RuPaul’s Drag Race is perhaps most exciting when its contestants are clawing at each other’s wigs on the series’ storied runway. This is, after all, a competition. But back in the work room, Drag Race comes alive in rare, quietly powerful moments that highlight the resilience of the LGBT community in the face of overwhelming struggles. And Friday’s episode proved the power of draghood can help lift even the community’s most downtrodden sisters back to their feet.
In the episode, Eureka O’Hara — a comedy queen who incited an argument with fellow competitors Sasha Velour and Valentina after making an off-color joke about eating disorders last week — approached her colleagues with an apology for her behavior.
“I also apologize to you. It’s a sensitive issue for me because I was severely anorexic for my entire early 20s. I was so unhealthy looking. People would call me E.T. because of the way I looked on the street. I have a lot of hurt from it, still,” Velour said.
Valentina’s response, however, blindsided everyone.
“This is just such a touchy subject for me because I do probably still have an eating disorder,” she revealed. “Before I left [to film the show], I promised my mom that I would every single day. It’s so hard because sometimes I feel like I’m force-feeding myself.”
Presumably seeing the emotional conversation as a safe space, Shea Couleé joined in.
“I applaud you guys for opening up because in the past I had a deep, deep battle with bulimia,” she explained. “About three years ago, I was feeling all these pressures [from] the beauty standards that exist within the gay community, and it’s something I had a lot of shame about. Sometimes people don’t understand that, though we come across as these really strong, beautiful creatures, sometimes we’re really struggling on the inside.”
The 27-year-old Chicago native continued: “I’m surprised about how many girls have struggled with this. There’s power in being able to confide in your sisters and have them support you.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race — hosted by RuPaul, who was recently named as one of Time’s 100 most influential people of the year — airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on VH1.