Last season on RuPaul's Drag Race, we were introduced to the bombastic Puerto Rican queen Cynthia Lee Fontaine, the queen who is seemingly incapable of going five minutes without making a joke about her "cucu." Always peppy, caring, and able to get a laugh with her twisted English, Cynthia was a fan favorite. She was sent packing just three episodes in, however, after daring to grace the runway with what may amount to the ugliest pair of gym shorts in Drag Race history.
Then, after her elimination, she received incredibly awful news: a diagnosis of stage 1 liver cancer. After beating it earlier this year, Ru decided to give her a second chance at the race, bringing her back as this season's surprise 14th queen. But she couldn't quite turn her revival into a renaissance. In tonight's episode, her appearance as Sofia Vergara in the show's storied Snatch Game (in which contestants are challenged to deliver their best celebrity impressions) seemed poorly planned and wasn't funny at all. This episode, she made her second foray thus far into the bottom two—and while she was saved last week by Eureka's sudden departure due to a torn ACL, this week saw her lip sync for her life against Peppermint, a veritable lip sync professional. Cynthia didn't stand a chance, and ultimately, she sashayed away. She will be missed, but some of us could do without ever hearing the word "cucu" ever again.
VICE: How do you think you're going to feel after watching your second elimination this week?
Cynthia Lee Fontaine: To be very honest with you, I don't know. I put in a lot of effort and enthusiasm on Snatch Game, so hopefully people get to see my energy. This season I'm so happy, because the entire season, I was constantly one of the top three characters they mentioned. The promotion and exposure on season nine, for me, has just been fantastic. I'm very pleased and excited, even if I'm gonna be eliminated.
How was season nine different for you than season eight?
Season eight I was kind of lost because it was something new for me. So on season nine, I was like oh, I'm a pro, you know? I've got the experience, so I know how this goes.
You finally made it to the Snatch Game this time—were you excited to get to do your character?
Extremely. And let me tell you why—because I like to do impersonations. In the Latino American community, in drag, you do impersonations. On the show, in bars, in venues or whatever. I was so excited for my character, because she's Latina and very fun—I'm related to Sophia Vergara because I've been doing her for like a year and a half or two years. And I love to do characters, I love acting.
If you've been doing her for a year, why didn't people think your impression was better than it was?
It's choices, like Tatiana says. The show appreciates a performer or a contestant that appreciates pop culture history. And if you see in the past, there's just only like two or three characters with modern personalities, like Britney Spears. But the winners for Snatch Games are like, great performers from the past, you know? Actresses, faces from the past. And I think the show, and especially mama RuPaul, was looking for a character from the past that she loved, that influenced her history, to become the supermodel of the world. So maybe that's why my character—a fresh character—maybe probably didn't step out to the game on the Snatch Game.
Your lip syncing has been criticized a couple of times this season. Do you think it's harder for you because of the language barrier?
I don't think it's a language barrier—it's about accent, you know? My first lip sync for my life, I got criticized because people said "you don't know the words." It's not about that—it's the way that I do the pronunciation, to exaggerate the sentences or subjects or predicates in the lyrics. That happens to a lot of Latino girls working in the drag community.
There are often Puerto Rican drag queens on Drag Race but no one has ever won. Why do you think that is?
I think the drag community in Latin America and Puerto Rico, generally, is a bit different than here in the USA. Here in US, they look for a complete package—as an actress, singer, you know. In our country it's about, look—yes, it's about performance, because the venues in our country are only bars and nightclubs. But here in America you've got an opportunity to act, to sing. Here you get the opportunity to other stuff in the performing arts as a drag queen.
Don't take me wrong, we have great, great, complete package drag queens in our Latin American countries. But when you go to Drag Race and start filming, you do not expect the impact of "oh, I've got to do another thing, besides look and lip sync and dancing." You know what I mean? So I think it's a shock, and just adapting ourselves to go in that environment and expect to do all the performing arts.
We learned on this season that you battled cancer. How is your health now?
I'm doing great, it's almost two months of remission. I'm not gonna see my oncologist until next year, so that's great news. This cucu is healthy. And you never know. Wait another season or three and this cucu will be back!
Interview has been condensed and edited
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter.