Cynthia Lee Fontaine brought her immense talent and even bigger “Cucu” back for another season during her surprise return for Season Nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race. This fan favorite (and last year’s Miss Congeniality) made us fall in love with her all over again, and showed us a different side of her with her very personal story about the Pulse nightclub family. I sat down to talk with Cynthia post-elimination and we talked about her Pulse family, her love for her fellow contestants, and what’s next for Cynthia Lee.
We had to say goodbye to you once again when you were eliminated this year. How was returning to the competition this year?
Again! (laughs). Honestly, it was amazing. When I got the call from World of Wonder, the producers of RuPaul’s Drag Race, that they wanted me back for Season Nine, it was a huge joy in my heart to be honest, it’s an amazing opportunity and it was a second chance for me.
Besides wanting to take your journey all the way to the end, what did you want to show to the audience this time around?
I wanted to show more of my performance style as well as my skills in terms of talking in front of the audience. Acting and comedy, things like that. Because as you know, Cynthia is as beautiful as a goddess and as funny as a clown!
You have such a big personality and even grabbed the Miss Congeniality title last year. Was it hard for you to come back this year with a brand-new group who may have preconceived notions about you from last year?
I think it was slightly easier to go through it this time as opposed to Season Eight because I already knew how everything worked this time. It was a second opportunity for me and I really wanted everyone to remember me. That was my main goal on Season Nine, and I think I executed it and delivered it pretty well.
When it was revealed that you were the last contestant to join the competition at the beginning of Episode 2, were you scared at first?
To be very honest with you, yes! Luckily, all of the girls were very happy and talked to me. They initially felt that I had an advantage from being on Season Eight in terms of how the production went, and that made me a little nervous, so they felt I had an advantage.
When we started competing against one another and interacting though, they were focused on the completion and so happy and excited.
This season’s group of ladies really seems really close and truly supporting each other, especially when you see the ladies behind the scenes in Untucked!
You know why, they don’t see me as competition at all. They actually see me as a mentor. They ask for advice on a look, a costume, or how something would look on camera. It was like, “Ask Cynthia.” It was a great satisfaction to have the girls come to me and ask for advice and suggestions. I love to help everyone and share my positivity. To see that they love that side of my personality made me so very grateful.
How different is Cynthia Lee Fontaine from the person behind her?
You know what? I think Cynthia really helped my self-confidence in every aspect of my life. I used to be a very shy person. Can you believe it? [laughs]. Now that I have my character as a female illusionist and a performer, it combines what I like the most–performing–and has given me a career as an entertainer with this persona. What it has really given me is my happiness and positivity and what I can offer to the world.
How important was it to you that what happened at Pulse Nightclub was discussed so sensitively and paid tribute to on the show?
Honestly, what happened that night was such a tragedy and to open the conversation was very tough. We have to be sure for our community, and to communities around the world, that there are gay places where we can go and express ourselves artistically and still feel safe and in a safe place. We are not afraid to show who we are to the world. That tragedy did happen and is painful to our hearts. To pay tribute to those 49 lives, we are going to show that we are safe, we are happy with who we are, and we are going to continue on with our lives with pride and freedom.
What is the next step for Cynthia post Drag Race Season Nine?
Baby, if they are calling me for Stars Season 3, I am there! Working with RuPaul and working with the panel of judges is an amazing experience. I am growing as an entertainer and as a character. These two years have been a huge learning experience with no regrets and I just keep moving!