Mayhem Miller shares the behind-the-scenes of drag

Ryan Poon/HIGHLANDER

On Nov. 13, the Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC) club hosted a moderated Q&A with drag performer Mayhem Miller at HUB 302 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The room was packed with excited fans, enticed by the promise of an interesting look into Miller’s life and complimentary pizza.

Miller, born DeQuan Johnson, grew up in Riverside and discovered drag during her summer after graduating high school. Watching her first drag show at a gay club in Riverside, she was left unimpressed with what she saw. The lackluster performance inspired Miller to take up drag herself.

“I started doing drag for the simple reason of seeing bad drag. Sitting there my first summer out of high school and I missed the stage. I got to the first gay club and I saw a drag show and I was like ‘This is like gay theater, I can do this.’ And from there I was completely hooked,” she explained.

Despite skepticism from her family and significant hurdles, Miller has now been doing drag for 17 years and has performed across the country and internationally. She is also known for placing tenth overall on season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, a popular reality television show where drag queens compete for the title of “America’s next drag superstar.” Miller auditioned for the show every season starting from season two but was rejected each time until finally being accepted for season 10.  

“I am a firm believer in things happening when they are supposed to happen. Even though I auditioned since season two and was told no over and over, I took those nos and made them become a yes later on,” said Miller. “I decided that I was just going to make a name for myself, by working hard and making sure that every time someone saw me on stage, I left a lasting impression on people. Through hard work, I made RuPaul’s Drag Race regret saying no to me so many times.”

Miller also spoke about her experience mentoring others in drag, including an appearance on Buzzfeed’s “Try Guys,” where she explained the intricacies of performing to host Eugene Yang. “It was very intimidating, I had introduced people into drag before over the years, but having to do Eugene was very difficult for me because I was under a lot of stress that I had to do it right,” said Miller. “Their videos go viral, they would get millions of views every time they put something out, so I knew that the world was going to see my work.”

Miller expressed that while she loves to perform, it is also important to balance work and rest. She limited the amount she traveled this year and has dedicated more time to being with family and friends, emphasizing the importance of keeping her two personas separate and making sure that her work does not overlap with her home life.

“I have always been very driven and sometimes when you’re in the pursuit of your dreams, you forget about actually taking care of you. I learned this year to have balance, for as hard as I’ve worked, I need to give myself that time to enjoy the fruits of my labor,” said Miller.

Near the end of the Q&A, Miller shared with the audiences her favorite places to perform. Her favorite club being Riverside’s VIP club, where she started her career. She revealed that Germany has been her favorite country where she has performed. “I went there for Germany’s next top model as a part of their finale. I didn’t know at first, but it was actually a big production. They told me you’re going to be in an arena and you’re going to perform with the top four models,” stated Miller, “And the arena sat like 15,000 people and it was the most epic performance I have ever done, I have never performed for an audience that large.”

Miller recently ended a worldwide tour, and performs Fridays at VIP nightclub near the Riverside Plaza.

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