Every queen enters the workroom with a backstory, and as you’re about to learn, Mercedes Iman Diamond‘s is one of unimaginable pain caused by systemic oppression.
The Minneapolis-based queen opens up during an emotional scene from tonight’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1, 9/8c), revealing that she’s had to drive to most of her gigs because she’s been unable to fly.
“I’m originally from Mombasa, Kenya, and my name sounds Muslim, so they put me on the watch list,” she says in TVLine’s exclusive sneak peek above. “I’m like, ‘I’m a drag queen. What do you think I’m going to do?'”
She continues, “My body gave out one time. I had a stroke in the middle of a pageant. I couldn’t walk. … Because I couldn’t fly, I was on the road all the time. My body couldn’t take it anymore.”
Simply put, “Being an immigrant in the U.S. is hard. It’s really, really hard.”
Mercedes was one of 14 new queens (plus Miss Vaaanjie!) introduced during last week’s premiere, which challenged the girls to design costumes inspired by ghosts of seasons past. Soju and Kahanna Montrese ended the episode by lip syncing to Hannah Montana’s “The Best of Both Worlds,” with the former sashaying away.
“I really am a baby queen, and I think it showed,” Soju told TVLine. “That’s one of the lessons I learned: As much as you view yourself as a drag queen, there’s so much to learn, and you can only learn from experience.”
Hit PLAY on TVLine’s exclusive sneak peek above, then drop a comment with your thoughts below: Which queen are you rooting for in Season 11?