Why “Drag Race Down Under” Put Art Simone in a “Very Dark Headspace”

"I'm just lost, hurt, upset, confused, embarrassed, all the emotions."

No one is safe on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The “Olympics of Drag” is tough, and anyone could go at any time. Art Simone learned that the hard way when she was asked to sashay away in the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under.

Since Art was one of the most well-known girls going into the competition, fans thought the Melbourne queen would make it all the way to the finale — but after her lackluster Bindi Irwin impersonation on Snatch Game, she was placed in the bottom, ultimately losing the Ru lip-sync to Coco Jumbo.

Art spoke with NewNowNext about her brief time on the show, her favorite Kylie Minogue song, and when we can expect another season of Highway to Heel.
 

Hi Art! How’s it going?

I’m pretty miserable, but other than that I’m okay.

I’m surprised you went home so early.

You and me both!

So, first off, your entrance quote, “I’m not here to fuck spiders.” Where does that come from?

Well, that’s a saying ingrained in Australian culture, and what it means is, “I’m not here to fuck around.” So I don’t know who the spider was, that was originally fucked is. I haven’t worked that out yet. But I’m not here to fuck the spiders. It’s a very well-known Australian phrase. Being on such an international platform, I really wanted to set the tone of who I was in my journey, and I’m just so authentically Australian, I didn’t want to back away or hide from that. It would have been so easy to fall into a persona that the world is used to. We’ve had so many international seasons of Drag Race, so I was like, “No. They’ve come Down Under, let’s give them Down Under.”

I’ve never heard of a shoey, either. Is that something that happens a lot? Have you done a shoey in the club before?

Many, many times. Usually in a backyard though, at a house party, that’s when the shoes will come out. It’s a good way for the alpha male of the pack to show off in front of his friends. People wonder why Australia is COVID-free at the moment, and it’s actually because we all had shoeys as kids. I think it’s protected us. But I’m not a medical professional. It’s just a theory.

What was it like seeing Kylie on that screen, when she popped up?

Oh my God. We didn’t think it was real life. There’s a Kylie impersonator called Millie Minogue who I’ve worked with in Melbourne, and when I heard it was going to be Kylie, I was, “No, they’re probably just going to get Millie Minogue.” But it was the real deal. It was Kylie. It was the one and only Kylie, and I’m so grateful for that.

Have you ever met Kylie or seen her live?

No. I’ve met Dannii a few times. Dannii’s from Melbourne where I’m from, and I’ve worked a few events with her before. Never Kylie. And I don’t think I ever want to, because never meet your idol.

I get that.

And she’s so small. I’d feel like a big fat man next to her because she’s so tiny.

What’s your go-to Kylie song?

Oh, I actually really like… I don’t know if it’s that popular, but I like “Timebomb.” A really, really fun track to perform. It’s got a good beat to it, and it’s just so fun.

Okay. So, let’s talk Snatch Game. First off, it’s Episode 2. That’s crazy.

It is very crazy. You saw our faces. None of that was faked. We were all very confused and shocked. It is crazy. And the stupid thing is, I was speaking to Karen [From Finance] before it happened, and I was like, “You know what, we just have to be better than one person. And it’s good that Snatch Game is early because the likelihood of us going home…” We were both worried about Snatch Game. Well, that didn’t work for me.

In the confessional, you said that you were terrified about Snatch Game. Were you still terrified when you got on the Snatch Game set, or did you calm down some?

No, not at all. There was no magic in TV that made everything seem really quick. It all happened so fast. We walked in, 10 minutes later Ru’s standing there asking us who we’re doing for Snatch Game, and then, “Chuck your face on, you’re on set.” We were just gobsmacked. Deer in the headlights. It was crazy.

Did you have a backup character?

