Few drag queens have managed to crack the popstar code like superstar Priyanka. With the release of the music video for “Snatch,” the final track on her successful debut EP Taste Test, Priyanka caps off her inaugural music era with a bang, and a tour! Featuring videos for four of its five tracks, the saga of Taste Test follows Priyanka in her very own cinematic universe. In the videos, she can be seen fighting to become the leader of the free world against a corrupt government that forces its residents into the brutal “Cake Games,” all while navigating double crossing ex-boyfriends and killer clowns.
After winning over the hearts of so many viewers on the first season of Canada’s Drag Race, and ultimately taking home the crown, Priyanka took the opportunity to finally pursue her dream of writing and performing original music. It’s a trajectory often taken by queens after the show, using a variety of approaches, but Priyanka made it clear that she wanted her music to stand on its own, outside of her Drag Race world. After the one-two punch of “Cake” and “Bitch I’m Busy,” the third video of the pack, “Come Through,” became a viral hit like almost no Rugirl track has before, thanks in part to an incredible verse from Pri’s season 1 sister Lemon. Taking everything she learned from those videos into account, Priyanka finally brings us “Snatch,” featuring her good sister from across the pond, Drag Race UK’s Cheryl Hole.
Jason Daniel Levy from The Untitled Magazine caught up with Priyanka about her current tour, her new music video, and what the future holds for her pop career. Check out the full interview below.
Thank you for sitting down with Untitled! How is the tour going?
The tour is amazing. I feel extra famous. I think there’s been a new plethora of Priyanka that’s hit this world, because I did a Canadian tour – and I’ve been around the UK a couple times last year – but fans are different this time around. They’re just so much more excited, I think, because the world’s opened now and everyone’s ready to have a good time, but everyone knows the words to every single song on my album now; it’s so crazy! It’s honestly a feeling like no other, because I’m not getting radio play. I’m not getting a lot of playlist listings, but these fans are LOYAL.
Gay famous is a whole other ballpark.
It’s funny, because I did this event with Charlie XCX on Monday and performing for her fans was different. It felt like they were like, “oh, like this person exists? Cool.” It’s so funny that drag, and as you said, being “gay famous” is such its own little bubble. In that bubble you are Beyoncé, but then if you’re out of that bubble, everyone is like “what the fuck is this clownery?”
So what can someone expect to see on your tour?
My shows are basically just a giant party. Everybody feels welcome. Everybody feels excited. I like to think that my performances are what I would bring to the Super Bowl. It gives band, it gives dancing, it gives chaos. It’s a really fun and high-energy and I love it. And it’s a good workout for me.
Congratulations on “Snatch” coming out! It’s like the end of an era.
The end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Isn’t it wild?
It’s crazy, and you’ve had some of the coolest post-Drag Race music projects. You’ve got this crazy successful Taste Test EP and a cinematic universe – which, I’m obsessed with the fact that you call it that. Bring us up to speed on the story of Taste Test, where the idea came from for this whole interconnected universe, and how “Snatch” caps it all off.
There’s kind of this waving fear – like, you remember in IT where the clown was in the sewer and the little boy in the yellow coat was walking by and was like, “should I go in?” After you win a show like Drag Race, you do have that feeling of being this clown in the sewer being like, “what are you gonna do next, bitch? What happened, you little bitch? You’re not good enough, go die.” And you’re constantly looking at that clown being like, “Oh shit, what am I gonna do next?
That show puts you on TV for 10 weeks. I was a pandemic season, so the entire world was watching, and we were like extra famous. Even up to now in the meet and greets, everyone looks at me and Lemon and Jimbo and they’re like, “You’re the reason why we were happy in this pandemic!” And I think that when I sat down with myself, got over some heartbreak – I was dating somebody while I was on Canada’s Drag Race and he dumped me the day after my uncle died. Wow, yeah, very great timing – and I was like, “what am I gonna do?” And I thought: “I am a little bit shy, but I kind of wanna do music, but I feel stupid because drag queens release music all the time and it doesn’t really go anywhere. But I wanna do it”. I like a challenge and I love music, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, but I was so scared to say it out loud because I didn’t want people to think I was just another throwaway artist.
So once I started writing music with the two producers that I work with, I was like, I want these songs to feel like real pop songs. I don’t want to say anything about “snatching the crown” or “Mama Ru” or “Imma get that wig off your head,” you know. I wanna talk about my relationships and the breakups and the insecurities I’ve had in relationships and all that kind of stuff. Once I was able to infuse my storylines into those tracks I was like “this seems like we got a banger of an album.”
