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Drag Race U.K.’s Lawrence Chaney’s Up in This Gig

Photo: WOW!

Spoilers ahead for the season-two finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K.

Here is the exact moment I fell in love with Lawrence Chaney: Strutting down the runway in tartan, not breaking her refined glamour for a second, she came back whip-fast at one of the judges’ usual punny one-liners with, “I’ll show ye me shag-pipes.” It felt like Shrek had taken over Drag Race and Shrek was … sexy. The very next episode, when Ru announced that Lawrence had won the challenge, Lawrence, looking every bit like a pageant girl in gold, responded with a remarkably humbled, feminine “Fuck me sideways!” It’s that combination of poise and humor, vulnerability and brassiness, that ultimately led to Lawrence Chaney’s crowning as the winner of Drag Race U.K. We spoke with her before and after her season-two win about confidence, Scotland, and making Ru laugh.

The two interviews have been combined and condensed for clarity. 

Hi, Lawrence! Congratulations!
I cannot believe it at all. It’s not clicked up here. My mind is blown. Because to me, winners are icons like Bianca Del Rio and Trixie. To be on that level, of winning a season, is just a dream come true.

How did you celebrate?
I wish it was terribly glamorous. Well, it was quite glamorous. We had a private screening of the episode for the finalists. We all had to socially distance, so we couldn’t hug or anything, it was very annoying, but it was nice to feel that connection and energy back in the room. It wasn’t cold, it wasn’t bitter. You would think, for a finale, people would be really aggro. But Bimini was having a great time, Tayce was having a great time, Ellie was having fun. We were all just really happy to be there watching our favorite show. And as soon as it was announced that I’d won, when RuPaul goes “Lawrence Chaney,” I couldn’t believe it, so I was just [imitates clapping in a total daze, for somebody else] … WHAT? 

I saw the videos you posted with Bimini at the finale. It was lovely to see her celebrating you, and you celebrating her.
That’s the thing that surprised me because I thought Bimini was going to win. And again, I’m so cool with that because me and Bimini are good friends. You spend so much time with people learning these scenes and choreo, you do become really close. If you don’t get a job, you wish your best friend gets that job. It was that way for me. I was so at peace with losing that I actually felt like a different Lawrence. Because Lawrence would have been like, I’m upset because I’ve lost, and I’m gonna beat myself up because I’m a perfectionist. That was gone. And I’m really proud of that.

The prize for winning Drag Race U.K. is, unfortunately, not $100,000. But you do get a WOW Presents show. Have you thought about what your concept is going to be for the World of Wonder series? 
It’s funny. On Reddit, they go, “The prize is only a badge, and they get $5,000 in America.” But if it’s just a badge, why are you mad your favorite didn’t win? The badge does mean something. I love the idea of having a WOW Presents show. That’s like a dream come true for me. I have definitely thought of quite a few ideas. I think a talk show would be suited really well to my serious aspects of speaking, where I can break it down. And then when we really want to get into the gossip, we can get into the gossip. I think I’m going to do something like that. But again, there’s probably a whole load more business decisions and brainiac ideas that will probably help that idea flourish.

What we don’t really have here in the United States is panel shows. You should make it a panel show and be the one to bring panel shows to the U.S. 
No way! I thought they were an across-the-world — wow!

No, we’re just stuck with James Corden doing “Carpool Karaoke.” 
Well, I feel very bad for you in that regard.

Do you have a dream guest for your web series?
There’s so many people. It would never happen, but I would love RuPaul. Would love Lulu, who’s a famous Scottish singer. I would love Susan Boyle; we’ll add her to the list. Melissa McCarthy! Icon and legend. She is what I want to be when I grow up.

How did it feel to have a No. 1 single with “UK Hun?”?
I can’t believe that our song was so successful! It was No. 1 on U.K. iTunes. And the fact that it got so much traction, people were dancing along to it, I can’t believe — as a comedy queen who can’t dance — I can’t believe something I did now is a TikTok dance.

Speaking of being a comedy queen, you had a narrative throughout the season that when there was a challenge you thought you had in the bag, like Snatch Game, you ended up in the bottom. But when you were really insecure about, like, a musical challenge, those were the ones you slayed. How else did you surprise yourself this season? 
This is what the season taught me: I put myself in a box. When you audition for Drag Race, it’s like, [robot voice] “Hello, RuPaul! I am Lawrence Chaney! I am a comedy queen! Ha ha!” You think of that to market yourself to get on the show. But you need to bring yourself out of that because it’s not just comedy every week. So what I found was in “Rats: the Rusical,” I just kind of shut down and went, I’m going to be bad at this. And I’ve made my mind up. Whereas all of Michelle’s and Ru’s critiques were: “You weren’t bad. You just thought you were bad, and we could see that. We could tell you were insecure.” And as soon as they said that, I went, “Well, actually, yeah, why did that happen?” Over the COVID break, I thought about that: We know there’s going to be another singing and dancing challenge, so get out of your head. [Whereas I thought,] I’m going to nail the Snatch Game because that comes with the territory of “I’m a comedy queen, so I will do good at this.” But no. You need to completely flatten your expectations, and you just need to be a queen in this competition — not a comedy queen, not a dancer. You need to be moldable to what the challenge is asking for.

