“I Ain’t Stopping Anytime Soon”: Symone Talks to King Princess About Her Imminent World Domination
The 13th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race was filmed during a summer like no other. Production on the VH1 reality series began two months after the murder of George Floyd, ended two months before the presidential elec- tion, and, of course, took place amidst a pandemic. So when a 26-year-old performer named Symone snatched the crown in the show’s finale, it was a moment of pure release. Brought to life by Reggie Gavin, who has been performing in drag since 2013, Symone made her mark celebrating the glory of Blackness, like the time she wore a dress made from Senegalese hair twists. She also used the runway to make political statements, like when she appeared in a white gown inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the words “Say Their Names” emblazoned across her headpiece. And yet, Symone still had a knack for the outlandish—this is Drag Race, after all—strutting in a dress made from Polaroids of herself, or wearing a fluffy fox get-up that had the furry community thirsting. Now, the House of Avalon member is coming to terms with what happens when your dreams become reality. Here, her friend, the musician King Princess, tries to help her process it all.
SYMONE: Can you hear me? Can you see me? I got new blackout curtains so it’s real dark in here.
KING PRINCESS: I’m in a basement. I’m playing Xbox and watching The Real Housewives at the same time.
SYMONE: Which Housewives are you watching?
KING PRINCESS: I’m watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills because I cannot get enough of Erika [Girardi] and the drama of her divorce. It’s so insane. There are tears, and you know I love the tears.
SYMONE: That’s why we watch, my love. We’re not here to see perfect women living their perfect lives. I want wine thrown. I want things happening. What’s your favorite franchise?
KING PRINCESS: If you watch it from start to finish, New York is a masterpiece. Marriages, divorces, children, lawsuits, scandals. I have a lot of admiration for it. I saw this random casting call for the series on Instagram. The fact that I haven’t been asked to be on is almost criminal.
SYMONE: Could you imagine? Do you think you could handle the girls?
KING PRINCESS: I could handle the girls. It takes a really special drunk person. I’m ready. So, let’s talk about what you’ve been up to.
SYMONE: I’ve been working. I’ve been touring. I’ve been going to different cities and performing and seeing the fans, which has been really, really fun. I’ve been doing TV stuff, auditioning for things. It’s been wild. I’ve been doing everything that I’ve want- ed to do. So the short answer is: I’ve been living my dream.
KING PRINCESS: This season [of RuPaul’s Drag Race] was so amazing from start to finish. Not to tug your pussy, but you really handled yourself with grace and class. It was really stunning. And you fucking won.
SYMONE: I fucking won. It couldn’t be any more stunning for me.
KING PRINCESS: You literally, simply won.
SYMONE: There’s nothing else to say.
KING PRINCESS: I’m a huge supporter of House of Avalon. It’s truly the type of environment that I feel like as a kid I needed and would have wanted so badly.
SYMONE: We’re from Arkansas. There wasn’t really anything like that back there. So we were like, “Let’s just make it. Let’s have that for someone.” I want to be that person that I needed to see on TV or in the world. So it’s great that you say that. That’s kind of what we’ve always wanted as a collective. For so long, a lot of people didn’t necessarily take it seriously, or they looked at us a certain way. But to be able to go on the show and really talk about my family, my house, and what we do and what we love, and show people what we’re capable of, was really great.
KING PRINCESS: You all bring something different and important to the table.
SYMONE: We all have our strengths and our gifts that make the other’s ideas and images and creations stronger.
KING PRINCESS: That is true sisterhood. You know what I mean? To function as a family unit and bring those gifts to each other and yourselves. I think that’s so cool. Especially in a world where queerness is divided. So, you’re from Arkansas?
SYMONE: Good old Arkansas, baby.
KING PRINCESS: How does mom feel about your win?
SYMONE: Mom was very proud. Is very proud. She hugs me and she’s like, “You did it.” Because when I first told her, when I was 16 or 17 years old, she didn’t necessarily think this would happen. Even back then, almost ten years ago, this was not what people thought could happen. For her to see me be on a show,and then to win, and then to see all the things that I’m able to do for myself, she’s still in awe of it.
