Some queens get eliminated from Drag Race because they have an off week — the competition has tired them out or something’s on their mind or they’re just not in it. Not Jan. If there’s been a constant from the New York queen’s time on season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars (and season 12 of Drag Race, previously), it’s that she performs at 100 percent: as Lady Gaga, as a quasi-Rachel Berry, or just as herself. That got her into hot water during this week’s girl groups challenge, when despite her on-point singing and dancing, Jan’s song lyrics didn’t hit the inspirational marks the challenge aimed for — and ultimately sent her home after her third time in the bottom.
But she’s still proud of that performance. “Because I’m a big personality, if it’s a miss, it’s going to be a big miss,” she says after her elimination, “but I’m swinging the bat all the time. I’m not going to just not go for it.” Following her elimination, Jan spoke to Vulture about winning her first challenge as Lady Gaga, where she stands with Scarlet Envy, and the status of All Stars face-crack merch.
It was a pretty quick turnaround from season 12 to now. What made you decide you wanted to come back so soon?
I felt like I had unfinished business on season 12. I felt like I was doing a really good job and the judges just weren’t seeing me for who I am. When I got the opportunity to come back, I was like, You don’t get these opportunities often, and you never know when you’re going to have another chance to come back. They could offer it to me for All Stars 6, and then if I don’t take it, they might have somebody else in mind for All Stars 7. So I wanted to go for it.
You got your first win with the Lady Gaga halftime performance. People know you as a singer and a performer, but I was getting a lot in the details that this isn’t just Jan performing, it was very specific to Gaga. How did you get into that mindset?
Lady Gaga is truly one of my favorite people on this planet. She is my No. 1 pop-star girl. And so, I’ve been studying Gaga for years. She is such an inspiration to me as a singer, as a performer, and even drag — I mean, let’s be honest, Gaga’s doing drag. So I really didn’t have much to study. I watched the Super Bowl halftime show that she did ad nauseam and then all of her life performances. I know her quirks, I know her tricks, and it felt like a good character-study performance.
I saw you posting it at her. Do you know if she’s aware of the performance?
I’m pretty sure that she has seen it. The team at Haus Labs, her makeup brand, retweeted it, and they put it on their Instagram. I feel like if Haus Labs posted it, I think that they probably had to get the approval from others. So, I’m going to go with yes — at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
You also had this role in the “Rumerican Horror Story” that was not explicitly Rachel Berry, but basically Rachel Berry. Tell me about the decision to go all the way with that.
It’s funny because when I first got on set, obviously the week before [the “Pink Table Talk” challenge] was not my favorite week that had happened in the competition. I was very confused with what [the judges] wanted from me. So I was reading the script and I was like, Okay, there’s not a single person in this room who is going to be able to do this role justice like I am. So I’m going to take it, even though it’s exactly what they’re trying to steer me away from. It’s what I do and how I present myself as — you know, Jan is a very authentic part of me. I do feel like I am very Rachel Berry in that sense, but I think people think that how I performed as Rachel is how Jan actually is. That’s not the case; I have to amp that up to be Rachel. I said, “I’m not going to do myself any favors if I don’t go big.” And I got the seal of approval from Ross and Michelle. Once they were like, “Yes, Jan, the biggest that you can,” I was like, “Let’s put the pedal to the metal and go for it.”
After the “Pink Table Talk” challenge, there was a bit of this … I don’t know if I’d call it drama or just confusion, between you and Scarlet, and the way that Scarlet was talking about your critiques. Have the two of you spoken since that elimination, or where do things stand?
Yeah, we’ve spoken. I mean, I think that getting eliminated from the competition is not fun or easy, but it happens to 12 out of the 13 girls. And I’ll just be honest, I did not have the majority of the votes, and that’s for a reason. It’s because people thought that I should have stayed. That’s the truth.
You were talking about some of these critiques that you’ve been getting this season about the peppiness or maybe not switching it up some weeks, between “Pink Table Talk” and then the girl-groups challenge this week as well. Once you watched those challenges, were you seeing it any differently?
I can definitely see what they said with what was used, footage-wise. I understand that. I’m somebody who grew up in the theater — I love getting notes, I love getting feedback. And that’s another reason why I came back, is because I want to learn, I want to grow. I’ve been doing this for five years, much less than a lot of the girls who were on the show, and I want to grow with this art form. Getting the advice that Ross gave me [for “Pink Table Talk”], it’s changed how I talk as a performer when I’m live, when I’m doing work, roles and stuff like that. So, I do understand, and I do get it.
With this elimination, there was a bit of suspense when we found out that the group vote was a tie, and then the decision went back to Trinity. How was that feeling for you, during that moment?
I mean, the entire season has been extremely up and down for me. It’s been very emotional and very, honestly, psychologically intense. So, of course, why wouldn’t me getting eliminated be as well? When it was happening, I was just like, This is insane, but of course it’s happening like this, and I embraced it. That moment was just crazy. But I was in the bottom, I made peace with the fact that I could be going home. I was sad, too, of course, but it is what it is.
You mentioned on this season what happened the last time you were eliminated, with your grandmother writing to RuPaul. Has she heard the news this time yet?
Yes, my grandma has heard the news. The girl does know and I think she might have the same exact reaction and response. I will say that my grandma is truly my No. 1 supporter. There’s this video that I have of her on my TikTok and my Twitter where she’s just in my face-crack robe dancing to one of my songs and having a good time.
I’ve seen that video, I love it.
So funny. Yeah, you learn everything you need to know about my grandma in that video.
Lastly, very important question: I saw on Twitter someone had mocked up these new face-crack robes for All Stars. Is anything in the works?
You know, it’s so funny. I was talking to my manager about if we want to do it or not. A limited-edition series mayhaps. So, we’ll see. It’s definitely a part of my legacy on the show, so why not? You know, I can’t guarantee that it’s going to happen, but it’s definitely a conversation that we are having, so it’s not off the table.