive dance-pop anthems ‘Bad Bitches Don’t Cry’ (with Ralph), ‘No New Friends’ and ‘Shut It Down’, the collection will be followed by a world tour. Priyanka discusses all the above, as well as her upcoming collaboration with Bonnie McKee and relationship with Little Mix star Jade Thirlwall, in the following interview.

Since winning Drag Race and covering GAY TIMES – which was four years ago! – life has been mental for you. Especially the last year alone: All Stars 8, Glamorous, It’s All Sunshine and Rainbows, new music.

It picked up! She picked up.

You also met Priyanka Chopra, who is famously inspired by you…

Famously. That’s the fact, actually.

So, how are you feeling after having one of the best years of your life?

Amazing. Everything that I’ve been creating for the past two years is finally coming out, all while I’m creating more things. It’s such a positive space to be in because, to your point, that was four years ago. I’m so proud of myself that I’m able to push for myself. Glamorous, for example. I heard they were filming in Toronto so I was like, ‘Yo, what’s the tea?’ They were like, ‘We’re only looking for New York drag queens, sorry.’ I knocked at the door again like, ‘What if I came and wasn’t Priyanka, Canada’s Drag Race winner?’ Days later they were like, ‘Hey Priyanka, are you available to shoot?’

It feels like the renaissance of Priyanka, which everyone keeps telling me. It also feels nice to be so proud to be Brown. What a great feeling. I’ve been working with Tamina Paris and she’s choreographing my tour, because mama’s about to go on tour, honey! She was like, ‘Make me a playlist of who Queen Priyanka is’ and I thought I was going to put on Sabrina Carpenter, Tate McRae and Olivia Rodrigo. Then I was like, ‘No, let me think about something from my childhood, think about who you were as a kid,’ and it was all these iconic Bollywood, dancehall songs. The thing that makes it feel like the best year of my life is, firstly, those accolades, but also that I’ve found myself in all this chaos and craziness.

You definitely seem like the best version of yourself on We’re Here. Y’know, that little, Emmy Award-winning HBO show…

It’s not like it was just nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award or anything. It’s wild that I’m on a HBO show. They called Canada, they paid long distance to meet with me! Also, I manifested that I want to help people. And, there’s so much accountability online, everybody wants you to say everything and stick up for every single thing. Like, no, I want to go into that church, look a Republican in the eye and ask them, ‘Why? Explain this to me.’

That scene of you, Jaida and Sasha walking into the State Capitol in full drag was the best thing I’ve ever seen.

Major. Major. And the craziest part about those scenes is that, at that time, it was illegal to be in public in drag. Like, what a thought…

There are so many moments in the series where I’m horrified, but also [awkwardly] laughing, because the homophobia is so outside of my own bubble. For example, when you approach people and ask if they like drag queens…

I love that they showed the curiosity of our community versus anger. Sasha and Latrice taught me how to be more patient in those conversations because I was like, ‘What the fuck do you mean you don’t like drag queens, bitch?’ So, some of the conversations I had were, ‘Tell me why you don’t like me’ and [their response] ‘God says that you’re going to hell.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, did you talk to God? How do you know this?’ and they can’t answer, it’s just an echo chamber. It’s the pastor or preacher or whoever out of the church saying, ‘We hate gay people, don’t forget! Trans people aren’t real people!’ and it’s what they believe because that’s what they’re being told. The craziest part about it is that everybody is in search for a purpose, these people go to church because they want to be part of a community. So, this community accepts them and then they’re told to hate other people, and that’s what brings the community together. It’s messed up.

Like the conversation in the backyard…

‘I can have a drink with you. I know you’re going to hell, but…’ It’s like a living hell, the way that we’re treated. I remember when people would say the word ‘representation’ and I was like, ‘You’re just trying to check a box. You’re calling me around Diwali because my name’s Priyanka. You’re checking your box? Got it.’ Now, I’ve totally realised how important representation is. My drag daughter John is two-spirit and I went to a two-spirit meeting where they were like, ‘Honestly, we just want to see an indigenous person working in a coffee shop. That’s it, we’re not asking for anything else.’ Then, it dawned on me, there’s simply no other gay or trans or queer or out people for these people to talk to.

You’re placed in some scary and unsafe situations. How did the cast and crew foster a sense of security during filming?

We knew in the major moments that there’s always security. We didn’t even meet them because they didn’t want to blow their cover. At least for the City Hall stuff I was like, ‘We’ll be okay here.’ It was just the more major moments like when we were reading Facebook comments saying, ‘You’re going to die’. We’re like, ‘Okay, are we going to die? Are we going to get shot here? What’s gonna happen?’ Safety already doesn’t exist for queer people. We all united in the fact that we knew it wasn’t safe, but there are measures that we’re taking professionally for production, of course. I mean, even in Canada or the UK, if we were to walk down the street and someone was to see that we’re out and proud, they might kick the shit out of us, just because we’re gay.

