Pin It
RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK Versus the World9

Baga Chipz, Cheryl Hole and Blu Hydrangea on taking UK drag global

RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK Versus the World kicks off tonight on BBC Three

Part of what makes drag such a fascinating art form is how it adapts to different times and settings. Each place has its own history, humour and surrounding culture, which is then parodied, subverted or celebrated within its drag scene.

When RuPaul’s Drag Race UK dropped its first season in 2019, the hype could not have been higher. But the BBC Three show lived up to it: beloved by fans across the world, Drag Race UK has showcased the unique quirks of British drag and created a new generation of drag superstars.

With RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK Versus the World, the BBC is yet again breaking new ground. It’s the first time queens from international Drag Race shows have competed against one another. Series one’s Baga Chipz, Cheryl Hole and Blu Hydrangea are representing the UK against queens from Holland, Thailand, America, and Canada.

Drag Race UK is hosting all stars from across the world at a moment when the franchise is rapidly evolving. Victoria Scone became the first cisgender woman to compete on the BBC show last year. Trans women and men have appeared on Drag Race US, with Maddy Morphosis becoming the first cis straight man to compete in the latest season. Conventions and barriers, which once seemed so fixed in drag’s most mainstream platform, are gradually dissolving.

When Dazed talks to Baga Chipz, Cheryl Hole and Blu Hydrangea, they’re out of drag. But they’re still visually representing themselves: Baga in a bright fuschia coat (clutching what looks like a large gin), Cheryl in the fabric of Essex (leopard print) and Blu in her namesake florals. We discuss representing the UK on the world stage, getting the meme treatment, Princess Diana and evolving on reality TV.

Were there any nerves about coming back to the show for a second time?

Cheryl: None whatsoever for me! I literally got the call and was like, “Yep, let’s do it!” Because for me, in season one, people were saying I wasn’t on the same level as everyone else, so the only way up was up for me. It’s time to show people that I’m not so “mediocre” after all!

Baga: Oh no, I didn‘t have any reservations. I’m one of these people where I just know I’m the shit, so I thought: “let’s send these bitches packing!” We were in lockdown when we filmed the show, so you couldn’t even leave the house. So it was a great way to get out of the house and have fun with all your mates. Everyone was prancing around, like baby prostitutes!

Blu: For me it was the opposite! I got the call and they said, “do you want to do an All Stars?” And I was like, “wait, hold on, I need a day to think about it”. I thought I’d have a little bit more time off Drag Race, without a pandemic, to grow. You know? But luckily, as you can see by my promo look, it’s the best one!

Cheryl, you seem keen to rewrite the whole “I’m ready for another week of me doing mediocre,” meme. Do you have mixed feelings about being seen that way?

Cheryl: I never know what comes out of my mouth half the time! Like, some people go into the show with pre-planned catchphrases that they know they’re going to plug and throw on t-shirts. So I honestly didn’t even remember saying it, and now people tag me every Monday. The whole “mediocre” thing is something I love and embrace – I’ve got mediocre necklaces too. But that’s in the past and it’s more about what I’m bringing to the table now. People will see that the looks are not mediocre anymore!

Baga, will there be any “much betta!”-style catchphrases from you this time around?

Baga: Oh, yes! I’m not gonna ruin it for anyone but there’s loads of memes and catchphrases. I’m just a walking quote machine! 

Baga and Blu, was it difficult being separated from your fellow Frock Destroyer, Divina De Campo?

Baga: No, I thought: “we’ve got a break from Divina, yayyyy!”

Blu: Divina’s like your mum and Baga’s like your drunk auntie…

Baga: Divina’s the organiser, she’s like, “right you need to get up but this time, we’re doing this song, we’re wearing this outfit.” Divina organises everything and Blu gets shit done, but she’s more chill. So we do miss Divina, but we’re gonna be seeing her very soon anyway, we’re doing a little Frock Destroyer tour.

So on a night out, Divina orders the Uber?

Baga: Yeah and if she gets you anything, like a coffee, she’s like, ‘You owe me £2!’

Baga, I know you’re a big Princess Diana fan. What did you think of Kristen Stewart’s performance in Spencer?

Awful! I thought, ‘What an absolute disgrace!’ No but, there’s someone who’s playing Diana in the next season of The Crown (Elizabeth Debicki) and she looks exactly like her, but Kristen Stewart didn’t look anything like Diana!

I was offered the role in season three of The Crown and I couldn’t do it (I think I was filming Tipping Point or something). People compare me to Diana because I’ve got the bone structure and stuff and the decorum. But yeah, I like Kristen Stewart but I thought, ’I could do it better than this,’ she didn’t do the eyes properly.

There’s been a lot of talk about the financial pressures on the queens, particularly with the Drag Race series which filmed during the pandemic. Is it much easier getting all the looks together now you’re more established?

Cheryl: For me, I worked with four designers, two of which I’ve been working with for the entire time. And then two who I had relationships with, but I was just so excited to branch out and just throw everything at them and go: “we’re going hard and we’re not going home!” Honestly? I think people are going to be surprised by what I bring, because I surprised myself. But you know, well at the end of the day if people hate it, I don’t give a flying fuck! I loved it.

Blu: Well, I had a lot more connections this time and as soon as I got the call, I was on the phone to every single person I’ve worked with since season one. But I actually found it harder than the first time. The person who made all my outfits for season one was literally having her baby as I was getting ready, so she could not make any of my outfits, so I had to outsource. But luckily it all came together. I was in a position that I could spend a lot of money on it, but I'm not going to say I’m perfectly happy with everything. But it’s definitely a better showing than the first time around and definitely I’m excited for people to see the looks!

