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Raven Talks Painted With Raven Season 2 & Judging Drag Race UK

Raven Talks Painted With Raven Season 2 & Judging Drag Race UK​

World of Wonder

During an interview with PRIDE, Raven gets candid about appearing as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and hosting the second season of Painted With Raven.


Raven is a busy bee who keeps a notoriously low profile.

Besides launching herself as a major drag star following her appearances on RuPaul’s Drag Race season two and All Stars 1, Raven also inspired an entire generation of drag makeup that is still very prevalent to this day. Around the filming of Drag Race season nine, Raven became the official makeup artist for mother herself, RuPaul – solidifying her place even further as one of the most influential and powerful makeup artists in the drag world.

As of 2022, Raven is all set to appear as the host and main judge of Painted With Raven season two, her very own reality competition on WOW Presents Plus with a premiere date of November 17. She also made a herstory-making appearance as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season four during an episode where Michelle Visage took over for Ru as the main host.

During an interview with PRIDE, Raven spilled the tea on how she felt about being on the judging panel of Drag Race UK, what she expects from contestants on Painted With Raven, and what she’s looking forward for fans to see in season two.

Painted With Ravenis the first reality competition developed exclusively for WOW Presents Plus. How did it feel when you were first approached to host this brand-new series?

Well, at first, well, I was like, ‘Well, duh, that’s right. I should host [a show about makeup].’ Then, when we talked about it and they told me the idea, I said: ‘That sounds absurd. A Zoom competition?’ But when we spoke about it and they explained it to me, and I’m looking at the faces of the people who created RuPaul’s Drag Race, I said, ‘OK, I trust you. Let’s do it.’ And the first season was such a hit that they were like, ‘Let’s do another one.’

But I was always excited. Of course, any opportunity that comes my way, I am absolutely thankful. Thankful is the number one word to actually describe that. I feel thankful. I never feel like I completely deserve to have something, or it should be me. I’m always thankful. So any opportunity that comes my way, I’m thankful.

Season one featured a lot of very talented makeup artists. How are you feeling about the cast of season two?

Oh, just as talented. I mean, it makes it very hard, because we always want the contestants to be successful. We want them to succeed. When we’re going through casting, we don’t want that one that’s like, ‘Oh, they’re just not good.’ We look at them and go, ‘Wow, OK, look what they’re presenting. We want them on here.’ So they’re just as talented [as the season one contestants]. They’re just as fabulous.

Everyone brings their own area of expertise or their own field that they are really good at. We have one that does graphic painting. We have another one that does wonderful beauty makeup. It’s nice to watch each of them rise to the occasion and say, ‘Oh, this is the challenge? OK, let’s do it.’ But the season two cast is just as fierce and talented as season one, and there’s one extra contestant this time. Last time, we had seven. This time, we have eight.

The winner of Painted With Raven receives a cash prize of $25,000. Generally speaking, what are you looking for when picking the winner of the show?

We want someone who’s able to say, ‘I’m going to do it. Let’s go.’ Someone who rises to that challenge. They look at it and say, ‘I may not do a beautiful cut crease, but I’m going to do that today.’ And it comes up to the final challenge, obviously, because that’s just the way any competition reality show goes… but we also look at what they presented throughout the entire course of the competition. So we look at what they presented as a whole as their portfolio, but also each challenge: how well they did, how well they succeeded, and who did the best makeup. I mean, it is a makeup competition, and it’s going to be come down to who was really flicking that brush and blending that contour.

It’s really interesting for me to hear that from you as the host of your own reality competition because that was always my impression of your run on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I think you were the first Drag Race contestant who was like, ‘I’m going to put myself out there. I’m going to try different things. I’m going to do whatever it takes and what’s asked of me in each challenge.’ And now that you’re hosting your show, it’s fascinating to see that this is still what you’re ultimately looking for in the contestants.

Wow, you said that beautifully. That was really good. Yeah. When I competed [on Drag Race] several years ago, I remember the first couple of challenges were very difficult for me to get out of my ‘club’ mindset. The way I would do things at a club, or at a bar, or wherever I was working.

So right after that is when I realized, ‘Oh, I need to be a little more malleable.’ I needed to be able to adjust and adapt and go, ‘This is what you want from me? Let me do it.’ You also have to get out of your head that every time you do something in a challenge, you have to be pretty. Because I think that’s what everyone thinks is, ‘I just want to be pretty, I want to be fabulous, I want to be fierce.’ You have to start to get ugly and do things that aren’t your norm. I mean, you do that, and you can end up doing anything. I mean, look where I’m at now.

The winner of season 1, Matt, has garnered quite a significant following on social media after the show. It’s kind of wild to see how these contestants went from competing from their homes to becoming reality stars. What are your thoughts on that?

