Cynthia Lee Fontaine is ready to take the world by storm, one ‘cucu’ at a time, after a two-peat appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
By Danielle Ransom, Photos courtesy of Scott Kirby
When season nine of hit reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race kicked off this summer, many viewers were shocked yet elated to see the return of an all too familiar face. Cynthia Lee Fontaine, who had impressed viewers the previous season with her zany and comedic personality, was back. By the graces of RuPaul and the World of Wonder production team, the vivacious drag queen had a second chance after being eliminated early in season eight. Although she still didn’t take home the grand prize, the self-dubbed Cucu Queen is more excited for the future than ever.
Austin Woman sat down with her to dish on behind-the-scenes tidbits from the show, her rising popularity and being an LGBTQ icon ahead of her performances at the 2017 Austin Pride Festival and the Werk Fashion Show.
“Season eight was like high school and season nine was my graduation,” Fontaine says with a laugh. “None of the panel judges or other contestants knew I was coming back. It was a surprise for everybody! Lady Gaga, who is one of my closest friends, was like, ‘Oh my god, you’re here!’ ”
The biggest change between the seasons was the chance for Fontaine to step in as a mentor for the girls who had never been on TV.
“I still speak with all of them and we are close,” Fontaine says. “It’s beautiful how work can bring friendships, build up trust and communication between people because you’re passionate about something.”
As we sit down for an interview at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, it’s easy to see why she was crowned Miss Congeniality during season eight.
Although Fontaine has been on tour, she is thrilled to be back in Austin. This week is a busy one for the entertainer, as she has planned performances at the WERK Fashion Show and Austin PRIDE Festival.
“I am so excited I have this opportunity because for the last two years, I had to cancel because I was filming,” Fontaine says. “It feels like it’s going to be my welcome home after the show.”
For many, Pride is about more than celebrating sexual orientation; it’s a chance to celebrate diversity. It’s 2017 and being gay is still illegal in 72 countries. It’s often defined as a punishable crime and is still highly stigmatized in certain places. For Fontaine, the amount of attention, interest and resonance the Austin community has with the festival is a goal she has worked to achieve for a long time.
“[People] should not be afraid to celebrate [their]sexual orientation or gender identity,” Fontaine says.
It’s this exact tenet that has allowed RuPaul’s Drag Race to evolve into a pop-culture phenomenon.
The relevance and increasing popularity of the show have made it clear it’s more than just a fad. Many critics credit a combination of smarts and heart as what launched the reality show from a cult favorite into the mainstream media.
“I think [this fame is]a big responsibility because I impact and influence millions on social media,” says Fontaine, whose following grew significantly after her latest appearance. “When you become a drag queen, you create a character outside of the norm [that]breaks down stereotypes and discrimination in society. When I am Cynthia Lee Fontaine, I don’t care about anything else except to entertain, to be creative, to be gorgeous, in my own terms, and to show the world that you can be empowered.”
Her newfound popularity has also allowed her to share her struggles and promote acceptance and self-love while also advocating for the prevention of Hepatitis C and HIV, as well as for safe sex.
The bona fide talent is mostly excited to give more representation to her community, knock down stereotypes and share what she loves doing: performing.
For more information on this weekend’s Pride Festival, visit austinpride.org.