Cheryl, you got some pretty bad trolling on series one, do you feel like you’re more prepared and know what to expect now?

Cheryl: I think with every season of Drag Race, people feel like they have a bit more ownership over you and feel like they can give their unsolicited opinions at any given moment. So I’m doing the thing where I’m putting my stuff out there and then I’m closing my laptop, because I love feedback, but I think when people are just being mean for the sake of being mean, I’m not gonna waste my time clouding my head with that. We’re human beings like anybody else. You wouldn’t walk up to somebody on Old Compton Street and say, “I hate your fucking shows you ugly whore!” So why do that online?

Blu: Drag Race has a particular fan base too. They have like, the “spoiler” Reddit accounts, where they like to spoil things, then they have a different one for “drama”, a different one for “cringy” things, which is definitely different to other shows. I got a message the other day from someone and they were commenting underneath every single one of my posts calling me “a flop”, so I blocked them. They messaged me from a different account saying “you don’t deserve this and I’ve grown up since I commented those things” and I was like, that was five minutes ago?!

“The whole “mediocre” thing is something I love and embrace – I’ve got mediocre necklaces too. But that’s in the past and it’s more about what I’m bringing to the table now” – Cheryl Hole

This series of All Stars is particularly special because it’s the first one that’s international, featuring queens from Holland, Canada, America, and Thailand. What did you learn from the queens from other places?

Blu: Pangina (Heals) was probably one of the most interesting queens to listen to about her culture, because it was so vastly different to everyone else’s. I remember her telling me that there’s not a direct translation for the word “drag” in her language, she said you have to be really well known or really good at what you do to be a drag queen in Thailand, which I find really interesting because I’ve watched Drag Race Thailand and they're incredible at what they do. Pangina owns her own bar and she hires a lot of local girls, which I love.

It feels like Drag Race has changed quite a lot over the last few years. There’s been cisgender women on the show and trans people too. Do you hope this international All Stars season will continue that?

Baga: I just love drag and I don’t care if you’ve got a fanny, a pecker or five heads, just entertain me! You know, if I go to a drag show, I want to be entertained. That’s why I like myself!

Cheryl: I’m looking forward to the point where drag is just described as “drag artists” instead of drag kings drag queens. We’re all performers and we are all artists, and no one artist is the same. I think the more artists that are being showcased on these platforms, the better.

Blu: I totally think so! I think Drag Race is moving in a positive direction. I think that bringing people to the UK versus the world is the first of many seasons where we’ll see a very diverse cast, and I’m really excited to see maybe drag kings too, because drag is for all bodies, all genders, all races and all ages. It’s an art form. And I think that once we see more of that on the main stage of Drag Race, it’ll just become the norm.

Speaking of fluidity and breaking down barriers, did you see the whole beef between Billy Porter and Harry Styles about Harry’s Vogue cover shoot? What did you think about that?

Cheryl: No, I totally missed that!

Blu: Yeah, I did see it. I obviously think Billy Porter’s generation, of course, has done a lot for our rights and what we get to do in our everyday life, so he has a right to his opinion. I think just live and let live, at this point. Like, why can’t people wear dresses? Why can’t people wear makeup? Why can’t I have long hair, are these things even real anymore? Gender is just something that someone made up back in the day. 

Baga: Let the lad wear whatever he wants, do you know what I mean? Billy Porter didn’t invent wearing a frock on the red carpet! It’s been going on for years, David Bowie, Prince, you name it! I’m a big fan and it is amazing when he wears these amazing outfits on the red carpet. It’s breaking boundaries. But I believe everyone should wear whatever they want.

Baga, I’m dying to know: what makes the perfect bag of chips?

Ooh that depends what mood I’m in. Salt and vinegar, obviously, because if you don’t have them you’re a weirdo. I do love chips and gravy, because I’m northern. I can only have mushy peas if it’s with chips and a fish. But if it’s just chips, lots of salt and vinegar, or chips and curry sauce, chips and cheese and curry sauce. It has to be the proper chip shop curry, though. I actually had chilli con carne on chips the other day. That’s why my name’s Baga Chipz!

“Think Drag Race is definitely moving in a positive direction because it’s involving more people of different varieties. I think that bringing people to the UK versus the world is the first of many seasons where we’ll see a very diverse cast” – Blu Hydrangea

Do you think we’re going to see a different side of all of you this season?

Blu: I definitely think “confidence” is the key word, because it’s the thing that I’ve definitely grown in the most. Before I was on the show, whenever I used to work in Belfast, it was on a stage that I knew very well. And when I applied for the show, I thought, “obviously it's a great opportunity, but maybe I’m not ready”. But I learned a lot from the queens around me, like Baga, Cheryl and The Vivienne, they all walk with such confidence and just throw themselves at any opportunity. And I took that and applied it to myself and I think it’s definitely helped me grow a lot. 

Cheryl: When I came back this time round, I remembered everything that is true to me and stopped plaguing myself with self doubt. And I said to myself, “no matter who's there, no matter what they say, do not let them affect you because you were here for a reason!” Yeah, you shouldn't do things purely to prove people wrong, but it’s that fire under your belly that just keeps you going!

Baga: I’m still just an absolute tease, you know, I’m a windup merchant! Everybody loves me. I’m the best. Everyone’s always like “oh Baga, shut up!”–

Cheryl: –I’ve said that about 40 times during this interview!

Baga: But my looks are much better than the first season, when I look like I’d just fallen out of a charity shop. We’re going to see lots of catchphrases. You're gonna get me playing up to the camera, because what's the point in going on Drag Race if you’re not gonna play up to the camera? I don’t go on there to win, realy, I go on there to make TV magic.

RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK Versus the World kicks off tonight on BBC Three