‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ All Star Jaida Essence Hall on Meeting Naomi Campbell: ‘My Jaw Was in My Anus’
After years of begging from the fans, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season 7 has finally premiered. It is the first all winners season of the hit franchise.
In the first two episodes, which debuted on Paramount on Friday (May 20), the fans got to reacquaint themselves with former winners Raja, Jinkx Monsoon, Monet X Change, Trinity the Tuck, Yvie Oddly, The Vivienne, Jaida Essence Hall, and Shea Coulee, as the queens duked it out in a songwriting challenge, followed an iconic double round of Snatch Game.
Viewers also learned about the new rules for the all-winners format. Gone are the lipstick eliminations, and lip sync assassin matchdowns that have dominated previous seasons of All Stars ,. The points system has replaced them. There will be no eliminations this season. Instead, two queens will each receive a Legendary Legend Star for performing well and then they will lip sync against each other. The winner of the lip sync gets $10,000 and the ability to block one queen from getting a Star the following week. In a lip sync smackdown, the four queens who have the most Legendary Legend Stars will compete for the crown.
With so much to break down from the first two episodes — including one of the most gag-worthy guest appearances by supermodel and fashion icon Naomi Campbell — Billboard chatted with contestant and season 12 winner Jaida Essence Hall about winning the crown in the middle of a pandemic, returning for this star-studded contest, and all of the behind-the-scenes tea about the first two episodes of All Stars 7.
All Star 7 is finally out in the world! How do you feel about the fans finally being able to see this series?
So so good! I was able watch both episodes. It was so much fun to look back and share those moments with my sisters. You can refresh and remind your self that there is more to come this season.
I mean, if these two episodes are any indication, then I’m almost scared — this season is going to be nuts.
Baby, so am I!
There was a moment in the first episode where you got to open up about winning the season 12 crown, but not being able to tour the world and get some of that same shine as other winners. Are you feeling that way today?
Oh my god, thankfully we got to have that moment where I talked with my sisters, and had a really deep moment. Before that talk, we had a conversation about how it felt to win, what we have accomplished since winning, and what it was like to be victorious. Then, we had a discussion about all the negative aspects that come with winning, such as the feeling that you don’t deserve it.
Coming to this season in my mind, we all had this thing that we strive to at any job or any career we have, it’s like… no matter how much time I’ve done this thing, you still have this thing that eats at you, asking “Am I good enough?” For me, I won, but then it was like, “What makes me so deserving to have this?”
Now, after being on the show, after being able to be in the world and finally seize these opportunities, and after having that conversation with them and seeing that I am not the only one to share those feelings, it’s made me completely change my mentality about the way I see my win. I don’t feel that I deserve the win. I know that I have worked hard for it and it is mine. Period.
I mean, you’re getting to do some of that world-touring right now, I know you’re in Glasgow at the moment!
That’s right, Glasgow, darling! Mutton eating… Wait, no! What’s the thing they eat in Scotland?
You talking about haggis?
Haggis! Yes, that’s it, baby! It’s not yet in my possession. [Laughs.]
Let’s get into these episodes, because there is a lot to go over. First, the rules have changed again! How did Ru tell you about the Legendary Legend Star twist and how did you feel?
To be honest, I kinda feel like I knew. Like, in good Drag Race fashion, there is always room for a change, and with the competition being all-winners, and knowing that some of those contestants were winners of All Stars, I just knew that there had to be some kind of twist. I don’t know what that twist would look like. I had no idea! It was obvious that a ranked system was the best way to determine who should win an All-Winners Season. You don’t get to see what they could have done since their win so it’s fair for all of us to keep the ring.
Exactly, and it’s also a nice way to let the fans who like to judge everything on track records know that they have been heard, but also to be quiet!
Literally! Literally! You know that even if you make a mistake, you will be back the next week. To be honest, I think it will change the history of the show.
Completely. Another thing that was a first in Drag Race history — Naomi Campbell! When she walked out, my jaw was on the ground. It was so exciting to finally see her on the show. And it was great to have her give us all a masterclass of runway walking. What was that moment like?
