She certainly didn’t have a shot at Miss Congeniality, but Tyra Sanchez did win season 2 of Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag Race — an upset that doesn’t surprise her one bit. After publicly accepting her title at last night’s official finale celebration at New York’s Therapy lounge, Miss Sanchez — also known as Orlando native James Ross, who just turned 22 — spoke to us about how she transformed her villainess status into victory.
By Brandon Voss
Advocate.com: Did you get any sleep after last night’s finale viewing party?
Tyra Sanchez: Actually, right after my number I went down, changed, and went right back to the hotel, because I knew today was going to be a busy day. I had a lot of fun at the party, though.
The finale was filmed many months ago. How did you keep your victory a secret for so long?
If I ever felt I needed to talk about it, vent, or scream it out, I’d go in the bathroom, close the door, look in the mirror, and just talk to myself.
Knowing that you had won, what was it like to sit at the finale viewing party with the other finalists and all those people watching you watch yourself?
It felt really good, but it was strange because I could tell that some of the room was rooting more for JuJubee and Raven. I don’t think anyone was expecting me to win.
Are you mad at people who didn’t root for you from start to finish?
No, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but it makes me upset when people say that I didn’t deserve to win. I honestly think I deserved to win. I gave you drag. I did everything the judges asked, times 10.
Has anyone said to your face that you didn’t deserve to win?
No one’s said that to my face, but yesterday we all did The Wendy Williams Show, and some people came up and were like, “I love you all, but I’m rooting for you, JuJu.” In my mind, I was just saying, "OK, you just wait till tonight."
Since Ru often called you “the other Tyra,” I’d love to see you chat with Tyra Banks too — though she might cut you for stealing her name.
I don’t think she’d cut me, but I would love to meet Tyra Banks. I have this crazy idea to be on her show, but when it comes on it’s me, and I say, “This is the new Tyra show.” Then she comes out, and I have on exactly the same outfit, hair, and makeup as she has on. That would be hilarious.
Though you had won several challenges during the season, many people did see you as the dark horse going into the finale, but many also felt that you really proved yourself worthy of the crown in the final challenges. Do you feel like you saved your best for last?
No, I gave my best every time. I stayed consistent, and I didn’t fall under. I remained true to who I was, and I gave more and more every week.
In last night’s reunion special, Ru, talking about your performance in the wedding dress challenge, said, “Bitch, your pussy was on fire.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I could tell that it was probably the biggest compliment she could give a drag queen.
Yeah, It felt really good to know that she thought that my idea was really hot and something that she would probably try herself.
You were often portrayed as the villain of the season. Did you ever feel unfairly edited, or do you take full responsibility for your bitchiness?
Everything you saw on the show happened exactly the way it happened at that time. Of course some key points were left out — apologies that were made or when we made up — but everything that happened on the show happened.
Did you worry that being viewed as a difficult by the other girls might affect the judging?
No, I didn’t. It actually worked out in my favor because it showed that the girls were afraid of me and that they were jealous. For them to bring all that to the judges at elimination helped me out a lot. I could be like, OK, I’m going to prove that what you’re saying is not true.
Were you heartbroken that you didn’t win Miss Congeniality too?
No, I was not.
You spoke in the reunion special about how you much you had grown, changed, and matured since the show filmed. How did that personal evolution happen in such a short time?
Well, it’s been almost a year now. I’m still the same person, but my sweet side has been amplified.
During a reading challenge, the girls gave you shade about your grill. Has your shiny new smile boosted your confidence and therefore improved your attitude?
No, my confidence has always been here. I just know that appearance is like 65% of my career. A beautiful inside should always come first, but you should have a beautiful outside to match because looking at that makes people live and like you.
Winning this competition positions you as a role model for the gay community, particularly aspiring young drag queens and especially young African-American drag queens. Do you feel prepared for that responsibility, and would you like to use your new fame to promote good causes?
Yes, but younger drag queens have always looked up to me and asked for my help. If anyone needs me to perform for a benefit to raise money for a cause, I’m all for it.
The Rihanna number — a “Hard”-“Rude Boy” mash-up — you performed at the finale party was amazing. It’s a shame that none of the contestants get to show off those kind of signature club numbers on the show.
I think that should be a challenge on the next season. You should get to choose from a list of songs that you normally do back home and perform that, because you’re right — you don’t get to see that side of us that you see in the clubs.
I know a girl’s entitled to some secrets, but your big prosthetic breasts always steal the show. Where does one buy something like that?
I got them from a Web site. The guy who made them was very friendly and got them to me immediately. I feel incomplete if I don’t have them on now. I’ve always liked bigger breasts. I feel like that’s what makes a woman a woman — her hips, her breasts, and her hair — so I love big hips, big hair, and big breasts. We’re trying to imitate beautiful women, and beautiful women have hourglass bodies.
You’re a very vocal Beyoncé fan, and many people have compared your styles, but which woman, living or dead, would you never want to be compared to?
Beyoncé, actually. Being compared to her isn’t so bad because I love her and live for her fashions, but I get that a lot — people saying, “Oh, she’s just a wannabe Beyoncé.” That’s not who I am. I want to be myself, and I don’t want people thinking I’m trying to be Beyoncé.
Years from now, when RuPaul’s Drag Race is in its umpteenth season, what will all the drunken gay viewers who get together on Monday nights remember most about Tyra Sanchez?
They’ll remember her fashion the most — how she brought it to the runway every time and always gave you fashion that was beautiful, sickening, or over-the-top.
Who makes your outfits?
I was making all my own outfits at one point. I hate sewing now, but everything you see me in is something of my own design. Like what I wore in last night’s Rihanna number was inspired by the video, so I sketched out something and had someone make it for me.
So only custom outfits will do?
Every now and then I’ll find something off the rack that can fit me, but it’s nothing I would ever wear on stage. It’s something I’d walk around the club in.
Do you have a special someone back home to share all this excitement with?
I have my son, Jeremiah, my family, and my boyfriend, Taylor, who was at the viewing party back home in Orlando.
You spoke a lot about your young son Jeremiah on the show, but I’m unclear on some of the details of that conception. Did you consider yourself heterosexual when you had him?
I guess you could say that. My son was born while I was in high school, and I wasn’t gay at all in high school — I was never interested in guys. I guess toward the end of the high school years it could come up and I would think about it, but I wasn’t really interested in men until after high school. A couple months after high school, I tried it and fell in love with it.
What’s your baby mama situation like?
My baby mama situation is like my best friend situation. We’re very good friends, we know we have a child together, so we work hard to raise him.
If RuPaul’s Drag Race were a graduating class, Tyra Sanchez would be voted Most Likely to...?
Win a reality TV show. [Laughs] No, Tyra Sanchez would be the person most likely to be in a movie. I like all kinds of movies, but I really want to be in one of Tyler Perry’s films. Or I’d love to be in the Avatar sequel. Can you imagine Tyra Sanchez as an avatar?
More than I can imagine Tyler Perry letting you steal Madea’s thunder.
Well, maybe Madea and I could be in a movie together. That would be hot.
Let’s end by playing a game of “screw, marry, kill” with your fellow competitors. OK, go.
I’d screw Sahara, I’d marry Tatianna, and I wouldn’t kill anyone because I’m America’s sweetheart.
Advocate.com, April 2010.