Where were you on May 19, 2017? It was a Friday, so maybe you were out with friends at dinner or a movie, or even possibly home doing laundry (whatever works for you!). While this might not be an important day for some, it is an infamous day for many as it was the day the ninth episode of Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. And it was the day that Valentina (who plays Angel in Rent: Live this Sunday) was eliminated from the show, and sadly forced to sashay away.
Before her one shot at glory in Fox's newest live musical, the queen kind of blew it on Drag Race. Right from the get-go of Season 9, Valentina (whose real name is James Andrew Leyva) cemented herself as a fan favorite with a good chance of winning. And up until Episode 9, she had either won or been completely safe at the end of each episode so yes, her elimination was a shock to basically everyone (and sent shockwaves across social media because of it). But you know, all it takes is one bad lip sync for a queen to fall. And unfortunately, hers was memorably bad.
With Valentina now starring as Angel in Fox’s live musical performance of Rent, it’s hard not to think back on her now infamous performance of Ariana Grande’s “Greedy.” Valentina was up against Nina Bo'Nina Brown, the two performed the song… except that it became clearly apparent that Valentina did not know the words. Her costume included a veil over her mouth, which effectively hid her lips (during a lip sync) and masked the fact that she didn’t know the words to the song. RuPaul — who was not happy about this whatsoever — asked Valentina to remove her mask.
Valentina first asked, “I’d like to keep it on please,” a quote that has been meme’ed a thousand times, but eventually she removed it. She then fumbled her way through the rest of the performance, taking whatever chance she got to cover her mouth with her costume or arm.
This one misstep was enough to cause her elimination, and Valentina was clearly heartbroken by it (and so were her fans). She was later voted Miss Congeniality and continued to be a (slightly controversial) fan favorite online. She might be a fan favorite on the show once again, as Valentina is back for Season 4 RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars, currently airing on Logo.
By the time she takes the stage in Rent on Sunday, the lip synching debacle will be a thing in the past — and not one she’s looking to repeat again. In late 2018, she released her first single, "A Prueba de Todo." She’s also getting ready to put on a one-woman show, All About Valentina, where she can, “Put together a performance [for] my fans that is not just living in the world of nightclubs but really features my talents as a singer, as a dancer, as a personality, where I can really stand on-stage and show you my vocal technique that I've been working on with Rent,” she told L.A. Weekly.
When it comes to Rent, she doesn’t seem at all worried about the singing aspects, and is instead more worried about the costume changes between scenes.
“As Angel, I have many, many costume changes, gender changes, makeup changes, health changes,” Valentina explained with a laugh during a Q&A in Los Angeles, according to The Wrap. “And so I go on this journey of just transforming throughout the show...The quick changes are definitely a lot of pressure. Just imagine going from boy Angel, drummer on the street, to full-on drag woman-a woman-a woman-a, Dora the Explorer wig, in four minutes.”
That sounds like one performance we don’t want to sashay away from our lives anytime soon.