When RuPaul asked her to sashay away from the All Stars 4 main stage, Valentina was in tears. She truly felt like her time in the competition wasn't finished. But little did she know, an even more ambitious world stage awaited her in New York City. After leaving the werkroom for the second time, queen Valentina joined the Rent Live! cast, and now, she's living her Angel Dumott Schunard fantasy.
"It has been so incredible, emotional, challenging, exciting, beautiful, tragic. So many things," she tells Bustle over the phone, just days before the live show. "I feel so honored and privileged to be playing such an iconic role. It inspires me to be a better person. Angel is the heart and soul of the story of Rent. Many Angels have come before me, and I'm so lucky and privileged to play Angel today, where we can talk about things like gender identity, and I get to bring that to light with my character."
The Pulitzer and Tony-winning production, first performed off-Broadway in 1993, has been staged numerous times over the last 25 years. But following the success of other network specials like Grease Live! and NBC's Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, Fox's production felt particularly monumental, and Valentina and the cast worked hard to make the show their own.
"[All of the cast members] bring their own breath of life to it, their own stories," Valentina says. "Someone like Mario who has been through a lot in his personal life with his family that he opened up to me about — that the story really moves him and touches him and sometimes brings him to tears." (Mario, the R&B singer behind "Let Me Love You," plays Benny, Mark and Roger's roommate-turned-landlord.)
"It's just things like that that really resonate with me," Valentina continues. "We've come so close, we've spent so long being in rehearsals together. Everything is so deep and we just spent so much time with each other that we're all very close and so supportive of each other. And there's a big chemistry between us and this cast."
Performing in Rent: Live marked a new avenue for Valentina, and though preparation, she says, brought its own set of obstacles ("My biggest challenges have been working with in-ears."), she believes that this role has opened a door for her she doesn't plan on closing any time soon.
"I'm very excited to keep exploring how I can keep myself on television," Valentina says. "There are a few big announcements that I have coming up that I can't speak on yet, but I hope to explore myself artistically, vocally, for the rest of my career as long as I can. I'm thankful for my Drag Race following to be so devoted and so loving and I hope that they continue to support me throughout this journey of my career as well."
Rent: Live may have already come and gone, but as for Valentina, well, she's just getting started.