For Rupaul’s Drag Race contestants who are relatively unknown on the drag and club scene, the airtime offers an unbeatable opportunity to build a reputation as a dynamic live performer.
Then there are well-established queens like Mayhem Miller, whose reputations for serving fierceness onstage precede them onto the RPDR runway. But a sterling rep won’t save you in this competition, as mighty Mayhem was the fifth queen to sashay away from Season 10.
Upon entering the workroom the very first day, Mayhem sensed the other queens had her in their sights.
“I felt the intimidation and maybe the fear of me being fierce competition for them,” she says. “Most of the girls knew who I was. Well, I won’t say most of them — they all knew who I was. I think they knew what I could do and that I was potentially going to be the winner, so I think it put a target on my back. As you can see, within the group challenges I was always picked towards the last. I think they purposely didn’t want me to continue in the competition.”
Mayhem had worked long and hard just to make it to Drag Race. “I didn’t audition for Season One, but after Season Two, I continuously tried and tried and tried to get on the show.”
In those years that the call from Ru didn’t come, Mayhem made a name for herself working crowds alongside West Coast drag sisters Raven, Delta, Detox, and Morgan McMichaels, all Drag Race royalty.
After watching all her sisters compete, Mayhem finally was invited to the ball for Season 10. “I think in this [season’s] audition tape, I was actually able to showcase to them why I deserved to be there,” she says. “[The] body of work that I’ve done over the years and my growth from Season Two until Season Ten, they were actually able to see the progression of this person who has tried and tried, and each year keeps pushing themselves to get better, to get to the level where they were ready to cast me.”
Of course, getting cast on the show isn’t the same as getting far in the competition. For that matter, getting far on Drag Race isn’t exactly the same as grabbing tips at a bar.
“They’re two different animals,” says Mayhem. “Being a good entertainer is being well-versed in the art of drag, which is, you need to be able to do everything and anything. You can’t just be one type of drag queen if you want to be a successful entertainer. Being successful on Drag Race, though, you need to know how to make good TV. And those are two different things. I genuinely went in wanting to prove that I was the best drag queen there. I wasn’t going there to say, hey, I’m going to be good TV.”
Yet, Mayhem did make some good TV during her run, including her feather-plucking LSFYL to Hole’s “Celebrity Skin,” as well as her shady parting shot that she “ab-so-fucking-lutely” had more to offer than some of the queens left in the competition.
Asked to name which queens she might be referring to, Mayhem doesn’t hesitate. “All of them,” she responds, with a laugh. “I’m not leaving any of them out of it. I have more to offer than all of them.”
Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 10 airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on VH1.