And then it was the visuals. We only planned to do one music video. We were really harping on “Cake.” We thought that was gonna be the first single for sure. It feels like a first single. It was me and my creative partner, Caroline Torti, who I’ve been friends with for over 15 years, who just choreographed the opening number of The Umbrella Academy [season 3]. Like, whoa, we need to create something that no one has done before in my universe. And I wanna do this storyline about how this government is trying to make us do these games and we’re like, “no, we don’t wanna do it.” Because that’s my whole career. I remember in high school I had this guidance counselor named Mr. Smith – I’ll never forget him – and I told him I’m gonna go do TV, I wanna be on television, and he was like, “don’t do it. You’ll never get a job.” I was like, okay bitch. But I thought I’m gonna take this “no” and turn it into a “yes” because you have to. There’s no way that you can’t do these things, you have to persevere.
So I feel like putting that energy and that storyline into my cinematic universe and having this full storyline of me trying to take over and run the free world of the people who want to just do what they want to do is very interesting. My favorite parts are the “previously on” and then the little hooks at the end – the “to be continued”s – because it just feels bigger. It’s not just a music video. I got a story to tell!
You said you were originally only going to do one, but then “Cake” did have the hook at the end. So by that point did know you were doing a couple videos?
I kind of said to myself, “no matter what happens, I’ll make a “Bitch I’m Busy” video, cause I love that song. It’s just gonna happen, I’m gonna put it out in the universe. Then we got a grant to do the two other ones. It’s crazy, the ideas were so big that even with a grant we were like “okay, we still need a little bit more money,” but I wanted to make it happen. The scariest part was after releasing “Come Through” and having it be such a viral hit sensation with Lemon’s verse, it was kind of a year later now being like, “okay, so what did the fans like? What did they not like? Let’s put those in [“Snatch”]. So the last installment is everything the fans said they loved about the video before.
Life imitating art imitating life.
Going back to “Come Through,” I know you talked recently with Bob the Drag Queen on The Pit Stop about Lemon’s verse that went totally viral. What goes through your mind when you have your first viral moment like that in music?
This is the funniest story about this fucking verse: the producer wrote a verse for her, and Lemon in Lemon’s ways just does whatever she wants, which is why she’s an icon. So she was like “uh, no, I’m just gonna write my own verse.” She totally scrapped what the producer wrote, and comes back with what you now know as that verse. I knew when she was recording it that it was gonna go viral. I knew it in my heart and my soul that this is spectacular. I’m so proud of this girl.
So when the video finally came out and when it started to really pick up – cause it came out at the beginning of September, but didn’t go viral until October – I was just so happy for Lemon. Because I’d known that she’d gone home first on UK vs. The World, and I was just so happy to see her win the way that she should win. And it didn’t matter if she had a crown or not, it was just her moment existing as an icon that she is. I’m just so happy for her. So it feels incredible, with that support that she gave me when I was on Canada’s Drag Race and I was winning. Her showing up to do the song for me is what I felt like her viral moment was.
But the other side of it too is that a lot of people who didn’t even know that I had music discovered I had music through that. So although my bestie’s going viral on my own fucking song, I’m like, “oh, this is so incredible,” because all my streaming numbers on all my music are going up now. It’s not just about Lemon, it’s because of her. She’s helping me get more listeners too, which is incredible.
I see that on social media you and Lemon are talking about each other in interviews – you guys are honestly full friendship goals. You do nothing but lift each other up. Did you guys know each other before Drag Race?
We didn’t, but she’s so annoying; she walked into the workroom and basically just naturally sat beside me and started chatting to me. And I was kinda like, “who’s this white twink?” Like I did not care. And then when I was about to win the girl group challenge on episode three, she came up to me right before and she was like, “Priyanka, this is your challenge to win. I don’t even care what happens, you’re gonna win with this one.” And I was like, “wow, what a selfless person to be able to take themself out of the competition and be like, ‘no, no, no, this is yours.’” No other fucking queen said that, but she was like, “yeah, it’s you, I love you, I support you, you’re gonna win.” You don’t meet those kind of selfless people in those competition settings. So that’s why she means so much to me because she really is that unconditional, put-somebody-else-first kind of human being, which is rare in this industry.