KING PRINCESS: In the past, drag was thought of as this linear platform, where it’s like, you’re a queen. You get the gig. But what’s happening now, as the world shifts and gets tired and bored of straight whiteness.
SYMONE: We’ve seen it for hundreds of years.
KING PRINCESS: Thousands.
SYMONE: Thousands. Yes, you’re right.
KING PRINCESS: Millions!
SYMONE: We’ve had enough!
KING PRINCESS: Now you can have dreams beyond just playing shows. You can fully fucking act. You can fully fucking do all the things.
SYMONE: People are way more open to everything now, and I think, in a weird way, the pandemic helped with that. People are just more open and wanting to live life. The energy is there.
KING PRINCESS: That’s because drag is a door to a world that the world really wants, and maybe doesn’t know how to understand.
SYMONE: Drag is one of the most powerful things you can do as a person. You’re creating something. That’s what we’re supposed to do as humans. That’s why people get so fascinated with drag queens. It’s because they feel like they want to do that in their lives. It doesn’t necessarily have to be drag. It’s just becoming who they want to be, living their dreams, and doing whatever they want. What people really obsess over is the audacity.
KING PRINCESS: Have you interacted with fans? What’s the tea?
SYMONE: Some queens love it, some queens hate it. I didn’t know what to expect. It’s my first time in the world. But it has been so amazing, the response I get, the love I get. To actually meet people and have them tell me their stories has been beautiful. I don’t know how to give back that gratitude.
KING PRINCESS: I would say there’s an increasing number of really young kids who are going to shows and being like, “I need this.”
SYMONE: Oh, for sure. I was at a brunch with a girl. She was looking at colleges and asked for advice. I was like, “Go to class. But go and have fun, because I didn’t, and I was so worried about everything at the time. Be young, be free.” That’s what I implore people to do. Discover and learn about yourself. Live and do what I was so scared to do.
KING PRINCESS: So you were saying that you’re acting now.
SYMONE: Well, I’m doing auditions and hopefully one will land. I’d love to keep exploring acting.
KING PRINCESS: Well, you self-realized a character from a place of truth, which from what I understand from Meryl Streep, is how you act.
SYMONE: My lover, Meryl.
KING PRINCESS: I’m pretty sure that’s literally what acting is: self-reliance from truth.
SYMONE: I love that. That’s exactly what it is.
KING PRINCESS: That’s what you’ve done. The hardest step has been conquered.
SYMONE: People have been like, “I can see you acting.” I was like, “Well darling, so can I.” Something’s coming, I feel it. Once you’ve done Drag Race there’s nothing that can take you down.
KING PRINCESS: Are you sitting in a hotel room by yourself when you’re not filming?
SYMONE: Yeah. Most people are like, “I don’t know if I could do that,” but it helped me decompress and recenter myself.
KING PRINCESS: We love a queen that knows how to be alone.
SYMONE: Yes. My mama says, “If you can’t love yourself, how are you going to love somebody else?” I can be by myself. I can go sit and be just fine.
KING PRINCESS: What cities have you enjoyed the most so far on tour?
SYMONE: I’ve enjoyed most of them I’ve never been to. But I truly, truly love Nashville. The energy there— you could feel everyone having a good time. Bachelor parties are going on in the streets, there’s music, there’s people drinking, there’s people
KING PRINCESS: Nashville is really special. Obviously, I’m from New York. What did you do over there?
SYMONE: We were there for Pride so I was surrounded by gays. Mostly we were going to parties and things. But I think for me, it was the energy of the city. I felt the hustle and bustle. I could never live there, but it was the energy, the people, the being able to go and do whatever you want. It’s a very freeing city.
KING PRINCESS: As somebody who grew up there I will tell you, I didn’t think that there was another city in the world.
SYMONE: That’s how it makes you feel. The different kinds of people! Everyone’s from everywhere.
