'Canada's Drag Race': Lemon on reading, representation and rooming with season 12's Jan

"She paid my rent sometimes when I couldn't afford it. She truly has a heart of gold."


Words: Will Stroude

Category is... SPOILER ALERT! Please note this interview reveals the result of Canada's Drag Race episode eight.

The top five is now a top four and the pint-sized queen with plenty to say is out of Canada's Drag Race.

Yep, after winning last week's pageant challenge, Lemon took a tumble down the totem pole during the makeover challenge this week, and abruptly found herself heading out the door after losing out to another suprise bottom two-er, Rita Baga, in a rip-roaring Alanis Morissette lipsync.

Lemon, 24, quickly made her mark on Canada's Drag Race, packing a (fruit)punch far bigger than her 18 months of drag experience prior to the competition may have indicated and winning two maxi challenges as well as the famed Reading Challenge (poor Priyanka's still recovering from that one).

Following her elimination, we caught up with Lemon over Zoom, where it became clear she's wasting no time turning lemons into lemonade following her time on the show. (No, seriously, there were even lemons hanging from the ceiling to compliment her outfit. Queen behaviour).

As we discuss her time on the series, including what fans are making of some of those judges' comments, it's clear that this is one queen who, despite her exit line, certainly ain't bitter..

So. Top five, just missing out on the final four: how are you feeling?

I feel amazing. I'm so proud of myself. I feel like I made it really far. Top five is a legendary spot, so I'm proud and excited for what's next. And I'm really happy for my top four, they are so amazing. If anyone had to beat me, it was those four. So I feel good about it.

The makeover challenge is a hard one to predict: So many legendary queens, from Monet X Change to Manila [Luzon], have come unstuck on it. What do you think went wrong for you this week?

You know, when you make it so far in the competition and there's only five queens left it really does come down to small details, and at the end of the day all five of the top five could have walked away with that crown. It just depends on whether everything is perfect. I'm proud of what I did and I thought my little Lime-y looked cute!

Did you agree with the judges' comments?

I say this all the time, but at the end of the day I'm not a judge, so my opinion on what they think doesn't really matter! They're chosen to judge us and have their opinions, and at the end of the day their opinions are right, full stop. Would I have thought some different things? Maybe, sure. But there's no right or wrong in drag, there's only what you like and what suits you.

Jeffrey's had a lot of heat this season for some of his comments. Having been on that stage, do you ever feel like he ever crossed the line into being too mean sometimes?

No, not at all. What everyone is forgetting is that the judging goes on for hours, and so the judges obviously say supportive, very kind things to us as well, but at the end of the day it's a competition and it's TV. If they were like 'you guys are all so pretty', it'd be a terrible show, don't ya think? So no, I never felt that any of the judges were rude or unqualified. They were chose for a reason and they're all really cool people. We need to keep in mind that they're humans, too.

You have the accolade of being one of the only queens in Drag Race herstory to make it this far after being in the bottom two in week one. Did that change your perspective on the competition, or your attitude towards it?

Honestly after week one I was like, 'Boom, who knows when I'm dipping outta here'! [laughs] I mean, I felt very much from the very beginning. even before I arrived, that anything can happen on this show. Anything can come out of nowhere and trip you up, or you can have a lucky day. I didn't really have expectations in terms of how far I would go, but I was a little frightened week one, and was happy to stay every week - happy, and shocked to have made it that far.

From a viewer's perspective it felt like you coped pretty well with the pressure of the competition - did it feel like that when you were there, or were you screaming internally?

I mean I love competition. I was a competitive dancer, so I'm used to it, the whole energy and the spark that comes inside of you. Wait, 'that comes inside of you'? [laughs] So I had a lot of fun and felt very much in my element, like it was what I'd been training for my whole life. So I think I found it less stressful that some people did, but I will say it was the most stressful thing I've done in my entire life. It's so scary!

As a Canadian queen living in New York, had you ever considered applying for the US version? Or was your heart set on Canada?

I wasn't ready, I don't think, for any season of the US show. I'd only been doing drag for a year and a half before Canada's Drag Race was announced, and as soon as I saw the announcement I just thought 'This is it. I feel ready for this and can't wait to go and show Canada who's boss!'

This week's makeover challenge was quite and emotional one, with you guys making over LGBTQ refugees who've come to Canada. How important is it for shows like Drag Race to shine a light on LGBTQ struggles not only here, but around the world?

I think our queer community is a little bit spoilt - North America's, specifically. I think we live bit in this bubble of 'Oh, the G in LGBT' is trendy, and there are gay, cis men all over our media'. And that's great, and we do need that representation, but I do think we need representation for the LGBTQIA+, and we need to be educated on how queer people are viewed and treated around the world. And that means reflecting on our media, and understanding that we have a hand in how people are seen. I think having representaion of refugees - and queer refugees - on this show is so powerful and eye-opening, and I feel the audience will feel the same way. It makes me feel spoilt for fighting over wigs and dresses when there are truly people fighting for their lives and their queer identities. It was a powerful episode, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Absolutely. Fans have been loving the cast dynamic between the queens this season, and a lot of them are friends outside the show. As a New York resident, did you feel like more of an outsider going in?

I did feel kind of like an outsider. Every queen I felt knew one or two queens at least, and most knew everyone. I was the only person who knew no one, and none of them knew me. I worked with Tynomi when I was 18 years old doing back-up dancing, so we knew who the other was but we weren't close. So it was this very intimidating feeling. 

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Despite the good vibes, we did see some tension in episode six when many of the girls chose you to go home. How did it feel hearing that?

I mean, obviously it wasn't the best feeling in the world. I was like, 'Am I delusional? Am I the worst drag queen in the world and everyone just wants me to quit drag because I'm so bad at it?' I was just having this existential crisis. But it boils down to a lot more than that, and there are obviously different dynamics between each person. At the end of the day we had to say a name, so you can't really get butt-hurt about it.

One queen you do know is [RuPaul's Drag Race season 12 star] Jan! You used to be roommates, so I have to ask: What is Jan like to live with? And did she have any advice for you going into the show?

Jan is the coolest to live with. She's very easy. Honestly both of us were working so much we were rarely home at the same minute of the day. But she's an angel, she's super kind. You know, she paid my rent sometimes when I couldn't afford it. She truly has a heart of gold and is a really good sister. And she gave me really powerful advice. I helped her pack her bags when she left; she came back, she helped me pack my bags and I left. So we got to talk a lot about what to expect and what to look out for. It was very helpful to have her experience and love. I love her. We'll be on a roommates tour soon!

Finally, we have to talk about that read of Priyanka. How long had you been sitting on that one?

[laughs] When I arrived, I saw everyone in the workroom, and that night I went back to the apartment and I wrote everyone's name and started making a read. Everyone knows the reading challenge is coming! It's my personal favourite challenge on Drag Race, so I'm like, 'I can't let everyone down watching at home'. They were all ready to go.

The poison pen was out on night one? You love to see it.

Oh yeah. Reading is fundamental...

Canada's Drag Race is available to watch now on BBC Three on the BBC iPlayer.