Happy Pride, everybody!!! Who else is feeling their pink glow this month??
So, I have a bit of a confession to make. While I am definitely not a big fan of reality TV, I have a serious love/hate relationship with RuPaul’s Drag Race. I think that the show and fanbase have a number of glaring issues, largely pertaining to the fact that it has become so popular in recent years. Unlike the earlier seasons, where it felt like this underground celebration of all things gay and fabulous, it now feels more like just another reality competition show with forced drama and overproduced edits to make it more palatable to mass audiences (i.e., straight people.) HOWEVER, I still have to admit that I am so goddamn entertained every minute that I am watching it.
As a member of the LGBT+ community, I like to stay updated on what is current in gay media. I’m not the biggest fan of Ru himself, but I love watching the competing queens each season, seeing them grow as both people and performers as the weeks trudge on. Since we are eleven seasons into the show, of course there are some queens who are obviously there because they want a taste of that sweet sweet television screen time, but then there are others who I feel like are there because they truly want to share their beautiful art with the world. One of the girls from season 11 who fits into that latter mold is the season’s wonderfully weird winner herself: Yvie Oddly.
I knew that I was going to love Yvie from the second that she walked into the “werkroom” with that Hotwheels car attached to her floor-length jade dress. She wasn’t the prettiest girl in the room, nor the most glamorous, but she stood the fuck out amongst the rest of the crowd. From her iconic anime-villain laugh to her insane body-contortion skills, Yvie was the highlight to watch week after week.
Although the past winners of Drag Race all vary greatly in terms of style, performance and personality, they all have one underlying trait in common: Intelligence. You can be beautiful and polished, sure, to attract a large fanbase, but in order to make it far in the competition, you have to be smart. Sharon Needles was sharp as a tack, Jinkx Monsoon knew all of her references, and Bob the Drag Queen could snap back with the best possible remark any time one of her “sisters” tried to clock her for anything. Yvie Oddly is certainly no exception to this rule.
The Denver queen could smell bullshit from a mile away. When she felt like one of the other girls was giving excuses to the judges who were only trying to help them improve, she would call them out on it. Could she have done it in a less abrasive way at times? Yes, of course she could have. That being said, I never felt like Yvie’s critiques were coming from a malicious place. She did truly love (some of) the other queens competing against her, and it takes a true winner to want to see your competition be the very best performers they can be. After all, it makes winning feel like more of an accomplishment when you have tough competition!
I’m not here to talk about any of the drama or “tea” Yvie got into, though, because drama is something that I get bored of super quickly, as a pretty non-confrontational person myself. I am here to talk about Yvie’s performance, because that was what made me fall so in love with her.
First, let’s talk about Yvie’s runways. In recent years of Drag Race, especially with the addition of the All Stars spinoff series, fans have now developed this idea that runways need to look “expensive” in order to be considered good. One of the complaints during the promo of season 11 was that the queens looked “low-budget,” and “unpolished.” I find this to be such an unfair complaint, because not every queen that makes it on the show can come in with thousands of dollars spent on designer outfits. Most people that do drag in this world can’t make it work full-time, and they rely on tips at grimy bars in order to simply make ends meet! One of the queens who went home (way too) early, Honey Davenport, remarked at one point that she was homeless and had spent every last cent she had on the competition. Can you imagine?
Yvie decided to say “fuck you,” to this idea of expensive = quality drag, and instead, strutted onto that runway week after week in something that simply felt true to her, which is exactly what drag is all about. I think the exact moment I knew I wanted her to take the crown home was when she came out in that exquisite pink-jellyfish anime fantasy for the “fringe” theme. It was completely homemade, with materials that you could buy at your local craft store, and it looked like pure art. She even painted her entire body pink for the look, showcasing her dedication in all of her craft, which is something that I greatly admire. She carried this dedication into each and every runway, from her “sexy praying-mantis” look, to her final “best drag,” look – Complete with 3 eyes, 3 fingers, and 3 boobs.
Then, there’s Yvie’s insane bodily movements. The queen’s name is Yvie “Oddly” for a reason. She moves her body like a spider, for goodness sakes, there’s nothing normal about that! Whether it was twisting round and round for the draglympics challenge, or bending over backwards in the jaw-dropping double-shantay lip-sync against first runner-up, Brooke Lynn Hytes, Yvie used that body to her advantage, even if it was a detriment to her well-being at times.
Before learning about her struggles with chronic illness, I admit that I had never heard of the disease, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome before. From what she describes, it sounds incredibly painful, and the fact that there is no cure makes it all the more heartbreaking when you realize that she won’t be able to perform the way she does now ten years down the line (mind you, Yvie is only two years older than I am). As someone who suffers from chronic migraines, sometimes the pain I experience is so unbearable that I am left out of commission for the day, because it hurts to simply do so much as breathe. I cannot even IMAGINE the toll this condition takes on Yvie’s body. The fact that she didn’t use it to make us pity her, however, and instead used it to live her life and career to their fullest while she still can is so inspiring.
Finally, I want to talk about Yvie’s final lip sync performance. I must have watched it about 30 times at this point, because Yvie was absolutely captivating. It felt like this last number was the culmination of everything she has brought to us thus far in the competition, and it was clear that even Ru noticed and greatly appreciated all that she had to bring. While Brooke Lynn looked positively radiant in that bodysuit and danced the house down, it was Yvie that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. She didn’t rely on deathdrops or reveal upon reveal like many other competitors of past seasons, but instead told a story through pure emotion. Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory,” was honestly a perfect choice for a final lip sync, because if you’re going to pour your emotions out through anyone’s music, then it’s gotta be hers.
The second Yvie turned around and showed us the face on the back of that striking mirrored headpiece, I audibly gasped. In that very moment, something about Yvie’s message touched something deep inside of me that no other competitor on this show has been able to do thus far. Don’t get me wrong, I adore a lot of the other queens that have been on this show, but what Yvie represents for someone like me is truly special.
Growing up, I was always told by my peers that I was “weird” and that I was “different.” They were right, I was different. I still am. What I failed to realize, though, was that they were never trying to insult me. Far too often, weirdos like me hide ourselves away, afraid to show the world what we have to offer because we’re afraid people won’t respond to it well. This simply is not the case, and seeing someone like Yvie on TV showcase her weirdass self, and gain such a positive response from the world fills me with light.
In college, my friends and I made so much bizarre art, and I am endlessly proud of them for being able to share it with people both then and now, like their DIY record label, Ded Sullivan Productions (promoting my friends until the end of time, goddamnit). If Yvie and I went to the same university around the same time, I think we definitely would have been friends, performing in the avant-garde theatre ensemble one minute, and laying back on the couch with a joint and some paintbrushes the next.
Lately, I myself have been having a bit of a creative block due to some personal stuff, but after watching Yvie take home that crown (and $100,000), I think I am going to make attempts at a new story each day. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even post my progress in the next blog.
Yvie, I know you will probably never read this, but thank you for being so unapologetically you. You have inspired so many oddballs around the world, including this one. #OddBless.