January/February 2020 Cover Story: Yvie Oddly Is Keeping It Weird
IN chats with the current reigning queen on what she’s learned since being crowned, advice to future Ru girls, and being authentic both on and off screen…
By Bianca Guzzo
Yvie Oddly lives up to her name in every sense. She entered the werk room on the Season 11 premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race with a remote-control car attached to a feather boa, and she hasn’t looked back since.
During her time on the show, we saw Yvie progress week after week. She took criticism and improved her craft, and lifted her competitors up to her level along the way, even performing in one of the most iconic lip-syncs in the show’s 11-season run. She spoke up when she felt she needed to, and was unapologetic in her criticism of her peers. Her honesty and authenticity got her all the way to the season’s finale, where she wowed with another iconic look and a stellar lip-sync against Canadian queen Brooke Lynn Hytes. Eventually, Yvie took the crown.
She’s now spent the past six months as the US franchise’s newest drag superstar. We talked with the Denver queen about what she’s learned from her Drag Race win, about always being willing to grow and evolve, and how she stays true to herself.
Yvie’s wildly different approach to drag was reminiscent of past queens who appeared on Drag Race like Sharon Needles, Jinkx Monsoon and Milk, who brought (and continue to bring) more conceptual approaches to their performances. You could describe Yvie’s looks as a little rough around the edges…but in the best possible way. That distinctly Yvie approach to her drag looks, and her approachable attitude, made her an early fan favourite on the show. Through her run on Season 11, she reminded fans and viewers that you always have room to grow and improve your craft, and in doing so become a stronger, and better, version of yourself.
Watching Yvie as she often got into arguments with her Season 11 sisters, fans of the show questioned whether her constructive criticism came from an honest place, or whether it was part of her strategy to play the game. Her raw honesty made her one to watch from the beginning, and her eagerness to improve her art was inspiring to watch. “I just never saw the point in lying – I was going to be me 100 per cent,” Yvie tells IN. “People need to learn how to speak up sometimes. I’m glad I could give someone a voice.”
Expanding the drag artist’s platform
Yvie is a drag superstar during a time where drag queens and other queer performers are gaining more popularity in traditional popular culture. With this mainstream popularity comes a new opportunity for art to be seen, and messages to be heard. The drag community has gone through a lot of transformation in recent years, and the whole community is so different than it once was. Queens who have competed on Drag Race leave the show with an enormous platform to share their art and stories.
Yvie explains to IN that the community of “Ru girls” that queens enter after competing on the show is a lot different than fans may think. “They are much more welcoming than social media portrays it. There’s a mutual appreciation, which is great because you know you have a community.” The help of a community is important when you suddenly find yourself performing all over the world, as Yvie has been doing ever since her win. Having people around you who share similar experiences makes it easier to transition into a life where you are well-known all over the world.
Tipping culture is something that is huge in the American drag scene, and it’s one thing that a lot of American queens find hard about performing in other countries, where tipping is not the norm. But Yvie says she doesn’t really notice the cultural differences while performing in various countries around the world. The excitement of performing for a global audience hasn’t been lost on her either. “I’m so excited to perform when I’m somewhere new. I think there are oddballs everywhere, so the excitement all sounds the same.” By the way…since winning Drag Race, Yvie’s audiences haven’t been limited to everyday fans of the show. “It’s been pretty chill to meet some celebrities!” she says.
Yvie’s style of drag on her season was quite different from what we were seeing from other queens, and what we had gotten used to seeing from queens on previous seasons. Her looks were more conceptual art than pageant queen, but that didn’t stop her from exploring different avenues while still staying true to her performance style. She credits her strongest and most iconic look on Drag Raceas her show-stopping pink jellyfish ensemble – a look she prepared for by painting her entire body pink in the werk room before the runway. Nothing is off limits, as she describes her drag as “seeing a live birth.”
Yvie’s style is ever-changing and evolving, and that’s something she’s passionate about retaining with her art, and performances. “I think being able to evolve my artistry and imagination has been something that I’ve enjoyed most.” Winning the crown and touring the world hasn’t stopped her from trying other new things, and always keeping it weird. Being odd is in her name, so it’s safe to say that it’s not going anywhere.
It’s been a year since Yvie competed on the show, and watching it now has taught her that everything she did happened for a reason, and not to regret any of the choices she made, because it ultimately got her the crown. There is one thing she wishes she could go back and play differently, though. “I guess Snatch Games,” she says with a laugh. Yvie’s portrayal of Whoopi Goldberg during the competition’s notoriously difficult challenge landed her in the bottom two that week, along with Canadian queen Brooke Lynn Hytes. The two lip-synced to Demi Lovato’s “Sorry, Not Sorry,” and delivered the show’s most iconic and memorable fight to stay in the race to date. It was so incredible that RuPaul decided they both deserved a second chance, which eventually saw both of them together at the finale.
