The season five Drag Race contestant returns for Ru Paul's All-Stars and has something to say about the judges, Adore Delano and Roxxxy Andrews.
For those of you who think that Ru Paul’s Drag Race All-Stars is "Drag Race Lite," then you didn’t catch the premiere last Thursday and see what Coco Montrese had to endure among her bottom-three sisters, “Survivor meets Shark Tank. It’s mind-boggling, it really really is!” Coco told me over the phone.
All-Stars made a few extreme changes to the elimination formula on this its second season, and if you didn’t watch you may not want to read any further because this article contains spoilers.
Season five Drag Race contestant Coco Montrese was asked back to compete in the All-Stars show, and even though she took a risk, it wasn’t enough to save her from elimination.
Only, it wasn’t Mama Ru who sent her sashaying away on the premiere, it was co-contestant Roxxxy Andrews.
Yes you read that right. This year the bottom three are subject to a fellow-sister’s judgement and not the result of the caustic panel’s discretion.
In another twist, the top two contestants must lip-syncing for their legacy instead of their lives to win a lot of cash.
Thursday's show saw Tatianna and Roxxxy going head-to-head to Taylor Swift's "Shake it Up."
The victor of that battle must then choose one of the bottom three to go home, selecting the name from a lipstick tube. It was Roxxxy who ultimately had to make the choice during the premiere.
Some of these drag performers are friends; they have performed together around the country. Coco says they are like family.
Some have even competed against each other on past shows and bonded, so it’s a little difficult for the lone judge to throw one of their “kin” under the proverbial bus.
I asked Coco if she felt it was a difficult position to be in and how she would have handled it if she had to pick someone to send home.
“That for me is the really hard part because I don’t see myself as their judge and jury,” she said. “So it might be kinda of a good thing that I left? I mean I would have loved to have been there, and I did not want to go home because I did not want to let down Ru Paul, I do not want to let down the fans and everything. But I also don’t want to be a judge of my peers like that. I’m no one to judge what they do.”
One contestant, season six Drag Race finalist Adore Delano felt the full brunt of this new pressure having been placed in the bottom three of Thursday night's show.
The judges still get to have their say in the bottom three before elimination and Michelle Visage didn’t hold back on her criticism of Delano, calling out her costume, talent and size.
Adore had a minor meltdown backstage, contemplating whether she was even worthy of being on the show.
Coco was writhing in sympathy as she stood back and listined to Michelle's critique of Adore.
"Michelle was being evil,” she says. “Michelle is not like that, she’s a wonderful mother, she’s got to give us that tough love, but I think it was just meeaaaan. Gut wrenching this time."
Coco was quick to come to her co-star’s defense when I asked why she thought Adore was so affected by the judges and being put in the bottom.
After all, Adore has been out sucessfully working since season six, one would think she had developed a thicker skin by now.
She says that Adore is, “this big star now, and she has this vulnerability.”
Coco also thinks of herself as a “big sister,” and when she sees one of her family suffering from a rout she immediately becomes defensive.
“You can say anything you want about me, you can talk about my make-up, you can talk about my performance, you can say whatever you want,” she said. “I mean I’ve had a career for over 25-years, I’m doing okay. But to see Adore hurting like that was kinda hard for me. I wanted to reach out and just be there for her in those critiques because I know what she was feeling, and I know how sweet she is, and I know how wonderful this kid is.”
Michelle and the panel weren't just heavy-handed with Adore, they also gave Coco the what-for.
They slammed her talent choice and just like in season five, her make-up.
Coco says she treats the panel's criticism as more contructive than destructive.
“You know there are a lot of things that come into play while being an entertainer. We have a thick skin but we are very sensitive at the same time.
“The Coco you saw on season five is different than the Coco you saw on All-Stars; I kinda took the critiques more so like, ‘Oh, okay,’ you know, that type of thing. I’m not going to take it to heart. I’m not saying I’m not listening, but I’m not going to take it to heart, you know.”
None-the-less, it was Roxxxy who sent Coco home, and being the understanding veteran she is Coco has empathy for Roxxy saying she wouldn’t want to be in her shoes.
“I don’t feel like I’m in the position to judge anyone else: their craft and what they do; that’s not what my art form is, but she um, might have been okay with it, I don’t know.”
I asked Coco if their friendship had been ruined, "No, not at all.”
All-stars also reunites Coco with her longtime friend and season five co-contestant Detox.
“I’ve known her long before she even started doing drag,” she laughs. “It was kinda great to walk back into that situation. And be with her again. And she’s another great, great soul so it was just great to be there with her. I’ve known Roxxy forever too, so it was great to see them again.”
Now that All-Stars is over for Coco...maybe (Ru Paul revealed in private at the end of the premiere that there is a chance she could come back; for revenge), Coco has been keeping busy.
Unfortunately the biggest gig Coco has signed up for has been cancelled. She was supposed to be on the road with Janet Jackson during her "Unbreakable" tour, but the musicain announced in April that she is not finishing that commitment so she can concentrate on her pregnancy.
Coco Laughs: “Gosh, I wish she would give me the check that she gets to finish this tour, I would be very, very happy.”
Whether it's appearing on All-Stars, Drag Race or just performing in her hometwon, Coco is a veteran of the trade and remains true to herself and her friends.
I called her Mama Coco because that is the feeling I got from her during our interview; always willing to help the up-and-comers with affection, support and a pinch of tough love.
So it's no surprise that she wants to open her own drag theater someday, a place where guests and grag queens can interact freely instead of inside a cramped nightclub.
"A lot of people would love to have dinner and see a show, now that drag is so mainstream," she said. "People of all walks of life will be, ‘Hey, let’s go to a drag show – let’s go have dinner and see a show. I actually want to open it in Vegas."
As for her time on All-Stars, she was happy to be there among friends, but not just for the fame or fortune.
Even after she went home the bonds remained strong. Remember the show is pre-recorded and the cast already knows what happens next, but one thing stands out for Coco as she watches it all over again in HD, “Being able to showcase my talent again, and actually be with some people that I love and adore.”
But that doesn't mean she is not going to enjoy seeing how it will all plays out for the remaining queens, "I’d love to be there, but I’m going to be sittin’ on my couch with my popcorn, and I’m going to be watching the things fly; this is going to be good!” she laughs.
Ru Paul's Drag Race All Stars airs Thursdays at 8 pm; 7pm Central, only on Logo.