This article does contain spoilers for All Stars season 2.
With RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2 having just broadcast its latest episode, with a dramatic twist, a hoo-hah has erupted between the shows makers and one of its star turns. In this case, it’s Phi Phi O’Hara aka Jaremi Carey.
Phi Phi was the villain of season 4, her attitude was terrible, and some of the stuff she said was borderline offensive. She came across as spoiled, narcissistic and bratty. So it was with trepidation that I went into All Stars 2 knowing both her and series 5 villain Roxxxy Andrews would be appearing.
From the get go, Phi Phi was determined to redeem herself and distance herself from the behaviour that put her amongst the elite of the most hated queens to ever grace the show. Tyra Sanchez (Season 2 winner) and Roxxxy Andrews also hold that dubious title, but Roxxxy is far more insidious than the other two and her vile bullying of Jinkx Monsoon leaves me unable to watch Season 5 because of how uncomfortable it makes me.
I must admit I did have some preconceived ideas about Phi Phi and didn’t think that I would feel any different about her this time round. However I was pleasantly surprised, she seemed to have upped her game, her drag style had changed from a pageant queen, to a more refined style, and her cosplay costume was fantastic. But there was the lingering niggle, that the show seemed to exploit.
The way it was shown and talked about was that Phi Phi was deliberately trying to play mind games with some of the other contestants, by saying Roxxxy’s idea to play Sophia Vegara in The Snatch Game could be problematic because her Spanish accent wasn’t as thick as Vegara’s. She actually advised Andrews to work on the accent a little more, and make it thicker, and therefore funnier. A couple of episodes later, and allegedly she was back to her old tricks, this time talking about the fact that Ginger Minj’s dress was a big dress to be dancing around in. Again I didn’t really see it as playing mind games, more just stating a fact and giving Ginger a heads up to ensure she took it into account while dancing. But the other queens, who may or may not have had the same ideas about Phi Phi, seemed to take these statements from Phi Phi as some kind of way of sabotaging the contestants and messing with their heads, and these soundbites were helpfully inserted throughout the episodes.
Another bone of contention was that from the start the queens had agreed that with the new twist of themselves having to do the elimination instead of RuPaul, they would base it purely on judges critique of that particular challenge and runway presentation only, and not previous wins, or losses. Phi Phi was very vocal about sticking with that idea, and when Alyssa Edwards decided to break the chain, and voted to send Ginger home, despite Ginger getting overall better judges comments, Phi Phi wasn’t happy about it, and voiced so.
The episode broadcast where Alyssa was sent home, during the after elimination talk, Phi Phi decided to let it be known that Alyssa had been trying to influence both her and Alaska to send either of the other two in the bottom three home because she hadn’t been in the bottom as much herself, yet she had received the worst critique for both her challenge and runway look. In this case both Alaska and Phi Phi had chosen to eliminate Alyssa, but the way it was presented made it look like Phi Phi had chosen Alyssa out of spite for not having stuck with the agreed upon way of elimination previously. Looking back at what was said, it’s more that Phi Phi was saying Alyssa, did the worst, yet she was trying to save herself by throwing the others under the bus, so she was voted off for simply getting the worst judges comments. In the latest episode broadcast, Phi Phi and Alyssa hashed it out, and while there was obviously still a lot of tension there, they mutually agreed to bury the hatchet.
Since the episodes have aired, Phi Phi has been getting a huge amount of hate online. People have been insulting her and sending death wishes to her. If Phi Phi had been the total and utter bitch she had been previously, I would’ve been among the first to call her out on it because I detested her first time round, but I haven’t seen her do anything that calls for such vitriol. Yes she can be feisty, and a little bitchy, but all of them are to one degree or another and some more than others. It has obviously affected her quite badly, and as of the time of writing, she is not attending the re-union show because she feels the show has misrepresented her quite badly.
I also can’t totally agree with her blaming editing because she has actually said the stuff she says, but I believe it has been taken far worse than it was intended, and the reactions to it by the other contestants could well have been based on their own ideas of who Phi Phi O’Hara is.
To me Phi Phi has made a concerted effort to break away from the idea that people have of her, and this time round I really don’t have a problem with her at all. I even started following her on Twitter. But one gets the feeling that Drag Race Phi Phi, live performing Phi Phi and Jaremi Carey are totally different people. Reading through Twitter, a lot of her fans who have met her have said she’s actually friendly, and very interactive with them and will spend a lot of time at meet & greets taking photos and talking. But distancing from Phi Phi, Jaremi the man has obviously been incredibly affected by this, and feels very hurt by the way the show has represented him and how the viewers have received him. He has since said that aside from the already booked shows remaining for the year, he will not be performing as Phi Phi again for a while, and wants to concentrate on being Jaremi, and releasing music.
I don’t think that the show has intentionally set out to hurt Phi Phi, and I don’t pretend to know the process that goes into making it, and Phi Phi has revealed a lot went on off camera that nearly made her quit the show, but she was eliminated this week by both returning queens Alyssa and Tatianna. However I think some of the viewers have read into everything Phi Phi says with far more of their own biases than the show intended to put across, and the viewers who hate her, will always find a way to hate her. I believe for Phi Phi, blaming the shows editing process is easier than delving deeper into the reasoning behind why people have reacted the way they have. My own personal opinion is that she did herself no favours with how she was on Season 4, and that has left a bad mark on the viewers, and some will never get it out of their heads that Phi Phi is a terrible person, and see everything she does as false. I for one have been able to separate how she was on Season 4 and how she is now. I think there is far more to Phi Phi O’Hara than the general viewers have seen.
Phi Phi did come across as awful in the past, but for me, she hasn’t actually done anything that has annoyed or angered me this time round, and I think people need to stop looking at every single thing Phi Phi says or does as something negative.
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