Kevin McHale spills on ‘Secret Celeb’, solo music, and the new ‘Glee’ project just around the corner

The Drag Race-obsessed Gleeks have taken yet another hit, with Kevin McHale now following in Jenna UshkowitzSecret Celebrity-eliminee footsteps.

The star got to show off plenty of range throughout his run. Camping it up with his goodies and selling his Peanut Butter to the crowd earned him two challenge wins and a very respectable place in the semi-finals.

We caught up with Kevin to discuss all things Secret Celeb, Snatch Game, and the new Glee project on the way!

QUEERTY: Your Secret Celebrity Drag Race run was full of fun. It was actually a little unexpected for you to be such a comedy queen going in. You played comedy well back on Glee, but you really leaned into it in the first few performances here. Did you know that you were going to be a comedy queen going in?

McHALE: Yeah, I just wanted to be a full clown. [Laughs] I went in like, “Don’t try to make me look pretty. It’s not gonna work. I’m just gonna be a ham and be a clown and be insane.”

That’s sort of how I am in real life. I’m just a mess, so I wanted that to be my drag as well.

The judges kind of… not steered you away from it, but pivoted you to explore more. And it worked!

It was wild. Michelle was saying things to me that all my friends have told me for my entire life. Like, “We get it, but the self-deprecation is now hurting you. Stop relying on it.” I was like, “D*mn, I can’t go anywhere. Everyone sees right through me.”

It was like a therapy session. They edit it down, but when they were really doing it, it was just one thing after the other of like, “You’re good at this, but maybe let’s like…” Like, I know, I know.

Not a full psych session on the runway!

At least it’s free.

Emotional damage or not, it seemed like you were having a blast.

I had the time of my life. It was hard work! It was six days a week, and it was rough, uncomfortable, long days, but once it was over, I miss it. It was so much fun. And it was such a good group of people on and off camera that it was hard to leave.

Would you ever consider a Chic-Li-Fay reintroduction in the future?

Yeah, if someone wants to hire all those people who got us into drag! [Laughs] If someone wants to pay for it, sure! The amount of work that goes into that… I don’t know how these queens do all this themselves, because I could never. I was having it done to me and for me, and I still could barely do it.

Maybe if we just connect with Brooke Lynn [Hytes]? We can maybe at least get her on.

Yeah, that’s fine. Actually, I love that Brooke Lynn seemed so, like, confused by me. She was so, so helpful, and a great mentor and coach, but the couple weeks that I won, I’d come back safe and she’d be like, “…Didn’t see that coming!”

I don’t think she thought I was going to be a comedy-leaning goofy queen, either. Because she’s not goofy, you know? She’s beautiful, poised, wise, all of that. And I’m like a gremlin.

I think she was just confused, like, “Wait, they liked what you just did?” because she obviously would not do some of the things I would. Every time, I would love coming backstage and seeing her reaction afterwards. She’s like, “Well, you pulled it off. I don’t know how, but you did it.”

It seems like it was working really well, up until that very last moment. What made you decide to pick the Snatch Game character that almost got her sent home?

Oh, God. I don’t know. There was no right answer. I think I accidentally did one Celine thing in front of somebody earlier on in the season, they heard it, and somebody got an idea in their head that I could do Celine Dion – which I still can’t. I don’t know. The only other one I wanted to do was Kermit, but that couldn’t get cleared.

I also didn’t think I’d ever be around long enough. I thought, “Oh, surely I’ll get sent home.” So every week that wasn’t Snatch Game, I was like, “Phew! Dodged a bullet.”

And instead you ate, got two wins, and made it all the way there. 

I was like “f*ck,” because I don’t do impersonations. We were all having full meltdowns, to be honest.

I don’t know how they edited it, but in the room, nobody bombed, really. I was just happy that I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was going to be. Even Brooke Lynn afterwards was like, “You had me really nervous there for a second.” I’m like, yeah, me too, b*tch! She’s like, “That wasn’t that bad,” and I’m like, “Yeah, exactly. I’m going for ‘not that bad’.”

You were definitely holding your own throughout. 

Really, I was just in awe of Thirsty [Von Trapp]. She was so nervous before, I had to talk her off the f*cking ledge.

She’s had a rough go of it!

She has. When somebody has been through what she’s been through, it’s almost like they have nothing to lose because they’ve been at the bottom. Something snapped in her where she’s like, “F*ck it.” It was great to see.

Once Jenna [Ushkowitz] got kicked off, Thirsty and I really started to be attached at the hip. We really were helping each other to calm our nerves before snatch game.

And then you assumed her place at the bottom.

Somebody had to take it over, exactly. Yeah. Once I saw how she was doing the week before, I was like, we know how these stories go. There’s only two gays left; one of us is going home.

You ended up against Poppy Love – who you had the exact same track record as actually, so it really came down to that lipsync.

I have no idea what I did. I blacked out. I never thought I’d make it that far. Also, the entire time, nobody wanted to be in the bottom against Poppy. There was no way anybody would win against her.

Then to have Ru say all these things that I’ve heard for years, like “I’m sorry, my dear”… I didn’t even give a f*ck, I was just so excited. I mean, I didn’t want to go home, but being on the show felt like I was watching it. It’s like, “Oh, the judges look the same. Oh, the judges are saying the same things they say when I watch the show.” It felt like a very out-of-body thing.

When all those things started happening, I was smiling, and I saw ru look at me like, “What the hell is wrong with her?” I was just like, this is very surreal. Even though it was a bad thing, it was still very cool.

I’m sure it was easier to stay grounded when you still had Jenna on for the first few weeks.

Oh, yeah, I was pissed. I was like, “Jenna, don’t you dare. I know you’re pregnant and nobody knows and you’re uncomfortable and nauseous and getting bigger every day, but I need you to stay.”

When she was in the bottom two, I was like, “You better not throw this.” And then she did the splits. I was like, “Oh okay! She’s not throwing it. She’s still going hard. She’s pregnant and doing the splits on TV right now. Great.”

Speaking of Jenna, what is this about a new podcast together?

We rebranded! We’re now with iHeartRadio, and we’re doing a new podcast. Same thing as Showmance: we’re doing Glee rewatch, but we’re starting all the way over. We’re doing it bigger and better and more in-depth than before. It’s going to be like a new and improved version of Showmance.


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Hopefully we’ll get at least a one-off episode talking about your experience on Secret Celebrity?

I think we’ll have to do that.

While we’re talking about bringing things back, can we nominate your solo music? You hit us with the seminal classic Boy EP and then dipped!

Music’s hard, you know? I mean, there could be more. There might be more. I don’t know. All my friends are trying to convince me.

I’ve just been enjoying other things! My boyfriend just put out an album this week, and I’ve been directing music videos for him and some other artists. I’ve really been enjoying playing a secret A&R/director.

I want to run a record label, really. I enjoy matching all the people up and finding the right production and the artistic stuff behind the scenes. So that’s been fun.

Singer, dancer, record label exec, director, drag performer, podcaster-

I’m mediocre at all of these things!

Oh, my gosh, there’s that self-deprecation.


Check out Kevin — we mean Chic-Li-Fay — kill her challenge-winning “When You Believe” duet with Violet Chachki: