Good morning, good morning, good morning. Yes, GAY TIMES is currently speaking fluent French to commemorate the launch of Drag Race France, the latest international edition of the RuPaul’s Emmy Award franchise.
Hosted by Season 12 alum Nicky Doll, who is making history as the second contestant to host a series after Brooke Lynn Hytes, the first season features 10 fierce French contestants who they claim will compete in maxi challenges, tracks and clashes in lip synchronization to be crowned the first French drag superstar.
The premiere, which received overwhelmingly positive reviews on social media, saw the contestants show charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent with lip-syncing performances, live vocals, burlesque and more. . In the words of one viewer, “Drag Race France HAS TALENT!”
“I was gagged every time,” Nicky tells GAY TIMES of the talent show. “This season has been so emotional for me because when I did season 12, my goal was to represent my country as best I could and make my country proud.”
The MC, who sits alongside TV host Daphne Bürki and French DJ/activist Kiddy Smile on the judging panel, said hosting the series was a no-brainer because it’s important to her to “put level the drag scene” in France and “make sure these girls get paid what they deserve and not just cheap 80 bucks”.
Read ahead to our full interview with Nicky on the footsteps of RuPaul, Brooke, Supremme de Luxe and more as host of Drag Race France, why she does it not plan to rob your husband and whether his new gig rules out a potential return to All Stars.
Nicky, congratulations on Drag Race France! The first one was absolutely exceptional. How are you finding the reception so far?
They were definitely big shoes to fill. There can only be one RuPaul but ultimately be the one who broke into this as the first French queen [on Drag Race], I was truly honored to be the one to host and showcase these girls. As you have seen, there is so much talent in this country and they deserve to be showcased. Overall, I’m very happy and I think the premiere was very well received, so I’m in heaven!
How have you found the whole process so far, especially the move from candidate to host?
When I realized I would be on the other side, I felt like it would be so much easier! When you’re sitting on the other side as someone who has a competitive past and you have girls with big dreams fighting to get to the top, you have an empathy you never expected. I feel like it connected me to be able to give my best for these girls and really understand them. It gave me that big sister energy that I didn’t know I had. It brought us a lot closer.
Is this what surprised you the most in your job as a judge?
Yeah, because it made eliminations very difficult, very emotional. I did not win [season 12]. I was eliminated, so I know what it means to have your dreams shattered. You know when you didn’t have the best parents and then you become a parent and try to do a better job? You try to do things that you would like to have. You really try to remember your past as a competitor and I think I did. It was so much fun, I didn’t want it to end. I was like, ‘Can we bring more girls?’ I was comfortable in my seat and wanted to do more.
Prior to filming, did you speak with RuPaul or any of the other international hosts? Did you get any advice?
Actually, I contacted Michelle. When she heard the news, we texted and she gave me some advice. We had a long chat where she basically told me how she does it and that it always had to come from love. She was actually very helpful because she really loves what she does and she loves all queens. She said: “At the end of the day, you have to do a job and you have to make sure what you say and do is right.” I listened and did the same. And RuPaul, we talked a couple of times when I was on set and he invited me to do Pete Davidson’s makeup for SNL. I think, overall, RuPaul shaped me to have the shoulders to accept such a great opportunity. Everything I’ve been through with Ru since I’ve been on the show has shaped me to where I am now.
As host, how did you make sure you were true to Nicky Doll instead of trying to embody RuPaul and his classic Ru-isms?
I think if France had English as its first language, it would be really difficult to get out of RuPaulisms. But, because I’m doing it in a completely different language and culture, I was able to keep some of the country spirit and Americanism, but make it a French recipe and make it my own. For example, I would not have liked to be in the place of Brooke Lynn Hytes, having to do it in English too. I think she did an amazing job of making it her own. In French, I think it was easier for me to stay away from Ru’s ways by always keeping what really worked and making it understandable for French people as well. The American sense of humor and the French sense of humor are very different, we are very dry and lively. We are actually closer to the UK. It was therefore easier to adapt it to what France wants to see and to identify with.
For viewers who haven’t watched the show yet and aren’t familiar with French drag, how would you describe the scene?
French drag definitely puts a lot of effort into aesthetics. We come from a country that has a lot of history with tailoring and fashion, so aesthetics are very important. There are a lot of queens of the look, but there are also a lot of cabaret. Before drag – as we know it now – became more mainstream, there was always a lot of cabaret with queens posing as, say, Liza Minelli, seven days a week. So you have that essence of edgy and underground cabaret, plus lots of live singing. We also have comedy queens, so there are a lot of things in France and we have our own way of doing it. Now the drag industry is much greener than in the UK or the US. First of all, because we don’t have a dollar bill, so the concept of tipping isn’t a thing unless you want to crack someone’s brain with a coin. I think having Drag Race will help improve the industry.
Did you know any of these queens before the series?
I left France seven and a half years ago, so I knew some of them, but a lot of them were people I saw on social media and didn’t know personally. I think it made it easier for me to experience them on the show without having too much of a personal opinion. I know Kam [Hugh]La Grande Dame, Lolita Banana and Paloma, but all the others I had the pleasure of discovering them on set with their skills in the challenges.