Oh, I did have [Kath & Kim actress] Jane Turner rolled up in a bag, hidden in the back corner, but I really didn’t want to use her because I feared that it would just seem like I was being myself. I speak very similar to her just normally, and we’re cut from the same cloth. So I was worried that if I did that, it would either seem too safe, or easy, or not be memorable enough. So I did have a spare.

You were giving a lot of shady looks to the other queens while they were doing their characters during Snatch Game…what was going through your mind? Because I was a little skeptical about some of these choices, like Dr. Seuss.

There were some very interesting choices, and Dr. Seuss was one of them. And I don’t think it made it to air, but there was a pregnant pause that was in the air every time Dr. Seuss got asked a question, and then literally, it would be a good 30, 40 seconds until an answer came out. So, that’s where all these looks are coming from. It’s us being, “Is Dr. Seuss going to talk?” And then finally, something would come out. And then I was next to Lizzo, and Lizzo was kind of falling flat as well, so it was just… Oh, and then we had Catherine O’Hara down the bottom, which was the strangest accent I’ve heard in my life. So there were a lot of choices there, and I’m very expressive, and sometimes I don’t realize I’m pulling faces when I pull faces. I have no filter.

After Snatch Game, you all thought you did a great job, so were you surprised with the judges’ harsh critiques?

We were so surprised. Maybe we were just all so equally bad, that we thought, well, that was the best Snatch Game ever. I just don’t know. Because I was in the room, they were laughing at everything except for a couple of characters, so we thought as a whole it was a really good Snatch Game, but I guess not. I don’t know. I still don’t know. I will never know. I don’t understand. I’m so confused. I’m just lost, hurt, upset, confused, embarrassed, all the emotions.

When Dannii [Minogue] appeared on the screen to talk to you girls, did she lift your spirits?

Oh, yeah. There’s nothing more to lift your spirits than a Minogue sister. So I was very, very excited to see her there. And it was almost like receiving a message from home, really, because I knew she was in Melbourne too. It was quite comforting. It was lovely.

So, I asked you your Kylie one, but what’s your Dannii lip-sync song?

Put the Needle On It.” That’s my favorite. I love it so much. My favorite. I don’t know if it made it to air, but we’re all doing “Put the Needle On It” dance moves with Dannii through the screen, which was good.

Your time on Drag Race was short-lived, but did it impact your drag at all?

If I’m being honest with you, it put me in a very dark headspace. This is something that I’ve been working for 10 years towards, and to have it ripped away from me, dare I say, unjustly. Maybe I’m delusional, but I’ve always been very good to acknowledge if I’m bad at something, and I knew I wasn’t really bad compared to some other people. So it was a very dark time when I went home, and it was a dark time in the months leading to the cast reveal.
 

Are you feeling better now?

I’ll probably feel better after we see the episode. I haven’t seen it.

There’s going to be such an outpouring of love.

It’s a big “rip the Band-Aid off” moment. I just need to get through this, and then I can move on with my life in a positive way. It’s been a little dark shadow in the back of my mind for a while, and once it’s done, it’s done, and we can keep keeping on and doing some fabulous drag, and that’s all that I came to do.

Well, I thought you did a great job. I was surprised that you went home.

Me too. So, I’ve made this really sad. I’m sorry. But reliving this so many times, it’s traumatic.

What’s happening with Highway to Heel? Is it coming back?

Well, we were waiting until Drag Race Down Under is all wrapped and everything, in terms of coming out, and then we can jump on that bandwagon again. We’ve got so many fun ideas. We shot Highway to Heel during full COVID lockdown, so we were very limited to what we could do. That’s why we’re just kind of sitting in the car. But there’s so much fun stuff we want to do outside of the car — and in the big wide world, traveling through Australia, and doing what I set out to do in the beginning, of what my drag mission has been for so many years, and that’s to put a spotlight on all the fabulous drag we have in Australia. That’s what Highway to Heel was doing. It was giving a platform to all these fabulous voices, and that’s what I will continue to do.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under airs Saturdays on WOW Presents Plus.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
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