Winning the crown has opened a lot of new doors for Yvie, and while she’s managed to stay true to who she was from the time she entered the competition, her superstar status hasn’t stopped her from evolving as a performer. Yvie says winning the competition has taught her that she can continue to evolve more than she ever believed she could.
And that’s not all. Through her win, Yvie has continued to open doors and break the glass ceiling for other drag and queer performers who are branded as “odd” or “different.” There is now more space on the stage for performers who don’t fit inside the traditional boxes of what people once believed drag performers were supposed to fit into. In fact, Yvie is often credited as one of the queens who have helped usher in this new era of drag that’s a little more offbeat than the sequins and evening gowns that have been previously expected.
With the horizons for drag being broadened, more queens who are daring to be different, like Yvie, are being given a larger platform. They are shaking things up, and continue to diversify the drag community and its audiences. Yvie admits that even though there are all types of different types of drag, some tend to be more glorified than others. She says she hopes more people similar to her will come forward and continue to break barriers for future queens to be a little different from what’s expected, and gain a bigger platform to share their art. “It’s opening the doors for oddballs like me,” she explains. The more mainstream drag performers get noticed, and praised in traditional pop culture, the more it opens the doors for something different to shine through.
It’s almost impossible to know exactly what to expect when you’re competing on a show with a stage as big as RuPaul’s Drag Race. There’s no amount of binge watching that can prepare you for how hard and how fast you have to work. Yvie has a piece of advice for the fresh crop of new queens about to make their first appearances on the world’s largest drag competition. “Just be yourself,” she laughs. “Just do it!” Another thing she wasn’t prepared for while she was filming Season 11: “Smoke breaks are limited.”
Shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race have thrown drag performers into mainstream success; more people are gaining their first exposure to drag and queer performers from seeing them on television. For many, their only exposure to drag performers is what they see on a screen, and while shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race have done so much to bring drag queens and LGBTQ+ issues to light, it can also hinder the reality of what it takes to be a drag queen. It’s not all reading, and makeup, and sewing challenges. Drag queens – especially the ones who don’t have the help of an international television show – have to hustle to be able to perform. Yvie wants fans of the show to know that queens, whether they have big or small platforms, have to work really hard to get to where they are. “It isn’t cheap. You’ve got to be savvy,” she says.
When she’s not on the road performing for the world, Yvie says she enjoys just relaxing in her downtime. But soon enough, she’s right back to excitedly performing to a new crowd, in a new country. She has taken the world by storm, taking her one-of-a-kind act on the road for everyone to experience for themselves. For a lot of fans, seeing one of their favourite queens from Drag Race live for the first time can be a different experience than seeing a performance on television. Drag performances have the power to put the spotlight on bigger issues while still being a light-hearted medium that can be enjoyed by a diverse group of people.
Yvie’s performances have always come from a deeper place, and are presented with a message: “You are odd and unique, and that’s okay!” This seems to be the energy she takes with her in every aspect of both her life and her performances. She has always preached that your differences are what give you an edge. During her time on RuPaul’s Drag Race, she revealed that she was dealing with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a physical condition that causes hyper-flexibility in the body due to a lack of collagen production. It forced her to slow down during a portion of the competition, but ultimately her differences made her an open, honest and stronger competitor.
Through everything, Yvie has shown both her fans and all her audiences that she is different, and she’s not afraid to be. She is unapologetically herself, and a self-proclaimed “oddball.” She keeps it weird, but she’s also not afraid to keep it fresh and change it up when she feels she needs to. Yvie is never apprehensive when it comes to speaking up. She’s loud when she needs to be, and she doesn’t regret it.
So what’s next for the current reigning queen supreme? She’s currently touring the world, having just finished a tour in Europe and Mexico. Her next stop is performing in Australia, and then she will settle into her new residency in Las Vegas for a show at the legendary Flamingo. She’ll be sharing the stage with other fan favourites like Season 10 winner Aquaria, as well as Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, Eureka O’Hara, Kim Chi and Naomi Smalls, just to name a few. After some time in Las Vegas, she’ll be heading out with another batch of Drag Race alumni for Werq the World Europe.
Yvie Oddly is just getting started. She’s not slowing down, and she’s not afraid to keep it weird, no matter how uncomfortable it might make you.
BIANCA GUZZO is a writer based out of the GTA. She spends her free time watching Trixie Mattel makeup tutorials, though she has yet to nail the look.