Being in the bottom can be a one-time blip for a Drag Race competitor. As with any reality competition show, you want to avoid multiple stints in the red. Darienne Lake was in the bottom in RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 8 Episode 4, but that wasn’t a rare occurrence; she had just been in the bottom two the episode prior, when Mrs. Kasha Davis was sent home. What was rare, however, was that Darienne was up for elimination alongside two other queens instead of one.
Host RuPaul deemed Darienne, Alexis Michelle, and Jaymes Mansfield’s group performance the worst of the episode, sending an uncommon trio into the deep end. The episode’s winner, Jimbo, went up against Lip Sync Assassin Shannel (the first queen to ever appear on Drag Race in Season 1) for the rights to send one queen home. And in the end, the group chose Darienne.
Here, Darienne reflects on her elimination, and her Drag Race journey from Season 6 to now, with TV Insider.
You don’t get to lip-sync for your life in All Stars. How does it feel watching the Lip Sync Assassin challenge go down, knowing your fate on the show hangs in the balance?
Darienne Lake: You watch it and you’re like, “Girl, I could lip sync so much better than you!” [Laughs]
Let me defend myself!
I know. Can I do that? Can I be a pinch hitter or something for the lip sync assassin? I think that’s a baseball term. Like, can I go up there and fight for my own life? Because I’d mop the floor with 12 of you at the same time! I just sit there and I’m like, “You know what? I like this song. I’m just gonna sit here and enjoy it and sing along.”
I just sit there and I’m like, “OK. My fate’s in the hands of who knows?” But that’s the thing, too. I don’t know how the group voted, so you’re like, “I want to root for you, Jessica. Woohoo.” But then I’m like, “I don’t know, maybe she’s got my lipstick in there.” So, you hope for your best.
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It’s not often that there’s a bottom three, but that did happen with this episode. Was that shocking to you when Ru put you, Alexis Michelle, and Jaymes Mansfield in the bottom after the TV Trailer maxi challenge?
Absolutely, 100 percent. Yeah, because I also watched the other girls’ trailers. Ours wasn’t even meant to be a comedy, you know? ‘Cause ours was to just make a trailer. I’m like, OK, let’s make like a horror, fun, sci-fi thing, whatever, with a little humor in it. It wasn’t like, oh, let me give away the entire movie, entire ending. So yeah, I was shocked [to be in the bottom]. And then also shocked because they put three people in the bottom, and that always sucks.
I think it’s been done before where multiple girls are in the bottom, but when you learn that there’s an alliance to get rid of you, you’re like, “Oh, f**k.” [Laughs] Then it doesn’t help when people say like, “Oh, you know what? I’m proud of this. Yeah! We’re all gonna stand up there and be proud of it.” And then have somebody be like, “Well, if I’m being totally honest…” I’m like, for what? So, there was that incident.
Do you find that your trailer was misunderstood then? That your intention behind it didn’t land with other people?
I think so, in a way. But it is what it is. When we were working on it, it’s not like any of us were like, “Oh, here’s a good idea,” and the other people were like, “No, that’s a bad idea.” We were always open. Hindsight is 20/20 though. If I could go back, I would’ve changed a lot of things.
That was going to be my next question. In hindsight, what would you have done differently, if anything?
I think we probably would’ve changed a lot of things and went in a totally different direction and added a lot more jokes and stuff, which I totally have in my arsenal. Just would’ve made it kookier and campier and funnier, more outrageous, more unhinged.
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In Untucked, you said that Alexis Michelle made you feel like she was stepping back and letting you stand in front of the bus. Can you go a little deeper into how you were feeling in that moment on stage when she started defending herself?
I guess what I was really feeling was like, “This is not gonna help. It’s not gonna help us as a team. It’s not gonna help you really. It just sounds like you’re just trying to save face for yourself, so what’s the point? Some things are better left unsaid. You probably should have not said anything.” I don’t know. But that’s just me. That’s her own technique, her own strategy to self-preserve.
It sounded like your perspective in that episode at least, or maybe this was your strategy going into the season, was a very zoomed-out approach looking at the long game of how you were going to build alliances and mutual respect among the queens. Is that what you were going in intending to do?
Yeah, I think so. And stay true to myself and try and do the best that I could. And then also look at the long game and step back and sort of like, not be too reactive, especially because when you have time to look at things, you can calm down and be like, “OK, well, let me think of it this way.” I think that was sort of my strategy: to not overreact to anything and look at it as a whole. But unfortunately I went into it already up against alliances and stuff with girls who’d worked together just so recently on tour.
We saw the voting in the first episode to really figure out like, “Oh, OK, well, who’s in the alliance?” and all that stuff. As much as they wanna say like, “Oh, Monica had a more compelling story.” How true was that? You’re in an alliance. Let’s face facts. And Monica didn’t make top four, but I did. So what’s your logical thing? If you’re in an alliance and you’re playing strategy, your strategy is to get rid of somebody who you find a threat.