Oh. My. God. My jaw was in my anus! The full tea is: Ru informed us that there would be an iconic runway model, so my immediate response was Beyonce. I was convinced that this was the moment. As we were driving over, I thought, “What if it was Naomi Campbell?” We’re doing a runway presentation, she would be the right person.” But then my mind immediately shuts it down and goes, “No way, that’s not it, no.”
You can obviously see on the show how much of a difference she’s made in Shea’s life, but for everybody there — especially all of the queer black people in that room — I know for a fact that she has moved all of our lives, and changed them for the better just by existing and being herself and blazing trails and covering magazines for the first time. It’s easy to believe that you can do more with every moment you spend thinking about Naomi Campbell.
To then meet her in person, I was kind of praying that she would read me to filth, because that would be so iconic and I would never forget that moment! She didn’t make it, but she was sweet and one the best guest judges. She was so helpful and passionate about her work.
So after you meet with Naomi, we get to watch the “Legends” performance — having to do the songwriting challenge on episode one is crazy! How did you think about that first challenge?
I was a little nervous, because I initially thought we were going to do a little talent show like they’ve done on past All Stars seasons. It’s Mama Ru, and she always has a twist! I don’t sing and I knew there were singers around me so I was a little shaken. Before I left home, I wanted to be prepared for anything. I always said yes to the challenge, would take it in my stride, then move on. After hearing it, I got to have some fun with it — we did the singing challenge first on season 12, too. This time, I was able to make it more enjoyable!
You killed it in the singing challenge — which brings us to Snatch Game. I think this was the best Snatch Game in Drag Race history, to be completely honest. That includes your Prince, who I thought was quite funny even though he was broken! Is Prince a special meaning to you as a performer?
Oh, for sure! He has a tremendous influence on me, absolutely. His unapologetically lived life, his preference for sexual freedom, and the fact that he would even do these interviews being shady — it was all everything. Prince embodies so much of me, so I was like, “Yeah, it’ll be fun playing him and paying homage to him.” But then I thought, “This isn’t my traditional drag, so it will be fun to try something new.” It was definitely a challenge. When I got there, I didn’t wanna necessarily know everything I was gonna do, I just wanted to live in the moment having fun as Prince having fun.
It was so funny, that little thing you did with your mouth was so stupid but so funny.
[Laughs.] Straight up, that was me laughing and trying not to break character! That’s why I had to just say, “You make me laugh, Ru!” It was so much fun and the fans are so sweet about it! Snatch Game is one those things that you get nervous about before the competition. Snatch Game is the number one stressor for anyone who competes in the show. Because you know how much it is loved by the fans and how many people ride on it, it is the No. 1 stressor. This season, many of these queens won Snatch Game. I wanted to be different, but also understand that I wasn’t going to win. These girls are legendary Snatch Game performers. They know what they are doing! I can only hope to have fun and be safe. That was what I did.
With this being such a pivotal season in the Drag Race franchise, we’re asking the queens to take a look back across the many seasons of the past — do you have an all-time favorite RuPaul’s Drag Race moment?
Oh, that is so gaggy! OK, Akashia’s slip and fall on the runway in season one was one of my first memorable moments. I was captivated by the way she spun on the ground, posed, and got back up. This episode was my first love. She made it a moment by turning it around! It made it feel so fearless. Normaly, everyone is perfect. It was amazing to see her do that and then to just roll with it and get back up. It’s the definition of, “It’s not how you fall down, it’s about how you get back up!”
Now, because we’re Billboard, I always want to know — is there any music in particular that you’ve been listening to on repeat lately?
Oh, tea! It’s crazy that you ask that question right now. I have been listening to Amber Mark’s [Three Dimensions Deep] album over and over. It’s amazing, she’s so talented. Sometimes we share dressing rooms. But when I don’t have the room to share, it’s Amber and me having a blast. She is my best friend.
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