A native of St. Petersburg, Florida who now lives in New York City, the drag performer Pearl had a shaky road ahead of her when season seven of RuPaul’s Drag Race began. From the beginning episodes, she was criticized for lacking energy and was encouraged to “come out of her shell.” As the competition went on, she became a force to be reckoned with, successfully sending two girls GAMEBOY-14 Photo Credit Connor Catalano and DiDi Seahome in high-stakes lip syncs. At the end of it all, Pearl became a fan favorite, placing in the top three.

I spoke with Pearl about her time on Drag Race for this exclusive Hotspots interview.

How surprised were you to make the top three, and did you expect to win?

Before Drag Race, I thought I was just going to walk in and own the place and everyone was going to love me. When I got there, I realized that was going to be so far from the truth; you really have to work your a– off to get anywhere on the show.

I was very surprised that I made it to where I did, and as far as winning, I thought it would definitely be a close call, but I’m too much of a non-conformist to be able to…take it. I ruffled too many feathers. I wanted it, but I didn’t think I was going to get it. 

How happy are you for Violet?

I am so happy for her. She’s one of my best friends. There’s a lot that goes intPearlo being the winner…it’s responsibility that I am not sure I’d be willing to take on. She is realizing what it means to be the winner right now, and I am so happy to see her go through it.

You’re originally from Florida, but you’ve lived in Chicago and New York. What do you like about Florida that the other two locations don’t have?

I like the laid-back lifestyle. Florida isn’t as fast-paced. But I can only enjoy that for a minute, and then I have to go back to New York.

At what age did drag become an interest, and how did you pick your name?

In 2012 and 2013, around when I started out. I wanted to do it, so I tried it. I picked “Pearl” because I thought it sounded like a rich old white lady’s name.

How many times did you apply to be on RPDR and how did it feel when you found out you were chosen?

I applied once and I got on. The year before that, I did a silly video that only had two things on their list that they require from you…I don’t even know why I sent it in, probably for s–ts and giggles. This was the first year I actually took the time to put together a real video.

I was shocked, obviously, when I was told I was going on the show. Everything I do, though, I do very well. I always strive to master every craft I’m involved in. Am I totally surprised I made it on Drag Race? Of course. But I knew that I wouldn’t be so invested in it for nothing.

Is there an additional pressure now that RuPaul has been on for seven seasons?

I don’t think it’s a pressure. I think it’s more like America’s Next Top Model; there’s going to be 25 seasons and it will end up not being what it once was. I don’t feel like there’s extra pressure; we can only go on and be ourselves, do what we do best, and hopefully we will last on the show.

Tell me about your RuPaul’s Drag Race experience.

It was nothing that I expected. Going on there, I didn’t feel like an individual. Your whole role on the show is predetermined by the first episode. If you say a sarcastic comment, you’re the sarcastic one. If you say something funny, you’re the comedy girl. If you’re in your own little world, like me, “you need to come out of your shell.” But I get it, why would anyone watch a show that’s just happy and smiles and nobody’s fighting and there’s no drama?

But it was hard for me. People were categorizing me and putting me in situations that didn’t truly exist. It was all about the story. It felt like General Hospital.

Tell me about the man behind Pearl.

Most of my time is spent sitting in bed, eating Philly cheesesteaks and watching movies on my laptop. I don’t really go out too much anymore. When I am in New York, which is very very rare, I spend a lot of time at home. I’m stupid and goofy, I don’t sweat the small stuff…I don’t let people ruffle my feathers. I try to enjoy life. I think I’m funny…I guess that’s for you to decide? [laughs]

Tell me something people would be surprised to know about you.

I don’t feel like people don’t know things about me; you can just Google me and find out everything you want. [laughs] I feel like I don’t have secrets anymore. I know I’m surprising myself now realizing that I am more of a homebody than I thought I was.

You have released an album and a fragrance. What was it like to produce a full-length album? How did you decide to market a fragrance and what did you do to make that happen?

A company approached me and they wanted to collaborate with me on a fragrance. I told them what kinds of notes I wanted in the fragrance, and I let them know what fragrances are my favorites. I approved the samples and I designed the bottle shape.

As far as my album goes, yeah, it was f–king hard. With my work schedule, it was an undertaking to have time to sit with my laptop and a mixer and put together an entire album. I don’t want to be in drag forever; I want to be a respected music producer, so I’m working toward that goal.

What’s ahead for Pearl?

I love working hard. I love the way I feel about myself when I accomplish something that involved a lot of hard work. Eventually I want to lighten my drag load and work more in music and work as a DJ. I’d love to be able to show up to a gig as Matt and not Pearl sometimes. But now I am traveling and hopefully people will see me as a dedicated artist with a lot of things going on.

Follow Pearl on social media by “liking” her page on Facebook at Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @pearliason.