RPDR Alum Pearl Remains Unapologetically Herself

RPDR Alum Pearl Remains Unapologetically Herself

V caught up with the drag superstar and chatted about Drag Con, her following, and what the future of Pearl and drag looks like.

V caught up with the drag superstar and chatted about Drag Con, her following, and what the future of Pearl and drag looks like.

Text: AJ Longabaugh

Today, ASOS and GLAAD have launched their second capsule collection and campaign that collectively manifests and represents the shared belief to "Stand Proud. Stand United." In tandem with the launch of this inclusive collection, they have enlisted 10 exciting young talents within the LGBTQ+ whose work/craft is establishing a new wave of movers and shakers in the broader lens of representation, equality, and ultimately, unity.

One of those faces, is RuPaul's Drag Race Season 7 finalist Matthew Lent also known as Pearl. V caught up with the drag superstar and chatted about Drag Con, having a large following, and what the future of Pearl and drag looks like.

Check out the entire ASOS and GLAAD campaign, and read our conversation with Pearl below!

I’m pretty good I just had a pretty busy weekend, but I just got back really late last night/

Where were you coming from?

I was in LA doing drag con

Drag con! Was it awesome?

Yeah, it’s always great meeting fans and stuff. It’s also just always very chaotic. It’s like the moment that we all lead up to and there’s so much money and time and stress that goes into it. Then you’re only there for three days and it’s over. You’re like, "what the hell?"

How many drag cons have you done now?

I’ve done all of them. My season was the first season that they did a drag con. It was me, Violet Chachki and Ginger Minj that are Drag Con OG– it's like, I know what it feels like to be that girl that it’s kind of all about and all of a sudden Drag Con hits and it’s very wild.

Right, and the platform has grown into a beast. Going into it’s 10th season.

Yeah... a big, wild, savage beast.

Which brings me to my first question. We are now living in the age of social media. I think even before your season, there were social media queens

I mean the nature of a social media queen back then, even though it was only 4 or 5 years ago compared to today is like completely different. It’s alarmingly different. On my season me and Ms. Fame were had the most Instagram followers of any of the girls. I had 4 to 5k followers. She had maybe 7k or 8k. Now, it’s not unusual for a queen to have what, 20k to 100k followers walking on Drag Race. Like what the hell, when did that happen.

What is it like to have a following?

I mean it’s kind of like a multilayered thing because there are so many positives and so many negatives about it. On one hand you have this very easily available audience that is just there waiting for your content. If you have a new project or a new look it's just instant gratification to post it on your Instagram or your social media or whatever you have. The negative is that you get instant results. You know I mean? Like your fan base is there and they’re amazing and they’re tried and true, but there’s just as many real fans that love you an adore you as there are that are simply following you just to look for the flaws. So, it’s like a love hate relationship for them.

On my end, for me I’ve learned to just sort of post my content and log off. I don’t do well with the negativity and there can be 100 nice comments, but I will only zero in on the one negative comment and just want to delete everything. I know that that’s immature and something that I’m totally trying to work on. I don’t know you just have to take everything with a grain of salt and just understand who your audience actually is as a mass. An audience is one thing.

You can’t please everyone.

You can’t. No one can.

How do you find yourself navigating the complexities and nature of your following, but also remain true to yourself?

I pick my battles. Honestly when people read me online, most of the time I laugh at it because mostly true and they’re funny. The young fans are sharp as a tack, and they zero in on the most minute things that you totally over look and they’ll totally read you for it and most of the times they’re really funny. That part I can get behind. There’s a very fine like between clocking a flaw as sort of nudge nudge versus trying to tear someone apart for creating content for you. So it’s about picking your battles and choosing whether or not someone is worth engaging with. For me, usually no one is worth engaging with.

Besides the Drag community, what other communities do you find yourself as a part of?

Yea, I would say the community that I feel closest with is my trans community. Growing up I had so many gender identification issues and not knowing where exactly I fit because I was such a freak growing up, as most of us are. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found the most solace in my trans community because they’re the ones I can be the most myself around. I don’t feel like there’s a masculine or feminine scale at all with my trans community. I can just simply be, you know obviously, putting on drag and kind of doing it decently well. I get a lot of support from those girls and whatever I can do for them, makes me feel more connected.

How did you life change after RPDR?

I think my season was one of the seasons that started the change to redefine what being a RuPaul’s drag queen means. I think the unity that I have brought with that is, for me I didn’t fall into that category on my show and there were times where it hindered me and stunted my progress, and it took a minute to really understand what was going on and how I was supposed to come through and try to get over it and blah blah...

But what I realized after the show was that my weirdness and my awkwardly strange and unusual ways were what people really identified with it. I came out as a winner in my own way at the end because not all of these kids are fierce Violet Chachki queens who doesn’t give a fuck what anybody thinks. A lot of us are like "oh my god, I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time, I don’t know who I am, I don’t know which way is up. I also know that I can’t let anybody walk all over me, but how do I find this balance?" I don’t know, I think I learned how to be ok with not being a particular queen that was supposed to be a certain way or whatever.

And we're now living in a time where the younger generation's come up is gaining the power. I see a totally different trajectory than us millennials especially with their coming out stories and their accessibility to ask "why I do I feel different?" or "I don’t know who I am."

RuPaul’s Drag Race is like America’s Next Top Model for this generation – you know what I mean? I felt a lot of artistic outlet watching shows like that or Project Runway or whatever and now RuPaul’s Drag Race is basically like, "Oh honey! Be yourself! There ain’t nobody else you can be!" So like at first, I feel like it’s making gay people feel like they needed to be some fierce queen, which is fab and great if that’s what comes natural to you. Now we have a bunch of freaks on the show who are like "Wow. Ok I can really identify with that person who like, is obviously such a freak" and it’s not like just ok, it’s like being celebrated and they’re winning shit. It’s really cool.

I think there sometimes seems to be a divide or almost a bitterness with the older generation of queens when they see the freedom in the younger generation.

Oh, you’re telling me!

How do you think that reality is affecting the community?

Well it seems like the younger generation are doing pretty well in understanding it. I’m hoping that it's more revolutionary for the older generation, like it’s not too late to stop doing things they way you’ve been doing them for the past 50 years. You can still do whatever you wanted to do the entire time you’ve been doing that. I think like, they say, "oh a tiger isn’t going to change its stripes."

My mission isn’t to go and change anybody’s ways or mind’s or whatever, plus I dated enough older men to know that that’s not really how it works. I think that it’s unfortunate when I meet these other older mother hens of drag and they’re actually more likely try to stunt me in my progress than they probably even realize. When they tell you how to do something, they’re actually limiting you to that way. It’s like no, you can’t do that to us. We’re just young and ready to go and we are going to do it however we want to do it.

It’s like giving advice, but only so it makes their life easier versus encouraging real growth

Like the old sage saying, "You don’t necessarily know it all." And older drag queens that do comedy and whatever, they don’t want to give proper credit to a younger, inspirational drag queen just for being a look queen or dedicating their drag to their aesthetic. You know, the look queens are the ones inspiring people to do drag. It’s not like they’re a little, bitter, comedy queen that’s cracking the same jokes for 20 years. Ok. You’re not inspiring a generation to go out there and do what you’re doing. Sorry. You’re just not. It’s the Aquarias and the Chachkis and the Ms. Fames. Those are the ones that are inspiring people to do drag and try it on for the first time. Not freaking Lady Bunny... you know what I’m saying? It’s just the truth. It’s time to respect the art and understand that it’s more than just being a comedy queen. But if you want to be a comedy queen, be a comedy queen! Maybe I’m just bitter after hearing so many years of discrediting, that’s just the way I am.

What are your goals for the rest of 2018?

Well, clearly one thing I’m growing out of os thinking that there’s only one way to do the show or to be a good drag queen after the show. It’s simply not about how many followers you get, how many cities you go to, or how many gigs you do in one week. It’s about how mentally ok you are in the moment. For me I was really tearing myself down and killing myself and killing my body. I was away from home and I was sad all the time, missing my dog and my friends and I’m like, I need to have the most money, I need to have the most gigs, I have to maintain these numbers and keep my following going. I didn’t realize I was actually completely ignoring what I needed, which was balance in my life.

My advice to the world: Stop comparing your journey to other people's journeys. Some girls are made to do this. Some of the queens need to be in the club five nights a week doing a gig in order to feel fulfilled. Then you have these other queens who really can't take it. It’s killing them from the inside out. That’s how I was. I was like, I have to stop doing it like that. Thinking that if I’m not doing that, I’m not performing or I’m not doing it well, or whatever. Constantly comparing myself to these other queens, these few selective queens that are built to do this. You know what I mean? It’s like I can’t do that. That’s not who I am, and that should be ok. We have our own aftermath – our own story after the show, and I am ready to starting owning that!

Credits: IMAGES COURTESY OF ASOS X GLAAD

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