RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14 fan favorite Willow Pill opens up about her lifelong battle with cystinosis and its impact on her ability to compete.
Despite Willow Pill becoming an instant show-stopping talent on the 14th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, she has opened up about her lifelong battle with cystinosis and how its affected her time in the competition. Drag Race season 14 has been a competitive one, with a pack of powerhouse performers that have forced the queens to fight tooth and nail for the title of America’s next drag superstar. With her tell-tale wit, humorous charm, and jaw-dropping runway looks, Willow Pill quickly became a fan favorite.
Drag Race season 14 has generated so much buzz due to its herstory-making diverse cast of competitors. A few years ago, Drag Race received criticism due to its lack of inclusivity of transgender queens. The recent lineup of queens features four transgender contestants, including Willow. Since her time filming Drag Race, Willow came out as a trans femme, undergoing plastic surgery to make her face more feminine and reduce the effects of long-term medication use. Transgender Drag Race star Willow recently discussed her experience with cystinosis, a rare but serious condition with chronic consequences that affects various areas of the body.
In an interview with People, Willow discussed how it felt to compete on Drag Race while simultaneously monitoring the extensive symptoms of cystinosis. Only months after Willow wrapped up filming Drag Race, her sister passed away from the same condition. “It’s a frickin’ ravenous and thorough disease,” Willow explained. While describing her symptoms, Willow revealed that she experiences difficulty talking, drinking, eating, and swallowing. She also deals with painful and blurred vision, muscle deterioration, and anemia. The symptoms don’t factor in her extensive daily medications required to treat the condition. “Really nothing is unaffected by it,” the resilient Drag Race star admitted. There is currently no cure for the disease, but swift treatment can potentially slow symptom progression. “It was a pretty long experience. It wasn’t easy,” Willow revealed. “But when you are someone who’s been dealing with chronic illness or a disability, you find your way to make it through the world.“
Cystinosis would provide a challenging experience for anyone, but luckily Willow didn’t allow her diagnosis to get in the way of her Drag Race dreams. For two months, Willow struggled to balance her medication side effects, symptoms, and time filming the taxing competition. “I wanted to go into the show being really honest,” Willow commented. “Sometimes we make a sugar-coated experience or an inspirational story out of sick people’s lives when often, there’s just pain there that needs to be felt and heard first and foremost.” Despite the struggles of her condition, Drag Race season 14 lip-sync assassin Willow is committed to ensuring she doesn’t take her time competing on Drag Race for granted in any way. “I’ve learned very well, through life with cystinosis, how to have fun and how to enjoy the moment,” Willow said, “and I can honestly say I feel incredibly proud and happy with what happened.“
Chronic illness is a never-ending obstacle. Regardless of if the Drag Race cameras are rolling or not, Willow faces the never-ending task of handling her disease head-on. Cystinosis has impacted her overall wellness, transitioning process, and devastated her entire family with the loss of her sister. Fortunately, Willow seems to confront her diagnosis with tenacious optimism, using her time on RuPaul’s Drag Race as a platform for other sick individuals that feel they have no voice due to the silencing of their symptoms.
Next: RuPaul’s Drag Race: Why Season 14 Has A Final 5
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