It’s clear you were one of Ru’s favorites this season. Her eyes just lit up whenever she interacted with you. Did you have a sense of that while you were filming? 
Yes, I could tell Ru liked me. I guess I was stupid, I suppose, because I was like, Ru must love us all and say all of our names in a cool, funny way! But in the walk-through that Ru did before Snatch Game, I didn’t realize till watching it back how out of joint all the other girls’ noses were when I was like, “Make Ru laugh.” Because that’s the goal. Everyone wants to be like Bianca Del Rio, talking about your Rolodex of hate and making Ru laugh. And I never thought I was doing that. I was like, This is your idol, Lawrence. You can talk to her about being the first drag queen on television to host their own show, and all that. I love movies and television, and I [was] that fanboy. That’s all I was doing. I was talking to my idol.

You don’t come off as a fanboy; you have such great banter with Ru and the judges. In fact, one of the things that sets Drag Race U.K. apart is the way all of you this season were so quick with your comebacks and one-liners — in the Werk Room, in confessionals, even on the main stage. What I want to know is why do those insults, comebacks, and swear words sound so much better in a Scottish accent than an American one? 
I think everyone in Scotland wears their heart on their sleeve, which is a great thing because we get to show our feelings. We’re able to be more welcoming and make people laugh. Not just as a host or whatever, but when you’re walking down the street in Glasgow, someone will go, “All right, mate, how are you?” And it just warms you up because you feel welcome. And I guess growing up around that — it’s the same with me and Ellie. Me and Ellie had multiple arguments because we’re used to going [screams in Scottish accent]. We’re used to getting quite close to people and being quite intimate and vulnerable with our feelings. But also by being vulnerable and open with people, it means you can make a joke with them and not think you’re just slagging them off.

I’m glad you brought up the argument with Ellie Diamond. In addition to all the love you’ve received from fans, you’ve now felt the flip side of Drag Race fame, which is the wrath you can receive after a less-than-favorable edit. What was it like, first, to watch that comedy challenge on TV when you had almost a villain edit for the episode and then to experience the backlash online? 
For me, I’m a fan of the show first and foremost. I get that people have an opinion of the show, watching the show. I love the show, so I get that. But I just didn’t expect my whole life and everything I’ve been through — growing up and getting chased home after gigs — I didn’t expect that to be invalidated. It just seemed like it kind of didn’t matter what I said. [People online] were like, “You’re a bully, and you’re the scum of the earth.” I wasn’t disagreeing with Ellie Diamond as a human being! I wasn’t disregarding her human rights! I had a problem with someone for being an asshole, in my opinion. I didn’t understand why I was being so fundamentally a bad person. I just didn’t understand that. Did I need to shout at her about her running order? Maybe not. But it was weird because I had until that point received really positive love. It was weird.

What sets the Scottish drag scene apart?
The scene is very wacky, bizarre, and fabulous. We’re not all about rhinestones and that kind of high-end pageant drag. It’s not up here because we don’t have the money to facilitate that. But what we have is creativity mixed with that classic Scottish humor and sensibility. It’s got that all mixed in one. And I think that’s very unique. Like Ellie: Ellie puts together such great conceptual looks. But we can also talk your ear off and make you laugh.

The other week, Rosé did Mary Queen of Scots for Snatch Game on U.S. Drag Race. Watching it honestly just felt exactly like how Ru interacts with you.
I was so shocked when I saw that. They filmed in between our COVID break, so I was like, RuPaul will be thinking in her head, That is Lawrence Chaney. That is a Snatch Game of Lawrence Chaney. It was so bizarre — really cool but so bizarre to watch.

Your boy hair in the confessionals this season was a feat of aerodynamics. How do you achieve that hairstyle? 
Everyone thinks it’s a wig. It’s not a wig. I was born with really thick hair. My mum’s got really coarse, thick hair. All she could do was put it up in a ponytail. She couldn’t put rollers in it; she couldn’t really straighten it or else it would go all weird and fluffy instead of soft. My hair’s always been an enigma, shaved sides or not. Every week, I was trying to channel Miley Cyrus in 2013, slicked back. But then because I was so emotive, it was just scarecrow at the back. It would just go [whooshes in Scottish accent]. No hairspray was holding that down.

We’re going to be emerging from lockdown for the first time in over a year. Do you have any style advice, fashion advice, even just confidence advice for people who suddenly need to wear non-sweatpants clothes and look nice and go out into the world again? 
This is something I did while I was preparing for Drag Race: I set myself small, attainable goals, smaller than you’d probably think. You write them out on your phone. Empty the dishwasher or Clean the place. And then when you tidy the house, you feel better about yourself immediately because you’ve achieved more.

Small, attainable goals. Step one, empty the dishwasher. Step two, win Drag Race U.K. Got it. Last question: Now that you’ve been officially crowned a British royal, can you tell us, is Prince Philip actually alive, or are they hiding something from us? 
Listen, I got Prince Philip mixed up with Mickey from the acting challenge. Just a dummy. Very surprised. No, God knows what’s going on there. I’m part of the royal family, but I’m not that deep inside the royal family yet. Here’s hoping.

Drag Race U.K.’s Lawrence Chaney’s Up in This Gig