When Maren Morris was a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race Friday, she seemed more excited than the contestants themselves to be in the Werk Room during MTV’s official aftershow, Untucked.
“I’m obsessed. I’ve loved this show for so many years, and it’s crazy how far Drag Race has come,” the country superstar — who in a Friday tweet described her appearance on the show as the fulfillment of a “decade-long dream” — gushed to the cast. “I can’t believe I am in here right now. I feel like I’ve stepped through my TV screen.”
Morris’s kiki with the queens started off lightheartedly, as she admitted she was wearing a wig (which — inside Drag Race joke alert — appeared to be at least 40 inches long) to elevate her style for the occasion, and also doled out advice about handling setbacks and criticism in the talent show world.
“I’m 32, but I’ve been performing since I was 10. American Idol, I tried out for. America’s Got Talent, The Voice — they all said no,” Morris revealed. “I was devastated, obviously. And now I’m so glad I took the long way… because now people audition with my songs on those shows!”
But as Morris wrapped up her Werk Room chat with the 15 contestants vying to be crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar, she grew surprisingly serious.
“Coming from country music and its relationship with LGBTQ+ members, I just want to say I’m sorry,” she said. “And I love you guys for making me feel like a brave voice in country music. I just thank you guys so much for inspiring me. I’m gonna cry! I gotta go!”
“Just you being here shows you’re an ally,” contestant Mistress Isabelle Brooks assured the emotional singer.
After Morris actually left the set, contestant Spice told producers, “I love hearing Maren share her story, because a lot of times with country artists, they can’t really express their more progressive ideals. Just her being here shows she’s down and can roll with the LGBT.”
This was hardly the first time that Morris had been a vocal pro-queer outlier in country music. Back in 2018, during Pride Month, she penned a “Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community” for Billboard, writing: “One of my favorite experiences from my headline tour [in 2017] was getting to really see who my fans were and where they’ve come from. The LGBTQ community was so embracing of me and I felt this precious responsibility to be a voice in country music for them, because it’s a genre that historically has not.”
More recently, for GLAAD’s Spirit Day 2022 campaign, Morris gave an interview to the advocacy organization in which she explained, “It was just always a conversation in our household that we’re all the same, and there is no ‘us and you.’ I think that being instilled in me from such an early age, particularly growing up in the South, was really important. I didn’t realize how important it actually was until I got into my twenties and kind of solidified my adulthood and started working in country music. … I think that in correcting that, I definitely get heated because it’s not like we’re talking about what your favorite color is; we’re talking about people’s lives.”
Also last year, Morris went viral for blasting Brittany Kerr Aldean, wife of conservative country star Jason Aldean, for a transphobic comment Brittany made on Instagram, calling Brittany a ”scumbag human” and “Insurrection Barbie” — an exchange that had Fox News show host Tucker Carlson describing Morris as a “lunatic country music person.” Morris responded by selling official “Lunatic Country Music Person” T-shirts to raise more than $150,000 for the Trans Lifeline and GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program.
While Morris may be a minority pro-LGBTQ+ voice in the country music world, she’s certainly not alone — so she didn’t necessarily need to say sorry to the Drag Race cast on behalf of her genre, as sincere and well-received as her apology was. Shania Twain, who guest-judged Drag Race in Season 10, recently recorded a duet, “Legends Never Die,” with openly gay rising country singer Orville Peck (who is set to appear on Drag Race this season), and “Follow Your Arrow”/“Rainbow” star Kacey Musgraves has also guest-judged Drag Race; performed with Drag Race alumni Monet X Change and Trinity the Tuck; and hired Season 13 winner Symone to star in her “Simple Times” music video. Musgraves is executive-producing a new Apple+ talent competition, My Kind of Country, on which Peck will judge alongside Jimmie Allen and Mickey Guyton, in the hopes of “breaking down barriers in country music by providing an extraordinary opportunity to diverse and innovative artists from around the world,” according to a press release.
“I think country fans are not given enough credit for how open they can be,” Peck told Yahoo Entertainment last year. “I play a lot of true-blue, very country music festivals, and there are times when I go onstage and I feel a little nervous. But then by the end of it, everyone’s dancing and singing along. I think country’s about storytelling. And I think at the end of the day, if you’re a true fan of country, you want to hear new stories. You want to just hear those new perspectives. I know I do.” And while Peck acknowledged that “that innate feeling of marginalization still exists,” he said his success is a sign that the country genre “is absolutely changing and evolving.”
One of the Drag Race franchise’s most successful music artists, Americana singer-songwriter and All Stars 3 winner Trixie Mattel — who recently took on the iconic June Carter Cash role in a rebellious remake of the Carter/Cash duet “Jackson” with Peck, also told Yahoo Entertainment: “I think the perception of audiences that love folk and country is they’re perceived to be more closed-minded than they really are. It’s one of those things where the most extreme voices represent the masses. It’s like, not everybody goes to church hates gay people. Not everybody who listens to folk and country would object to drag. I mean, look around — is Dolly [Parton] not in drag? She’s in probably a bigger wig than I am right now!”
Speaking of Parton, on Friday’s Untucked episode, another grateful Season 15 queen, Loosey Laduca, thanked Morris for praising her spot-on Dolly Parton impersonation, as seen below, during this week’s maxi-challenge. “You being a country gal, your validation of my Dolly meant everything to me,” Laduca said. Hopefully one day, RuPaul’s Drag Race can convince Parton to be a guest judge as well.
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