Monique Heart on Her Journey from 'Praying the Gay Away' at Seminary School to Drag Race Superstar
The All-Stars 4 contestant opens up to PEOPLE about her finding spiritual solace through drag
It’s been a long road for Monique Heart.
The Rupaul’s Drag Race season 10 star, who will return to the reality competition stage for All Stars 4 on Dec. 14, suffered years of inner turmoil before reconciling her faith and her sexuality through a drag persona.
Born Kevin Richardson to a religious family in Long Island, New York, Heart was raised to believe that all sexual decisions could have dire consequences.
“I grew up in church, so I was so afraid that the moment I had sex with a girl the rapture was going to take place, or my mom was going to find out,” Heart tells PEOPLE at a VH1 “Meet the Queens” event ahead of the All-Stars premiere.
Those fears didn’t stop Heart from getting physical with boys in her congregation, even as she refused to “confess” to herself that she was gay.
“Meanwhile, I’m sucking d— over here in the corner not worrying about it, but, you know. It was so scary. I was like, ‘My mom’s going to kill me,'” Heart says.
Still closeted, an 18-year-old Heart headed to Kansas City to attend seminary school, where she continued attempts to “pray the gay away.”
“I had a dark night of the soul,” Heart recalls of her time in Kansas City. “It wasn’t so much of ‘This isn’t it for me.’ It was more so, like, ‘I’m doing everything I’m supposed to, why am I not getting the results?'”
“But God is good and he’s a good father, and I think that in his silence of him not answering, it really allowed me to sit alone outside of an unreligious, un-indoctrinated place by myself, and then really have to wrestle and go, ‘Who are you as you? Nobody is around — who are you?'” she says.
Financial troubles led to a bible college exit, and Heart decided to pursue a career in hairstyling.
Heart’s cosmetology cohorts questioned her desire to be with women, and she eventually came out as a gay man. Later, she delved into the world of drag performance after being offered a hosting gig. It was in these early days as Monique Heart that the star finally felt she was on a path leading her closer to her God.
“I remember one day, clear as day as I’m talking to you, I was working on a costume, and I remember I heard the Lord, in my opinion, say, ‘What are you doing?’ and I said, ‘Making a dress.’ And he goes, ‘It’s beautiful,'” says Heart. “I will never forget it. That moment, I wept. Because I was just like, ‘This was supposed to be the very thing that tore me apart and took me away from you, however, it’s the thing that’s bringing me closer [to you].'”
Aside from restoring her personal relationship with God, Heart views drag performance as a form of ministry.
“[Drag] is also the thing that allows me to do the very thing that I was doing, which was [being a pastor],” she tells PEOPLE. “Drag queens are the pillars. Look at the history of Marsha P. Johnson — pillars. And I just feel like that’s who we are. We are the watchers. We are the people to sound the alarm. Let somebody’s house burn down, well, we’re going to shimmy so we can get her a new house … It’s the drag queens that are out there. I just love that.”
As for Heart’s family, they’re still working to fully appreciate her star-making career.
“We’re still black, and it’s really not accepted in the black community. But my uncle, however, does support the fact that I support my mom through being a drag queen, and respects me as a man. And that means so much,” she says.
Despite the hardships she still faces, Heart is optimistic about her future, and shares this advice with others struggling to accept themselves under the duress of homophobic values: “Instead of talking to Jesus and telling him to take away something that makes you uniquely you, talk to him about how fabulous you are, how amazing you are, what you have to offer to bring to this world to make it — what? — better.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 4 airs Fridays (8 p.m. ET) on VH1.