She ain’t no big pill, she’s a wi … nner, baby! On Friday, April 22, Willow Pill was crowned victor of an extremely long, chocolatey, largely elimination-less season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Far and away the fan favorite on social media, Willow Pill brought flawlessly fun looks and a joyful, nihilist sense of humor to season 14, sticking the landing in the final lip-sync with a somersault into a Karate Kid pose that sums up her strange and beguiling presence.
Pill’s win brought about a lot of firsts for a regular-competition season of U.S. Drag Race: She’s the first winner who is openly trans, the first winner who belongs to the drag family of a previous winner (season 11’s Yvie Oddly), and the first winner who kicked off a season by doing performance art set to Enya. We caught up with Ms. Pill after her win to discuss her comedy influences, her shroom advice, and whether or not Snatch Game was really as bad as it looked.
Big, bulky reveal looks have become almost a trope of finale lip syncs over the past five seasons, but you did something really interesting with it and something really rare. Your reveals were laugh-out-loud gags. Which idea came first: the pants or the crotch face?
I had been wanting to do the heads idea for a long time, like two years. And I never had the money to invest in doing the 3-D mold of my face and all that jazz. So that idea actually came first. But the crotch-reveal idea didn’t come until the night I left for the finale. We were like, “We need something at the end to sell the whole thing. What would be really fun?” And we were like, “Should we have some neon panties to reveal or something?” We had this extra head mold that came out a little shaky. We were like, “What if we just used that as the crotch?” And ding ding ding, that was the moment. And then the pant look came from a picture that a friend sent me of an ’80s sewing book that had fun David Byrne–style big suits. I was like, “What if we made the world’s largest suit reveal into the world’s largest pants?”
What was the very first thing you did the morning after the finale?
Well, I couldn’t sleep because there was so much going on in my head. That morning, I went to a diner by myself and got a shit ton of food and just splurged. And I was hoping no one would notice me because I looked like a wreck.
They did — literally the second I walked into the diner. There were like four people who were like, “Oh my God, it’s Willow!” I was like, “NOOO!”
Literal breakfast of champions.
Yeah, with eyeliner still in my eyeballs and a giant plate of pancakes and bacon.
You were the only queen this season who never lost a lip sync. But the caveat is you were the only one in the top eight who didn’t have to go against Jorgeous.
What are you trying to say?
It would have been Ru’s two favorite children fighting, and no one wants that!
Exactly. I don’t know if the world would be able to handle me versus Jorgeous. It would just depend on what the song was. There’s a 90 percent chance Jorgeous would whoop my ass, but if it was something on Broadway, I’d kill it.
What’s your favorite Broadway musical?
I think my favorite is probably Billy Elliot. That’s a really fun one and probably one of the first shows I ever saw.
Your drag has a refreshingly weird sense of humor to it. Who are your comedy influences?
A lot of my comedy influence comes from really funny women. I’d say my No. 1 influence is Kristen Wiig. I just love her style of comedy. It’s a lot of impressions and absurd, out-there humor. A lot of self-written material and sketch comedy. I’m not really a stand-up or a roaster or someone who has catchphrases, like Bianca Del Rio or Kornbread or anything like that. People like Kristen Wiig, Jane Krakowski, and Tina Fey. Amy Sedaris is a huge inspiration for me. People who kind of dive into the deep end — into blackness and hope that magic comes from that.
Your housewife look with the big house on your head that had “HELP” painted in blood on the back would fit right in on At Home With Amy Sedaris.
What’s the most recent meme you have saved on your phone?
Let me check. What qualifies as a meme?
Oh, you know what? There have been a lot of really great ones of me wearing the suit going, “Mom, I threw up,” or The Little Rascals trying to get a bank loan. I love the ones of me in the suit.
In the episode before the reunion, were you offended that the judges kept referring to you as a mouse when you were clearly a rat?
You know, I get that a lot. I do rat looks often. A motif in my drag is rats. Everyone always leaps to mouse. I’m not offended. I would rather them know it’s a rat because rats are grosser and more of a vermin. I feel like the red eyes and the scratchy, stringy gray ears should’ve given away that it was a rat.
Throughout the season, you used your platform to bring attention to chronic illness. What improvements do you want to see in queer spaces and conversations about intersectionality so that they hold more space for disability and chronic illness?
