A version of this story appears in Entertainment Weekly’s Best of 2018 issue, on stands now or available here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
If you click your heels, walk backward, and say “Miss Vanjie” three times, you too can turn into an overnight drag sensation like Vanessa Vanjie Mateo.
Yes, Ally Maine had her moment, but a drag star was born in 2018, too. The first eliminated contestant from March’s season 10 premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race turned her misfortune into internet gold this year, as the swan song she cooed while sashaying away — “Miss Vanjie. Miss Vanjie. Miss…Vaaanjie!” — inspired a wave of digital memery and had Mama Ru in stitches all season long as she recalled the legacy of drag’s new icon.
Now, Vanjie tells EW she’s thankful for her early ousting from the Emmy-winning reality competition series and the lasting impact she’s had on pop culture as a result: “Bitch, I was supposed to go [first]. It was for a good reason,” she says, savoring the meme-ification of her exit. “I live for the [one] from The Shining, where it looks like I’m busting through the door,” she adds, noting that the obsession has won her admirers in high places. “At Marc Jacobs’ birthday party, Lil’ Kim walked up to me going, ‘Miss Vaaanjie!’” she remembers. “I was gagged!”
Read on for EW’s full conversation with the drag breakout below. RuPaul’s Drag Race returns for its fourth All-Stars edition this Friday, Dec. 14 at 8:00 p.m. ET on VH1.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How does it feel to break the internet
MISS VANJIE: S—, I don’t even know! I really can’t wrap my mind around it. I just think it happened on its own. It’s crazy and it’s funny that people love it, all because I just said my name three times! It became a thing and I feel lucky it happened the way it did.
So many people try to become famous, but all it took for you was saying your name!
I’m sure if any of those [other season 10] bitches would have thought about it [first]. I’m sure they’re thinking, if I’d just done that…
Thankfully you did it! Are you glad you were eliminated first, now?
Yeah, I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Bitch, I was supposed to go, it was for a good reason! Who knows, something probably would have happened [later in the season] where everybody would have hated me. [Still,] I got sent home, said my name, and was mentioned in every episode without being in every episode, so that was good enough for me!
You really cracked Ru and Michelle up throughout the season, and that’s filmed in a vacuum before the audience gets to see it. It’s proof that it’s legitimately funny. Why do you think it speaks to so many people?
I don’t know! Looking back, I was kind of out of it when it all went down and I guess it was a combination of the way I was doing it, and walking backwards. I think also because people saw RuPaul kind of giggling and kiki-ing about it! When they’re at the judging panel they kind of keep it one-note to give a critique, so to see RuPaul bust of that…. made it a thing. I don’t even know what the f—! To me, it’s just my name!
Are you sick of people quoting it back to you?
No! I don’t mind it because it’s my name. It doesn’t bother me because, s—, that’s what kept me relevant. If you want me to say it 100 times, backwards, forwards, jaywalking, Crip Walking, I’ll do it! I don’t really care.
Do you have a favorite Vanjie meme?
I live for the [one] from The Shining, where it looks like I’m busting through the door, and I like The Simpsons one, where Homer is backing up into the buses [but it’s my face]. That s— tickled me. It was funny as hell.
Were you surprised to see certain celebrities sharing Vanjie memes this year?
At Marc Jacobs’ birthday party, Lil’ Kim walked up to me going, ‘Miss Vaaanjie!’ I was gagged!
Who would have thought!
Right? Like, bitch why haven’t you been a guest judge?
You’ve upgraded so much. The first time I interviewed you, we talked about your catchphrase “come get these cookies.” Now that you’re more expensive, have the cookies graduated to a finer dessert?
Because the bougie people don’t really eat cookies like that, we have to move on from cookies. Something more bougie…
Like a macaron?
The macaroons? Those damn things are weird, but it’s very like that. You have to get bougetto: bougie and ghetto. So it’s come get these macarooneys. Good luck spelling that one out, baby.
What’s next for you, Vanjie?
Hopefully you guys will see more of me. Who knows?
Mhmm. Fingers crossed, toes crossed, private parts crossed! We’ll see what happens.
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