At the age of 21, Naomi Smalls was thrust into the spotlight following her rise to the top three contestants of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 8.
Praised for her sophisticated eye for fashion, killer legs, and down to earth humour, she garnered the admiration of Drag Race fans and industry peers alike.
In the two years since her season, Naomi has flourished as a drag queen, performer and model, cementing herself as a growing creative force in the worlds of drag and fashion. In our conversation, I had the pleasure of discussing with Naomi her growth since Drag Race, her new web series, and the future of drag.
How has your drag style and persona evolved since your season of Drag Race?
My drag style and persona have come so far since Rupaul’s Drag Race: Season 8. I think the biggest change about Naomi would be confidence. When the world first met me, I was 21, from a small town in California where I was the only drag queen, and scared out of my mind. I’m just as excited as I was back then, still a very nervous person, but I’ve learned how to channel those nerves into greatness.
Last month you started releasing episodes of your web series ‘Small’s World’ on Youtube – the sixth episode of which just came out today – can you explain what inspired you to start the series? And is it going to be a set number of episodes or do you envision it as an ongoing project?
In January, I had a month off, for the first time in three years. My mind finally had a minute to process this whole experience; it was a lot of time to reflect. I wouldn’t say it was a happy break at first. The month before the Season 8 cast announcement my brother Dylan - who I was closest to in age and relationship - passed away unexpectedly at the age of 24, and in the same year, my father Malcolm passed. I finally had time to grieve and mourn. Both deaths were announced to me minutes before going on stage in a pair of lashes, heels, duct tape etc. Through grieving, I really started to appreciate my time on earth and how amazing this whole experience is.
I come from a family of 12, so home movies weren’t really on the radar, there were always more important and hectic things going on. There’s nothing like recording memories though - who knows how long I’ll be able to travel the world, play dress up, and meet amazing people, I might as well document it! Small's World does not really have a plan, but I’m enjoying having a project to work on that accurately depicts me. Small's World has been really good for my mental, emotional, and creative health.
What is something you wish more people knew about Naomi Smalls?
I think a lot of people see me as being very young, dumb, annoying and rude. At least that’s what Reddit says, but I don’t agree at all. I’m young, I’m dumb, but I genuinely have no desire to see anything negative happen to anyone. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people’s dreams come true. I treat my friends like my family, and I try to avoid drama.
Season 10 of Drag Race started last week - what advice would you have for Season 10 queens?
My advice for anyone on Drag Race is don’t read Reddit. I thought I was a bad bitch who doesn’t give a fuck about haters but even my cold little heart can’t take it.
Comparatively, what advice would you give to young people who are interested in starting drag?
I’m going to sound like a corny coach, but practice makes perfect. There was a time where I would try glueing a lash on, and if it wasn’t perfect I’d scream and cry and wipe off all my makeup, a brat. We live in a time where anything we want to know is at our disposal. YouTube changed my life. There’s always room for growth and improvement.
With drag becoming increasingly mainstream in pop culture, how do you see the drag community changing and growing in the next few years?
I’m lucky to have the best fans, from across the spectrum of age, race, gender, and so on, but the ones who really touch my heart are the kids. Meeting kids who come to the non-bar/club shows - like theatre shows or Drag Con - and are proud of who they are, make me very emotional and proud.
I was lucky enough to have the most supportive parents on the planet, and the fact that my story has touched so many kids and families out there warms my heart. I believe we’re only going to become more accepting as a community. If Lactacia, a 7-year-old drag queen can go out there with their head held high, be accepted, and celebrated, then I think we’re onto something amazing.
You can follow Naomi's escapades, and find out where/when you can watch her slay the stage on her Instagram, Twitter and website.