A’keria C. Davenport has been channelling the essence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since her stint on the 11th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race earlier this year because honey, she’s been slaying the industry left right and mothertucking centre.
The Dallas-born performer – who placed 3rd/4th on the series – has starred in music videos for Lizzo’s funk-pop anthem Juice and You Need to Calm Down by Taylor Swift, the latter of which just received seven nominations at the 2019 VMAs.
On top of that, her season of Drag Race garnered a staggering 14 Emmy nominations – the most in VH1’s history – and A’keria was named one of the top 100 most powerful drag queens in America by New York magazine.
We caught up with A’keria to discuss her time on the show – and that scene with Plastique Tiara that didn’t make the cut – working with Taylor Swift, and the importance of LGBTQ dramas like Pose.
Congratulations on making the final of Drag Race season 11 – how’s life been for you since?
I’ve been good! Up and down, but for the most part, it’s been very exciting. All of a sudden now you see everything that you’ve worked hard for actually play out, and you reap benefits from it.
You made herstory as part of the first six-way lip sync. What was going through your mind at the time?
The six-way lip sync was one of the scariest moments while I was on Drag Race. The reason I say that is because, on the runway I didn’t really get negative critiques. Also I’m sitting here with headdress on and a full gown, so I’m thinking, ‘What could I possibly do to save myself out these six girls?’
Did you guys ever see it coming? Did you think, ‘Fuck, we’re all going to be lip syncing?”
No, honestly. I’m a Pisces, so I’m an optimistic person, I feel like anything could happen. Normal is what scares me the most. So when we were in the back during Untucked, I instantly went to rehearse my lip sync. Silky and Vanjie were of course the closest to me on the show so they came in saying, ‘Your critiques weren’t bad’ and ‘You looked lovely on the main stage’ so they didn’t see me being in the bottom. So me being me, I had to make sure all my I’s were dotted and I had all my T’s crossed. Girl, we’re on Drag Race, so anything can happen.
You should have never been in the bottom with that gold extravaganza.
Right? And that’s what everyone kept saying. But you can never be too careful with Drag Race.
After the reunion, you tweeted that they failed to include a moment between you and Plastique – what happened between you both?
At the end of the episode, they asked everyone to say something nice about someone in the top four. Plastique and I had an off-camera moment because of the wig drama. I didn’t want to do it on camera because it feels like more sincere if you’re apologising to someone side-to-side rather than doing it in front of a group of people, because it might come across that you’re only doing it for the show or to save face. So me and Plastique mended our differences, and when that moment came that RuPaul asked if someone would say anything nice about A’keria, Plastique had something really nice to say. But they never aired it, so it left the fans thinking we were still in a bad place.
Did any of Plastique’s fans come for you on social media?
Definitely. It was really bad. The fans only see so much, so my concern wasn’t with the fans, because I don’t have to deal with them. I would never meet half of them. My concern is making sure the bond between me and Plastique was fixed. Fans will give you their opinion regardless. One day you’ll be their fave and the next day you’ll be their worst enemy.
How are you navigating your newfound fame, especially with fans on social media?
I try to stay as humble as possible and I try to stay out of the comments. I’m not really a huge social media person. But I do try and make sure that my presence is known. So when it comes to negativity, a lot of the time I’m not going to respond to it because you will have people who are negative and get a kick out of being negative and get a kick out of getting a response from a person. I don’t have the time, the space or the energy to continuously go back and forth with someone who’s going to sit behind a computer all day.
Yvie recently came under fire for saying she won’t take photos from fans – what are your thoughts on the situation?
I see the situation from both sides. The way Yvie said it came across wrong and I think it got misconstrued. Basically all she way saying was you’ve given everything you have at a show, energy-wise, but you still have certain fans who will come and want a picture. These are people who did a meet a great already or just didn’t wanna show up for a meet and a greet, or people who just couldn’t make it. So I see it from both ways. A lot of times the fans don’t just want a photo, it’s a photo with a story, and a lot of the time the queen is just trying to get home. And if you take one photo with one person then other people will want one too, before you know it you’re in a full-fledged meet and greet after the show. I don’t have a problem with taking pictures with fans after the show, there just has to be a certain respect, especially if you’ve attended the show. You’ve seen the person has done six numbers and a meet and a greet, and you have some fans who came and say, ‘I know you’re tired, I know you just broke your leg but can I get a picture?’ It’s almost like you’re the manager of a McDonald’s and you’re going to clock out for the day, and then all of a sudden they need you to jump back on the clock and do x, y and z.
Earlier, you said you’re not a social media queen and I have to disagree, because I’m really enjoying your tweets.
