“RuPaul’s Drag Race”: How do we make sense of Valentina’s ouster?

VH1/Screencap

RuPaul’s Drag Race fans are both reeling and divided right now. Valentina, seemingly a shoo-in for Top 3, if not the winning spot on the show, was eliminated in the most stunning fashion, and people either don’t know how to cope with it or are blaming others for Valentina’s own mistakes.

In full disclosure, I’m a Valentina stan. (I’ve said so in this article!) Because I am a Valentina stan, I didn’t want to believe the Reddit rumors were true and was shocked when I saw Valentina leave. I was even more shocked by just how quickly it seemed like 1) the show turned on her and 2) how she’d set herself up for her own ouster. Thankfully, I can say that I’m not a Valentina stan that’s not going to view reality as it is–Valentina’s own actions led to her leaving the show. But what I’ve been parsing through is just how Valentina let herself slip up like this.

One thing people have always scratched their heads about is Valentina’s claim that she’s only been doing drag for 10 months. If my research is correct, she’s only been doing drag as a serious career for 10 months–she’s actually been doing it off-and-on for much longer. Either way, Valentina proved to those calling BS on the “10 months” claim that yes, she has been doing this for a very short time. Otherwise, I don’t think her Achilles heel–the fear of failure–would be so apparent.

I identify with Valentina when it comes to the fear of failure. Just like how I identify with Nina Bonina Brown on feeling so beat down by your career that you sometimes start seeing conspiracy theories as to why you aren’t where you feel you should be, I understand how Valentina might get so freaked out by failing (especially failing in front of an international audience, as she said in Untucked) that she would completely forget all of the words to the song and, in a peak out-of-body moment, delude herself into thinking she could get away with lip syncing with her Club Kid Realness mask on. In fact, it was that fight-or-flight response that made her keep the mask on–if she could preserve any shred of dignity she had left, she was going to do it any way she could.

I feel like Valentina must have put herself through a crash course of preparation before auditioning for Drag Race. If she’s the perfectionist she’s portrayed herself to be, she’s probably practiced her acting for months and scoured for the most detailed costumes and wigs and, probably, even rehearsed how she would answer RuPaul’s questions. Her goal, aside from winning the whole thing, was to go through the entire competition showing the most perfect version of Valentina possible. As she said, what she failed to prepare for was the possibility of actually losing.

I think that her perfectionism is why some folks were turned off by Valentina’s run on the show, because she came off as a completely stylized, rehearsed human being. I’d say that for me, that’s what made me like her even more after initially loving her performances from her videos; for me, her attention to detail and refinement is comforting in an OCD way. But regardless of how you feel about her, it was ultimately her journey towards unattainable perfection that led her down a dark ending.

(You could also say that her demand for self-perfection had already shown itself to be a debilitating factor–she had revealed that she battles an eating disorder and, like OCD and anxiety, most eating disorders seem to be driven by deep insecurity and a fruitless strive for perfection. Her dark side might be why she gets along with Nina so well, seeing how they both struggle with acceptance on some level.)

Her reliance on her charm also showed just how young in the game she is. While queens like Alaska and Alyssa have tons of charm to spare, and oftentimes can skate by in certain challenges on their charm, they also have a lot of experience and know how to recover when things go wrong. Valentina doesn’t have that experience in drag (as far as I know), and I think her lack of experience is also what led to her meltdown. It would seem she’s used to everything going right for her, and with a small amount of performances under her belt, maybe everything’s gone well because she’s been able to control the environment. But RuPaul’s Drag Race is sometimes less about finding the most talented, refined drag queen and more about finding the drag queen who can survive and adapt under pressure. Adapting under pressure is also what Alaska and Alyssa know how to do in spades. With reality hitting Valentina in the face as hard as it did, she’s now learning how to build her skills the hard way.

At the end of the day, though, it’s sad to see her go. You can tell how sad she was at her own performance on the mainstage afterwards. What I appreciated the most was how angry she was at herself. As you can see in Untucked, Valentina states that in any other situation, she would have fought to the end. Even with listening to the song before the lip synch, she just froze because she didn’t ever think that she would be eliminated. It’s heartbreaking to see how disappointed she was in herself because you can tell she really wanted this.

However, All Stars 3 could certainly be within Valentina’s sights. Like many have said, All Stars 3 could be Valentina’s to win, much like how All Stars 2 was Alaska’s to win. Until then, we Valentina stans can comfort ourselves with the fact that Valentina is still a star, whether or not she’s got the crown.

(Also, if you’re a stan who think bullying Nina Bonina Brown for winning the lip synch or talking smack to RuPaul for getting snippy with Valentina, knock it off.)