Denver’s Yvie Oddly is set on disrupting the drag status quo. And she’s well-positioned to do so, as one of 14 competitors on this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The apex of drag competitions, RuPaul’s Drag Race has contestants lip-syncing, dancing, modeling, designing clothes, and striking poses all for the title of America’s next drag superstar. The show’s creator and drag queen icon RuPaul serves as one of four judges that crown the winner.
A bonafide Denverite, Oddly started out at Tracks, a local nightclub, where she won the Ultimate Queen Challenge in 2015. Oddly’s competitive edge lies in her unorthodox drag sensibility. She eschews glitz, glam, sparkles, and bows in favor of raw, boundary-pushing eccentricity. Less pageantry, more performance art. This, coupled with her air-piercing laugh and gregarious persona, makes her impossible to ignore.
We talked with Oddly about Denver, the drag scene, and her favorite spots to hit on a Friday night. Watch Yvie Oddly on the 11th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which premieres on February 28 at 7 p.m. MT on VH1.
5280: What was growing up in Denver like for you?
Yvie Oddly: I’m a Denver native through and through. My mom had me when she was in college, and we moved around a lot. I feel like she had me so young, she had the support of her parents. They not only wanted to see her do well, but also set me up for a good life. I always got these random opportunities that people within our tax bracket definitely don’t usually. She made a point to educate me at an early age, and keep me on top. Denver itself has always been a pretty decent place for me.
How old were you when you first got into drag?
I remember one Halloween in middle school, a kid dressed up as a hooker in drag. And—at least to my knowledge—he’s straight. I saw all the attention he got. The next year, I convinced my mom to let me dress up as a hooker. I remember going through school that whole day, and going to my grandparents’ house, and looking at the shock on people’s faces. And, the one or two random people who thought I was beautiful. It fed me. I was addicted. That was my first taste of drag, even before I knew what drag was.
Describe the Denver drag scene a bit.
The Denver drag scene, for being as old and established as it is, has been kind of stunted in its growth. When I started going out and performing in public five years ago, the scene was so far behind. It was a bunch of people trying to dress up as she-women and doing their hairflips and living a fantasy… it pissed me off because I had seen RuPaul’s Drag Race, and what the world of drag could offer, and there was none of that here. There was no representation, there was no diversity, it was just boring and so part of why I started doing drag was to shake it up. Our city’s slowly catching up, though, I think we’re almost there.
Was your experience on the show all you expected it to be?
So when I actually got the call—I tried out three times—I was shocked because this thing that I was just internally doing as a motivator for myself was suddenly real. It was nerve-racking getting ready for that. I don’t think there’s anything in the world that can prepare you for jumping straight from your daily life into a reality TV show. Especially, especially, not Drag Race. I knew it was gonna be the hardest thing I’d ever done, and I set myself up with the mentality that I was going into battle.
Were you surprised at how hard it was?
I knew I’d miss my family and friends. But, I didn’t expect how tough it was going to be. No shade to all the other girls I’m on the season with, but they’re all social media superstars or pageant legends. And the ones who weren’t already knew each other and were intertwined. They all had someone to lean on while they were there.
What do you think sets you apart from other queens?
I feel like it’s my willingness to push boundaries and think outside the box. It’s a skill that so many people lack. What I bring to the table that other queens don’t is that I’m going to push the limit, I’m going to try something that shouldn’t be tried. It might not work, but it’s not going to be the end of me trying new things.
Competition-wise, what do you think your strengths were?
It feels so gross to say, but my uniqueness. In a room full of sparkly, jewerly-wearing, big-hair, B.S. queens who are willing to make excuses for the things that their drag characters couldn’t do, I always went for it. I think of Yvie of something that I can insert into any situation. I can be an old lady. I can be an alien. There are so many different avenues and characters that we have to play in our daily lives, and I just like to explore those.
What drag queens do you look up to?
RuPaul. She literally created a lane for us. She isn’t the best drag queen to have ever lived, and isn’t always doing the most revolutionary things, but she gave so many people a platform, and she’s always trying to look toward the future.
How do you feel about drag becoming more mainstream?
It’s a mixed bag. I’m grateful for the opportunities that have been given to drag queens to be able to do what we do. There are so many straight bars and weddings and functions that drag queens wouldn’t have worked 10 years ago if it weren’t for RuPaul. But, because it’s becoming mainstream, there’s a tendency for the art form to muddle and settle into the least common denominator. Drag is something that anyone can do and is so accessible. It’s like drawing. A bunch of people can draw and will draw, but not everybody has something to say.
Favorite local spot to catch a drag show?
I have two. Tracks, because it has these gigantic stadium-like performances. It’s like seeing your favorite pop star, but the drag queen version. Gladys for basically the opposite reasons. It’s so small and intimate and all about storytelling. You’re always going to get the best shows at Tracks and Gladys, depending on what you’re looking for.
Is it hard for you to go out, now that you’ve been on RuPaul?
My favorite thing about going out was just being a part of the environment. When I started going out, it was so easy to get lost in that experience and just be another piece in the machine. Even when I was just a local performer, even though people knew me, I could still slink back and have a drink. The strange thing about being on RuPaul now is that everyone has an agenda. Not that everyone is trying to use me, but it’s overwhelming.
Now that the filming is over, what’s next?
I’ve always liked creating, so as long as I get the opportunity to keep creating and keep myself from getting bored, then I’ll be happy. I’d love to branch into stand-up comedy—it’s an excuse to be on stage without throwing my body on the ground for three-and-a-half minutes. [laughs] I’ve always wanted to be a rapper, and I’ve written raps, so I’d like to get into that. My biggest goal, though, is in the next year I want to take my own traveling freaks, circus, and oddities tour around the U.S. to showcase the alternative entertainment that the queer community provides within the drag race world, outside of the drag race world. I just want people to be shocked. Like the circus used to make us feel before the internet was invented.
One more question before I let you go. What’s your favorite lip-sync jam?
It’s ever-changing, but one of my favorite staples is the Macarena. It’s something that everyone knows! Your job as a drag queen is to transform the audience as much as yourself, and if you can do something that ties to strong memories in people, it’s really easy to do that. I could go out on stage and do nothing to the Macarena, and people would still gasp because they haven’t heard the Macarena in 10, 15 years.