That’s a big question. First, on a physical level, we just need to make sure that all spaces are accessible for people with disabilities. But beyond that, I think drag has really become a little bit overworked in the last 13, 14 years — largely because of Drag Race. We expect a lot from our queens, and especially the more popular you are, the more you’re expected to do. You are expected to come out with music, be on TV shows, tour the world, basically exhaust yourself for the sake of fans.
I’m not gonna lie, with my reign, I am nervous and a little bit anxious about people wanting that from me because I know I’m not going to be able to give that. And that’s something Yvie faced during her reign. People were like, “She didn’t do enough,” even though she was touring the world and throwing her body all over the place and was just completely exhausted. I think we just need to understand people’s limits and meet them where they’re at. Because I’m not gonna be able to do that. I’m not gonna be able to tour every day this year. I’m going to do the projects that I want to do and then pace myself in between and get the rest that I really need to be able to continue doing this artwork.
You wore a couple of Y2K, Matrix-inspired looks on the runway this season. Were your mother and sister intentionally dressed as a red pill and a blue pill at the finale?
I did not hear about this until yesterday. My sister called me and was like, “Are you seeing what they’re saying on Reddit?” And I laughed so hard. These fans read into everything. No, they were not supposed to be a red pill and a blue pill. They just chose the outfits that they thought were the most beautiful.
People thought you were playing some real ten-dimensional chess with that one.
You’ve spoken and posted about the positive effect that shrooms have had on your life. And you paid tribute to them with your bleeding tooth mushroom look. Do you have any stories from trips or advice for people exploring?
There are a lot of stories I probably couldn’t tell. But advice? Definitely the classic advice: If you are going to engage in a trip, just do it with people that you trust in a place where you feel comfortable and safe. You don’t want to go into a trip messing with it. Taking too many mushrooms will knock you on your ass and teach you a lesson. You need to be careful and you have to respect the nature of it all.
I’ve had a bajillion really fun shroom trips. I think it’s always hilarious that you’re crying, sobbing about something — often I’m crying about grief and loss, and then at the same time, I remember I have hair on my head. It’s this hilarious mash-up of human emotions. I recommend mushrooms to anyone who’s been through a lot of trauma. My other advice is to not really do mushrooms after a fresh wound or fresh trauma. Wait until when it needs more human attention later rather than when it’s open and chaotic. You can get me to talk about mushrooms for literally hours. I don’t want to keep talking about it too much.
When Kornbread left, obviously you were sad on the show because you were losing a friend, and as viewers, we were sad because that arc was cut short. But in addition to those feelings, did you also get a sense of, Okay, I’m the front-runner now?
Yes and no. I think my relationship with understanding my place in the competition was a little bit all over the place. I walked in, and for the first day, I was like, Do I even belong here? Did I just totally fuck up coming in in this awful outfit? Do they hate me? And then after that, I was like, Oh, I’m one of RuPaul’s favorites. But continuously throughout the competition, I couldn’t tell what the other girls thought of me. People rarely commented on my place in the competition to my face. And I don’t know if that was because they were also unsure. I think my drag is a little confusing to some people. I really had no idea if I was going to get into that top five and be the one to beat or if I was going to be this total wild card.
Snatch Game question: Did the edit do you all dirty, or is what we saw really what it was like?
You’re trying to get me in trouble. Yes, it absolutely did us dirty. There were definitely more laughs. They have to tell the story, I understand. And was it a great Snatch Game by any means? Absolutely not. But in real life, it was definitely more salvageable than they made it seem. But I get it. They want to sell whatever they’re trying to sell. In that episode, it was that we all bombed Snatch Game.
I would say mine was fairly accurate; I maybe was a little bit funnier in real life. And certainly Angie and Camden were definitely funnier than they made it seem.
I thought Angie was funny watching it on TV!
Yeah, it was funny in person. I was cracking up. So was Camden.
You’ve mentioned wanting to do more art and sketch comedy going forward. Are you going to bring back Jillian?
What a niche reference! You know, I think Jillian might be dead for a while. Maybe one day I’ll bring her back. Who knows? I don’t know! I’m excited to start getting back into making my own material because that’s where I really get to thrive. There will certainly be characters akin to Jillian. I’ve always been inspired by normal, heteronormative, suburban characters because that’s what I was surrounded by for the majority of my life.
Like your pic with the Jesus shirt. I want to hear her story.
There will certainly be more suburban characters coming out fairly soon.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.