As a defeated Chi Chi DeVayne told challenge winner BenDeLaCreme on the latest episode of All Stars 3, "I don't think I'm ready to be here," the West Hollywood RuPaul's Drag Race viewing party I attended last Thursday collectively groaned. Eyes made complete 180-degree rolls in heads and my lips pursed with annoyance and recognition.
"She still doesn't believe in herself," a frustrated friend yelled over the crowd to me. "Why can't Chi Chi see herself the way we do?"
RuPaul has created something endlessly entertaining with Drag Race, but he's also given a platform to the gay and trans community to throw shade, laugh, and share their stories. We watch not only for the jaw-dropping lip-syncs, but to see a glimmer of ourselves in these powerful biological women who can be whoever the hell they want to be without shame or fear.
Lousiana darling Chi Chi DeVayne has been one of my favorite queens since coming in fourth on Season 8 of Drag Race. Funny, charming, and willing to get down with a well-seasoned turkey neck any day of the week, Chi Chi's drag oddly reminded me of home. Struggling with finances and plagued by self-doubt but refusing to let her disadvantages hold her back, Chi Chi fought head over heels (literally) for the crown. And although she didn't win, she flipped her way into hearts around the world.
Which is why it breaks mine to see Chi Chi struggling once again in All Stars.
The devil is working hard, but Chi Chi's inner saboteur is working harder. Since her return to RuPaul's Drag Race just three weeks ago, it's apparent Chi Chi doesn't believe she deserves to be ranked among the killer queens of All Stars 3. This came to a head in last week's episode, "The Bitchelor."
When paired up with the hilarious Shangela in a polyamorous coupling, Chi Chi let her co-star steamroll her. Besides a couple of rehearsed jokes, Chi Chi remained in her head and relatively unfunny. But it's not that Chi Chi isn't a funny queen. It's that she doesn't see herself as good enough to compete with the likes of Shangela.
Impostor syndrome is the belief that all of your accomplishments are simply good luck, that you're inadequate and incompetent compared to your peers, and that you're in way over your head. The belief that you aren't good enough can cause you to close yourself off and prevents you from giving 100%. Those dealing with impostor syndrome report higher levels of anxiety and depression. It overwhelmingly affects women and people of color, and as MadameNoire notes, one of the most common symptoms of the syndrome is believing you're not ready.
Chi Chi doesn't see herself as the fierce queen she is. She goes into challenges competing with the other girls rather than just trying to be the best she can be, and she can't see how she can be as funny or as good, so she allows herself to be sideswipped. "Looking at the other girls, I'm getting so intimated," she says in confessional. "Like girl, are you going to be able to perform at that level?"
This reminds me so much of myself in college and my first few professional jobs, when I believed I lucked into getting admitted in my university, faked my way into internships, and was ultimately undeserving of any success. At my first post-college job, I sat at my desk petrified of someone finding out I was shit and sure I'd soon get fired. It took me months to feel at any kind of ease until I realized that the impossibly high bar I perceived everyone else to be at simply wasn't reality. People who are less talented get ahead in life because they go after what they want and it never crosses their mind if they deserve it or not. I spent weeks hyping myself up, convincing myself that I belonged. Even today, three years after college, I still get flashes of, "What the fuck do you think you're doing here?"
It's a daily struggle to battle your inner saboteur, but my job performance and daily life rapidly improved after that epiphany. Chi Chi might not have the same chance on All Stars.
But her experience on the show reflects what many people of color feel in the real world. The microcosm of Drag Race is even more apparent with Chi Chi sitting next to Milk in the bottom, whose ego and narcissism leads her to think she's done better in the competition than she actually has. When being a typically attractive cis-white male allows you to skate by (pun intended), you start to believe that if you simply put in effort, you deserve a reward. C'mon entitlement!
Talent and nerve are required to be successful on Drag Race and in life, and while many white men might believe they can win with the bare minimum of talent and a whole lot of nerve, many people of color don't see their talents for what they are and lose their nerve along the way.
All of us have to be kinder to ourselves, to celebrate our wins more than wallow in our failures, to forgive ourselves for mistakes and move on. We are capable of more than we can possibly imagine, but getting caught up in self-doubt is the biggest roadblock there is.
After her breakdown on the main stage, guest judge Constance Zimmer reaffirmed to Ms. DeVayne what all of us already knew: "Chi Chi you're worth it! You're worth it!"
We just hope she believes it like we do.