Amyl was the first queen eliminated from season three of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. She spoke to QNews about THAT dress and how she feels about the experience with the benefit of hindsight.
I’ve been chasing Amyl for an interview since we published the first issue of QNews NSW Magazine back in July when she was one of the first Sydney queens announced for season three of Drag Race Down Under.
Little did I know she was sitting on the knowledge that she’d been the first to be eliminated from the show. That made speaking to journalists really tricky before her episode went to air.
“When I finally watched that episode, Hollywould Star and Ivory Glaze were there to support me,” Amyl tells me.
“Watching my elimination was a lot harder than I thought it would be because I’d had all those months since the filming to come to terms with it.”
“When I first got sent home I thought it was the worst thing that could happen to me but as time went by I realised I was going to be fine.”
“Finally seeing it on screen made my elimination make a lot more sense,” Amyl says.
“In my mind, I thought I’d done enough to be safe so when I got put in the bottom it didn’t make sense to me.
“But when I saw the episode I could definitely see how things turned out that way. I’m still really proud to have had this experience. It’s such a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Amyl received a lot of criticism over a dress she wore on the show which was inspired by the work of Australian artist and AIDS activist David McDiarmid.
Some said the dress looked tacky. While others assumed that Amyl was too young to have known about David or the significance behind the work.
But Amyl told me she had become aware of David about a year before she found out she was going to be on Drag Race.
“I’d been chatting to a friend who works in the art world and I told her I’d been looking at the art of Keith Haring and she recommended David as someone I should look into as well.”
When she found out she was going to be on the show she remembered McDiarmid’s “rainbow aphorisms” series that he created from 1993 until his death from an AIDS related illness in 1995.
“I know a lot of people derided the dress as the worst look of the episode and I get it!” Amyl says of that reception.
“The dress is garish and deliberately so. As McDiarmid himself said, “good taste can be a prison.”
“It’s safe to assume the idea that lifetimes are not what they used to be would have felt palpable for David — not only because he and his community were coming face-to-face with their own mortality, but also because those who had passed away were so often remembered in a way that erased their queerness and disrespected the lifetimes they’d lived.
“One of the reasons I find McDiarmid’s work so striking is because it confronts heavy subject matter, but visually, approaches it with such a lightness. It feels like hope; like there’s space for a future that’s bright and colourful and cheeky.”
When it came to creating the dress it was important for Amyl that she had permission and support from David’s estate. Luckily they loved the idea.
“I also had a conversation with RuPaul about the significance of David’s art so I did get to explain that history, and who David was,” Amyl said.
“And I did feel Ru was quite engaged with that. Ru is someone who grew up at a time when a lot of these struggles were a lot more salient.
“During critiques, Ru asked me what the dress meant to me, so I reflected on an idea of hope: nowadays, lifetimes are not what they used to be is a lot less pessimistic a statement.
“HIV isn’t a death sentence, and the sense that queerness and mortality are inextricably linked has receded into history. Now, lifetimes are frivolous and horny and complex and — maybe most importantly — long!
“My Drag Race journey might have been a lot shorter than I had hoped, but to be able to bring this message to the runway was pretty damn special, and I’m so pleased I had the chance.”
Another highlight for Amyl was the level of representation in this season’s cast.
“I did a gig in Wollongong and someone came up to me and said they’d never seen anyone on stage who looked like them before,” Amyl tells me.
“So those are the people I wanted to uplift by going on the show. There was also a lot of fun stuff that we filmed that didn’t make it into the final product.
“From a purely comedic point, something I wish had been left in was getting stuck in my dress when the zipper broke.
“We were getting undressed between looks and my zipper got stuck so I had five people with their knees on my back trying to unzip me or trying to cut the costume with scissors and eventually they did actually have to cut me out of that dress which was mortifying but also really funny!
“There is a point in the episode where you can see Ivory with me bent over a table and it looks like she’s trying to strangle me but she’s actually trying to unzip my dress but that’s all that made it in.”
-Catch Amyl in GAWG at Ching-a-lings where she’s one of a rotating cast of queens or follow her socials to see where she’s performing next
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