Drag Superstar Naomi Smalls Invites Us to Smell the Fantasy

Published June 30, 2020

Photos courtesy Naomi Smalls.

Stunning looks, lots of body, and legs for days. These are the quintessential pieces of Naomi Smalls, the RuPaul’s Drag Race season 8 runner-up, and a former contestant on Drag Race All Stars. The fashion Barbie is known for her resemblance to the supermodel Naomi Campbell, who happens to be her namesake. The 26-year-old superstar spends her time living out the fantasy she’s built for herself since she last strutted down the Drag Race main stage. Part of that fantasy world includes co-hosting a weekly virtual brunch with Kim Chi, her season 8 sister and newly announced beauty collaborator, while spreading messages of positivity, inspiration, and resilience. “I like to educate my fan base,” she says. “All I want to do is spread love and  confidence.”

The L.A.-by-way-of-Chicago fashion icon is now asking her fans to smell the fantasy with Dame Nature, a Boy Smells candle part of the queer-owned company’s Pride collection. And smelling good is indeed a part of the Naomi Smalls fantasy. She notes that “all the girls on Drag Race would make fun of me because I would be dousing myself in perfume before going on the runway.” Proceeds from the candle collection will benefit The Trevor Project, a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention in the LGBTQ community. “Pride is a lot more than just the festivals, the glitter on the cheek, and the booty shorts,” Smalls told Interview from her home in L.A. “It really starts with being proud of who you are, and being able to walk out the door and be exactly who you are without caring what other people think of you.” A few days before Pride weekend, the drag superstar took some time to revisit and read five of her own looks. As she puts it: “If you can’t read yourself, who else can read you?” 

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“Oh my gosh. This yellow one is wild. I think this is like three years ago. I started as the reference from a Marc Jacobs Spring runway and then it just got the Naomi Smalls 2017 makeover. The footed tight is kind of awful. [Laughs] The hairline braided wig is kind of awful too. But I think it kind of comes together into this alien ’70s Fashion Nova situation. We definitely can grow from our fashion mishaps. I think I’ve grown. I am definitely my biggest critic. So when I see something even like a month old, I’m like, ‘Oh my god, get it away from me.'”

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“This is a look that my friend Michael Brambila, who I work with really closely, wanted to recreate, and I was super into it. This was actually taken in my Chicago apartment that I lived in for three years after Drag Race. I live in L.A. now and I lived in L.A. during this picture, but I knew for sure I wanted to take a picture in front of that staircase just because it meant something to me. And I like an ass-out look. Who doesn’t like an ass-out look?”

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“This is definitely Bratz Dolls fantasy, but with a huge side of skin. There was a while there where it was just the easiest to find jackets and panties that would fit me instead of dealing with all these designer consultations and fittings and all that jazz. I feel like I see a lot of younger drag queens that look like this and I’m very honored.  I love that this is a stamp in drag, as we know it in 2015 and on. I went to Brazil for some shows and it was crazy. All the queens were dressed exactly like this. It was wild.”

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“This is another collab that I was really excited for with Fenty. I mean, I think it’s kind of cool that I’m literally a man and they hired me to model their lingerie. Like they clearly are inclusive of all body types, all genders, all colors. Honestly, those are the only collaborations I’m really interested in doing right now. I was super, super happy to represent that. I was trying to embody a doll—always. But the highlighted hair situation I definitely picked up from Roxy Andrews and Valentina. This is like trying to be more of a womana, with the hairlined wig and muted make up, and a lot of body on top of it. I’m looking through these pictures, like, Jesus Christ, girl put some clothes on.”

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“This is like a Dame Nature look. I definitely tried to go very soft and summery. This hair was definitely something new and this eye makeup was also something new. This was probably the very beginning of quarantine and I hadn’t been doing drag for a moment. I just kind of wanted to have a breath of fresh air when I first started to get back on the ‘gram. I’m probably thinking about pizza or something, to be honest.”