When RuPaul gets up from the judges’ table, you know drama is about to go down. On Friday’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Cynthia Lee Fontaine (a.k.a. Cucu) and Farrah Moan found themselves lip-syncing for their lives after faltering in the Kardashian musical challenge. But what happened next was the first pearl-clutching moment of the season: RuPaul asked Eureka, the queen from East Tennessee to step forward. What Eureka thought was a minor injury from an earlier challenge actually turned out to be a torn ACL, and so RuPaul decided that Eureka would have to leave the competition, with an open invitation to return next season. Vulture got on the phone with Eureka to talk about his shocking elimination, but the conversation also turned to his battling an eating disorder and fat-shaming in the gay community. Rest that knee for next season, Eureka.
How’s your knee?
It’s doing pretty good, it’s holding up and healing well.
So what happened?
Well, when I did my cartwheel in the cheerleading challenge, it popped when I landed wrong and a couple of days later it kept swelling. One of the team members advised that they could take me to the doctor and we went and he ordered an MRI. It took us about a week or so to get our results back and so we continued to film. Ultimately, it turned out that I had completely torn my ACL and I had to have surgery.
I’m so sorry.
Yeah, I’m sorry, too. But I’ve lived through the experience and I’m very blessed for that, you know?
What was going through your head when RuPaul recused herself from the panel?
It was extremely wild. I’m obviously sitting there while Cynthia and Farrah had to lip-sync. The next thing you know, Mama Ru gets up and walks away and we’re all like, “Oh crap.” So everything’s running through your mind, you’re thinking of things that have happened in past seasons like, “Are they both going home? Are they both going to stay?” When she sits down, she says, “Eureka will you step forward.” I thought she was going to be like, “Actually, you’re up for elimination.” Or there was going to be some crazy twist, like, “I hear you and Farrah are friends, can you be her crutch on your crutches?” Or I had maybe done something that disqualified me. I was just paranoid at that moment.
What did RuPaul say?
She said that she had spoken with the doctor directly, and that he did advise that I leave immediately and have surgery. And she gave me an open invitation back to season ten. At that point, I thanked her graciously, trying to keep my composure together, not look down. I turned around and my sisters all went up to me crying and I immediately broke down and it was a very supportive moment. As I exited, the crew and the staff and everybody, they applauded me and sent their love. Even the director was like, “You know, you wouldn’t have sent yourself [home]. You would’ve tried to fight through it. Ultimately, the doctor had to make that decision for you.” I went home and I immediately had surgery and I’ve been working on my healing process ever since.
Do you feel like that was a fair decision?
Well, first, professionally, due to insurance purposes, liability, things like that, it makes perfect sense that with them openly knowing that I need to have a surgery, there’s no way they could’ve legally allowed me to stay to compete. The risk of me hurting myself worse, them knowing that and allowing me to continue would be a legal liability to them that could result in lawsuits or violation of some practices with professional settings. So I think the way it was handled was probably the most professional and respectful way that they could’ve handled it. Simply saying, “You did not falter. It is not your fault, but we will help you with your surgery. And because of this happening, we will invite you back.” Giving me a second chance is the fairest way to humanly possibly do it.
So you’re definitely coming back for season ten?
Yeah, as far as I know. As long as the doctor releases me and nothing crazy happens before then. I don’t want to jinx it, but if the powers allow it and they’re opening my invitation, I will definitely be there.
Do you feel like you’ll have a slight advantage?
I do think that I’ll have an advantage. Anyone that would say I wouldn’t would be asinine to the situation. I will have an advantage because I’ve already experienced it. A part of the tension being there is you don’t know how it works. It’s all a guessing game until they tell you different. So I will have an advantage with that. So, respectfully, due to that advantage, I’m going to have to come in as strong as I can possibly be, stronger than ever, and not falter. They’re going to be looking for any reason to pick at me and prod and judge me harshly because of that. It’s going to be harder for me competing than them. Will it be an advantage? Yes. But will it also have its disadvantages? I believe it will as well.
