SPOILERS FOR RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE SEASON 9 AHEAD!
On the ninth season of the hit show RuPaul’s Drag Race, with 14 contestants competing and getting eliminated one by one each week, thousands of viewers witnessed one of the saddest and most shocking eliminations of all time. After a bad performance on the main challenge, the judges decided she and fellow contestant Nina Bo’Nina Brown would have to go to the bottom two and “lip-sync for their lives”. Valentina did not know the words to the song so she kept a mask on, but RuPaul quickly shut this down and forced her to take it off after stopping the performance. Finally, she was eliminated in a very emotional scene where she said she was not ready to go and felt humiliated.
The fans’ reactions did not take long. Many were surprised and upset, taking into account Valentina was viewed by most of us as a potential finalist and winner. Others even sent death threats to other queens in an inexcusable behavior to the point where they had to disable their comment sections on social media.
Whether you watch the show or not, you may be wondering how a drag queen managed to cause all of these reactions in the community. The reality is that Valentina (born James Leyva) offered something that is rarely seen, and that is a great role model for not only the LGBTQ+ community but also for Latinxs everywhere.
We as Latin Americans are used to seeing the same stereotypes over and over on TV and movies, and networks do not seem to care about the depth of those personalities representing us on the screen. Valentina noticed this growing up and has used it in her drag persona to help others feel understood, as she stated in an interview with NBC Out:
“There really isn’t, when you think about it, a Chicano that’s openly gay that is in the mainstream media. As a little boy, I looked up to Selena, because she was Chicana, she was Mexican, she was humble, and she was charismatic. I really looked up to her, and when she passed away, I felt like that was taken away from me.”
In the show, Valentina has shown to be unique and very different from the queens that have competed in the last few years: she is extremely talented, classy, kind and so committed to what she has been doing in such a small period of time that it melts your heart and leaves you speechless at the same time.
In the nine weeks she was on our TVs, Valentina proved to be a very versatile artist that advocated for how important it is for Mexican culture to be appreciated and taken seriously. It is very sad to see her go and not take the final prize, but the most important thing to take out of this experience is how important her presence was and how bright her future is. She is currently succeeding at what she loves and spreading nothing but love. If at least one person was able to watch her and feel seen or inspired for the first time, she has done an incredible job. I personally know myself and the whole community are immensely proud and grateful for everything she has been giving us.
And, if you still can not let go of what happened on Friday night, remember to always say to yourself: “When in doubt, smile!”