After several consecutive appearances in the bottom two, the drag queen — drag daughter of Drag Race Season 5 alum Coco Montrese — felt the building pressure to be insurmountable and, in a moment of self-doubt, wanted to leave the show early in Episode 7. Heidi N Closet had done the same in Episode 5 following a fight with Kahanna.
The spar was caused by confusion during “Snatch Game of Love,” in which Kahanna played drag mother Coco. When her performance went south, Heidi (embodying Blackbeard) started riffing with Kahanna. The comments felt like a punch down to the Season 11 alum, and she confronted Heidi in the Werk Room afterward. Feeling ganged up on by Kahanna and Kandy Muse and feeling a lack of support from the other competitors, Heidi decided to leave the show altogether. Kahanna was in the bottom two that night, but Heidi’s early exit meant no queens were sent home. In Episode 7, Kahanna declared she would follow in Heidi’s footsteps, though she tells TV Insider below that Heidi had little to do with her decision.
To avoid two queens self-eliminating in a row, host RuPaul staged an intervention in the Werk Room to “straighten shit out” with the final six competitors. Here, Kahanna explains why she almost left, why she’s grateful for RuPaul’s intervention, and why she and Heidi must “agree to disagree” on their Episode 5 feud.
Kahanna Montrese listens as RuPaul urges her not to quit the competition (Credit: Paramount+)
You nearly left the show, like Heidi N Closet. Can you explain your thoughts in the Werk Room that led to that?
Kahanna Montrese: I was going through a lot with how I was doing [in the competition]. Being in the bottom so many times really just got me. I was just at a place where I was like, “I don’t know if there’s anything more I can give,” and I didn’t feel like the judges were seeing it for me. I felt defeated. And then I had to snap myself back out of it and just remind myself that I wasn’t here for anyone else but myself. It’s like, prove to myself that I deserve to be there. That’s why I decided to stay.
You felt intimidated by the acting challenges like “JOAN: The Unauthorized Rusical” and then the “Ru-Crime” show. But both of these weeks, the judges said it was a matter of separating the “A+s from the As.” So no one, including yourself, really did a bad job. How does it feel to be in the bottom when the judges recognize that everyone did pretty well?
I have mixed emotions because it’s so nice when you hear from the judges that you were good. And a lot of times, you know, that’s not always the case. So I was so happy that at least I got the validation that what I did was good. But what got to me was just the simple fact of being in the bottom so many times. It was like, “Dang, I’m not good enough, apparently.” Sometimes when you’re in a competition, that really gets to you. That’s where I was at. I wanted to push through and make sure that I was shining in a way that they hadn’t seen before or was good enough to land me at the top.
Despite how the episode ended, you still dug deep and performed well. Were you proud of yourself?
Absolutely. There were so many layers to that, honestly. For me to almost give up on myself and fight past all of that and see that had I left, I would have never gotten the opportunity to see that I can work past my fear and deliver. Even though I went home, I know I did such an amazing job, and I was so proud of what I presented. Even watching myself back when I was on stage watching the [“Ru Crime”] takes, I didn’t even recognize the person. I’m like, “Who is this girl giving these jokes and really selling the character?!” I was so happy to be able to be like, “That’s me! I did such a good job!”
I never would have [had] that opportunity had I left. I was so happy even going home because, no tea, I looked like a million bucks with my runway. I knew I did good, and the girls, I feel like we all came together on this challenge. It was just like you said in the Rusical: it was a strong week. So if I was gonna go home, thank god it’s to the best and girls who are really delivering.
That’s what makes you an All-Star, too. You compete with the best. And I really feel like our season, a lot of people probably didn’t feel it for us. But we are showing the world, no, we are stars. Just seeing week after week how hard these challenges are and how we’re rising to the occasion, I was just so happy that I was able to do as good as I did in the competition and to be among freaking stars.
The cast of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ Season 8 perform ‘JOAN: The Unauthorized Rusical’ in Episode 6 (Credit: World of Wonder/Paramount+)
And before that, I didn’t know anything about Joan Crawford, so it was a lot of quick study. I did the best I could to channel Mother Jones, honey. [Laughs]
You got an education, then. So, just how close were you to leaving?
