Vanity Milan: 'No One Is Ever Going To Stop Us Being Who We Are'

"Who you are is not defined by what you are on the outside."

For a season that gave us game-changing contestants, shock eliminations, tear-jerking emotional heart-to-hearts and bops on bops, it says a lot that the third series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK undeniably belonged to one moment only.

We are, of course, talking about Vanity Milan’s Scandalous lip sync.

Vanity Milan
Vanity Milan

Looking back at the scene-stealing performance – which had Alesha Dixon herself up on her feet and rapping along – Vanity tells HuffPost UK: “I was shaking in my little boots.

“Having Alesha so close as well – she was sitting on the right-hand side so she was much closer to me – I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m about to do this’. But having her cheer me on and champion me was one of the best feelings ever.

“Performing your favourite artist’s songs in front of them – it gives you that power and that emotion, and you could see that she was loving it, so I made sure I was gonna kill it for her.”

She continues: “After the show, Sabrina [Washington of Mis-Teeq fame] reached out, Alesha reached out and it was such an amazing kind of embrace. Especially coming from a Black queer perspective, that is amazing, because we don’t have many Black queer people we can look up to, but that band is iconic.

“As a young Black queer person having them reach out and say I did that song justice, it kind of brought it back for me a little bit.”

Vanity says her proudest Drag Race achievement was “getting as far as I did”, particularly as someone who only began doing drag in recent years.

“I thought I was going to be the first queen out,” she admits. “I was inexperienced – I started drag in 2019, and I did a year of drag brunches, and we went straight into lockdown, so it was crazy.

“Then I applied and got the call during lockdown, so it was just one of the scariest things ever.”

The London-born queen said she pulled herself through Drag Race by reminding herself she was “not doing this solely for myself”, adding: “I did it for the young Black gay people who don’t think they can ever get on a TV show or do anything in life – unless they dream it. It’s just about uplifting people around me and bringing my people forward to the forefront.

“I fought hard, and lip sync assassin is what I needed to be. And now I’m getting booked to lip sync the house down.”

Vanity Milan delivered one of Drag Race UK's best ever lip syncs during her season
Vanity Milan delivered one of Drag Race UK's best ever lip syncs during her season

This Pride month, we spoke to Vanity about her LGBTQ+ role models, the film that first opened her eyes to the world of drag and why she’s championing herself as a queer Black person in the spotlight…

Who was the first queer person you can remember looking up to?

I’m going to be very honest with you, I don’t remember anybody. As I was getting older, I saw people like Todrick Hall and Billy Porter. And I’m going to say Beyoncé is a queer icon for me, because she lives her life unapologetically. But [growing up] I didn’t see anybody. And that was what I wanted to be for other young people.

What was the first LGBTQ TV show or film that you remember resonating with you?

To Wong Foo. That is an iconic film, with Wesley Snipes, a straight man, just dressing up, doing it and giving it. To Wong Foo is an iconic film for me [that made me think] “oh my god… drag queens?”.

And obviously RuPaul’s Drag Race was also a pivotal moment where you saw people like yourself dressing up and living their unapologetic life, on television.

Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo and Patrick Swayze in To Wong Foo
Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo and Patrick Swayze in To Wong Foo

What’s a song you associate with your own coming out?

There’s a Billy Porter song called Love Yourself. It’s really uplifting, and it starts with the lyric, “always remember who you are”, and there are times in your life when you do forget who you are because of the negativity that comes about.

That song just resonated with me [with regard to] coming out because even though my family were so embracing about me coming out, I forgot that also I need to love who I am. And that song is very Pride-friendly, it’s about uplifting everybody who forgets who they are.

What was the most recent LGBTQ show or film that made an impact on you?

I recently watched Fire Island, and it was fire! I loved that film so much I actually went back and watched it two more times so I didn’t miss anything. It was great, it gave me an insight into the history of what Fire Island was before it became this whole party island.

The stars of Fire Island
The stars of Fire Island

Who is your ultimate queer icon?

Billy Porter has has had such a huge impact on gay culture. He has lived – and is still living – a full, unapologetic life. And he’s still inspiring people like myself to this very day just by being himself.

He recently liked one of my Instagram posts and I threw my phone. I don’t know if he just randomly stumbled across it, which you probably do on Instagram, but I freaked the hell out. This is someone that I look up to, and who I’ve actually met before at the Attitude Awards, and he was so graceful and embracing, it was one of the best moments of my life just meeting him.

Billy Porter
Billy Porter
Karwai Tang via Getty Images

Who is a queer person in the public eye right now that makes you excited about the future?

Me! And I’ll tell you why. I do this for the younger generation so that they have an easier walk in life. And I just believe in myself.

Why do you think Pride is still so important today?

Because it shows how far we have come, and how far we need to go still. And it just shows how proud we are of who we are, within a world of so much hate towards us.

Pride is a message of, “love is love”, it doesn’t matter who you love, and it’s still important to this day.

Regardless of it just being a huge party, it’s still us coming together, saying we’re proud of who we are and no one is ever going to stop us from being who we are as human beings in the world.

"No one is ever going to stop us from being who we are as human beings in the world."
"No one is ever going to stop us from being who we are as human beings in the world."

What’s your message for the next generation of LGBTQ people?

Live your life, do it right, and who you are is not defined by what you are on the outside. You can be anything that you want to be if you put your mind to it. I think that I said that in my BDE verse as well!

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