Who do you think is going to win?
I have, personally, a top three that I would like to see win. I think that would be, for me, Peppermint, Sasha, Nina Bo’nina Brown. I think they’re so diverse and they represent a part of the spectrum that is completely different than anything we’ve had before. Right now, due to our political climate, what we need is difference. If it’s not going to be the big jolly one like Santa, and a big girl to finally win, I would like it to be one of the girls that do stand for something other than your standard entertainer.
Why do you think a big girl hasn’t won yet?
I don’t know. I think people are quick to go to, “Oh, it’s the entertainment industry and it’s all size, this and that.” But I honestly think they just haven’t had the right one. The one that was willing to really fight and also have the aesthetics and the ability to communicate and the professionalism. That’s why I think God’s placing me on season ten because I think season ten is the season for the big girl to truly win. Why not? Ten-year anniversary, girl. Maybe it will be another big girl, you never know, but I hope it’s me.
During that conversation about eating disorders, you got defensive. Where was that coming from?
I was so tired of all of the drama and the sappiness, plus I was dealing with my injury. I just wanted to try to make light of something, then there was one more girl wanting to talk about one more dramatic topic, you know what I mean? I was trying to crack a joke so maybe we could all laugh. Obviously, Sasha immediately came to a defense of it being negative or nonpolitical, which is why I got defensive. Because I’m not being dramatic and sappy, I get attacked for trying to be funny? I felt like I was being attacked because I was trying to be funny. And I was like, no.
When someone tries to snap at me, I snap back. I’m a very strong, defensive person. My whole life growing up I was ridiculed and tormented because of my size. So to be snapped at because I make an eating-disorder joke, you know, there are different types of eating disorders. Of course I’m going to be very defensive. I felt like it was unfair to be attacked over trying to be funny over something like that. I kind of suffer with an eating disorder myself, you know? I don’t know her past, she doesn’t know mine, but I think if it would have been a skinny person that said what I said, it would have been funny. I think it would have been taken differently if someone else said it. But because it was the big, fat girl and the tiny, skinny girl, it made all the difference. You know what I mean? So that also upset me.
Can you talk about your eating disorder?
Up until a few years ago, I suffered from a binge-eating disorder because of my emotional instabilities, trying to figure out who I was, insecurities. It is true — a binge-eating disorder is a real thing. There’s a high percentage of America that suffers with it, and it is an emotional-displacement disorder. You take your emotions and you feed off of the high that those endorphins are releasing into your brain when you eat food. It’s just like being on drugs. It’s very similar to that, and it can be addicting.
Have you experienced a lot of fat-shaming in the gay community?
Oh, absolutely. Not just me, but I think the plus-size gay-male population, either you’re part of the bear gay community or you’re a part of nothing. There are a lot of us gay boys that are not part of that bear community and that’s not a lifestyle we choose to live. And I’m one of them. I’m not a hairy person. I’m a giant lady. Even when I’m a boy, I’m a very feminine male and I don’t consider myself a bear or do the leather or anything in that facet. In the gay-male population, we’re very big on body dysphoria — you have to be a certain type or certain weight, or have a certain look to be attractive in the gay-male eye. There’s just a lot of issues with dysphoria in our community, especially plus-size gay men. And it’s hard on them. I see it all the time. It took me 24 to 25 years to truly love myself. I’m finally out, big, proud, and loving it.
Sometimes smaller and prettier girls are like, “You’re not supposed to be that confident,” or “You’re not supposed to be that self-assured.” But I am very that person. People take it as me being abrasive, but I refuse to allow anyone to put me in a position where I’m not that strong and happy person. In all actuality, you can just say Eureka is batshit crazy, and it would be perfect. I love that I’m batshit crazy, you know what I mean? Just admit that you’re a batshit crazy m-effer, that you have an attitude sometimes, that we all have opinions, and that we’re not always rainbows and butterflies. If you pretend that you are, you’re a liar. Because we’re all humans at that end of the day. That’s what I want to represent, girl.
This interview has been edited and condensed.