RuPaul’s Drag Race

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Winner Yvie Oddly Shares Path In Memoir

If you are a fan of the Emmy Award-drenched RuPaul’s Drag Race, you are certainly familiar with Yvie Oddly, the winner of season eleven. The Denver, Colorado native —born Jovan Bridges on August 22, 1993 — was thrust into the spotlight after being crowned the winner in 2019. She later returned to compete in the seventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars in 2022. And, like other fans who have competed on their favorite reality series, the overall experience was not entirely what she anticipated.

In a conversation focused on Yvie’s just released memoir, All About Yvie: Into the Oddity, which is available for sale in the middle of Pride Month, we talked about everything from Yvie’s early beginnings and her path to coming out to becoming a drag queen and competing in RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Written without any restrictions, All About Yvie inspires, both for fans of Yvie Oddly and those not familiar with her story, as she shares the not always easy evolution to her current identity.

“I remember being young child who loved wearing make-up and playing dress-up in my sister’s clothes, and it just felt natural to me,” said Yvie Oddly, who chose her name in response to the people who thought she was odd on stage. “Eventually, I became fascinated and inspired by drag queens and it took me several attempts to get cast on RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

“The kind of drag I represent was not something that was an easy pill to swallow, nor was it given validation at the time. But that never stopped me,” she said. “I wanted to tell my story because there are some pretty extreme things that have happened in my life, all of which took me to where I am today. “

Known for her “authentic weirdo” style (translation: high fashion glam goddess to dirty street punk), outspokenness, cackling laugh, and just plain outrageousness, to define Yvie Oddly is an impossible task to conquer.

“I have never patterned myself after anyone else, and those feelings of not being able to connect in a certain way are valid, they are true, and they come from very real places,” she said. “It is not necessarily easy when you lean into being different and authentic. If I am here to show people anything, it is to be a gateway door.”

From The Beginning

As a child in Denver, growing up as Jovan Bridges was anything but traditional. “There were just a bunch of weird factors in my life before I was even born, which meant I grew up in very strange circumstances,” writes Yvie in her memoir. “My mom was in school for most of my young life. And I lived with my grandparents, and sometimes my aunt would be there. But, also, where you’re queer, there’s just something different about you that’s unexplainable, and I think everybody always loved it, for the most part. But life gets complex as you get older.”

Navigating the world at that time as a mixed-race gay individual in Denver. Colorado had “its own form of constantly feeling shamed for being who you are,” writes Yvie.

At age 15, meanwhile, Yvie was diagnosed with Hypermobility Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (or HEDS), which is a rare tissue disorder where the body does not make enough collagen, resulting in joint instability and chronic pain.

“I came out to my friends at the end of our school year. My mom knew, my dad knew, and then within the year after that basically everyone in my life knew,” writes Yvie. “I’ve gone through lots of transformations about how I feel about my identity. First, obviously, there was the shame, shut-up-and-hide-it phase. I remember going out to a club for the first time and what happened as a result. And these events helped me transform from being a person who was ashamed to someone who is proud of who I am.”

Within the first year of coming out came Yvie’s initial exposure to drag was at a Halloween party.

“It was really liberating, and I felt like, for the first time, I was really in control of why people were looking at me. But it was terrifying to go out and know that you are doing something so radical in public,” noted Yvie, who cites watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, painting her face, and seeing season three Drag Race contestant Venus D-Lite at a Valentine’s Day show at her school as the reasons for doing drag in public. “Drag incorporates so many different aspects, so many different skills and artforms. It can transition into so many things. It always tickles my love for doing something different every day.”

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“Drag feels so radical, and that is why I feel in love with it,” she said. “In the early days I would do anything to get a reaction. It’s the same thing as a stand-up comedian. They need you to have a certain level of discomfort to make you laugh at some point.”

Yvie started her career in drag as Avon LaRue, performing for her first time at the Center in Denver. And, as she honed her skills in the format, morphing from Avon LaRue to Avon Eve to Yvie Oddly, she hungered to compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“I mean, not that it was the only goal for me when I started doing drag, but that kind of exposure, that kind of platform to have people see my art, is pretty enticing,” she writes. “I wasn’t looking for fame and fortune. It was a chance to actually be important for the things that I really value about myself, that I didn’t feel like the world always valued about me.”

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

Launched in 2009, RuPaul’s Drag Race, hosted by RuPaul Andre Charles, has spanned 16 editions, to-date, and has inspired three spinoffs (RuPaul’s Drag U, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, and RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race); the companion series RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked; and numerous international franchises. The competition series has earned RuPaul eight consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program; while the show itself has snagged four Emmys for Outstanding Reality Competition Program, among other honors.

For Yvie Oddly, participating on RuPaul’s Drag Race was the validation that her drag was recognized and worthy of being shown to the world. But the experience itself, and the wait from after production until the season with Yvie aired, had its challenges.

“The first time I did the show I felt isolated because I found it difficult to genuinely connect with the competitors,” she said. “Then, of course, I was getting back to the realities of my life and having to support myself before anyone even knew I was on the show.”

“So, there’s mourning the past, and also this fear and inability to move forward,” she writes. “Inability, because I didn’t ever want to work another job that wasn’t drag again if I’m about to be a drag superstar. After a month of being depressed and not being able to feed myself, I went back to the club and picked up a day position. And they were like, ‘You look like you don’t even care about this job.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah because I’m on Drag Race.’”

Life Post ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

“From early on, the only thing I never wanted to do was something normal. Policeman, firefighter…nope. It was not for me. Other people are in those spaces; you don’t need that,” remembered Yvie. “Then, after chasing my dream, I wasn’t used to the invasiveness that is a part of being in the public eye. Over time, I just adapted.”

“Now, I want to make art. I’ve always been an artist. It’s the only thing that feels right. At present, I am working on a project, which will put me back on the stage. I have music videos, a book tour, and a one woman show. It’s mostly standup comedy and music and dancing. And I wrote this book because I want anyone facing similar challenges to know there can be a happy ending.”

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