This cast is a mixture of icons: you, Jaida, Sasha and Latrice. I know you were close with Jaida beforehand because of your Melanin Dynasty shoot with Shea Couleé, but what was your history like with the other cast members?

I knew Latrice because we did a Christmas tour in the UK together, then everyone got COVID and it got shut down, of course. Latrice has always been very, ‘Whatever you need, call me. If you’re ever in Florida, come over.’ She truly is the most low maintenance person, doesn’t give a fuck, in a a good way. Sasha, I met because she was interviewed at my old job when I was a kids television host. She came to the building for the morning show – not for the kids show because, god forbid this drag queen is on kids’ television! We just get each other. It’s so easy. There’s no fussing and I like that about her. Everything is possible, and I’m cut from that cloth.

And I mean, Jaida is amazing. The thing I was most shocked about learning about Jaida was how emotional she is. It was interesting to see all of us relate what was happening in these States back to ourselves. And for her, I could still feel that hurt. She was like, ‘This reminds me of when my…’ and would tell a story. It makes sense because I remember when I went to a party with Jaida and someone said something really awful to me, and she lost her mind on them. She barely knew me. We got close in the pandemic, because she won then I won. But, I can see why she fights for her people, because she’s been hurt.


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We also see a lot more vulnerability from you on We’re Here. As a fellow queer Gemini, I know that’s quite difficult, so what was that like, to open up on such a huge scale?

When you’re a performer, especially with my television host background, I have ripple effect feelings. In the moment, when something’s emotional, I’m taking it in like, ‘Huh, okay…’ Then, days later, I’ll feel that sadness and darkness. It’s the performer in me like, ‘Something’s happening! Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!’ or the Gemini in me. The vulnerability is such an interesting conversation to have because it’s what I’m working on right now with myself. Everybody in this world would be so shocked if everyone had someone ask them, ‘How do you actually feel about this? No judgement, how do you actually feel?’

When you’re hearing stories of people that just want to walk down the street or live their best life, you’re like, ‘Huh, I wonder if I’m okay’. You’re sitting there as their mentor and they’re like, ‘Your life is great!’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I think it is? Yeah… right.’ It’s interesting because the vulnerability is so layered. On Canada’s Drag Race, I was crying because I realised, ‘Shit… I quit my job to do this show, I’ve risked my bread and butter to potentially go back to no job.’ It took me three weeks for that vulnerability to settle in. It’s really hard to be vulnerable on camera for me, because… Gemini.

Let’s talk about this new music. First of all, Taste Taste was an *era*.

The UK and Brazil specifically loves Taste Test. When I released Taste Test I was so… I wouldn’t say nervous, but there was still a little bit of a guard for me. But, I’m doing these fully produced videos, performing, opening for Pabllo Vittar and Raye at Drag Fest. Let’s talk about that for a second, what the fuck? Girl, you’re doing it. Own it. You sang your whole life in your bedroom wanting to be a motherfucking Pussycat Doll, so go! With this music, I’m realising that, yeah, I’m going to take up space. It’s going to be such a fun era. Taste Test was fun for the audience to watch right off the heels of winning Canada’s Drag Race but this new era is great because, not only are gonna be like, ‘Yes Priyanka, my queen!’ they’re also gonna be able to feel something with the music. They’ll be like, ‘This is my anthem, I’m going to shut the haters down. Fuck them!’

What are the themes of DEVASTATIA? What do you want it to say?

Joy! Owning your life and taking up space. It’s interesting owning yourself, because then the music all made sense to me in my head. Now I’m happier and I understand why I walked into the studio for ‘Shut It Down’ like, ‘I’m going through this, this and this, but I’m sick of it.’ I’m excited for people to hear it because, not only will it make you dance, but I was like, ‘What are the songs people want to sing in the shower and live their fantasy? What songs would I sing in my bedroom as a child, where I was putting a cape around my neck to have the fabric blow in the wind, and a fan in front of my face so I could be like Beyoncé? What song does that person want to hear?’

Erm, can we talk about Bonnie McKee?!

Yes! I love her. I’m so obsessed with her writing, she’s so iconic, talented and amazing. She just DM’d me out of nowhere like, ‘Hey Priyanka, would you want to do a collaboration with me for my album?’ It was funny because it wasn’t like, ‘Why me?’ It was, ‘That’s right bitch! Miss Bonnie McKee, who wrote ‘California Gurls’ by Katy Perry, imma show you!’ It was interesting taking something that she had pre-written and putting my flavour on it. When I tell you [it’s a] banger, it eats so hard. Trixie Mattel said it’s so hard to break the ceiling as a drag music artist, and I agree. People are like, ‘You’re a clown’. However, it was so nice to have a real pop girl acknowledge and accept me for my art. She put all my adlibs in. I’m fucking singing on that song.

