Drag Race UK’s Scarlett Harlett admits she was ‘hanging on by a thread’: ‘I can go to dark places’

·7-min read

This week’s Drag Race UK paid homage to a Great British Institution: the humble charity shop.

Charity Shop Sue (arguably the UK’s real drag superstar) joined the queens as they assembled a variety of “fugly” outfits for the judges. Joining RuPaul, Michelle Visage and Alan Carr on the judging panel was Alesha Dixon, who was unsurprisingly one of the best guest judges we’ve ever seen on the show. When that lip-sync came, you better believe she was singing along to Mis-Teeq and giving her all.

After one of the strongest lip-syncs of the season, Scarlett Harlett was eventually sent home, leaving just four queens left in the competition. During her time on Drag Race UK, Scarlett was a hot topic and certainly wasn’t afraid of giving her opponents a piece of her mind.

PinkNews caught up with the fiery queen herself to find out how she feels about her elimination, her regrets and who she thought would take home the crown.

PinkNews: What was it like watching your exit episode back?

Scarlett Harlett: Just like my Drag Race journey in general, it has highs and lows. The first portion of the episode – that conversation I had with Ella [Vaday] – I skipped it because it was so embarrassing. But other than that, even though I got eliminated, I got to perform a song that I absolutely love – an absolute banger of a song – with Vanity Milan, who is just an amazing performer. In front of Alesha Dixon! That was just the cherry on top of the cake.

Alesha Dixon joined the judges this week. (BBC)
Alesha Dixon joined the judges this week. (BBC)

And I got to do my “exit line” and to see RuPaul say “yes, I am!”, which I didn’t know he’d said at the time. So watching it back, it was like a lovely little treat. I think I’d gotten a little bit in my head during the competition in the middle part, so it was nice to have that moment. In the words of Cheryl Hole: “love ya, love ya, love ya… done!”

You grew up watching reality TV, what was it like seeing yourself on your favourite show?

It was everything that I expected and more! I’m a TV fanatic, especially reality TV. I grew up with the classic Big Brother, with stars like Nikki Graham, who I adore. She was one of my favourite people ever and I used to love that she wasn’t afraid to just be herself. To be able to do Drag Race UK is wild because you achieve so many of your dreams and goals in the space of a few weeks. I’ve got to perform Spice Girls in front of Emma Bunton, I got to perform Mis-Teeq in front of Alesha Dixon, and she was living for it! Even though I got sent home, that was iconic.

You had quite a bumpy ride on the show. Are there any things you said or moments you regret?

It is a pressure cooker that no one can understand. When I watch it back, it’s genuinely quite hard to be honest, because I can see how much pressure that I’m feeling at that moment. As much as we all love to live for the drama on TV, I think people forget that this is real life. I was hanging on by a thread!

I’d spoken about my mum’s health issues and I went on stage and then they read me, then I got picked [to go home] by all the girls. I walked off because in the “real world” I like to decompress, take a moment and remove myself. Of course, on reality TV, you’ve got to deal with it there.

Scarlett Harlett.
Scarlett Harlett. (BBC)

I regret allowing the stress and the pressure to take me to a negative place, because in the beginning of competition I was so happy and bubbly and that’s the kind of person I really try to project out into the world. I know that I can go to these dark places. It was hard to watch and I just want people to know that if you didn’t like my behaviour, I agree! Watching myself I can see how much pressure I was under. But if you think about it, what would that episode have been if it wasn’t for those moments?

Who was your favourite guest judge?

Matt Lucas, because my drag is all about being silly and camp and comedy and things like that. That’s what he does and I’ve looked up to him so much of his career. He’s an idol of mine and a comic legend for me.

Who did you think was your strongest competition at the start?

The second Victoria Scone walked in the door I thought, “that’s it, game over!” Not a lot of people know this but I was there for the one of the first times she ever performed in drag. And from the minute I saw her I knew she was a star. I was petrified and excited when she walked in because I know how good she is. If she hadn’t hurt her knee I’m adamant that she would have made it to the top. Also, I knew Ella Vaday and she’s a consummate professional, so I knew she was gonna bring it.

You gave a big shout out to your working-class roots this week. From a financial perspective, was it hard pulling together all the looks for the show?

It was mega difficult for me to prepare for this show because we were in a lockdown where I’d not worked for months. I didn’t have two pennies to rub together. But I was never not going to say “yes” to being on this show, I was going to make it work. Even if I had to walk down that runway in a bin bag.

One of the outfits was actually a look that I hired and that look happened to be the one that I got read to filth in. It was the fruit look – the wet lettuce. I’m glad that happened though because it became a funny meme and a silly moment. But you better believe I took that rented outfit back to the shop quickly.

The cast of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’ series three. (BBC)
The cast of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’ series three. (BBC)

You beefed with quite a few of the queens on the show, but is all forgiven now? Are you still close?

It’s very much “what happens on the show, stays on the show”. When you go through this process, it is such a unique pressure cooker environment that you have a mutual respect at the very least for the other queens. And so even with all the drama and little arguments that we’ve had on the show, you know, it’s been eight months now, so we’ve all squashed it.

I think we understood that the fan reactions can be quite negative and the only way we’re going to get through it is by sticking together. I’ve had some negative comments from a couple of the episodes, which has been really tough, and their support – their text messages, voice notes all of that – has been so helpful. I can’t even put it into words!

What would you say to anyone who’s inspired to do drag after watching you?

I would say that if I can do it, trust me, you can do it! Know what you’re good at. Believe in yourself. And whatever your one single talent is, crank it up to 100 and go and smash the world – in the words of Elektra Fence.

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