[Laughs] Twitter is new for me! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on Twitter for years, but tweeting on the regular is new for me. I was so used to Facebook and seeing pop culture on there and then it kind of died down. After Drag Race, I didn’t have a phone for a month and a half so I got used to not posting everything that I’m doing. It’s kind of give and take now. But I’m honestly trying to find the time to tweet. I’m very random, if I tweet every little thing that I thought, people would think, ‘A’keria is crazy as hell’.
I liked your tweet about being stuck in a chair at the airport.
Yes! That’s the type of random stuff that happens to me. I forgot what airport I was in, but there was this cute little rocking chair and I thought, ‘Oh my god! A rocking chair!’ So I sat it and when it was time to get up I was stuck. I was like, ‘Are you serious?’
In one tweet, you mentioned Candy’s death on Pose – how did that scene affect you?
I think what affected me the most was the final scene where Candy did her farewell dance. The reason is because of two years ago in February. I had a twin called Chyna Gibson and we were so close, even to this day people say how much we look alike. We always had this bond, we grew up together and we always called each other twins, and she was murdered. She’s a black transgender woman was murdered. She was an entertainer and she would dance a lot. So to see Candy come out and do that final dance, it just instantly made me see Chyna dancing for the very last time. I relive that moment because Chyna was loved by so many people, she had so many dreams and goals she was achieving slowly and her life was taken as instantly as Candy’s. That’s why I understood where the producers and writers were coming from when they said Candy had to be the one that was murdered in order for it to have an effect, because that’s how it happens in real life. It’s not the nice girl or it’s not the evil girl that’s taken from us, it’s the one that everyone has grown to love on a personal level that has so much to give the world, and is now taken because of an act of violence.
Pose is without-a-doubt one of the most important television shows out there because it’s representing queer people of colour and putting trans women at the forefront. How important do you think Pose, and particularly that episode, is for our community?
It’s extremely important. A lot of times, we show the over the top gay guy or the drag queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race. In their minds, they only see the glamorous part, but they don’t see the struggle. Pose actually shows how gay families come to be and it shows these people who are homeless and these are things gay people have to live with. Not everybody’s story is the same but we all have individual struggles.
It also shows the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic…
Yeah, which is very very important. We’re so quick to pin that epidemic on just homosexual males and trans women, but no, this is an epidemic that affects all of us.
You recently appeared in Taylor Swift’s video for You Need to Calm Down – how did that come about?
I got the call two days before we actually shot the video. They saw my Nicki Minaj look on the show, so they thought I’d be great for her. I had to go pick someone to make the outfit, I had to make the hair within a day. There are some celebrities that you grow to love because of their entertainment value. I grew to love Taylor because of who she is as a person. She was so kind and she was the homegirl next door. She came backstage to us and make sure we were all comfortable. She wanted to make sure we all had champagne, wanted to know who we are and what we do. That day was absolutely amazing.
I hope you told her she needs to be judge on Drag Race in the future?
Now you should know better than that. I definitely told her that.
And does she watch Drag Race?
She said she has watched a few but with her schedule it’s hard for her to be a fanatic!
Taylor came under fire when the video was released for ‘using’ the LGBTQ community – what did you think of that? Did you feel like she was using you in anyway?
We live in such a sensitive generation. If that’s the case, you’d have to say the same for VH1, you’d have to say the same for FX. We are breaking down barriers slowly by being able to be at the forefront of these huge syndicated television shows. Whatever their intention is, we’re being pushed to the front and we’re finally being shown as humans, as people. This is a step for us. Like during Pride month, the rainbow flag is in every store and they’ll be selling something rainbow. Are you supposed to be offended by it? Are they using us? Sure enough, I do think with some of these stores it’s a bargaining thing. But at the end of the day, it is a beautiful thing to see. We are here. This is now. We’re becoming more and more normalised, so regardless of whatever a person’s intentions are, if no one is harmed in the situation, I feel like it should be a celebration.
Before, Taylor was slagged off for not doing enough for the LGBTQ community, it’s like she can’t win?
You will never win. What people have to realise is, yeah, these people are celebrities but they are not superheroes. So the Taylor’s, the Beyonce’s, the Nicki’s, the Cardi’s, they can’t attend every Pride event. They have their own lives and they have to continue making a career for themselves. They can’t attend every Pride, tweet every problem or donate to every charity because they are still human.
You said you want to venture into television – can we expect a song or album at some point?
You can definitely expect some music from me. I hate to be the same. I hate to follow in the footsteps of other people just because they’ve done it. That’s not how it works for me. When I came to Drag Race, I came as A’keria with my own aesthetic, my own brand and my own goal. If I’m going to put out something, I want it to be true to who I am as a person.
And finally… can we expect a comeback on All Stars in the future?
[Laughs] All Stars is definitely a thought. Not a quick return, but eventually!