‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’: Megami Wasn’t Joking When She Said ‘Protect Queer Art’

For each season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the contestants are asked to “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” when it comes to weekly challenges, all while telling themselves, “I Have Confidence.” But on the latest episode of season 16 (going on 17), the girls got to perform in one of the fandom’s “Favorite Things” — a Rusical!

Friday’s episode (aired Feb. 16) of the reality series saw our 10 remaining queens singing their padded butts off in “The Sound of Rusic,” the show’s dragged-up take on the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, The Sound of Music. Between dancing, lip syncing and (over)acting, the contestants created a Rusical to be remembered with their campy show.

After stealing the show as the leading lady “Mariah,” Plasma earned her second challenge win for her captivating performance. But in their respective roles as “Sister Sister” and “Schnitzel,” Mhi’ya Iman LePaige and Megami found themselves on the verge of saying “So Long, Farewell” to the other contestants.

Duking it out in a lip sync to Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers,” Mhi’ya expertly evoked the singer’s self-loving energy with a pitch-perfect performance. Megami’s earnest, sobering rendition, meanwhile, left the queen holding her own hand as she sashayed away from the main stage.

Billboard chatted with Megami about her thoughts on the Rusical challenge, her origins as a cosplayer, and why she’s glad her plea to “protect queer art” in this season’s talent show got all the attention it did — positive or negative.

How are you feeling after your run on Drag Race, Megami?

I mean, it’s certainly been an adjustment. At the beginning it was a little rough for me, but over the weeks, I think that people have gotten to know me and gotten to see what I do — as a performer, as a queen, who I am as a person. It’s been really nice to have people come around and actually really get behind me and support me in the last several episodes. I’m sad to have to go, right when I’m on an upswing! But, it’s better to go out feeling on top than to start doing really awful and then have people want you to leave. 

You are known as the cosplay queen here in New York — what got you interested in melding drag and cosplay when you first started out?

It wasn’t even about drag at the beginning: It was purely about cosplay, and going to comic book conventions. My favorite characters were always the girl characters, so I would always want to cosplay like everyone else at the convention — but I didn’t wanna do Wolverine, I wanted to be Jean Grey! So it started as me making costumes for whatever characters I wanted to do that year, and I would show up as the female characters I loved. Performing in drag kind of naturally came after that — I wasn’t a performer, I loved making costumes and embodying characters. 

It’s also really cool to see you going out of your way to create space in a community that otherwise might not be the most welcoming for queer folks, like nerd culture. 

It is so incredibly important to me to take up space in geek culture, which is traditionally considered to be for cisgender, heterosexual guys. I want to show people that queer people love gaming, women love geek stuff, people of color love all of this stuff, too. It’s so important to occupy that space. Every time I’ve gone to Comic Con or Anime NYC or any of those conventions, people will come up to me and talk about how they suddenly feel inspired to express themselves. That’s the point! It’s about showing other people that they can do it, too!

Before we dive into the episode, we have to talk about your talent show performance from the premiere. What did you make of the audience’s reaction to your “Protect Queer Art” number?

Well … at the end of the day, I always enjoy making people laugh, even if it wasn’t my intention. I’ve always been the class clown. It came from a very sincere and real place, so I’m not gonna claim that it was my intention to become a meme or any of that — I love drag and this community so much, and with everything happening in the world, I just felt compelled to say something. I wanted to use my 60 seconds on this platform in front of millions of people to say something. 

It’s funny, because there were a lot of people in places like New York, Chicago, L.A., these traditionally very queer cities, who were saying, “You’re preaching to the choir.” But having travelled a bit to traditionally red states, the amount of people who came up to me and thanked me for saying what I said was astounding. Sometimes it feels like some people in these queer bubbles don’t really understand that Drag Race is not only watched by queer people. There are so many other people out there who watch this show, especially queer folks who may be apathetic toward politics and see queens as cartoon characters on their TVs.

It is my hope, at least, that people can see us less as characters on TV, and see our humanity and understand that we still need you to stand up for us. We need you to become politically active, because we cannot protect ourselves by ourselves — we need the entire community.

In this episode, we had the Rusical challenge, where — inevitably — a few of the girls ended up battling with one another over roles. Did losing out on the role of the Baroness to Q mess with your head while you were preparing for the challenge?

Yeah, I will say it did. I was really trying to get a role where I knew I could stand out and show off my more comedic abilities. Getting a role that I really didn’t want, or that I didn’t feel had enough of a character for me to work with … yeah, it sucked. [Laughs.] Obviously, it didn’t work out that well for me! But, I did the best I could with what I was provided, and I honestly think I did a fantastic job considering I had to dance my ass off the entire show, while some people just got to walk around the stage and point at the audience. There’s a difference! 

I love that you got to work with Adam Shankman this episode, especially after you revealed that Hairspray directly influenced your love of drag. What was it about the musical and the role of Edna in that show that stuck with you?

Growing up, I was always a little feminine boy — just being able to see someone be a drag queen as Edna was amazing. It was so cool to see someone embracing the full feminine fantasy and being loved and celebrated on stage, and being the hero of the story. And it’s not just Edna, it’s Tracy, too! The fat girl and the drag queen can now be the heroes. That was fully me in high school, I got to see myself in these characters as a bigger person and a queer boy who didn’t get to embrace my femininity in that way. So, yeah, it’s a really important part of my life. 

Before you go, we would love to know — what music have you been listening to lately?

I’ve actually been listening to a lot of Chappell Roan! I rediscovered her album a couple of weeks ago, and it’s really inspiring me lately. As a Brooklyn queen, I always try to think outside the box with my performances, and I love music that also goes a little outside the box. “Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl,” specifically, is so good. It’s a complicated title, but I’m obsessed. 

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