Following on from that, I recently interviewed Nelly Furtado – she said she was messaging you, actually.

Nelly Furtado! I did a dance class with her at the beginning of January in 2023 and I played her ‘Shut It Down’. I saw her get kind of heady about it. It wasn’t like, ‘That’s a great song, girl!’ It was like, ‘Okay…’ She’s in her dance music era, and she really felt it in her soul. Yeah, I played Nelly Furtado my song. Thank about that for a second.

Nelly also revealed to me that Tynomi Banks is on her album...

Right?! Tynomi called me, we are the closest of friends. Tynomi has an amazing singing voice. She’s like, ‘This is it.’ I’m like, ‘This is it, plus more. You’re an artist on a Nelly Furtado track. This is the thing that can [further your success], you know?’ It’s nice to see these pop girls lean into the talent and inspiration around them. I love Nelly Furtado and Tynomi, two people with such great hearts who have good intentions that found each other.

Who would be your dream pop girl collab? I feel like I know…

Can you say? I want to know what you’re gonna say…

Jade Thirlwall, or Little Mix as a collective.

Jade Thirlwall, my baby. I love her. I’m literally getting emotional. For a second, imagine you’re obsessed with girl groups, period. When I was working on The Next Star, a children’s singing competition show, we were trying to book performers for the finale. Universal, or whatever label, were pushing this girl group, Little Mix. I was like, ‘I love them, ‘Wings’, such a great song.’ Everyone was like, ‘Ugh, whatever, they’re from the UK, this song’s not going anywhere,’ and just didn’t believe in them. They were like, ‘Nah, we’re going to book Austin Mahone instead.’ Cut to them becoming my favourite girl group of all time. I buy the most expensive tickets to see them open for Ariana Grande, like a 20 minute set. Now, I’m a Mixer and ‘Wasabi’ becomes my favourite song in the whole wide world. I start performing it in gay bars. That song was, how do they say it? Before its time?

‘Wasabi’ was ahead of its time, and it deserved to be a single.

So then imagine [how I felt] when I came out with my first single ‘Cake’, and she shared it to her [Instagram] story. I was on my way to the UK to perform, and I don’t know her like that. I take a shot in the dark like, ‘Do you want to write together?’ She’s like, ‘Absolutely, here’s my manager’s number.’ Then she was like, ‘The dates aren’t aligning, but I’ve listened to your demos and here are all my notes. More harmonies on this, I love this melody, this is a banger.’ Jade Thirlwall from Little Mix, okay?! So, I get this email, like, crying.

Then it’s, ‘Hey, you’re in the UK to meet Priyanka Chopra, one of your other heroes, do you want to go for dinner with Jade Thirlwall?’ Bye! Get the fuck out of my face. I go to this little shop in the UK because I don’t have anything to wear and I’m like, ‘I’m going for dinner with Jade, do you know who Little Mix is?’ and they’re like, ‘Yeah, duh’. These two big Black straight guys dressed me to go to dinner, they were my fairy godmothers. It was the most beautiful experience ever. So, anyway to answer your [question]… I had to tell you that because I feel like people in the UK get it. Long story short, I love her and Jade would be one of my dream collaborations.

Well then, I can’t wait for the day that we see Jade Thirwill feat. Priyanka, or the other way around. I think it’s a UK chart-topper.

It will definitely happen, for sure. If not this album cycle, the next one. It’s in the universe. It’s brewing. Everyone feels it.

My final question would be – and you’re the perfect person to ask this because you’ve slaughtered your post-Drag Race career.

That’s right.

Yeah, ‘slaughtered’.

That’s a good word to use.

What advice would you give to other Drag Race contestants who are looking to emulate a career like yours?

I love this question so much. I get asked all the time, ‘I just shot Drag Race, can we get on a call [for advice]?’ The main piece of advice is: if you’re going to be stuck in your ways, you won’t grow. Open your mind to creating differently to how you’re used to. Also, you will only be as successful as you want to be. We all know that you have to post everyday on TikTok, have a YouTube channel, post everyday on Instagram. We all know this, it’s literally a fact at this point to build a brand for yourself. But, everyone gets in their head. It’s important to get out of your head and share your art.

Also, don’t be afraid to send that email. So many of the opportunities I’ve gotten is because I’ve asked for them. Like being a lip-sync assassin on Drag Race [All Stars 9], starting a music career, being cast on Glamorous. I have so many people tell me my talent speaks for itself. I’m like, ‘Well, it’s not speaking for itself because you’re not booked. Tell them you want the job and they’ll give you the job.’ That would be my advice: don’t be scared.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity, etc.

You can watch our interview with Priyanka in full here or below.