The drag and style superstar talks corsets, the evolution of drag fashion, and finally being able to celebrate her true self.
This article was originally published on July 13, 2022 and has been updated.
To simply call Violet Chachki the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season seven is a severe understatement. Yes, it may be where she got her start back in 2015, but since then, she has outgrown the franchise (sorry, Ru!) and found fame on a global scale. The glamazon is part model, part performer, part artist, part muse and 100 per cent herself at all times, as I discovered when we chatted on the phone. She is not afraid to call it as she sees it, hence her Queen B reputation. But in our conversation, I see the true Violet doesn’t take herself too seriously.
Because of her busy schedule, we weren’t able to Zoom, but if we had, I imagine I would’ve been treated to an outfit of epic proportions. Her combination of old Hollywood glamour and femme fatal fetishism has earned her a spot amongst the fashion glitterati. Besides being a front-row fixture at fashion week, Chachki was the first ever drag queen to front a lingerie campaign in 2017. She gave Marilyn Monroe a run for her money in Prada’s Fall 2018 film. She’s walked countless runways, including Moschino’s and Richard Quinn’s. And she’s one of the select few who have descended the Met Gala steps in full drag. Not only that but she’s also dipped her toe into the beauty, fragrance and music worlds and recently collaborated with Canada’s own Allie-X on a single.
In honour of her “A Lot More Me” tour coming to Canada (tickets for which are now on sale), starting in Montreal on July 22, FASHION chatted with Violet Chachki about her upcoming performances, the newest season of Drag Race, and owning who she really is.
I would be remiss if I first didn’t ask you about RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7, the franchise’s latest season where previous show winners come back to compete for the ultimate crown. As the winner of season seven, did you ever get the call, and did you want to get the call?
For a minute, I wanted to get the call, but my opinion on whether I would actually go back on the show changes weekly. Sometimes I think, “Oh, it’d be so fun,” and other times I’m like, “That gives me so much anxiety and absolutely not” [laughs]. So my thoughts on being in an all-winners season constantly change.
In the online series Fashion Photo RuView, you and Gottmik critique the runway looks from the latest season of Drag Race. Recently, Raja’s (the season three winner and renowned “fashion queen”) fans have come after you for your negative reviews of some of her outfits. What is your take on the situation?
I love Raja! She’s definitely an icon but [this whole situation] is just so funny. I think fans singled her out because she was the one that started the show Fashion Photo RuView in 2014, and then [I came on] critiquing her, but that’s the whole point of the series! Many fans are pretty young and just really attached to these queens. So when someone comes in and critiques them, even if it is their job, people can get upset about it. I mean, I tried to be fair with all of my criticism, and it’d be boring [if I said] everyone was great or bad the whole time. All the queens have their moments, and at the end of the day, it’s just one opinion, and it’s just clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I love fashion and drag, but let’s be real here: we’re just playing dress-up. There are so many more important things going on right now.
So what are you looking for when you toot or boot an outfit?
There’s just so much drag now that it’s become saturated, so it’s getting harder and harder every year [to stand out]. There’s a lot of mediocre and copycat drag out there. So for me, I’m looking for something I haven’t seen before. I want to see who pushes the art form in a new direction.
You had such an impact on the fashion in Drag Race. How do you think drag fashion has changed over the years?
I think many different people have helped shift what drag fashion is and what it could be. Sharon Needles [the winner of season four] really shook up what it could be. And then Raja took the show in a fashion direction, and yeah, I think I helped shift it as well. In those early seasons, everyone was so different, unique and specific to where they came from in the country. But now it feels like all the queens [on the newer seasons] are blending into one another. Everything is so self-referential and has become almost like a parody of itself.
Drag queens have been taking the fashion industry by storm. What do you think has spurred this takeover? Because it feels like they have become fashion’s new muses.
I think drag and fashion have always influenced each other. Fashion is about confidence and creation, and that’s what drag is about too. But I don’t know if I’d call it a takeover. There are designers like Richard Quinn and Jean-Paul Gaultier who have always represented the community, and there are others who never have and never will.
You once told Vogue that you’ve always thought of fashion as a language. Can you expand on that and how it applies to your style?
I think of fashion like armour. I love using clothes to say something without speaking, and I think it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. You can use clothing to take up space, get attention and even hide. A good example is after I won Drag Race, I was getting so much criticism for things that I’m not: “she’s not an actor,” “she’s not a comedian,” “she’s not as talented as so-and-so.” So when I came back [for the season eight finale] to pass the crown down, I wanted to make a statement saying a big f*ck you to everybody who was so critical of me. I wanted it to be almost scary how regal and royal I looked. I had a prosthetic crown growing out of my head, and I think it worked really well. It was just such a powerful message without saying anything.
You’re pretty famous for your corsets, and now the rest of the world has caught up. What do you think is the eternal appeal of the corset, and what’s the craziest one you’ve ever worn?
Some people think corsets are just about being skinny, but that’s not what draws me to them. I love the extreme silhouette they create, the artistry of how they’re made and all the time that goes into making one. The smallest corset I’ve ever worn was probably the 18- or 19-inch corset I wore on the show. It was for the “Death Becomes Her” runway challenge, so I was really going for it. We had to walk the runway twice, so I went around once and then I had to take a break because it was honestly a health concern.
And on Instagram, you’ve teased a lot of costumes with corsets for your “Violet Chachki Presents A Lot More Me” tour. What can fans expect from the show?
Well, the show quite literally means me taking control over my career. I’ve wanted to do a show like this for so long, and I named it “A Lot More Me” because, after years of being wrapped up in Drag Race and touring with other people, I finally get to do my solo show and do something that is totally me, my vision and my style of drag. And I think people can expect truly the most produced solo touring drag show that’s ever happened. I mean, so much production goes into this show, from the costumes to the music to visuals to the aerial performances. It’s a drag, vaudeville, circus and fashion show all in one. It’s a complete labour of love, and it’s just about me coming into my own, owning my star power and showcasing the kind of drag I love.