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Thom Filicia has touched the homes of countless Americans (including Jennifer Lopez and Tina Fey) and served as the design expert of the original cast of the cultural staple Queer Eye for the Straight Eye. He publicly celebrated the transcendent magic of queerness on television before homophobia was policed online.
There’s not much Filicia hasn’t accomplished in his career, though drag queen is now part of his Rolodex. After being the third contestant eliminated on Rupaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race, Jackie Would revealed herself to be none other than the celebrity interior designer, to the shock of all the judges, including Carson Kressley, his former castmate.
We spoke to Thom Filicia about his Britney Spears number, donating bone marrow to save his brother’s life, his evolution on television, and whether a reunion may ever be in the works for the OG “Fab Five,” perhaps, maybe even alongside their rebooted counterparts. Not unlike a Daddy and son moment.
QUEERTY: Are we going to see Jackie Would decorating houses anytime soon?
FILICIA: [Laughs] That would be interesting…
Out of the OG Fab Five, I think many fans will be surprised to see you signed up to compete in drag on national television and be carried by a troop of shirtless men. What motivated you to join RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race?
First and foremost, I thought it was hilarious that we would surprise Carson [Kressley]. Also, I did a bone marrow transplant with my brother nine years prior. And he is alive and well. I wanted to give recognition to the bone marrow foundation for all their amazing work in making it possible for people in compromised situations who need bone marrow transplants to get them successfully.
Also, when is anybody going to ask me to be on television as myself an interior designer and do something that there’s the potential to have a big impact beyond just decorating? And it did. You know, it was a risk. We didn’t know if it would or how it would be received.
When they asked me to do this, I was like, you know, when people do things that you don’t expect them to do and they put themselves in a situation that you don’t typically see them, and they embrace it and step in someone else’s shoes, and they happen to be six-inch stiletto high heels. It just makes everyone realize that it’s good to challenge yourself, to put yourself in other people’s shoes. It makes everybody understand we don’t need to put anyone in a box.
Speaking of challenging yourself, during the show, Jackie Would struggled with dancing. Before your performance, you said you wanted to embrace the funny to distract from it. But then you came out with a latex jumpsuit performing a number by Britney Spears, known for her elaborate dance routines. What was your thought process behind this?
For me, Jackie is a person who is the life of the party and a lot of fun. She doesn’t take things too seriously but works hard, is truly involved, and is a team player. That’s really what I wanted her to be.
When I came up with the name, I was like, “I wouldn’t, but Jackie Would.” That was the idea. She’s from Chicago, and she grew up in the suburbs. She used to steal her parent’s car, go into town with her friends in high school, get drunk, and go to bars. She went on a ski trip with her girlfriends, who were going to look for boyfriends. Jackie was so inappropriate and drunk on the airplane that when she arrived in Aspen, the airline informed her she was no longer allowed to fly on any airline ever again. So she just took up residency in Aspen, where she now lives.
So a lot of thought came into this character, I see…
Yeah, so that was kind of her persona. I wanted her to be slightly classy and incredibly brassy. Rather than intimidating people, she made everybody feel great.
I looked at it as a great opportunity to do something I’d never done, and I learned so much about the art of drag. From hair to make-up to wardrobe, it’s such an amazing, empowering art form. But it’s also so much fun. As amazing things in my life and career that I have done, I haven’t done anything that was like Queer Eye. You know, in the sense that this is an opportunity to see people do things they don’t typically do and outside their wheelhouse. It opens up the dialogue.
That’s beautiful that you say that because you were a face on television when it was rare to be out and famous. How does it feel to see hetero celebrities lining up to be on unabashedly gay shows like RuPaul?
I think it’s awesome. What I think is really amazing about it is to have been a part of that beginning step with all the things that were happening socially in entertainment at that time, politically, and all of that. And to now be a part of this, you realize how far things have gotten. Some days you wish the world was better than it is, but then you see something like this that gives you another perspective. There’s some great stuff happening, and we need to continue pushing it forward. It creates opportunities for this conversation to continue and grow.
What the OG Fab Five did was amazing; you guys left a legacy. But I still think because of the timing, you were robbed of reaching your full potential. Is there a chance you would reunite for another show in the future?
I think we could. It really depends on what everybody is doing. There’s a time and a place for that.
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If the stars align?
Yeah! Everybody is jumping around doing their thing. As we get more settled, we’ll probably want to do something like that. I was thinking at one point it would be fun when our younger brothers are more relaxed and in the next stage of their careers, it would be interesting to see us like a cross over and welcoming a younger generation into something.
But I think the most important thing is that individually and collectively, we continue to support people being recognized positively. Drag has become this really great art form helping people understand that not everybody has to be in the same space. It’s different than what we did 20 years ago with Queer Eye, but it’s the same journey.
We’re voting Jackie Would for Miss America!
[Laughs] She definitely won’t win, but she’ll be hilarious.