Oh, girl. Bags were packed. She was almost out the door.
And what did you feel when RuPaul came into the Werk Room to stage that intervention?
Oh, it was a lot. The biggest thing was regret instantly because here, my idol was looking at me with disappointment. It’s a feeling that I would not wish on anybody because I really do admire Ru, his work ethic, and I try my best to channel a lot of that with my own career. So when he was giving his advice, it was really hitting deep. I was just like, more than me doing this for him, I owe it to myself because I can’t quit on me. Even if people don’t see it for me, I have to always have my back, to always give my best effort.
That moment, if I’m being honest, it changed so much in me. I’ll never forget it. It was a lot, but there was something that really clicked in me to never give up. I was so close [to leaving], and I’m so thankful. It’s a memory I’ll always cherish because, you know, he didn’t have to do it. He could have easily let me walk. But it showed that he really did care. And a lot of girls, we don’t get that opportunity to have one-on-ones with him. So when you do, you really take it in, and to have that experience, it was just like, I don’t ever need to get to this point again, where I give up on me.
— RuPaul’s Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) June 16, 2023
Did Heidi’s exit influence your decision to leave? Did her leaving early make it seem possible for you?
No. Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about any of that. If anything, when Heidi left, I felt like, yes, this could be a good opportunity for me to step up because I knew I was probably going home that night. No, not probably. I knew I was going home that night. There was a part of me that just felt that I overstayed my welcome. When I kept being in the bottom after that, I was like, “Oh my gosh.” I could understand the pressure that she was feeling. I don’t know what was her deciding factor to leave, but what I do know is I could definitely feel the unique stakes.
Here I am in a situation where I feel like I’m doing good, but I’m in the bottom constantly. I wanted to escape that because I didn’t like seeing that for myself. I didn’t like looking back and being like, yes, I have a win, but the majority of me being here, I’m in the bottom? I just didn’t want to continue that. I was like, “I was probably going home during Snatch Game,” and then I snapped myself out of it. Do not ever forget; I got to show my runway. I got to really show my performance outside of just the first episode. So I definitely recognize the blessing in getting the opportunity to stay, and I can’t thank Heidi enough for that. Because at the end of the day, she really opened the door for me to be there.
I interviewed Heidi after she left and asked her about your fight. She reiterated that during Snatch Game, she was trying to volley to you within the shadiness that Snatch Game requires. In hindsight, do you understand what she was trying to explain in the Werk Room?
Yeah, listen. I’m an adult. I can understand that we all have different perspectives. I fully respect her point of view, but I think I’m just going to have to agree to disagree on this one, just because I really do feel there was more to it. I’ll just leave it at that. I definitely understand that in a Snatch Game, there is a lot of volleying going on, but yeah. I’m going to leave it at that.
What advice would you give to future Drag Race queens who are considering leaving the show midseason?
I don’t know if I should really speak on that because everybody has different reasons why they want to [leave]. I can only speak for me. The only thing I would say is, looking back, it was a moment I know I would have regretted, hands down. Had I left, I would have been so mad at myself because you don’t know the future. You don’t know if you would have turned it out, and then that could have been the turning point for not only the world to see you differently but for you to see you differently. I don’t think anybody should rob themselves of that experience. Even when you’re in the thick of it, you should always give your best, even if you land on your face.
I felt like even though I was in the bottom of that challenge, I stood [up] to that occasion, and I was absolutely great. I did good. I looked amazing down that runway. And had I left, I wouldn’t have been able to see my favorite runway! There are so many factors to it, like that moment with Jimbo that I had — I wouldn’t have been able to experience that.
Do you have any regrets from this season?
Not at all. I’m so glad I did everything that I wanted to do going onto Drag Race, except for winning. [Laughs] I really do feel like I did everything that I [set out] to do, like being able to showcase my personality, being able to show my drag, and being proud of the runways that I presented. I was so happy. And even with the mishaps I had, I just feel like it’s not as big as I make them out to be because, in the overall picture, I did really good. I don’t regret a thing. I had so much fun, and I’m so proud of myself.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, Season 8, Fridays, Paramount+