RuPaul's Drag Race has always celebrated the wide variety of cultures and religions of its queens. On tonight's episode, the show's first Muslim queen, Mercedes Iman Diamond, shared her harrowing experience as an immigrant traveling around the U.S.
"It was just so hard for me to fly that I used to drive state to state for shows," Iman tells her sisters. "You know what my problem was? They put me on the No-Fly List. Girl, I couldn't fly."
Diamond moved from Kenya to the United States when she was eleven, but she says her Muslim boy name landed her on the government's No-Fly List, which prohibits people from traveling on commercial flights within, into, or out of the U.S.
"I was like, I'm a drag queen," says Diamond. "What do you think I'm gonna do?
That watchlist is a part of the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database that has long been challenged for it's "bloated, discriminatory, and unfair" practices.
"Because of the extreme secrecy surrounding the No-Fly List, people generally only discover that they are on it when they are denied boarding at the airport," writes the ACLU. "The public does not know how many people are on the No-Fly List, and the criteria for inclusion are so broad and vague that they inevitably ensnare innocent people engaged in First Amendment-protected speech, activity, or association."
That watchlist eventually took a toll on Diamond's health.
"Because I couldn't fly, I was on the road all the time and my body couldn't take it anymore." Because of the stress, she says she had a full-on stroke during a drag pageant. "I was in a wheelchair. I lost all feeling in my right side. It was scary."
The ACLU believes the No-Fly List to be unconstitutional and is challenging the process in court. There is a process to remove yourself from the watchlist, and Diamond says she's no longer on it.
Watch the Drag Race clip below.
— RuPaul's Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) March 7, 2019