Look, JEAN PAUL GAULTIER, Earrings, NADIR.
“…now I’ve really embraced it and I’m like, oh, yeah, I’m that queen. I’m that girl. I’m that bitch,”
said Symone, winner of this past season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The 26-year-old has earned the title of America’s next drag superstar and we’ve loved her work all along the way. Marko Monroe, designer, stylist, and long-time friend of Symone has watched her evolution from a shy kid from a small town to the diva that has captivated millions.
She sat down and had a chat with us about learning to find her voice, asking for what you want, and questionable outfit choices over the years.
Marko: So, what’s it feel like to be America’s next drag superstar?
Symone: It feels stunning because you know me. You know, I get a little sad about it sometimes, but you know, now I’ve really embraced it and I’m like, oh, yeah, I’m that queen. I’m that girl. I’m that bitch.
Marko: I know I can feel it. I can feel it off of you. It’s been really cool to see you, like, step into the goddess…
Symone: A goddess, yes! it’s great. It’s definitely a journey. It’s definitely something I stepped into and I’m just that diva. It’s just who I am, you know?
Marko: I know that’s great. But what would you say to like a shy kid? Because you always talk about how you were shy.
Symone: I would say… I know what really helped me was finding my passion and a way to express myself and that was obviously drag. But I would say find what makes you happy and what you’re good at and whatever helps that inner child speak. That is what drag did for me.
Marko: And we both kind of understand growing up in Arkansas, but your town was a little bit smaller than North Little Rock.
Symone: Just a little bit.
Marko: But they weren’t like… We didn’t grow up in, like, tiny, tiny town.
Symone: No, when people think I say small town, they think of like population 600.
Marko: Yeah. We’re still in the south. We’re still in Arkansas. Well I mean, I kind of know some things that are coming up this year for you, but what do you foresee, in say a year from now, even maybe even two years, what are your hopes and dreams?
Symone: My hopes? I found that I would love to do acting. I think that’s a realm I would really love to delve in, in and out of drag. So hopefully I have a few movies under my belt. I definitely enjoy doing shoots, magazine shoots, campaigns, all that stuff. I really, I still want to do the fashion things and hopefully one day walk an actual show that be really amazing.
Marko: That would be sick, yeah.
Symone: I think I’ve discovered I’m a little bit of a control freak when it comes to how I like to present myself. So, I think it’s just easier to do it in print and photographs and those things rather than performances. But I do enjoy it. So definitely I think print, movies, campaigns, I would love to have. I ‘m just going to put this out there because I want to see what happens. I would love to do like a body oil. And maybe do a collab with a brand on that.
Marko: That could be cool. I could definitely see that happening.
Symone: Yeah. So those are my three big things that I want to do and I foresee happening in some way, shape or form.
Marko: Now, I have known you for what how many years?
Symone: Oh my god. We’re going on nine years.
Marko: Going on nine years. So, along the way, I have seen some questionable outfits.
Marko: People that are new to who you are haven’t seen the entire evolution like I’ve been able to witness, which has been wonderful. But what do you think is one of your worst looks ever or something that when you’re looking back can’t believe I thought I was really turning it, you know.
Symone: Well one that really sticks out to me is the one that I did here in L.A. and it was when I was trying to do an ice princess in July moment. And so it was like the blue lip, the face just silver highlighted out under eye. All the highlighted parts…Silver highlights. White contacts. I put white mascara on my eyelashes. I don’t think I wore eyelashes that night. I was that bold.
Marko: Going for the couture look.
Symone: I was going for a couture mama.
Marko: What was that outfit?
Symone: I had this white like windbreaker coat, trench coat, that went to the ground and I just thought I was giving you snow princess, house down… and I was giving you trash Mama. That’s the first look that comes to my head that I’m like, “oh, my God, I can’t believe I did that.” And I did that when I was in L.A…
Marko: But then, OK, so now looking at that, on the flip side, what has been one of your favorite things that you have looks or like fantasy’s that you’ve put together that has been your favorite?
Dress, CHRISTIAN COWAN. Shoes, SQUARED, Earrings, Nadir
Symone: All of them. All of them are my favorite. All of them are top tier in some way. I think it’s hard for me because they’re all different. I’m never putting on the costume. It’s always something that I would wear or how I feel. So, it’s hard for me to say what’s necessarily best.
Marko: And I think what I like about the way you carry clothes is that you’re also a storyteller too. You know, when we got to work on things together, it’s always fun because we create a narrative.
Symone: You know, who is this woman?
Marko: Who was this woman? What is she doing? How does she feel?
Symone: Why is she looking like this today?
Marko: And that, I guess goes back to like you wanting to get into acting, because I think that, that is very much the mindset of like an actress, you know, like delving into the character, like, how would she do this? Like, how would she move? What is her personality? And I think…
Symone: Why is she doing it?
Marko: And that’s the fun part about clothes, I think.
Symone: I don’t think people really do it that way. I think people are like, what is good now?
Marko: I know and it’s so boring.
