‘Drag Race’ Star Naomi Smalls Talks Surviving Social Media Backlash: ‘I Have the Thickest Skin Ever’


Naomi Smalls exudes confidence. Even over the telephone, the 25-year-old drag artist speaks with a cool conviction. That self belief got here in useful when she entered the workroom for RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars four. With one of the stacked teams of queens the collection has seen, Smalls was unphased.

“I undoubtedly went in with the mindset that I may actually win this,” she tells Billboard. “And I feel that's the one mindset it is best to stroll into this competitors with. I noticed on season eight that it's not gonna do me any good to check myself to the opposite women and really feel like one in all them was an even bigger risk than I used to be.”

Smalls might not have received the competitors — she made it to the highest 4 earlier than being lower with Monique Heart — however her unflappable confidence got here in useful earlier this season. After selecting to remove the season frontrunner, Manila Luzon, from the competitors, her social media accounts have been barraged with hate-filled feedback. Smalls insists she was in a position to ignore them, however struggled figuring out her mom noticed the messages: “It's a bizarre thought for her to have the belief that folks have these ideas about her son, you already know?”

Billboard caught up with the drag queen on Friday (Feb. 16) forward of the season finale to speak about her time on All Stars four, her recommendation to the queens of season eleven and her relationship with Luzon: “I don't know if we have been essentially ever buddies.”

I used to be so joyful for you when Kacey Musgraves complimented your writing expertise. She’s such an exceptional songwriter and simply received the Grammy for album of the yr.

I do know. And I bear in mind when she informed me that, I assumed she was simply being actually candy as a result of I wrote some lyrics about my dick and my legs. The indisputable fact that she favored that and now she received that Grammy provides me a bit pat on the again. I'm like, "Damn, I actually ought to've been within the prime two for that one, huh?"

One of essentially the most defining moments this season was your determination to ship Manila Luzon house. Was it at all times your technique to ship house the stronger competitor?

It wasn't essentially my technique to ship house the stronger competitor, however my objective for All Stars four was to get to the crown. As a lot as I seemed as much as Manila Luzon as a child and I used to be very impressed by her physique of labor, I didn't essentially have the identical relationship together with her that I had with Latrice Royale, who saved me the week prior. I didn't know if possibly I bombed the subsequent week, if Manila was within the prime, that she would preserve me. I undoubtedly had a greater alliance with Latrice Royale.

It’s humorous. This was not a part of the episode, clearly, however after I sat down with Latrice, I mentioned to her, "If I win, I'm saving you," as a result of I already had made my determination.

I'm positive you anticipated some backlash, however was there something significantly surprising or hurtful that you simply learn on social media?

You know, I’ve the thickest pores and skin ever and it doesn't actually have an effect on me. I assumed I might have some hate since I used to be saved as an alternative of Valentina the week prior and I do know Valentina's followers have been loopy. I didn't know Manila's followers have been gonna be loopy.

I’ve very thick pores and skin, however it makes me a bit unhappy that my mother is so invested in a few of my drag that she does learn the feedback and there are some issues like, "Your organic household was proper to desert you," and, "I'm so joyful that your brother died so he didn't should see you grow to be such a hypocrite." That wasn't essentially one thing I wished my mother to learn. Because it's simply loopy. It's a bizarre thought for her to have the belief that folks have these ideas about her son, you already know? But apart from that, I'm fairly superb with it.

Are you and Manila nonetheless buddies? I do know followers identified that you simply unfollowed her.

I don't know if we have been essentially ever buddies. I assumed we had an excellent working relationship, however I feel a few of her tweets have been very unprofessional and I didn't essentially need that on my timeline anymore.

On the subject of social media, you might be one of many first black queens to hit 1,000,000 followers on Instagram. Do you suppose the fandom is beginning to change or do you suppose it was only a matter of time earlier than black queens caught as much as the thin, white women?

[Laughs] I didn't ever actually care about followers, however as a result of Bob and I are such finest buddies and we’ve got such a aggressive relationship, I actually wished to beat him. I used to be so mad I didn't beat him. After that, I form of began dropping depend. But my instance of find out how to deal with your social media has by no means actually been to look as much as the thin white women. I used to be at all times wanting as much as Kim Chi as a result of I feel that the way in which that she handles social media is simply so superb. It's so humorous — these women will begin freaking out over their followers as a result of now they do bot cleanups, they usually'll simply swipe out half of your followers. But Kim has by no means been affected by that as a result of her following is simply so robust and I feel that that's been a very good instance to have as a result of that's how I'd prefer to current my content material. I don't actually have a problem with the bots both.

Who are you rooting for out of the highest two?

I imply, I’m tremendous, tremendous shut with MonĂ©t. I feel that she is a tremendous individual and undoubtedly the very best pal I made at All Stars. But I feel that Trinity is strictly what RuPaul was searching for from day one. Every single time we might go on that runway, she would get the very best critiques and even when I didn't essentially agree with it each single time, that is RuPaul's Drag Race and if she's gonna be the one to make the choice then I feel Trinity is the apple of his eye.

I noticed that your music “Pose” soundtracked a New York Fashion Week runway — congrats!

I feel it was featured in a pair, however the primary one was the Christian Cohen runway.

Will you be engaged on extra music?

When I first began Drag Race, music was a type of issues I swore I might by no means do as a result of I simply by no means noticed myself as a musical individual. But I began realizing that you would be able to current a complete different stage of your creativeness to an viewers by music and thru visuals and movies. I undoubtedly can be engaged on extra music.

What different tasks do you’ve gotten on the horizon?

I'm simply now beginning with Werk the World tour and I'm going to be touring with my very own present known as Smalls World. I'm actually, actually enthusiastic about that. I've been counting on different productions and excursions for a very long time and I'm excited to go in with my very own mission that I actually need to current on stage.

Do you and Valentina have any plans to do a Club 96 tour?

[Laughs] Oh my god, a Club 96 must at the least be a month-to-month pop-up. I really feel like that needs to be our child and see the place it goes as a result of managing a nightclub sounds terrible. I might like to work with Valentina once more.

With season eleven beginning in two weeks, do you’ve gotten any recommendation for brand new women?

I feel plenty of the queens would say to not learn the feedback, don't learn , don't take a look at your Twitter — however I by no means actually understood that recommendation. I’ve a really wholesome relationship with constructive criticism, so as an alternative of essentially studying all these issues as insults, consider how one can apply that to the way you current your self.

Watch Naomi Smalls' music video for "Pose" under.