8th December 2021
Photographer: Owen James Vincent
Styling: Siim Adamson
Interview: Tom George
Logo: Emily Curtis
If there’s one word to describe Vanity Milan’s run on season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK it would be unapologetic. From her first time on the runway, donning a mesh dress printed with the Jamaican flag, and initially covered by a tulle green and yellow cape that had the postcodes of South London’s Black and POC neighbourhoods; to her last, wearing a stunning chainmail Goddess look that could have come straight from that Beyonce, Britney and P!nk gladiator Pepsi ad. Her lip-sync to Mis-Teeq’s “Scandalous” was so good, it had one of the group’s members, Alesha Dixon, screaming every time Vanity did a split. Any queen who went up against Vanity in a lip-sync knew they were in for a fight, and it took her all the way to the Top 4 queens of the season.
Now, with the show over and as she gets used to her new post-Drag Race fame, we sat down to chat with Vanity about her favourite moments from the season, being the only Black queen in the cast and what’s next for her.
Hi Vanity, what was your favourite moment from Drag Race UK Season 3?
Apart from being accepted onto Drag Race UK Season 3, I think my favourite moment was the "Scandalous" lip-sync with Miss Alesha Dixon hyping me up all the way until the end.
What was your favourite outfit you wore in the season?
I’m gonna choose two and be cheeky. The Goddess look was the favourite of a lot of fans, but I think my look for the Fugly Ball was really amazing because it was something that had never been seen on Drag Race before. It had no silhouette, no shape, but it hit the brief as being ugly but also fashion forward.
As a Croydon boy, seeing my postcode on your dress in the first episode made me so happy. What did that dress mean to you and to represent your culture on the main stage?
I've lived in South London all my life. It’s where my family grew up and my friends went to school and so it was important for me to continue to out South London on the map. A lot of people in South London get forgotten about and I felt it was really important that I showcased places like Mitcham, Croydon and Clapham. Also, the colours [of the dress] represented my Jamaican background which was really important for me. It was like a two for one.
How did you feel when you entered the Werk Room and realised you would be the only Black queen in the season?
I was a little bit emotional. Whether they're drag kings, drag queens or afab queens, there are a lot of POC and cabaret performers that I personally knew applied and I was looking to see them. When I kept seeing more and more queens walking in, I realised this was not going to be a diverse cast and there would be a lot of pressure on me to carry Black culture on the show. It was a lot of pressure. There were times where I would cry off camera because I felt like it was getting a lot but I didn't have a sister of the same skin tone as me to bounce off of. I’m not saying that I couldn't bounce off of my other sisters in the season, it was just that I didn't have anyone I could talk to about makeup. My critiques were: “your makeup is getting better but can you do something different?” I could have done something different if I had someone of the same complexion as myself to help me out. There's only so much people can tell you about your dark skin if they're not dark skinned themselves.
I definitely want to see a lot more POC people on Drag Race in the future. A lot more. And when I say POC, I mean Black. I know that River Medway was there presenting her culture and background and I get that, but I'm talking about Black people. We went from Season 1 where there was only Vinegar Strokes, to Season 2 where there was Tia Kofi, Tayce and Asttina, and then Season 3 felt like we went back to square one when I thought we were moving in a great direction.
Also, as a whole Britain has so much to offer when it comes to its drag and diverse cabaret scene and that needs to be represented as well. We're not the Americanised version and [the show] needs to be different and showcase what British drag is about.
Drag Race has a massive fandom. How are you finding having an increased following now and seeing so many people's opinions?
Opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one. There are a lot of times when people come onto my page and spread their opinions unwarranted. I'll be posting a picture that's got nothing to do with anything that they're talking about but they feel the need to let me know that they didn't like my look or whatever. Had I not been on Drag Race, they would have been like, "Yes Queen! Yes Mama! This looks good!" but then I probably wouldn't have had those people commenting anyway because I probably wouldn't have the platform I have now. So, I take the good and leave the negative, but don't come on my page with that mess. Bitch, I will clap back.
You're, of course, a lip-sync assassin, which you knew before you entered the Werk Room, is there anything you learnt about yourself through doing Drag Race?
I learnt that I am resilient. I love to take critiques on board and show people that I can listen to what you're saying and bring it 10 times harder than what you wanted me to. I think I showed that on Drag Race. I'm a fighter and there was no way I was going home in a lip-sync. I mean, I could have. I did, but when you're going up against someone like Krystal who is gorgeous, stunning, and has been told that they're actually born to be a drag queen -- fuck my drag, right? -- it was then my time to go. But I learnt so much. My personality grew and I can now talk on stage without having to hide away from anything. Drag is just an extension of who Christopher is. Now I can just be one person and put makeup on and still look good.
You filmed Season 3 after a year of lockdowns and not being able to perform. Do you think that experience changed you as a performer?
Not really. I've always been a performer. I love entertaining crowds whether it's a small or large number of people. Dance and the performing arts is my background. What I have learnt is stage presence. No one wants to see a lip-sync assassin come on, hit the eight counts and walk off stage. With me, you get the full experience. It's like Beyonce. You watch her and you're in the moment. Even when you've left, you're still in that moment because it was a sick performance. That's what I want people to get from my shows. When I come off the stage tired, I want to make sure that you're tired. If I'm out of breath, you're out of breath.
What is next for Vanity Milan?
The sky's the limit! I'm going to hit the ground running. I would love to do music and more television. Probably All Stars if there is an opportunity to go back. More stuff both in and out of drag, regardless of what it is. I want to use my platform to uplift and support my POC performers, those starting drag and everyone else.