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Meet The Chicago Queens Starring In 'RuPaul's Drag Race' This Season

By Tony Peregrin in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 2, 2016 4:33PM

'RuPaul's Drag Race' contestants Kim Chi (left) and Naysha Lopez (photo courtesy of 'RuPaul's Drag Race')

When the eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race airs on March 7, the 100th contestant will prance into the show’s workroom. What's more, she could turn out to be from Chicago. Two popular local dolls are in the running this season: Kim Chi and Naysha Lopez.

Kim Chi—known for her formidable makeup skills and anime-inspired drag—is the first Korean drag queen on record to be featured on U.S. television—not a bad gig for a kitty-girl named after pickled cabbage. Naysha Lopez, a divalicious pageant girl and a Miss Continental title-holder, is considered to be one of the most beautiful queens to ever sashay down the runway of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

The queens spilled the T to Chicagoist about the new Drag Race season, meeting RuPaul in person, and why Chicago is becoming an epicenter of drag queen culture.

Talk about the first time you interacted with RuPaul—was it an out-of-body-ody-ody experience?

Kim Chi: All along I thought maybe I was being punk’d, but when I was on the runway for the first time and I saw how flawless RuPaul is, reality sank in. hH looks better in person than on TV.

Naysha Lopez: I agree with Kim. When you see RuPaul in person he is ridiculously stunning.

RuPaul once told a reporter, “Drag is dangerous.” Do you agree?

Kim Chi: Yes, drag can be dangerous. We are crafting a personality for ourselves in which we can say and do whatever we want to… and sometimes there are consequences.

Naysha Lopez: It’s absolutely true. The fact that I am a man in a dress and wig means that I can get away with things that I couldn’t as a normal guy. I get to say things that—if I said them out of drag—I don’t think I’d live to see another day! (Laughs).

Which former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants have inspired you the most?

Kim Chi: The first time I saw Sharon [Needles’] post-apocalyptic look I was blown away by the creativity. Those types of looks taught me that drag can be anything you want it to be.

Naysha Lopez: I love Alyssa [Edwards] and how determined of an entertainer she is. She has hustle and she is determined to entertain you. She’s not just going to just stand there and lip sync, and I love her for it.

RuPaul’s Drag Race has “fucked up drag,” according to a YouTube video posted in early February by season seven contestant Jasmine Masters. Do you agree with her?

Kim Chi: RuPaul’s Drag Race has made drag an acceptable art form. That being said, there are some who seem to be doing drag simply to get on Drag Race. The show has definitely created its share of fame-seekers.

Naysha Lopez: Regardless of how hard we work doing drag, we were never going to give it the kind of exposure—and acceptance by the public—that is has received from this show. The fame-seekers are a little shameful, like Kim said. People need to keep in mind that there are drag queens that have never been on Drag Race who are ridiculously talented.

Sum up season eight in three words.

Kim Chi: Confrontation. Blood. Tears.

Naysha Lopez: Better. Than. Seven. (Laughs).

What is your reaction to people on social media who might say that you are too sweet to win RuPaul’s Drag Race, Kim Chi?

Kim Chi: People say I’m not snatching the crown because I am too nice? Well, let it be. I’m not going to change my personality to win a title.

Your social media presence, Naysha, is hilarious. Like the time you tweeted out “That moment when the trade looks up at you and says…wait are you Naysha Lopez?!? FML!!!” Did that really happen?

Naysha Lopez: It was so real, so real! I was with this guy, getting my trade fantasy, and son of a bitch, if he didn’t say that. I was like, get out of here!

Describe the current state of the Chicago drag scene.

Kim Chi: The Chicago drag scene has been going through quite a renaissance. It used to be mostly pretty or fishy girls, but now in Chicago we have artsy club kids, drag queens with big personas, and of course we still have a lot of pageant/fishy queens. There are a ton of drag queens moving to Chicago over the last couple of years because there are so many opportunities here for new queens to work. A lot of queens move to Chicago, get their own thing going, start their own show…new shows are popping out weekly, it feels like!

Naysha Lopez: I’ve been doing drag for 13 years in Chicago and there has definitely been an evolution here. The drag scene, with the iconic Baton Lounge and the Miss Continental pageant, was a very fishy type of drag. There used to be one drag show during the week in this town…but now there is a place for everyone to work, which has put Chicago on the map. There are options for all kinds of drag esthetics.

If you could do a Cher and “Turn Back Time,” what advice would you give your younger self?

Kim Chi: I would tell her to get a corset as soon as possible, preferably one that is well-made. (Laughs). When you are first starting out, you think you look good in everything you put on—you are feeling your fantasy. But an aesthetically pleasing body is important—and a corset definitely helps.

Naysha Lopez: I would tell my younger self to get better hair. (Laughs).

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The season premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race airs March 7 at 8 p.m. CST on Logo.