This strategy, would you say it’s very different from how you approached Season 6? Or was this a product of the lessons you learned through Season 6?
Season 6 was just sort of like go and have fun and stay as long as I possibly could and take each day as it came. I think with Season 6, I just went and spoke without thinking and just did stuff. And of course, my foot goes in my mouth a lot because sometimes my mouth will work faster than my brain can. So [with All Stars], I was like, OK, you know what? Take a moment, pause, breathe. Think it over before I get too involved in something.
Even just when we were doing the ball earlier, I was like, “OK, let me pause, let me see what all the materials I have and what I can make and what’s actually possible for my size and for what materials I have” and all that. So, I think that was sort of my new strategy going in there.
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It does sound like you do have a sense of pride with your performance, as you should.
Oh, absolutely! I think it’s important to be proud of yourself and be your own cheerleader and also be proud of the evolution that you have taken since your season or in your life. I know that there was a lot of criticisms about what I wore in Season 6, but Season 6, you brought whatever was in your closet, you know? And as a larger person, you don’t have those options. And especially after the show, getting in contact with designers who will make things for larger bodies, you find so much more pride and you feel a little bit better about yourself. Like RuPaul says, dress in a suit, you’re gonna feel better, walk taller, all that stuff.
You feel better when you have this. I was like, “OK, the one part that I was lacking on, I’m doing amazing at.” And especially when you see the queen of the Fame Games, you’re gonna be shocked at some of the things that like, “Oh wow, she’s the fashion queen now!” I no longer can say I’m not a look queen. I’m like, yes, I am a look queen. I may not be your aesthetic, but I am for me. The campy style of the basketball dress with the big net — ridiculous! But it’s camp, it’s drag, it’s everything I love about drag. And then another look that’s coming down the pipe — coming down the pipe is an appropriate word or phrase for this look. [Laughs] I mean, no spoilers or anything, but I’m surprised that they actually were like, “Yeah, you could do that. You can wear that.” Like, really? [Laughs] I don’t know how much is gonna be [shown], and there’s a lot of looks (and not just like from myself) that I think, oh, they better have that pixelator going.
Let’s talk about your runway look for this episode for “Ass The World Turns.” How did you feel about the look that you turned for this challenge?
Well, I looked stunningly gorgeous, and it is something that is not a typical Darienne outfit or look, especially showing a lot of leg and all that stuff. I’ve always been self-conscious about my legs, not just for my own self, but I read comments online where people are like, “What’s wrong with her thighs? What’s wrong with that?” Like, yes, I am misshapen. And it only got worse after having a big chunk of skin removed after having melanoma in 2020. So, there’s a lot that like I had in fears, but I was like, “You know what? This is ‘Ass the World Turns.’ I’m gonna go balls to the wall. I’m gonna even take some of the confidence that Kandy [Muse] has of like, you know, ‘F**k this, I’m gonna do what I want to, and I’m gonna show what I want.’”
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I had another option as well, but I was like, “You know what? F**k it. This is gonna be amazing. It’s gonna be fun, and if people don’t like it, I don’t give a f**k.” I’m not wearing clothes for other people; I’m wearing it for me. It’s how I feel.’ That’s what the difference between fashion and style, I think, really is. I wanna do this for me and get over my fear of showing my legs. And I think I did something that was shocking and beautiful and showing that body positivity can be wherever you’re at, no matter how misshapen or, you know, odd or bizarre you look. Because all bodies are beautiful no matter what, whether you can stand tall or you’re in a wheelchair or if you have no legs at all.
Was this an empowering experience for you, even if it ended sooner than you expected?
Absolutely. Completely empowering to me to feel proud of who I am still today. I’ve learned a few things. This old dog has learned a few tricks over the years and has done a few tricks over the years. [Laughs] I just enjoyed everything about what I love about drag. [It got] me re-inspired to enjoy drag and [uncover] new facets of my drag personality. It was frustrating to go home so early, but again, this is the biggest test in the world. Not everybody’s a great test taker, you know?
This season has proven that even somebody who’s gone out first [in their original season of Drag Race] or early can do amazingly well and get past the fourth episode [in All Stars]. If you look at some of those girls like Jaymes or Kahanna [Montrese], who went out early, they’re still in the competition and that’s great. It’s fantastic. It doesn’t matter where you place on how far you can go.
I’m so glad you could have this positive experience and that it made you feel good, ’cause going on TV is not an easy thing.
I know, and the thing is, especially learning after Season 6, there are gonna be people who are not gonna like you, and you’re never gonna make them like you. Don’t waste your energy trying to. F**k ’em. Just concentrate on the people who do love you and just keep giving them what they want.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, Fridays, Paramount+