‘I can’t wait for Ginger Johnson 2.0’: Drag Race’s first north east winner opens up on victory
‘I still don’t really believe it, but I do have a sceptre to prove it’
Well, that’s your lot. RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season five came to an end last night with an all-Geordie final, where Ginger Johnson became the fifth winner of the franchise after triumphing over Tomara Thomas and Michael Marouli. For the first time in what feels like a while, the final three have become unanimously adored by fans and whoever took that crown felt correct. But perhaps no one more correct than Ginger Johnson, a queen who has spent this season getting nothing but praise and adoration not only from fans, not only from her fellow competitors, but from RuPaul himself – who clearly admired Ginger. What a finale, what a winner. The Tab sat down with Ginger Johnson to discuss her meteoric win as the latest crowned queen of Drag Race UK.
Hey Ginger! Over the moon to be talking with you today, how are you feeling! How’s it all been watching it back!?
It was amazing. I still don’t really believe it, to be honest, but I do have this to prove it [holds up her prize: A sceptre].
If you’ve seen the video of me finding out I won, you can see that I did NOT think it was going to happen. Even watching the episode, everything that happened was just confirming that for me. I was still really excited because Michael Marouli would have been a wonderful and worthy winner and I am certain will win another series somewhere down the line. I’m mindblown by the whole thing.
There was a lot of the competition where you were the frontrunner and had the most wins – was there a point where you ever let yourself believe you might win the whole thing?
There was one moment when Cara Melle got eliminated, and we were all sat waiting for her to finish her lipstick message, where I did actually think – hang on. Maybe I can do this? But then you’re onto another challenge and you never know what’s going to happen. That was a watershed moment for everybody, viewers and cast. When Cara went home it blew the competition right open, because she’s such a force.
So maybe for a split second in that moment, but you’re never safe. Even when you’re safe, you’re not safe!
What a top three to be a part of, though? Did you consider they’d maybe do a double crowning?
We didn’t film one! Michael and I have both said to each other we can’t believe they didn’t film one. Apart from the fact it would have been a satisfying end for everyone watching, Michael and I might have been one of the only top twos who would have been okay with it! We’d have been over the moon with it, that would have been fab for us.
Ginger Johnson – what did it mean to you to be in that top three with the north east girlies, and becoming the first north east winner of Drag Race UK?
It means so, so, so much to me. Where I come from is so important, I loved growing up in the north east. People from the north east are next level. All the things people say about people from the north east being friendly and you can’t move without someone wanting to be your friend, it’s all true.
It’s so important representation wise. When I was growing up not only were there not any queer people in the north east in the real world around me – we weren’t visible at all. And now to think there’s a generation of young viewers who see three people from the region excelling? I can’t imagine what that would have done to me if I’d had that when I was that age. I feel so privileged to be part of that.
You said when you won Drag Race UK last night that it was time for you to go and find a new dream – what does the new dream of Ginger Johnson look like?
I don’t know yet. I’m dreaming all the time. Just see what opportunities come my way and see who wants to have anything to do with me. I love collaborating with people. My theatre practice and the shows I do are often big ensemble pieces.
One of my highlights of the finale was seeing all your loved ones pop up to surprise you with Ru and Michelle – what did it mean to you, must have been so overwhelming!?
It was a bit of a double edged sword! It was so amazing to see Ben because we’d been apart for so long by that point, and also for them to be in the show and for them to see what it’s like. But one of the hard things was getting my head back in the game after that emotional release. We then had to film a music video, do the live choreography – all of that.
I remember the three of us gripping the makeup table like, oh my god, let’s do it again. I just couldn’t stop crying. Trying to do this amount of eye makeup when you’re leaking constantly is not easy!
From that, it seemed like Ru had such an affinity for you. Did you feel that warmth when you’re there?
Yeah, I did. It’s like meeting Kermit the Frog. She’s a mythical being, almost. But in the Werk Room when you have your chats with her, maybe when the cameras aren’t on and crew are fixing the lights or something, she’s really personable. She wants to get to know you. If you can open up to her, that takes you far in the competition.
I just tried to take those opportunities as much as I could. She’s got great advice, too. Lots of technical drag advice that I sort of thought well, she’s got a team of 10 people that got her into drag – but you forget it wasn’t always like that. She was hoofing around the country with a suitcase as much as the rest of us before Drag Race.
First week she told me not to wear these huge earrings and a huge necklace together, that touched. She said to me between shots if you make a separation between the two it will open up your proportions and make your neck look longer. A week later I did it and she said, I like the necklace. Point to Ginger Johnson!
I love hearing that because I feel like all we ever hear is Ru not engaged, it’s nice to know she cares.
She does. It was so apparent when we did the makeover, because she really cares about the makeover subjects having the best time. She gave them so many tips. She’s just really good craic.
Finally, you entered and won this show as a seasoned queen. Has being on Drag Race UK made Ginger Johnson a different drag queen than when she came in those doors?
Ooo. Yes and no. Ginger as a character has been fully formed for a while. I really think of her as an acting job, and I’ve been playing her for a long time. It’s like being Vera Duckworth. She’s in there, I don’t really have to think about how to be her anymore. But the rigour of Drag Race and being pushed to do stuff I’d never normally do, I think you can get stuck in your ways a little bit if you do any kind of job for long enough.
Drag Race UK has been a reset button for me where I’m like, what is Ginger Johnson 2.0? What’s the next stage of this? How can I take this to the next level? I don’t know the answer to that yet, but I can’t wait to find it out.
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Series 5 continues every Thursday at 9pm on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer. For all the latest reality TV and entertainment news like Pop Culture Shrine on Facebook.
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