That’s the sweetest thing. Going back to the “Snatch” video, it is rife with not only cameos, including from your own family, which is awesome, but it’s also full of references to your culture. Why is it so important for you to put that into your videos, both as a Canadian and as a drag artist?
The reason why I put the Mario Party scene in there was because I was never the kid that liked to play video games – I was obsessed with WWE wrestling, so I’d love to play those video games – but with Mario Party or any of those games I just never felt like I fit in. So this is my way of taking all the things that I was ashamed about or scared of growing up and putting it into this video. That’s why I loved ending in the dance hall scene in the basement of the party, because my dad is the DJ and so are all my brothers. That’s where we would spend the majority of our childhood, in the basement at some auntie’s 30th birthday, with everyone dancing the way that we are in that video.
So the references are so important to me because they always tell the story, especially having my mom in there. She is so proud of me in terms of that song. “Snatch” is her fucking jam. She’s been playing that song since the album came out. So to have her be like “that’s my jam,” it’s because it relates to her too.
When I was on Canada’s Drag Race I said I wanted brown people like me to know that they can do it too. And it’s my way of saying “this is who I am, but it’s for everyone.” I have Gia Metric in there, I have Synthia Kiss in there, I have my drag mom [Xtacy Love], and we’re all in this together. Although it’s culturally West Indian, it’s for everyone. No matter who you are, whenever you go to a West Indian auntie’s house they’ll always make sure there’s food on the table for you and have a drink in the cupboard for you. So I wanted to take that unconditional love of West Indian culture and put it in the video.
It was just important to me to do whatever I could do to really share the stage. After I won Canada’s Drag Race, I was really on every campaign and I was doing Instagram posts and all of a sudden I was at Trixie Mattel’s house. There was a whirlwind to it that I thought it was important to share the wealth; book these girls, make them look like superstars. I have my own lane, and I think it’s just so important to share.
You say you don’t come across a lot of people like Lemon in that kind of selflessness, but from what you’re saying, you sound the same.
Aw, thank you!
You worked in kid’s TV before Drag Race. Did you go into Drag Race thinking you would end up back in children’s TV after that wrapped?
No. So when I had to leave kids TV – it was only four weeks of filming [Drag Race] – I said I can go for four weeks and then I can come back and help them and stay around for a couple months until Drag Race airs and then I can depart, and they were like, “no, you can’t come back, sorry bitch.” So it was very weird because I knew I wasn’t gonna go back, but I was scared. I remember driving back from the hotel after Drag Race being like, “wow, I really am driving into a new life. I’m not gonna be doing drag and kids TV, I’m going to be doing just drag.” And then it was two more months of that and then the pandemic hit.
I remember you had a brief moment on the show where you were worried if you even had a job afterwards.
Oh my god, that second time I was in the bottom I was like “if I go home I don’t know what the fuck I’m gonna do.”
Well it worked out in the end! You also just last year performed at the Canadian Country Music Awards. You were the first drag queen to host and perform, which is insane! Tell me a little bit about that and how your song “Country Queen” relates to it all.
They wanted me to just be me. They wanted their tick off of the checklist of inclusivity for me to be there. But I said “if you’re gonna have me, I’m gonna write a country song. I wanna perform a country song. I wanna do everything that an artist would do.” Because music is at the forefront of my career, so I don’t want to just go and be a talking head, I want to perform. And they were like, “well we don’t know…” and they were all nervous and shit. They were like “well, country artists are nominated” and I said I don’t care. I’ll do a one-minute-thirty cutdown of my song, whatever it is. If you’re hiring me, you’re hiring me for my music.
And then they finally were like, “okay, no problem.” Originally it was two minutes and thirty seconds I was allowed but then they cut it down to two minutes, but either way I made it work. And “Country Queen” was about that. The lyrics in that song were all about saying no matter what I have a crown and I’m a famous drag queen and I have all these sponsorship and brand deals attached to my name, but if you melt all that away, I’m still a great performer, and I’m still here to sell the music. They ended up loving it in the end, after having to convince them to do it with phone call after phone call – so many fucking phone calls – they ended up thinking it was great.
