I'm not sure if anything could've prepared me quite for what filming the show is like. Even Brie, who's much more active in the LGBTQ+ community than I am, seems overwhelmed and out of his depth. It seems you'll only be able to really grasp the drag community if you're a part of it. It's loud and overstimulating and the stress of the competition is palpable at any given moment. During filming days I witness several breakdowns, but they always gather themselves back up within minutes and get back to cracking on. Yet, at the same time, there is an overwhelming amount of love and support. It’s a competition, but also a place to make lifelong friendships. Even the queens who seem to hate each other offer help when the need is high. It’s an amazing performance.
I've been paired with a queen my age, who goes by Ava when performing, and Ave when not. They're busy working on the dress I'll be wearing, which seems a little daunting, but Ave clearly knows their craft. I can't offer much help, but with the deadline still being a day away, they are calm enough for us to just chat. They're from Paris like me, and strangely enough we connect over a similar family drama that has left its scars on both of us. Ave is very open about their mother's passing, but immediately picks up my hesitance about doing the same, aside from admitting that she's passed.
"Is it because you know so many people are up in your life over every little detail?" They ask me in French, scissors sliding through silky material on the table. I focus on the movement of it, remembering something both the director and Eailyn said to me: try to be vulnerable, it will make you more real. In the end, this is just publicity and you always want publicity to be in your advantage.
But I find myself wanting to be vulnerable, and if it hadn't been for the cameras all around the room I might have told Ave the entire story. "Partly. But it's also just how I handle things. They're my experiences, my emotions and memories. I don't like sharing them." When I look up, their face is one I've seen many times on both Matthew and Brie. It makes me laugh. "Yeah yeah, I'm aware how that sounds. It's a process."
"A process indeed."
Ave laughs. "Don't worry, I'm just like that. I never learned to share, and if I did share I was only met with annoyance, eye rolls and being snapped at. Not exactly the things that invite you to share more often. If anything, it makes me feel like a burden."
I nod slowly, still debating with myself how far I want to take this conversation. I seek out Gabriel in the crowd. As if summoned, he looks up from his conversation and meets my eye - a smile and a wink follow. It's been a common thing these last few days; whenever one of us feels stuck or overwhelmed, we seek the other out. After so many years of tight friendship, we've developed a sixth sense for it, and we'll share a brief moment of support even when we're nowhere near each other. Ave also glances Brie's direction, revealing that he noticed. Not that mine and Brie's friendship has been a secret - there's been plenty of moments we were the loudest and most overwhelming people in the room, just because we were together.
"Besides boy pretty over there, is there anyone else who makes you not feel like a burden?" The question feels a little forced, nor do they seem entirely comfortable asking, and there's also suddenly a camera up close with the director, Bailey, next to the camera man. If my time on both film and photo sets have told me anything, this was as a director's direction. I don't care, because I'll take any opportunity to talk about her.
"Emma." I say without a second of hesitation.
"Who's Emma?" Ave asks, despite me being sure they know exactly who Emma is.
"The love of my life. My other half, my better half. Honestly, she's the best woman alive. And I'm aware that anyone would say that about their fiancée, but -" I catch myself too late, and my heart drops. I search for Bailey behind the camera, suddenly very glad that she's here. She just looks amused.
"Correct me if I'm wrong… But I believe that information hasn't been disclosed to the public yet." She smiles. I nod slowly. I'm very aware that many an eye in the room has now been turned on us, because of course this happened in a moment of calm.
"Could you possibly cut that from the edit?
"Judging by that expression he'd would happily talk about emotions for an hour if that's what it took to cut the footage." Ave notes dryly, but I notice that they're smiling. Bailey laughs, shaking her head.
"Don't worry, Lucien. We won't broadcast anything you don't want us to, and knowing both your and your fiancé's profession, we know better than doing it anyway. And everyone in this room has signed a non-disclosure agreement."
"I mean... We did in spirit. We all know that some queens don't really care." Ave laughs.
"I'm rather certain everyone will care a great deal once we remind both Lucien's and Emma's involvement with one of Europe's biggest law firms." Bailey chuckles, eyes glittering.
"That'll do the trick, yeah." Their eyes meet mine. "Say I win the big prize, that'll get me like what? Five minutes with a lawyer?"
"One. But just getting to talk to their assitent is going to cost you the whole lot."
Ave whistles. "Yeah... I have other bills to pay."
"And I should hope the others agree." Bailey laughs, but there is an edge of seriousness to her tone. I don't doubt that any contracts these queens signed beforehand are iron-clad, because the ones Brie and I signed sure were, but breaking an NDA can turn really nasty, really quick. "I promise, Lucien. Your little secret is entirely safe with us."

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