In what is destined to be a controversial decision, Tyra Sanchez ended up beating out Raven and Jujubee for the coveted title of America’s Next Drag Superstar! And no matter where your opinion on Tyra falls, you have to admit that there has never been a better reaction to a reality show win than her on-the-floor, wig-pulling, hyperventilating response. And to think that she pulled through without the help of a brown paper bag. Tyra Sanchez: A champion through and through.
We sat down with the winner on the set of the RuPaul’s Drag Race 2 ReUnion to talk about her victory, her outlandish response to the win, tension with the other girls, her drag culture, her pop-star inspiration and her family. Below, we enter the interview portion of our pageant…
Congratulations on winning, Tyra! You seemed…outrageously shocked.
I think I was more relieved than shocked. What happened to me before coming here you would think was impossible. If I told the world my story, no one would believe it. I went through a lot of hard stuff. For the moment, I was happy, but when the cameras were off and we went back to our rooms, I cried the whole night.
You pray so much for a better life and for better things to happen, and they never do. Then when you least expect it, they do happen. I didn’t have a place to stay, I didn’t have a job, I was basically living on someone else’s floor. I would cry and pray everyday. One day, I just stopped praying and I just talked. I talked to God. The next day, World of Wonder called. It was amazing. Everyone looked at me as a bitch, but it wasn’t me being a bitch. It was just like…I have to win. I can’t go back home to that. It was a relief.
Your reaction to winning was 100 percent genuine?
It was. If I’m performing, I hold my breath. My mom’s always saying, “Girl, let your breath go!” At that moment, it was just like, are you serious? Are you f***ing kidding me? Is this really true? It was just like, “Oh my god, I’m gonna pass out.” It’s happened before. I won a pageant and I was being crowned and while I was being crowned, I fell out. I ended up getting crowned in a chair. It was funny.
You mentioned your reputation as a bitch. At one point, it seemed that everyone had targeted you, but that changed, right? You were sort of able to turn your persona around. How?
I think after the bridal episode, when I made it clear that if you have a problem, you should say it to a person, instead of saying it behind someone’s back. That’s just gonna create more problems. But if you address it right there, the problem will be solved right there. You might argue, you might fuss and fight, but it’s gonna end right there and then you’ll get along better. Being aware that I was aggravating some people made me stop. Of course, it was a competition, so if my singing was distracting you, I should still be able to sing. But they said, “Play it fair,” and I did. I did everything the right way. I listened not just to my critiques, but to the critiques of the other girls.
So, looking back, when you were singing “Halo,” that was strategy?
No. I hadn’t heard Beyoncé in forever, so when I finally did, it was like, “Oh, OK.” And when I’m working, I’m always humming or singing. The funny part is when you see me twirling with the veil, only Morgan and I were in the room.
Oh wow, I really thought you were distracting them on purpose.
But if I’m distracting you on purpose, distract me on purpose. It’s a game. It’s a competition. Say the Chicago Bulls play the L.A. Lakers. If defense is dancing around while offense has the ball, and the guy with the ball watches and messes up, that’s his fault. That’s not the other team’s fault. When I found out that I was distracting, it made me want to sing more. If you’re letting my singing bother you, that’s on you, not me.
Jujubee said that calling you out in front of the judges did you a favor. Do you agree?
I think all the girls did me a favor. They tried to make me look worse than I am in front of the judges. When they did that, I thought, “Two can play at this game.” I set out to prove that I wasn’t who they said I am. I think I did that. Yeah, I can be bitchy at times. Who can’t be bitchy? Everyone has their bitchy moments. I actually think that made them look bad. It made it look like they were ganging up on me, and it made it look like I was working on myself, maturing and becoming a better person.
Beating up the girls during that last scene was fun, though, right?
Yes. It relieved some much-needed stress that for weeks I had held in. I didn’t do anything intentionally to harm them, it was all accidents, but it was fun. If they want a fight scene, you have to give it to ‘em for real.
Has the beef cleared up with you and Raven? What did you think about her mirror message?
There’s no beef. At that time, I didn’t know that was something Raven says all the time.
It’s obvious that you like your fashion convertible. Can you explain what draws you to that?
I like to be comfortable. Like what I have on now [for the reunion], I can take these [wings] off and have on a simple, black dress. You never know where you’re gonna go. You may want to go out as a glam god, but then by the end of the night, you might want to be plain and simple. So, you can always switch it up.
One thing I never got a sense of on the show is exactly how your son came to be. Were you in a relationship with a woman?
Yes, for two years in high school, my 11th grade year and my 12th grade year. He was born the first week of my senior year.
Are you bisexual?
I don’t know how to answer that. I am, but I’m not. I can’t be in a relationship with a woman, but I’ll have sex with a woman. I can’t deal with women as far as being with them everyday. I can’t do that. Being with a guy is easier. I’d rather just have sex with a woman, if I see a woman that’s really, really cute. Some women will have sex with me, but a lot of them won’t.
Do you prefer to have sex with women or men?
Men. But some women turn me on.
No. She’s like a sister or a mother.
You said on the finale that you might watch this show with your son. Did you?
No. I don’t think he’s ready to handle that yet. Eventually, he’s going to find out because I got custody of him this month. I just want to take my time. Plus, I don’t think he’d sit and watch it. His girlfriend is Dora the Explorer, not Tyra Sanchez. If it isn’t animated, he won’t watch it.
Drag Race is pretty colorful, though.
It is, it is, but there’s too much talking. It just wouldn’t be funny to children.
When Ru calls you “the other Tyra,” that’s a reference to Tyra Banks, right?
I think so.
Is your name a reference to Tyra Banks?
No. It was my niece’s name. Her name was Tyra Nicole. She was born early, so everyday, her milk would come back up. It would get stuck in her throat and she would turn purple. She would, like, die everyday. The ambulance would come and then she’d be OK. That happened for about a year, until she was able to drink milk on her own.
So she’s OK?
Yeah, now she is.
It’s kind of crazy you went through the entire competition without having to lip synch for you life.
Yes. That kind of scared me. During the first season, Nina Flowers went through the entire competition without having to lip synch for her life, but she didn’t win. And I wondered, “What if that’s me?” Sometimes I wish I would have been able to lip synch for my life. That way, during the finale, I wouldn’t have been so nervous. I would have been down that road before, knowing what was going to happen. But for it to be my first time, I was almost petrified.
You talked about having a drag mother. Does that mean you’re part of a house?
It’s more like a family, but I am in a ballroom house, too: the Mizrahis. Jasmine Couture is my mother. My drag family is like my family, because I don’t really have my biological family – not all of it, really. I have my two sisters and my mom and that’s it. But my drag family is the House of Sanchez. It’s been around for a long time and we’re everywhere: Georgia, Texas, New York, California. My grandmother was in Janet Jackson’s video for “Rock With You.” We’re really tight. You would think that my drag mother gave birth to me.
I didn’t realize that was still going on – it all seems so Paris Is Burning.
Well, my ballroom house is serious, but my drag family is more serious. The house is just a house. You meet up at the balls. Some people hang out after, some people don’t. But my drag family is: every time I wake up, I see you. Every time I need something, I call you. You’re always there.
Have you seen the quality of your life improved since the show?
I’m still in the same position I was before, but now it’s because I want to be, not because I have to be. I don’t want to rush and move and be on my own. I’m taking my time, and my drag mother is there to help me, so I’m gonna let her help me. I’m not staying there for ever. It’ll be one or two more months, and then I’m going to move out on my own.