And then the most shocking thing was the opening medley, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman.” I called and I was like, “that feels a little bit hokey pokey for a drag queen to be singing this song.” And then they were like, “let’s get you in touch with Shania’s people,” and then they put them on the phone and they basically said the only reason they’re clearing this song is because I was singing it, so Shania would really appreciate it if you would; and she’s gonna retweet the video of you singing it. I was like, no problem. It ended up making me feel more empowered because yeah, I am a man and I do feel like a woman. I felt like there were so many things against me stepping on that stage, hosting a country music award show, but then all of a sudden Shania Twain said “no, bitch, go sing my song and have fun.”
So in addition to being the Kelly Clarkson of Canada, you’re also the Lil Nas X.
I’m also the Lil Nas X of Canada, or honestly the Shania Twain of Canada at this point. Oh wait Shania Twain is Canadian, shit [laughs]. Shania Twain is the Shania Twain of Canada!
I know it’s early, but are you watching season three of Canada’s Drag Race, and without revealing too much what is the elimination order?
[big laugh] I do know the elimination order because I asked everyone about it and they told me. I’m most excited because my friend Jada Shada Hudson is on it and she’s a Toronto legend, and I’m excited to see her compete. And I’m excited for us to add another queen into the ring! Cause three is my lucky number, so I feel like this third queen is really gonna take off. So I’m hopeful because I really want the show to keep being more and more popular. I want the winners to be more and more iconic. So I’m hoping that this third one really hits it out of the park.
So I won’t be the hundred millionth person to ask if you’re doing All Stars All Winners season two, but I will ask: if and when you’re on season two of All Winners, who would you most want to compete against?
First of all, if they ask me, I’m saying yes, hundred percent. I just wanna go on record with that.
I want Bob to be on it, Trixie [Mattel], Alaska would be fun, Carmen Farala from España would be incredible, Lawrence Cheney cause I would love to argue with Lawrence Cheney every single day. Probably Symone I think would be fun to compete against. Who would you want on there?
Pretty much everyone you’ve mentioned. I would also love more winners of the international franchises, frankly, on the All Winners season. Obviously you’ve got The Vivienne now and I think it’d be so cool like you said to have Carmen, or even a Thailand winner.
I’m on tour with Kita Mean, she’d be fun on there. She’s so funny, that girl can fucking party, oh my god.
I mean, it’s in her name! Do you have any words of wisdom or mantras or philosophies you live by either as a person, as a drag queen, or as a singer?
If you work hard enough for anything, it’s gonna happen. That’s what I used to tell myself when I was in college, when I wanted to be on TV so bad. I was kinda sitting there feeling insecure, but then I was like if you just keep working at it, it has to happen. There’s no way it can’t happen if you keep working at it. It’s when you give up that’s when it’s not gonna happen. So I would say that’s a really big one for me. And then I would also say that whenever someone tells you no, it’s because they’re closed-minded. They don’t understand that barriers need to be broken. So I would say that seeing those no’s as just a reflection on that person’s beliefs, because they don’t believe in themselves enough, and just turn it into believing in yourself. I’ve had people tell me that I’m never gonna have a music career, and I basically just took that and proved everyone wrong because I think it’s important to not get stuck in the things that people say you can’t do and just show that you can do them instead.
It’s good advice, work hard. I mean, [imitating Kim Kardashian] I feel like people don’t wanna work anymore.
[Imitating Kim] No, no one wants to work! Get off your fucking ass and work!
So to end off, I want know what’s next for Priyanka the popstar. What are your goals going forward besides maybe getting your name on Google higher than Priyanka Chopra?
It’s gonna happen for sure, she’s obsessed with me by the way. She’ll give up her beauty for me.
I’m gonna release “Snatch” and tour the fuck out of it and get the video over a million streams. And then I’m going to head into the studio and record what will be my full length album and have another era and just knock it out of the fucking park. So that’s what’s next next. [Screams in excitement] I’m so excited!
So what is the name of this new Priyanka era?
It’s called… “Slut.” No, I’m joking [laughs]. I mean, we’ll see. Right now I’ve written a song already and it’s kind of about all the trials and tribulations that have happened since releasing this new wave of music and all the personal things that happened to me. So I’m excited to open back up the diary. I think there’s so much smoke and mirrors in the music industry and my career that there’s a little bit of a dark side to it, and I’m excited to share my story, cause it’s been a bumpy ride.
Do you have any idea when we can expect anything?
2023. It’s gonna be your year; your another year.
Another year of me!
Another year of Priyanka, until the next one, which will also be another year of Priyanka, and we’re here for it. Thanks so much for chatting with me on your day off from the tour!
Of course! I’ll see you soon I hope!