When asked the best way to address 2020 Emmy winner David “Raven” Petruschin regarding gender and/or personal pronouns, you most definitely get a response fit for a Queen. “You can say David AKA Raven, or Raven Also Known as David. You can call me a c–t if you like!,” exudes the wonderfully blunt individual responsible for the ever-evolving visage of RuPaul Charles. And if last year’s Emmy win wasn’t enough, Raven is back for more as nominee again this year in the Outstanding Makeup in a Multi-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) category. But it’s been a long road since the drag performer first appeared in the second season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” where she was runner-up.
“The lighting is so different, it’s just leaps and bounds,” says Raven, who has since become a creative producer and “Drag Race All-Stars” professor in addition to being RuPaul’s personal makeup artist since Season 9 of the original series, when it was observed that Ru had an intensely vested interest in where Raven’s bag of tricks was coming from, often quite literally.
“You could always see she wanted to talk to me and find out. And slowly, you saw her makeup transform into what I was doing. So, when it came time to have someone else step in and do the job. She said, ‘why don’t you just do it?’ I’m still constantly trying to make sure I’m doing better than I did last time. This was someone I always looked up to and admired.”
But like her name, Raven always employed a bird’s-eye view on everything that was happening in those studios. “I always paid attention when we were filming during Season 2, especially when they would break or cut, I was looking to see what everyone was doing. But now to actually be in that group of people, it’s a lot different.”
Another of Raven’s many duties is also working on the U.K. edition of “Drag Race,” which has some notable differences. Says Raven: “The thing with the U.K. is the Queens there don’t take it too seriously. They’re like, ‘okay, I look like crap.’ But that’s where the challenges are when they walk the main stage, you can still see they have a need and a want. I mean, look at [U.K. finalist] Baga Chipz! She had the big red lips torn up and she didn’t put herself together for the mainstage. Some people like to disagree with me, but there are times where I thought she just looked stunning. And that’s the difference, most of the Queens here [in the U.S.] want to always look pretty.”
And if all those challenges weren’t enough to deal with, an unseemly global pandemic settled in at the height of Raven’s success, more than a minor inconvenience when your chief job is to be in close proximity to a superstar, continually tasked with building a face.
“When we started last year, it was it was very strange because I thought to myself, ‘gosh, what exactly am I going to have to do in order to make sure we’re okay?” says Raven, adding that their work days can often last from 7am to nearly midnight. “They went and found these little cloth masks, and I bought them in every color. But I found out later the paper ones that the medical professionals use are actually the most comfortable. So, we used masks and shields, and if even if you tested a false positive, you were not allowed on set. We had glass panels for the judges, and had the panels elongated to six feet between. We made sure everything looked great, but also that everyone felt safe.”
But RuPaul and Co. ended up looking as fabulous as ever, and Raven is even adding one more project to an already jam-packed CV. “I have a competition show coming out [“Painted with Raven”] that is completely focused on makeup, it should come out later this year. It celebrates makeup, not just in normal everyday capacity, but exploring looks more off the beaten path. There are so many things you can do with makeup. I think too many people, especially people of a certain age, think makeup was designed only to accentuate how pretty you are.”
To sign up for our upcoming Emmy Screening Series event with executive producers from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race Untucked,” click here.
Select episodes and seasons of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are now available to stream on Hulu and Paramount+