That makes me happy. Because [when] they come into this, they put aside all inhibitions, and they’re putting themselves out there for the world to see and the world to scrutinize and the world to judge. So, when you go into this, it can go one way or another. I always want to see them succeed. And I see what they do and where they’re at, and I’ve been able to meet a few of them. They’re almost like my little babies, and they are thriving, they’re doing their thing, they’re out there nurturing their craft and their art… and people are loving them. So yeah, I really enjoyed what Matt had to do, and I think he was just... I mean, right out the gate, it was like, ‘What the hell is this?’

As his makeup artist, you’ve been behind the scenes watching RuPaul host Drag Race for many years now. What are some of the things that you’ve learned from watching Ru as a host?

Well, he said, ‘You have to try and disconnect yourself from the emotional ties that you have with each contestant, because you’re going to want all of them to win. You’re going to want all of them to be in the top. You’re going to want all of them to do well. And you understand that when it comes down to it, someone has to be in the bottom, someone has to be in the top.’

And it didn’t really hit me until sitting down the first episode of season one of Painted with Raven with Ru [as a guest judge]. I said, ‘Oh, sh*t. We really have to do this.’ And he goes, ‘Oh yeah, this is the hard part that I was telling you about.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want to have to do it.’ But [the elimination process] doesn’t come from a place of malice. It doesn’t come from a place of wanting to see someone in the bottom. It just, that’s part of your job.

At the end of the run, everyone ends up going home. Everyone ends up having to go back to what they were doing before. You’ve now given them new tools and an opportunity… let them go do their thing. So, you have to try and realize that you’re not doing anything to be mean or vindictive. You’re giving people an opportunity. Of course, I was like, ‘I don’t want to put anyone up for elimination, or put anyone on mute,’ and Ru said, ‘You have to try and get that out of your mind.’

RuPaul is also an executive producer of Painted With Raven. Besides advice on how to deal with eliminations, has Ru given you any direct piece of advice on how to host a reality show?

Of course his first thing is, ‘Be yourself. That’s why you’re doing this. You are this person, you are a host, you are a judge. So just do what you normally do.’ And he said, ‘All of these contestants are here because they’re worthy of it. They’re here because they speak and do what is being asked of them. But don’t take any of this too seriously, and don’t go to bed at night worrying that you put someone up for elimination, or you got rid of someone, or you put someone on mute. Just try and keep your head focused that this is a job. And that each one of them, they may get mad at you at the end of the season for not winning or not doing as well as they thought, but you can’t take any of it to heart.’

He said that the first few seasons of [Drag Race] were hard for him, but then he realized, ‘No, this is what it is.’

During a recent episode of RuPaul's Drag Race UK season four, you became the first-ever former contestant of the franchise to appear on the judging panel of a RuPaul-hosted series. How did it feel to be trusted with such a big responsibility like that? I mean, you were literally sitting on Michelle Visage’s chair.

Whenever I go into anything, I’m nervous. When I stand behind a curtain, getting ready to go on stage at a club, I’m nervous. I’m shaking. I literally am nervous. So going into that, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m nervous.’ Even when I go in and do the walk-throughs with the queens and give a little advice… before I walk through that door, I’m nervous.

I think it’s because I care so much about what I do and what is going to happen or could possibly happen that I get nervous. So going to sit on that panel, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m doing this.’ But I’ve always wanted to. And right when we were done, I said, ‘I can’t wait to do that again.’ So now, I look forward to being a guest judge more often, if possible. It’s just, I love the show. Also, being there throughout the entire competition, you’re watching these queens do every challenge, and you’re sitting there thinking, ‘Oh gosh, why did you wear that?’ or ‘No, don’t say that,’ or ‘You should have done this instead.’ So it was nice to be able to actually sit there and speak with them one-on-one as someone who does what they do.

What are you most excited for viewers to see on season two of Painted with Raven?

I am excited for everyone to see the fabulous artists that we have coming to compete. Each one is just as fabulous as the next one. And each one has their own... There aren’t any two contestants who are the same. They’re all very different. They all do their own thing, and they all push themselves, which is what we want to see.

But it’s also about celebrating makeup, which is that thing that I think so many people lost for a while: realizing that it is a way to just decorate yourself. And it’s non-committal, because it comes off at the end of the day. You can go out into the world and say, ‘Oh look, here I am.’ So it’s just a way to celebrate makeup. But they’re all, every single one of them, just fabulous.

Painted With Raven season two premieres Thursday, November 17 on WOW Presents Plus.

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Bernardo Sim


Bernardo Sim is experiencing the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim is experiencing the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.