Naomi Smalls is much more than a look queen. The 25-year-old drag performer rose to fame as the super leggy runner-up on season eight of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Now, she’s back on an All Stars season of the show and is ready to show the world a “way more confident, happy, and different side of Naomi.” She also is extremely pleased to have upgraded her makeup skills to better please VH1’s HD camera lenses. Funny, smart, and chic as hell, Naomi Smalls is a queen who deserves a crown.
When I think of you, I think of how strong your aesthetic and style is. How do you vision board?
Whenever I go on stage, I like to transport my audience to a photo shoot or some sort of editorial I came up with in my head. A lot of that is from collecting inspirations from film and TV. I look at a lot of print. When I was in high school, I would go to Barnes & Noble and sit there for, like, seven hours, just scanning through magazines, trying to take little bits and pieces of something to be able to put it into a story to tell on stage.
Do you ever think about shifting to a different persona or adding radically different elements to yourself?
When I first started doing drag, a lot of it was about trying to be the pretty, cute girl at the club. I think I learned from traveling the world and being able to meet so many amazing professionals that you don’t have to just do one thing. I’m lucky enough to have moved to Chicago. I got exposed to this huge club kid scene that I had no idea existed. I don’t necessarily consider myself a club kid, but I’ve taken a lot of the way they go about telling a story with their looks and putting that into my drag. There’s always room for growth. If I get to a point where I’m not nervous about what I’m doing or not excited about it, I think that’s time to hang it up.
What does “the future of drag” mean to you?
I think that the future of drag is really normalizing it. That might sound like a bad thing, but I think it’s a great thing because we get to see the kids who have their parents bring them to RuPaul’s DragCon, and they say, “My son is interested in this, and I’m here supporting him,” and I think that that is just so beautiful.
Were you nervous re-entering the competition?
Yeah, I don’t necessarily like to compare myself to anybody, but I am such a huge competitor. On season eight I don’t think I really had the chops for it yet, because I was just so green. It’s crazy even how drag queens evolve so fast. I think now I’m a lot more well rounded, and a lot more comfortable being uncomfortable and really taking a risk and putting myself out there. I’ve learned that people really love me when I’m just being me and my authentic self. That’s all I can really give, so I just try and be the best version of that. That’s my motto going back into it.
What can we can expect from you on the show? What will we be seeing?
I really am such a fucking dork. I really stopped taking myself so seriously. I think that that’s the beauty of Naomi. She looks like a diva, but she’s really just a fucking nerd.
Why should we be rooting for you in All Stars and in 2019 in general?
I’m very thankful I get to live my dream. I never thought that when I was watching Drag Race as a 15-year-old junior in high school that I would be able to travel the world and work with these legends. I just know that I had a dream, it’s cool that I can show everyone that if you have a dream, as long as you just go after it, you can be living it too. It’s my dream to win RuPaul’s Drag Race and excel at drag. I hope that people can relate to that.