Denver-based drag queen Yvie Oddly, who won “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 11 on May 30, will headline Denver PrideFest at Civic Center park on Sunday. (Provided by Voss Events)
Denver PrideFest organizers had no idea Yvie Oddly would win Season 11 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” when they booked her to perform at this weekend’s event.
“Unless they had higher-up connects than me,” Oddly said with a laugh. “I think we were all just ready to go with the flow and embrace what it meant for me to be there at all, regardless of whether or not I won.”
But win she did, beating a record 14 contestants on the May 30 episode to claim the bejeweled scepter as America’s next drag superstar — along with $100,000 and the career opportunities that come with the title.
We caught up with Oddly, the stage name of 25-year-old Denver native Jovan Bridges, via phone this week before her June 16 headlining gig at PrideFest in Civic Center park downtown. Just before that, Oddly will also headline a June 14 Drag Nation event at Tracks — the Denver LGBTQ+ dance club where Yvie perfected her gritty, punk-rock fashion and unapologetic persona.
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Q: Congrats on the win. Are you just instantly in high demand now?
A: I am actually going to be flying out midway through our Pride to do Portland (Ore.’s) Pride, but I’ll be back again for the Sunday festivities. That’s kind of what these last few months have been, even just rolling through the (“Drag Race”) win and everything. I haven’t been able to fully process it because I’ve been on the road.
Q: What did it feel like to win?
A: I was just shocked. The only thing I was prepared for was the close of this chapter, whatever happened in it. In my cockiest (moments) I saw no other alternative than winning, but it was really strange to go from picturing yourself winning something or fighting so hard for it to actually having won it.
Q: Are you relieved the show is over?
A: I really do love what I get to do. If I only get one chance, then I’ve got to swing big. But it was still difficult because you don’t get to speak to any of your friends or family or loved ones. At points it seemed very lonely, and it’s easy to feel like you’re the only person going through this struggle. But I’m a fighter, so I just couldn’t let the voices overtake me. I take that and I burn it up for fuel.
Q: Was it hard to keep your win a secret until the finale aired?
A: It was really difficult, especially because I had worked my way up in the Colorado community. You can’t just go from being one of the bigger voices and faces in (the scene) to not existing for a few months. Nobody believed any of the stories I would tell, but the hardest part has definitely been just sitting on it.
Q: You’ve been in music videos from “Drag Race” veterans and played the PrideFest stage before. But this year will be different.
A: I was doing the best I could with the exposure that I was given, so it’s just really crazy to be back again and having literally the fruits of all of that labor right here and ready to be shared. The (timing) feels divine.
Q: What does it mean to have a “Drag Race” winner based in Denver?
A: There was a nasty rumor floating around before this of, “Well, RuPaul hates Colorado and one of us would never win because of this or that unknown thing.” But I think that was created as a way to keep people from trying to achieve too much, too big. To kind of shame you for trying to reach out, because there’s no way for the wider world to ignore you if you really apply yourself.
Q: You’re obviously seeing the results of that.
A: It’s crazy because in my head I only ever contemplated coming back after placing on the show. I never took the time to think about what it would mean to win, or be one of only two Colorado queens to represent the state (along with Season 1 runner-up Nina Flowers). I hope it makes all the girls here that much hungrier. I’ve always been a very stern critic in the community, to say the least, so I hope people have a fire lit under their (expletives). If you work hard enough and you have a vision, you really can achieve some insane things.
Q: Will you stay in Denver?
A: I foresee it. I mean, maybe in the future I’ll have to move around for business, but I never wanted to jump away to anywhere too fast, especially seeing my touring schedule over the next year. When I’m home, I want to be home and I want to see home. I’ve got the Season 11 tour all up and down the east coast, then I’m jumping on the Werq the World Tour, which just had a documentary come out, so I’m excited to join that legacy. I’m also starting a few things on my own with some other girls from my season. I’m getting to travel the world because of this, and I’m just going to drink it all in.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at PrideFest this year?
A: Just selfishly being on that stage and seeing all the people. I’ve missed being home and wasn’t here last year due to (“Drag Race”), so it really does feel like the biggest welcome home during my favorite time of year.
Q: You’ve been doing drag for 7 years at this point. Do you consider yourself a veteran?
A: It’s crazy because drag is such a rapidly evolving art form. One one hand, I’m basically ancient because there are people who are always born yesterday and have never even heard of some of the cultural references that got me interested in drag. But then I meet queens who have been doing it for 10, 20, 50 years and I know that I still have so much to learn. There’s always going to be something new for me to get thrilled about. I feel like I’m a fast climber, but that just means I have some bigger hills to climb.
Q: You’ve also talked about the importance of being a queer person of color and representing nationally on that front. How does the “Drag Race” win effect that?
A: It’s always been a very strong part of who I am. Part of reason I got into drag is because I felt like my voice was extinguished from the community. I wasn’t seen as the same sexual or artistic object as my white counterparts. So I didn’t think it was responsible for me to continue on this journey and have this spotlight on me — and get to represent so many different people — without fighting for the black and brown people who have been erased from our history. This win washes away a lot of (barriers) in the minds of some people, but it also sets up a bigger conversation about where we are in the world with representation and visibility. I’m glad I get to have a voice in that conversation.
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