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'RuPaul’s Drag Race' Interview: Vanessa Vanjie Mateo on Her RuDemption, #Branjie, and What Fans Can Expect From the Season 11 Finale

'At some point in the competition, I felt like I was hitting a wall.'

By Christopher Rudolph

Miss Vanjie, Miss Vanjie! Last season she sashayed backwards into the hearts of Drag Race fans everywhere, but now Vanessa Vanjie Mateo has left the mainstage for good on Season 11. After narrowly missing the top four, MTV News spoke with Vanjie about her RuDemption, #Branjie, and what she would have done with that $100,000 if she had walked away with the Drag Race crown.

MTV News: Hey Vanjie! How’s it going?

Vanjie: Great, how are you?

MTV News: Good, I always love talking to you! So how are you feeling today?

Vanjie: Um... I mean, [the elimination] happened a while ago when we filmed it. I’ve been eliminated before, but I’m excited because I’m happy with everything I’ve shown on the show so far. And I made it all the way to the end, even though I didn’t make it to the top four. So I’m happy and excited, and I love and respect all the girls who are left.

MTV News: Was it easier being eliminated the second time around?

Vanjie: No. The only thing that made it easier was that, at this point, I was happy with everything I did. I was proud of myself, and I knew in my heart I was trying. I never gave up. I was just happy with what I did, even though I didn’t get the chance to be in the top four. I still respect Mama Ru’s decision.

MTV News: Ru has worn a Vanjie necklace — he obviously loves you. When he asked you to sashay away he said, “Bitch, you didn’t just come back; you came through.” What did that mean to you?

Vanjie: Oh, I was happy to hear him say that. It’s funny — it basically confirmed and made sure I knew that he recognized that I tried. You know? At some point in the competition, I felt like I was hitting a wall, and I was like, “Man, I hope he knows I’m trying.” So when he said that, I felt like, okay, now I’m good. If I do have to go, at least he said that.

MTV News: Do you think the girls treated you differently because they felt like you got a second chance?

Vanjie: Not necessarily. Not really. The girls were really welcoming, and for the most part, they were like, “She went home first, so there’s not really much of an upperhand for her to come back.” They were cool.

MTV News: Aside from Brooke Lynn Hytes, was there another girl who you became close with?

Vanjie: Yeah, I got close with Shug and A'keria. Me and Yvie got really close as well, even though we would fight. The ones that made it to the final five — at that point, we were all really close.

MTV News: Have you chatted with Brooke about the latest status of #Branjie since the season ended?

Vanjie: Filming ain’t done yet! There’s still the finale. [Laughs] I’m proud of him, and he’s great at everything he does.

MTV News: You were close to making it to the top four. If you’d made it and won, did you already have a plan in mind for what you would do with the prize money?

Vanjie: Not necessarily. I know I would want to do something like — you know, I don’t know. I didn’t think about it. [Laughs] I’d love to give back to some sort of animal [welfare] organization. I’d have to do some research on that.

MTV News: You recently popped up in Iggy Azalea’s new video. What was it like working with her?

Vanjie: It was fun. I was in two of her videos, and both of them were really fun. She’s really cool with all the stuff she’s doing with her new music. Both of her new videos were really exciting, and she’s super sweet. It was fun to see somebody like — you know, sometimes I just forget how popular and mainstream Drag Race is. So when you see people like Iggy or others who just really recognize us and say how much they love the show, it just validates [me.] I’m like, oh, this shit is real. People do watch this, and they know what’s going on. Yeah... she’s super cool, and it was exciting being in the video.

MTV News: You were also in a video for Chips Ahoy. What else is coming up down the pipeline? Any other videos or projects?

Vanjie: Well, [my fans] know I’m going to be doing a lot of different things. You know, you have to keep on. I have a few things in the works. I can’t really talk about them yet, but you know — just know Miss Mama’s working, and she’s pushing all kinds of things out.

MTV News: Can you tease about anything Vanjie fans can look forward to at the finale?

Vanjie: Um... some fierce-ass lewks! [Laughs] And just know that I got a lot of crowd reaction when I walked out. That’s about it.

MTV News: Of the final four, who do you think will take the crown?

Vanjie: Child, I don’t know! I’m happy that I’m not the one who has to decide that. Each of them are so fierce, and they all bring something different to the table. And plus, in my head, I wanted to be in the final four. But they’re all so fierce. You never know. In that situation, anyone can pull something out of their hat and kind of turn it out and do something you didn’t expect. You just never know.

MTV News: You were given a second chance on Season 11. If All Stars came a-calling, would you sashay back into the workroom?

Vanjie: I would consider it. Probably not as soon, because it’s so fresh. I just got off of this two seasons in a row. But I would like to come back. You know, to show how much I’ve grown since. They were giving me so many critiques while I was on Season 11 — things you really have to fix and change. Everything they’re asking you to do [is happening] so quickly. So I’d really want to come back and show how much I’ve grown since.

MTV News: Last year, when everyone was obsessed with “Vanjie!” was there a moment when you were like, “Whoa, this is crazy — that these people even know who I am.”

Vanjie: Oh, probably when Lil Kim was like — well, I ran into her at Marc Jacobs’s birthday party, and she was doing the “Miss Vanjie!” thing. I was like, oh my God. It’s Lil Kim, and she’s doing my bit. I was gagged.

RuPaul's Drag Race airs Thursdays at 9/8c on VH1.