Queenstion Time #10: Naomi Smalls
Ahead of this year’s Werq The World Tour, Andrew Nicholls is welcomed into Club 96 with the gorgeous Naomi Smalls.
Naomi Smalls – born Davis Heppenstall – came to worldwide attention on season eight of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She was runner up alongside Kim Chi, losing out to Bob The Drag Queen.
This year, she returned to our screens on All Stars 4, where she again finished runner up.
Naomi is, quite frankly, stunning. Both in drag and out. And she has been known primarily for her looks. But what struck fans during All Stars 4 – if not, annoyingly, the judges – was how far she had come as a performer.
Her performances in Snatch Game, Jersey Justice and a host of other acting challenges proved that she is much more of an all-rounder than she was being given credit for, and to take that to the next level with her always meticulous runway looks, many fans felt she wasn’t getting a fair shake. Us included.
But of course, it’s not the winning that counts on Drag Race, it’s the staying power, and following her All Stars performance, Naomi is currently in the UK with the official Werq The World Tour, alongside Aquaria, Kameron Michaels, Asia O’Hara, Kim Chi, Monet X Change and Violet Chachki.
We caught up with Naomi ahead of the show in Manchester.
Whisper it with us; “Club 96”.
Planet Slop: You’re coming over to the UK for this year’s Werq The World Tour – what can we expect from the show this time around?
Naomi Smalls: Quite a show, we will be traveling to space! I’m really excited for Werq The World. It’s amazing production, phenomenal acts and the looks are flawless.
PS: Without sounding like a crazy stan, you, frankly, must be one of the most beautiful drag queens.
NS: Aw you are too sweet!
PS: How did you get into drag, and how did you settle on your aesthetic?
NS: I always admired supermodels and their looks, especially the nineties supermodels, so I followed that aesthetic then it evolved from there.
PS: I’ve always found the genesis of your drag name interesting – Naomi Campbell and Biggie Smalls. It’s funny how we don’t really associate the glamour of supermodels with the gritty reality of gangsta rap. How do you bring those things together in your drag?
NS: Naomi because I’m fierce and fishy. Biggie because of his prominence in rap culture and the double entendre his name. I mean, I’m a tall drink of water, so there is nothing small about me!
PS: Seeing as All Stars 4 has just finished airing, we really have to talk about it. You have always been one of our favourite queens, so we were so excited to see you back. How did you prepare differently for this season compared to season 8?
NS: I really thought about what I could do as Naomi, not what would win or shock in a sense.
PS: I really felt like your performances in the acting challenges were extremely underrated by the judges. You don’t have to say this, but we will; we much preferred your Wendy Williams to Trinity’s Caitlyn Jenner in Snatch Game of Love! How do you feel your performances were rated?
NS: I love Wendy, so I was glad I did her justice. I do think it went underappreciated, however the fans gave the credit I needed! Just like you just did! So thank you.
PS: The Drag Race queens often receive both extreme love and extreme hate on social media, it’s really quite bizarre. So with that in mind, how have people reacted to your controversial elimination of Manila?
NS: It has been quite a time with that. If anything the positivity outweighs the hate. People always seem to forget that it’s a TV show.
PS: We have to say, Prince is one of our favourite artists here, so were astonished when you walked onto the runway in the Angelic White week with that look. It was absolutely perfect.
NS: When I think angelic white, I do think of Prince and his smooth music and style.
PS: Given that, as we speak, the internet is still buzzing – and conflicted – about the double win, we have to ask your thoughts on it. Do you think it was justified?
NS: Look, it’s a reality competition show. With any TV show you should expect the unexpected. Truthfully, I was as surprised as anyone by the ending.
PS: It’s funny to think that drag has suddenly become such a mainstream art form. Where do you see the future of drag going?
NS: Hopefully growing and the mainstream public becoming more gracious and accepting of our art.
PS: Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline?
NS: Yes, Miss Naomi will be sticking around! Right now I’m working on turning my online TV show, Smalls World, into a live stage show. Look for it soon in 2019. In the meantime, you can catch me on the Werq The World Tour. I can’t wait to meet all the UK children!
Naomi Smalls stars in the Werq The World Tour at Manchester’s O2 Apollo on Thursday, 9th May 2019.