Shuga Cain Talks Avoiding Drama, NYC Queens & More After ‘Drag Race’ Exit


RuPaul’s Drag Race saw the queens pulling rabbits out of hats when they were tasked Thursday night (May 2) with creating, staging and performing their very own magic shows.

One queen was a regular Houdini; after showing off some truly magical skills, Nina West conjured up her second challenge win of the season. But two queens were feeling cursed toward the end of the night. After an emotional lip sync to Mary J. Blige’s hit song “No More Drama,” Vanessa Vanjie Mateo made her competition, Shuga Cain, disappear.

Shuga spoke to Billboard the day after her elimination about how she avoided drama on the show, whether or not she was robbed, and which New York queen she wanted to see on season 12.

How are you feeling after watching your elimination last night?

I am feeling all of the emotions! You know, it's a bittersweet feeling, it's a tough pill to swallow, how many more clichés can I say? It's rough, I'm not gonna lie, it was really really tough watching it. I didn't expect to go through the emotions and things because it happened so long ago, but I feel like … yeah, it was tough to watch that poor little girl go home.

If it helps at all, fans seem to feel the same way — a lot of them are saying that you didn't deserve to be in the bottom in the first place. How does it feel, seeing that kind of a response from fans?

I did see that online. It's really overwhelming, it's actually very beautiful and sweet. You know, going on this show has been something that I have just been so excited about, and you never know what's going to happen, you never know how the kids are going to react. To see the immense amount of support and love from all of these people all over the world is so incredibly overwhelming. I didn't agree with me being in the bottom either, but then to see how the kids rallied behind me, it really is one of those things where I am completely overwhelmed and grateful. I'm still processing it, honestly — I read some of the comments, but then I get really emotional so I have to stop. I never in a million years would have thought so many people would love and support me that much.

For as many fights as there have been this season, you are one of the few girls who managed to stay away from drama on the show. Was that an intentional effort on your part?

No, I don't think it was intentional. I'm not a drama person, I don't deal with it and I just don't do it. I don't have people like that in my life. And if it happens, we talk about it, we work it out. I am not someone who's gonna start a fight. So I didn't know how I was going to react on the show, but being there and seeing all the stuff play out in the workroom and in Untucked, I just was like, "I don't care about this." I was more focused on the competition, and focused about trying to show the judges that I am America's next drag superstar and why. I was working hard at that, and I didn't want to be distracted by all of this he-said, she-said foolishness. At the end of the day, it was just kind of childish, and I'm just not that person. I was quick to call a bitch out for things they wouldn't own up to, but for the most part it was like, "Eh, I don't have time for all that."

Drag is a relatively new thing for you, so how did it feel getting catapulted to the height of this profession so early on in your drag career?

It's crazy. Like, I am very, very new to this, but I am 41 years old, and I have a masters degree in opera, I have literally been performing my entire life. Singing, musical theater, plays, it's always been about music and performance and entertaining for me since I was a little boy. That aspect of drag was not new to me. The only thing that's really different is now I'm in hair and heels and a dress. So I feel like I was very underestimated, even when I started out in New York City, where some of the girls were like, "Who is this young queen?" I was getting gigs at bars where girls were trying to get in for years. So when I got the show, there was definitely some buzz in New York. So obviously there's other nuance to drag, but … this was so crazy. I would say I was surprised, but also not. I go for the things that I need and I want.

I personally feel that you were criminally underrated on the show when it came to runways, because you turned out some stunning looks. What is your approach to your fashion?

It starts from a place where it means something to me. So when you look at my runways, it always tells a story of where I came from. My gold look, for example, was very much about my native background, and representing the Aztec kind of background. Once I know what the story is, I look at everything for inspiration. I look at a lot of couture designers, like Valentino, McQueen, like everything. I go through images, and think about colors and silhouettes, and then bring them together. So the gold look I made myself.

Up until this show, I only ever created my own looks, and this was one of the first times that I had the opportunity to collaborate with some incredible designers, who really could help bring this vision that I had to the next level. So I think that has been such a blessing about this show. Now, I have the opportunity to work with these designers, and to showcase what they can bring. The fashion journey has been amazing, for me.

You were the last of the NYC queens this season to go home — who is a queen from New York that you think could slay the competition if they were cast?

The person who's a standout for me, and who I think is absolutely incredible is Ms. Sherry Pie. She is so incredible. Her looks are always mad extra. The numbers that she does are always so out of the box — it can be a song that you've heard a million times, but you watch her perform it, and you're like, "I never in a million years would have thought to do that." She is really kind of just … I love a bitch that is extra. She is going to put in the work and go for it, bitch. It is so great to see another queen out there doing it for the pure joy and love of drag, not like, trying to make a million bucks, you know?