KING PRINCESS: In New York, even if you were the richest motherfucker in the city you’re going to be on the train with a queen, queers, doctors, lawyers, business executives.
SYMONE: That’s the best way to describe it. It’s the best amalgamation of people ever. There’s really nothing in between.
KING PRINCESS: I don’t care if you complain. You have to take a trip to New York, especially if you’re a young queer person. It’s the best way to feel not that you’re accepted, but that no one gives a fuck. That’s a great feeling.
SYMONE: There’s literally no time to care.
KING PRINCESS: It’s good to feel like you’re a part of something without having to fight for your space. As a young, very queer, very bizarre-presenting person in New York, you go through shit, you go through homophobia. But you also learn how to stand on your feet and be like, “Okay, no matter what, I have a place to go right now. I have to get there, and no one’s getting in my fucking way.”
SYMONE: Absolutely. That is the magic of New York. That is what New York gives you. Like you said, people should go. Especially if you are from the South, of all places. I feel like every day is a new day in New York.
KING PRINCESS: I texted someone the other day. I was like, “How’s the city?” They sent me a photo of a man lying in the park reading a newspaper with a pigeon on his head. I was like, “That is how the city is.”
SYMONE: Have you ever thought about being on Broadway?
KING PRINCESS: Me? I think I have because I’m that type of crazy. I have a crazy show-child’s mentality of, “Yes, I would like to be in Chicago. Yes, I would like to be in Cabaret,” but I think my vocal cords would actually rupture if I had to sing every day, sometimes twice a day, for months. I must be honest with you. I really have not seasoned my body. Every time I get off stage after smashing something and I don’t have a full rotator-cuff injury, I’m like, “Wow. I’m an Olympic athlete.”
SYMONE: Maybe you’re more built for the Olympics than for Broadway.
KING PRINCESS: If I had a really old-school woman with a cape and a cane to scream at me and get me in shape for something, I could do it. But I would need hundreds of thousands of dollars of training. I wouldn’t want to let my castmates down, you know?
SYMONE: Yeah, that’s too much pressure.
KING PRINCESS: Are you a singer?
SYMONE: I sang when I was younger in the church choir, but I don’t think of myself as a singer. If I needed to, I could make something jump. I’d be like, “Listen, I’m willing to work with you. I’m willing to learn something, but know where I am. Meet me where I am.”
KING PRINCESS: Singing is one of those things that’s like, either you can do it or you can’t.
SYMONE: There’s really no in-between with that.
KING PRINCESS: I saw a video of Ariana Grande today on Instagram where I was like, “That woman’s a Singer.”
SYMONE: That’s a singer, mama.
KING PRINCESS: She’s a real one. I’m more of a dabbler. But it’s okay because when they cast us, we’ll be character actors.
SYMONE: Yes. And that’s another thing: Know your lane and adapt to it accordingly. That’s great advice.
KING PRINCESS: My favorite vocal part in musicals, besides obviously everything Jennifer Hudson has done, would be Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia! singing “The Winner Takes It All.” Literally absolutely demolishing the girls. She just came in with the emotion.
SYMONE: There we go. And that sometimes will take you where you need to go. Just saying.
KING PRINCESS: I have never written a question in my life, but I will say this seems to be the time where you need to tell the girls what you have coming up.
SYMONE: I’m touring. I will be out in the world. I’m going to be in a city near you. And look out for me in magazines, billboards, and campaigns, honey. There are things coming, and I ain’t stopping anytime soon.
KING PRINCESS: That’s a great way for people to leave this interview: Don’t ever fucking sleep, because you’ll be everywhere.
SYMONE: Never close your eyes because you might miss something.
Production: Perris Cavalier at The Morrison Group
Production Assistant: Taylor Brown at The Morrison Group
Photography Assistant : Andy Boyce
Fashion Assistant : Fernando Cerezo
Makeup Artist: Frankie Boyd at Streeters
Makeup Assistant: Jeff Santiago
Hair Stylist Assistant: Kazo Katahira
Hair Stylist : Kabuto at The Wall Group
Nails: Juan Alvear