18 Behind-The-Scenes Facts That Explain How "RuPaul's Drag Race" Really Works
"I didn't know what my future was going to look like."
Start your engines: We sat down with the iconic Season 13 winner of RuPaul's Drag Race, Symone, over Zoom to ask about her behind-the-scenes memories and how her brilliant looks came together.
1. Despite winning, Symone almost didn't audition for Season 13.
"I was almost not going to do it. I was in a very dark place, COVID was happening, the [Black Lives Matter] protests were happening. I didn't know what my future was going to look like, so I was like, 'I don't know if I can even be in the space to audition right now.' But my friends were like, 'Listen! [laughs] This is a moment. This is your moment. You need to get it together and audition because the worst thing that can happen is that you don't get on.'"
2. Fun fact: she actually first auditioned for Season 9.
"I auditioned for Season 9 — and I had no business auditioning for Season 9!"
3. Call times for shooting can be as early as 6 a.m.
"It would depend on the call time. Sometimes we would have interviews before having to get on stage — so it could be as early as 6 a.m, but you'd have to get up at 5, 5.30 a.m. to get ready."
4. That being said, mornings were Symone's favorite time — as the queens could talk to each other without cameras.
"It was always the morning, because that was the one time where we could talk to each other and not be on ice. Everyone had the most energy. I just remember [thinking], we really are shooting Drag Race right now. Like, what is going on? It was such a crazy thing. We were all so tight with each other, but I remember we were divas at some point in time."
5. Once filming starts, the queens are expected to hit the ground running.
"No matter how many times we talk about it, people think it's like, 'La, la, la,' like the girls are just having a good time. Literally, the minute we get on set and we're filming, it's go, go, go. There's really no time to sit and chill."
6. The top four queens have a group chat.
"I am in contact — I talk to Denali every now and again. The top four, we have our little group chat — it's an experience! We talk, obviously not as much during the season, but we'll send a funny thing or say I love you and miss you."
7. There was a conversation between Symone and Kandy, in which Kandy said she felt like she wanted to leave the show, that didn't make it to the final cut.
"There was one moment between me and Kandy, it was the improv challenge. The week before she was in the bottom, and she was feeling very down on herself. We partnered together that week for Bossy Rossy and she was like, 'I felt like I wanted to go home.' It was right after the whole Tamisha thing, so there was a lot going on with her.
I was like, 'Listen, you know, you need to get out of this. You're a competitor and you worked so hard to be here. I'm here to talk too if you need anything at all, like, we're all here. And we want you to be here and we want you to want to be here because you're fucking Kandy Muse!'
It was a very good moment between us, especially going in for the challenge. That was when me and Kandy bonded a little more."
8. The best advice Ru gave Symone was that "The power that I have in drag is the same power I have outside of drag."
"It's been me the whole time. When she said that, it was an 'aha' moment in my head. And the rest of them still kind of processing and learning that for so long. I had imagined Symone being a completely different person — it was dissociating for me, in a way. Now, I'm realizing that it was all me the entire time. Very Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz! So that was the best advice — I think, other than, you know, pay my taxes! [laughs]."
9. Some of the queens found being quarantined alone before the show to be challenging — but it helped Symone focus.
"I was prepared, darling. I read Little Fires Everywhere. I watched a lot of television, my soap operas that I used to watch all the time. I also read RuPaul's book GuRu, which helped a lot. A lot of the girls went stir-crazy, but I think it helped me a lot because I'm a person who can be alone. I enjoy my own company. It didn't bother me to be out. It really helped me to focus and gather myself before going into the competition."
10. Gigi Goode told Symone to be a little "delusional" going in — and to remember to have fun.
"She gave me some really good advice. She said you have to be kind of delusional in this moment — like you are the best singer, the best actress, the best vocalist, the best dancer. Not in the sense that you go in there with an ego, but you're being tested on these things. You can't let yourself fall into the opposite of that.
She also said to have fun, because as long as we film, this will fly by so quickly. It's so easy to get in your head and spiral, and then you've missed what's really happening."
11. While shooting, Symone was on unemployment and admitted it was challenging to make ends meet.
"I am not rolling in the dough, despite how I look. At the time, I was on unemployment, I wasn't working, and so I had to make it to make ends meet, and it was very difficult. I had to ask a lot of favors and people had to be very patient with me — and thank god they did, because it paid off in the end."
12. Symone had to prepare over 40 looks.
"People don't realize you have to bring the runways, but you also have to bring challenge looks, you have to bring backup looks. I know I had at least 40 looks, not counting what wasn't even shown, and by the time you get done, you're scrounging for drag because you've used everything."
13. She had a folder on her phone full of inspiration pics.
"I've always been inspired by Black culture, Black women, and just women, period. It's always been a focal point for my drive. I gathered from everywhere and I had a folder on my phone."
14. And the looks came from collaborating with her house, the House of Avalon.
"I got the call, and then that package the next day. I went through it with my house, they helped me tremendously for this. We went through and were like, ‘Okay, what’s this look like? What things fit the category? And how can we tweak them to make them you?’
There were things I said I wanted at all times: I want to look like me at all times, I don't want to ever look like anyone else. I want to have fun. And I want to say something, I want to have messages, I want to have a point of view."
15. Symone instantly knew what she wanted her "Say their names" dress to look like.
"In my head, I thought immediately that I knew what that was gonna look like. I knew the silhouette, I knew I wanted it to be white, I knew I wanted to cover myself completely head to toe, I knew I wanted it to be a gown.
I didn't want to veer into one direction too much. It was a very hard balance to strike, but it was a fabulous challenge because I felt like it was important to do."
16. And the du-rag look came from wanting to stand out from the other queens and not do a train from the waist.
"I knew everyone was going to do a train from the waist down, and I was like, I am not going to be that person. It was a very collaborative experience as well. My housemate Mark, he would sketch it out, then everyone would put in their idea. Then we would send it to a couturier and they would make it for me.
In my opinion, if you go on, it will kind of be a disservice to yourself if you didn't have people around you who helped you be better. I'm not ashamed of that and I don't take it for granted."
17. Symone's first commercial after Drag Race was with Skyy vodka.
"I'm just excited to perform again — I love to dance, as many free left feet as I have. I was excited to perform anywhere at this point. I think we took it for granted, and I don't think we'll be doing that for a long time. I'm just ready to go out and see everyone and finally meet all the fans, to go out and just dance. I think we need it.
Partnering with Skyy was such a fabulous shoot, it was the first commercial I shot and it was one of the best experiences. They've always been such a supporter of the LGBTQ community — of our nightlife, of our spaces. It was the perfect coupling — I love going out, and they love supporting me going out! [laughs]."
18. Next, Symone wants world domination — but, in particular, she wants to get into acting.
"I want to explore everything, because that's what this opportunity has afforded me. I want to tour, I really would love to get into acting. I think that's really where I want to shine. That was my favorite thing out of all the challenges that we did."