After nearly four months of grueling competition, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14 is finally coming to a close.
On Friday (April 22), the top five queens of the season — Angeria Paris VanMicheals, Bosco, Daya Betty, Lady Camden and Willow Pill — will duke it out in a lip-sync smackdown for the crown. The winner will not only walk away with the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar, but a boosted cash prize of $150,000, while the runner-up queen will also take home an additional $50,000, thanks to a new rule introduced just before the finale.
One such finalist is Willow Pill, the Denver queen with a penchant for both the weird and wonderful. Throughout the competition, Pill managed to capture the attention of the judges, her fellow competitors, and most importantly the fans with her otherworldly runway looks, her offbeat sense of humor, and her touching personal story.
Below, Billboard chats with Willow Pill ahead of the finale airing about her Enya-assisted talent show performance, her coming-out journey both on and off the show, and why she feels she’s earned her place in the franchise’s winner’s circle.
Congratulations on making it to the finale, Miss Pill! At the end of this journey, how are you feeling?
I feel amazing! Everyone obviously wants to make it to the end of Drag Race, you know, to show everything that they’ve created for the show, and to show all of their secrets. And I just can’t believe that I get to say I actually did it! You dream of it for a long time, and here it is!
It is well deserved, because you were so entertaining to watch all season. There is something I have wanted to ask you about since the season started — where on Earth did you come up with that incredible talent show performance?
That is a great question, because honestly, sometimes I don’t even know. No, it was an evolution of a lot of things! I had originally made a video that had kind of … you know, it was a bath-time absurdist comedy video that I made in high school to that song [“Only Time” by Enya] with some friends, before I ever even did drag. Eventually, that turned into another video that I did in drag. So, when that song was presented to us as an option out of thousands of songs we could perform to in the talent show, I thought, “Well, why not just recreate something near and dear to my heart, and make it a little bit more twisted and dark?” Yeah, it’s for sure one of my best moments.
It was so good, as was the fashion aesthetic that you brought to this season — what inspired a lot of these inventive, wild looks you served throughout the show?
The more vintage, cutesy part of my drag has largely come from inspiration in the fashion industry that I’ve had for a long time — I loved looking at all of my mom’s photographs of her growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, so that certainly is a huge inspiration for my drag. The ’90s, too, were big for me, because that was where I got all of the hand-me-down CDs and clothing and accessories I got from my older sisters. And then the kind of kooky, dreamy side, comes from my dreams. A lot of it comes from psychedelics, and a lot of it comes from daydreaming when I was growing up. It sort of becomes escapism in a way.
Honestly, that look you constructed to look like a long-armed monster doll is something that I think about on a regular basis because it was so wild to me.
Good! Yeah, that one was certainly from a nightmare. [Laughs.]
I really appreciate how open you have been about your cystinosis throughout the competition — it’s led to some fans opening up online about their journeys with genetic disorders, and I wondered how that makes you feel seeing those conversations happen?
It’s felt pretty incredible. I’ve been engaged in conversations like that before, and I’m really happy that I could be a representation of that on the show. Something with disability and chronic illness is that it’s something we don’t really talk about. It’s not really seen much in television and movies, and certainly not in reality TV. So I’m very happy, and it feels important that those things are being discussed now, because that’s something I’ve had to deal with my entire life.
Much like a lot of the viewing audience, I loved watching you and Kornbread develop this adorable friendship during the beginning of the competition — what has that been like to gain such a close friend from being on a reality show together?
Kornbread and I always say that what attracted us to each other is that we’re both very rotten. [Laughs.] We’re both kind of rotten to the core, and have this kind of whimsical, fun character on the outside. I think we instantly clocked each other — or at least, I clocked her, I don’t think she clocked me until after the talent show — as being someone who has some dark secrets and covers it up with lots of butterflies and ruffles!
I also wanted to congratulate you on your coming out as trans-femme earlier this year! What has that experience been like, coming out and getting to share in the spotlight with your fellow season 14 sisters who also came out?
It’s been so great! I tell everybody that, in many ways, I’ve already been out to the people that are close to me. This sort of felt like a second coming out — because now a whole, large section of the world knows what’s going on in my life. You know, I debated whether or not I wanted to talk about it, but you kind of show so much of yourself in the show, that it would feel almost incomplete to leave that out. So I wanted to share it! I’ve gotten so much support and love from the fans, and it feels really good to know that there’s one less secret to hold on to. There’s a big sense of freedom that comes with it.
I’m still not over the fact that Kerri Colby dressed as “Tranos” at the finale with an Infinity Stone for each of the trans girls on this season.
Oh my god, I loved it so much! She even told me which gem I was — she said I’m the pinky, purple-y one, the iridescent looking gem, that’s me.
If you were to make the pitch for yourself, why would you say you deserve to win season 14 of Drag Race?
We’ve all done such an incredible job on the show, honestly. We all did really well on the challenges, and had special moments on the runway, but I think what sets me apart from the other girls is that I have a really special drive and story to me that has pushed me through this season. I still have so much more to show the world, and as much as we all did incredible things on the show, I think I have the most to offer after the show, and to present to the world in all of its disgustingness and darkness and hilarity. It’ll be gorgeous.
I’m sure it also helps that the cash prize is now $50,000 higher!
Oh yes, exactly. I’d love to retire early. [Laughs.]
Because this is Billboard and we love music — is there a song, album or artist that you’ve been listening to a lot as of late?
Ooh, yes actually! The thing that’s been on repeat for the past five to six months for me, non-stop is Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure? Yeah, that whole album is just incredible. Whenever I’m sad, happy, sexy, it’s good for all of my moods.