Symone: And it’s so boring! And that’s why you end up looking the same. So, it’s always fun. You have to like everything you do. You have to make it something. You have to give it life.
Eaarrings, MISHO. Shirts, RAF SIMONS. Skirt, JEAN PAUL GAULTIER. Shoes, VALENTINO.
Marko: Oh well this carries into like we’re talking about storytelling and the way that you present yourself. I’ve been able to witness your growth as a visual artist, from early on, who almost was a little bit like soft and to getting into the things that you love, but you really just like kind of stepped in it so hard. You really jumped in the water.
Marko: And it’s been fun because you’ve been able to literally shape the way you want and how people perceive so how do you start digging into where you’re coming up with something?
Symone: It definitely starts with the feeling. How do I want, for example, parties, how do I want to feel for that? How do I want to present myself? Do I want to be soft? Do I want to be flirty? or do I want to be grand or do, you know, it always starts with that. And I think by then I go into silhouette and how does that translate? What is the best way to do that? And then hair. I’ll go into hair and be like, OK, so how can I top it off? Because I think for me it’s always head to toe.
Symone: And that’s always the best way to do it. If the outfit doesn’t match the hair or the earrings, you know, it always has to make sense. So, it’s definitely a feeling is how I start with something.
Marko: Does that translate into like you’re getting ready process? Do you play a certain soundtrack.
Symone: Oh yes.
Dress & Headpiece, MOSCHINO. Shoes, EGO.
Marko: What do you do in the process of transforming into Symone?
Symone: Well, I definitely always listen to music because that’s the best way. It’s not distracting in the sense of I have to pay attention and watch something. It’s something that’s always going on. I don’t like getting ready in silence. And I have like my generic playlist of people that I listen to, you know… I have to listen to music to get where I’m going. My life is kind of hectic and so listening to music calms me and it puts me in a serene mood and it puts me in a happy mood. So my main person that really does that for me right now is Tina Turner. Her energy is just infectious, you know.
Symone: And you just can’t help but be happy. And so [I] listen to her. I listen to Diana. I listen to Paula sometimes. Madonna’s on there sometimes for sure. And it just depends on the feeling. But those are my central people that I listen to because those are people that get me in the mood to be like, OK, we’re going out or we’re going to shoot. And it kind of just centers my energy, really.
Marko: Love that. I’ve noticed this as well since RuPaul kind of told you the truth about yourself.
Symone: What’s the truth!?
Marko: That you have the same power in and out of drag because, what a lot of people don’t know from being your friend for so long, I have seen such a growth even in just, we won’t say your boy name, for the record. But like your boy Drag and the way you present yourself and carry has, even the day you got home from the show, we’re like, who is this person sitting down giving us the tea about what happened? And even the way you present yourself. I guess I feel like, since the show I can really tell you are just so much more comfortable with you as a whole person.
Symone: For sure.
Marko: Which is really cool to see. And I think, you know, thank Mamaru for that, for helping pull it out of you because we tried for a minute.
Symone: For years!
Marko: But it was mother who did the work and yourself. I mean you have to give credit to yourself.
Symone: I think for so long I was scared of the disappointment I would do if I were to go out and do something. And I really didn’t trust myself. Let’s just be really honest. I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t trust that any of the choices that I made were smart or right or whatever. And so going on the show, you don’t really have anybody else. I couldn’t call you. I couldn’t call Hunter and call my mom. And there’s really no help on the show outside of how can we get you in your drag, you know. So, you had to trust…I had to trust myself and be like, OK, what I brought is enough and who I am is enough. And that’s literally all I had to do. So, coming back from the show, you just kind of… You’ve been in it for so long and so that’s just the mindset that you have. And then you just keep going.
Marko: Learning to trust the intuition.
Symone: Yes. Which you’ve also told me a lot, especially coming back from after navigating all the business side of what drag is, which a lot of people don’t talk about, and trusting that it’s OK to say no. It’s OK to ask for what you want, because at the end of the day, this is your vision. This is your business, this is your brand. And so, it’s OK to just be like, that’s not me or that’s not right. Can we change it or can we do it this way? That’s OK to do. And at the end of the day, I’ve learned that people kind of respect you a little bit more for it because they’re like, oh, she’s not coming in just a blank canvas.
Marko: Yeah. You are coming to help color the page.
Symone: For sure. And I think that effort at first, we all were kind of nervous about doing it, because I feel like we want to come in acting a certain way, but it’s not necessarily that. It’s just, you want your best for the person, you want the best for the entire team. And if it looks good for me on the page, it looks good for everyone who was involved.
Marko: Yeah. 100%.
Symone: So, yeah, for sure. I think that is the lesson we’ve all kind of learned and now we just comfortable honey.
Marko: We just comfortable in it. You know, we just maintaining the similar things that we’ve always done, which is play, have fun…
Symone: Play, have fun, trust yourself…
Marko: Trust yourself.
Marko: Follow your instincts.
Symone: You know…And love! Lots and lots of love.
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