‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ costume designer Zaldy on escaping Zoom to create the ‘biggest, most colorful, brightest, shiniest finale’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

After last year when the COVID-19 pandemic forced “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to hold a Zoom finale, costume designer Zaldy thought, “Oh my God, please, please … let us get near a stage” for season 13. He got his wish, and now he could win his fourth Emmy for Best Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Program. We talked to Zaldy as part of our “Meet the BTL Expertspanel of Emmy-nominated costume designers. Watch our interview above.

Zaldy isn’t technically a nominee, though, since his category was changed to a juried award this year. That means the entrants’ submitted episodes will be evaluated by a panel of peer judges, which could lead to multiple prizes being bestowed in the category. “Drag Race” entered its April 23 “Grand Finale” episode in which (SPOILER ALERT) Symone was named the winner, edging out runner-up Kandy Muse.

But Zaldy is being judged for the looks he designed for RuPaul. In the hopes of returning to an in-person show, he started preparing designs “a year ahead of time. So I started to partner with Swarovski Crystal, and I was like, if we get on stage, I want this to be the biggest, most colorful, brightest, shiniest finale … because we all need this. So I was really happy that that worked out and we were able to go on stage and that I had all of that incredible material to work with.”

RuPaul’s first look in the episode is for a music performance of “New Friends Silver, Old Friends Gold,” which was “kind of like a last-minute addition” to the show, so her costume had to be “created in a real time crunch,” but he thought it “really worked for us. It was solid, chunky Swarovski crystals set into this leotard that had this gigantic 250 yards of tulle reveal, and I thought it was amazing. I was so happy to see Ru performing again.”

Then came the showstopping rainbow gown that RuPaul wore for the rest of the episode. “I was working with Swarovski, and I saw these neon Swarovski crystals that they had, and I was like, this is definitely a neon rainbow, so right away I kind of knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, with the hombre of each color, and then the hombre fade of the sizes of each color,” Zaldy explains.

Given the fast pace and high volume of designs on the show, not everything works out as planned, but “this one had such great lead time that I have to say it was absolutely exactly how I imagined it. It functioned the way I wanted it to. Even when I was speaking to Ru on set and Gottmik was there, she was just like, ‘Oh my gosh. I think this is my most favorite RuPaul look of all time,’ which says a lot since there’s been thousands. So I knew when she said that, that it was working.”

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