Joe Black on ‘not being a good fit for Drag Race’ – and what happened after that RuPaul outburst

Reiss Smith
·6-min read

Drag Race UK‘s Joe Black reflects on the whirlwind that followed her very own “Tyra moment” and doing drag during a pandemic.

For the first time in Drag Race UK herstory, RuPaul last week gave one queen a second bite of the apple, welcoming Joe Black back to the competition in the first post-COVID-lockdown.

Sadly, it was over almost before it even began, with Joe promptly finding himself in the bottom and sashaying away a second time – but not before RuPaul blew up over the fact she’d worn an off-the-rack H&M dress for the “RuRuVision Song Contest” challenge.

Between Ru’s Tyra Banks-style rant and the inescapable bing bang bongs of “UK Hun?”, it was an episode to remember – and Joe wouldn’t have had it any other way, he told PinkNews.

PinkNews: The secret’s out! It’s been so long, has it been tough keeping it to yourself?

Joe Black: I think if clubs had been open, I wouldn’t have necessarily been so much of a secret squirrel. Could you imagine with that long wait, you’ve just had a few too many drinks when you’re out at the club and someone says, ‘You should go on Drag Race?’, and you just give them a look and you go [cackles].

Are you happy with how things worked out?

Of course, I could have just ridden off the Bowie controversy, but I’m glad I did [come back]. Did you ever once look at me and think you know what, this person would be fantastic at a pop group? Did it cross your mind?

Can’t say I did!

Exactly! I think going back for a pop thing just solidifies that that’s not what I’m about. A lot of people are saying, ‘You gave it a go, but I just don’t think you’re a good fit for Drag Race’. Bob the Drag Queen said, ‘Joe Black is fantastic at drag but not for Drag Race‘, and that is exactly it. But I’m really glad I did it, I went in there with, I think, a good attitude. I didn’t go in as a joke. I went in to do the best job as I could and to adapt as best I could while remaining true to me. So I’m actually really glad with how it worked out.

Joe Black with windswept hair, an iice cream cone on his head and ice cream splatters over his dress
Drag Race UK legend Joe Black. (BBC)

What did you make of RuPaul’s outburst?

That was very dramatic wasn’t it! I don’t think I’ve ever been so passionate about an outfit someone else was wearing before, but Americans are very passionate people, aren’t they? I’m really glad that pink velour could invoke such emotion. People keep asking me if I would change anything, and I think if I can get that kind of reaction, I wouldn’t change a single bloody thing. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The memes are hilarious, I got sent the biggest cake and a bouquet of flowers from H&M. People are calling it one of the most iconic moments of Drag Race. And I got my own Tyra moment! Im grinning now – because I haven’t even considered this – I cannot wait for the lip sync numbers that include that dress. Everyone lip syncs to the ‘I’ve never scream at a girl like this’ clip, I cannot wait for the people who managed to gather up that dress – I think it sold out – to lip sync to that moment. I am going to be front row.

Let’s talk about “Queens on Lockdown”. In the special, you all spoke about how tough it’s been for drag performers and entertainment more generally, can you tell us about that experience?

It was the fastest moving life change. I’d spent a month getting ready for Drag Race, I went to Drag Race, I came home from Drag Race, and then a week later the country shut down.

Suddenly, one by one, everything I had was gone – all my work was gone. And I was like, what do we do now? What happens? I adapted to doing online shows – I’m really lucky, I don’t take for granted that what I do is something that can translate to live streaming. It’s not necessarily the same as the live experience, but I was able to still flex creative muscles and make a little bit of money on tips. But it’s not even about the tips, it was about what people keep calling the Blitz spirit. We’re all in this together. That wasn’t a thing I thought would happen, I did it because other people were doing it, and I wanted to do something nice for people because I love performing. But that took off, my quarantine cabarets, along with selling everything I f**king owned to get on by. I got through it, and despite it being hard I was still really, really, really, really fortunate. I’ve managed to get through it fairly unscathed; I think lockdown was was a lot more unkind to other people.

How are you feeling about what comes next?

I’ve just booked a tour for September, because that feels realistic. Not international, just around the just around the UK, I’m not intending on getting on a plane at any point. Some of them have been sold at social distancing just in case, but I’m feeling hopeful. Maybe I’m naive. What I really hope happens in a best-case scenario is that things can open up, and that people will come out in their droves and they will appreciate and love and support live entertainment – on all levels. Of course, I’m gonna have a lot of people coming to shows because they’re fans of the show, and they want to see the people from the show, but I really hope that people do go to their local shows and support their, as RuPaul called it, regional people. Go out and support all different kinds of drag, whether it be on TV or not – your kings, queens and everything in between. Show them the love because it’s been a s**t old year, and I think raising all of those people up who’ve tried to keep creating during a global pandemic will be will be lovely.

Finally, Joe, who are you rooting for to win?

I’m torn between two – I am team Tia Kofi and Team Lawrence Chaney.