Her run on “Rupaul’s Drag Race” did not fit that show’s model for success from her very first episode, when a quirky outro during her early elimination on Season 10 led to the remaining queens and judges discussing her the rest of the season. Then she returned to the franchise with much more success and airtime in Season 11, and became both a “lip sync assassin” and an all-time iconic fan favorite thanks to her very original personality, relatable humor, crazy-deep voice and sexy looks in and out of drag. Now with high profile NYC Pride appearances underway and a new streaming show all her own, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo is carving out a space all her own in the fame game and one thing is already certain… no one will be forgetting her name anytime soon!
Thotyssey: Hello, Miss Vanjie! Thanks so much for finding time to speak to us today! May we ask: what’s the most recent Amazing Vanjie Experience you’ve had?
Vanessa Vanjie Mateo: Oh, you know… took a quick trip to the Pyramids of Cairo, Egypt for a little tomb raiding and relaxation! As Ms. Nicki Minaj once said: Lara Been Croft!
You’re one of Drag Race’s most beloved alums — not just because you’re such a fun performer, but also you’re just such an engaging personality. We can listen to you talk in your distinctive way and tell stories for days! Have you ever considered doing a TED Talk, or something?
Biiiitchhh, a TED Talk?! Well, if someone gave me a mic at one of those gigs it’d definitely be about how to be your best hoe self. I’ve also thought about doing some ASMR, but I’d probably blow our yo’ eardrums or something, lol.
I was just watching a clip of you recounting a spectacularly bad date you had on Fuse’s True Dating Stories aired earlier this year. Wild!
It was definitely a moment! But you live and you learn, then when you get back into the swing of things you gotta take them lessons and apply it to the next boy that comes into your life. Wish me luck!
Maybe that clip inspired the creation of Vanjie: 24 Hours of Love, which recently premiered on WoW Presents Plus. It follows a Bachelorette sort of format where you’re in a big cute house with 18 hot dudes who are all vying to be your One and Only! What was the whole experience like for you… how hands on were you with everything, and did you find true love!?
Watch out Ru, I’m coming for your gig! Kidding! Since the show just premiered, I do have to keep mum on some things… but I will say that I never imagined I’d be in the position of choosing my pick of the litter out of all them boys. When I was watching all them shows like Flavor of Love, I Love New York, etc… the thought of me being the Flava Flav or Miss Tiffany Pollard is crazy! But damn, I guess I’m part of the club now.
Looking back at your very unique run on the two seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race: does that all feel like a thousand years ago, or just yesterday?
To be honest, it feels like a blur, and we have Ms. Corona to thank for that. But once the world opened up little by little, I made it a point to throw myself into a hustle and do everything that was offered, and to try out some new things! Bringing Vanjie: 24 Hours of Love to life was the result of that hustle!
My favorite Drag Race runway look of yours was that red lacy gown with the giant scales headpiece. Have you worn that in shows and appearances since Drag Race?
What’s crazy is that I premiered that lewk at a live show before it was seen on Season 11! During one of those DragCons, there was a First Eliminated Queens pageant… and all the kids got to see that sneak peak of my head of scales! Lemme know if you wanna borrow her!
You’re also part of the RuPaul’s Drag Race Live: Las Vegas revue. Many of your runway looks and moves on the Drag Race TV show were signs that you’d be an amazing showgirl. But is that grind really a carry? Are all the girls in that live show sisters, or is it kind of a “clock in, clock out” work situation?
Vegas is one of the best gigs to have in the Drag Race world. Consistent gigs in our line of work is hard to find, and it’s nice to have a breather from the non-stop travelling we do when we go on tour. Plus, I get to see my kitties everyday before I go to work… and I can’t say the same thing about touring!
You’ve been to New York a bunch of times now! Do you have any favorite queens here?
The one. The only. SHEQUIDA! Enough said…
On June 17, you’ll be part of Ladyfag’s Pride festival “Ladyland” at The Brooklyn Mirage. That always features huge acts and surprises, and promises a good time. Are you psyched… and what can you spoil for us, lol?
Let’s just say that I’m gonna be making the rounds with all of the artists at the gig… you’re gonna see me everywhere that night! Catch me on stage when the clock strikes midnight!
Then on Pride Saturday June 25, Voss Events presents “The Fantastic Six” at HK Hall, which you will be hosting! The show will also star the Drag Race Season 14’s top queens Angeria Paris VanMichaels, Bosco, Daya Betty, Jorgeous, Lady Camden and Willow Pill! Have you gotten to work or kiki with any of these girls yet?
I just finished Werq The World’s European leg with both Lady Camden and Jorgeous! They’re both so sweet, and brought their A-game to the tour. It was nice to see two new queens in the same position I was a few years ago, with the same energy I had when I first joined Werq The World. They’re warmed up, so you know they’re gonna kill it at the Pride show on June 25th! I may also have a little surprise for the kids that evening… let’s just say there’s a special guest that no one will be expecting to see me on stage with…
Is there anything else coming up for you that you wanna mention?
Not only do I have my show coming out every Thursday on WoW Presents Plus, but I have another show coming out on June 29th with Paramount Plus for All-Star Shore! It’s gonna be a “Summer of Vanjie,” y’all!
And finally… was Gia Gunn right about there not being glamor at this year’s DragCon, lol?
Wasn’t there… so don’t look at me, Mary!