'Queen of the Universe' Contestant: Chy'enne Valentino

Mon. December 27, 2021 8:18 AM by Ross Forman

chy'enne valentino

photo credit // paramount plus

‘Drag has opened up so many doors, so many different personalities come into your life,’ says Chy’enne Valentino

The 2018 Miss Continental Plus champion is back under the national spotlight.

Chy'enne Valentino, who lives in southwest suburban Willowbrook, now appears on Queen of the Universe, the international drag-singing competition directed by the producers of RuPaul's Drag Race and available on the streaming service Paramount Plus.

The premiere episode aired December 2, with 14 drag contestants from 10 countries singing for the crown in a Eurovision-like singing competition.

“To be there competing against Queens (from) all around the world was one of the most phenomenal experiences,” Valentino said. “To learn the backgrounds of Queens from all over the world, (including) India, Australia, China, Denmark, Brazil, Mexico, France and London …it was absolutely remarkable. And when I tell you these bitches are talented, OMG, these ladies can sing their asses off. (These are) some of the most amazing personalities I've come across ever.”

Valentino, 41, is the oldest contestant on the show, but looks like one of the youngest. The show, she said, was a learning experience that gave her “sisters for life.” She added, “That is what all of this is about – gaining and building personal bonds and relationships.”

Valentino, who has been doing drag for more than two decades, said she was not nervous during the filming of the show, mostly because of her competitive background, so she was able to channel those nerves into her performances.

Still, there was intimidation.

“Typically, when I'm competing in pageants, I'm the only bitch singing, so usually I don't have anyone else to compare myself to unless my sister Ginger Minj is in the competition,” Valentino said. “So, to get here and have 13 other talented, beautiful queens who not only could do what I could do, just as great, but some of them even better. That was the moment I had the 'Ah-ha epiphany moment.' It was not nerves; it was more or less, 'Bitch, you're not the only bitch who's here who can do this, (so) get it together Miss Thing.”

Valentino's run in drag started, to some degree, at home as a youngster, putting on robes and wrapping bath towels around her head and running around in her mother's high heels.

Her drag persona was born when she was 18. Her first pageant was the Miss Windy City Black Universe, a preliminary to one of the most prestigious national Black pageants based in Atlanta called Mr. and Miss Black Universe.

“I didn't know a damn thing about drag,” when I started, Valentino said. “My girlfriend Tiara Russell did my makeup and back then I was going to purchase fashion Fair that was a Black-owned makeup company for those not familiar with it. I didn't know anything about putting on body to give myself a shape, so I just had my fat ass boy shape. It's hilarious thinking back on (that time). One of my good girlfriends who is cisgender was a nail technician back then; I had her do my French-tip nails. Boy did I learn a quick lesson that night competing against fabulous, seasoned Queens like the beautiful Victoria LePaige (a former Miss Continental, former Miss Black Universe, former Miss Gay USofA at Large), competing against Erica Renee Christian, another former Miss Continental Plus, and others.”

Valentino competed in Miss Continental Plus in 2010 and received first runner-up accolades.

“I have grown so much on and off stage,” Valentino said. “Drag has opened up so many doors, so many different personalities come into your life. And while learning all those different people you learn so much about yourself. A lot of people don't know this but, drag made me more comfortable within my skin being a big boy. I would have never walked around in a dressing room with no shirt on with my stomach and titties hanging out but being in drag has enlightened my mind to see that there is so much out there and so many talented, beautiful, and creative individuals. And so many smart and intelligent individuals who are just looking to showcase themselves artistically. I'm so grateful that drag came into my life, and I'm grateful for the changes, the positive changes, it has provided me. Good, bad and indifferent, I take everything in life as a learning experience and always grow from it.”

Valentino found her way to the Queen of the Universe thanks to friends … many friends. They sent her the flyer about the show. Then more friends said she needs to pursue the show. And more.

Now she's representing Chicago on the worldwide stage, which she said is “truly an honor.”

“So often, Chicago gets a bad rap in the media because of the violence that's portrayed (on TV). But Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities that you could ever visit or live in,” she said. “I want to go out there and change the narrative, to show (that Chicago has) intelligent, talented, creative and colorful drag queens who can represent the city positively and show that we have all types of diversity star quality.

“It truly (is) humbling to represent the Windy City. Hey, I (am) Chy from The Chi.”

And the winner of Queen walks, er, sashays away with $250,000.

Valentino said she will pay off her new car, pay off her credit card debt, pay her rent for the next year and more … when she wins.

So, who is Chy'enne Valentino?

“Chy'enne is a very talented, beautiful, handsome, loving, caring, funny, outgoing, opinionated, giving, optimistic, serious, sometimes rebellious, hard-working, spoiled, intelligent, well-spoken entrepreneur who loves to help and give back to others,” she said. “Chy'enne is someone who values friendship and family very much. I am very authentic and straightforward and will never cut corners when it comes to being honest. Honesty is the best policy; sometimes it might hurt others' feelings and sometimes my feelings might get hurt, but there is a certain respect that I have for those who are extremely honest. Chy'enne is someone who often puts others' needs before my own. That is something I've had to learn growing up, that it's OK to say 'No' and not feel bad about doing so.”

Valentino's style and approach to drag is very regal, rich, polished (and) royal.

“I like to look like the Black rich woman stepping out of the car living in Chicago, growing up under so many beautiful, polished transgender women who lived and breathed fashion, (such as) Amailia Black, Flame Monroe, Sasha Valentino, Tanya Prada Myers, Tahjee Iman, Mimi Marks, Monica Munro, Cezanne and more.”

Spoiler: In Episode 2, Valentino, along with Betty Bitschlap, Jujubee, WooWu, Novaczar, and La Voix were eliminated and sent to pack their wigs.

On The Runway With … Chy'enne Valentino

Upcoming: She will be in Eureka Springs, Ark., on Sunday, January 9, at the Miss Arkansas Continental Pageant, which will feature a special appearance by Miss Eureka O'Hara from RuPaul's Drag Race.

Career Highlights: “I was on American Idol season 4, the year Carrie Underwood.” Valentino placed in the top 100 during the Hollywood round. “I've had the opportunity to work with WGCI radio station with the Chicago Idol competition, placing 2nd runner-up. I performed for Fat Joe, Sylena Johnohn, 3 Piece, and one of my closest friends and sisters is R&B soul diva Teresa Griffin. I won Miss Continental Plus and other (pageants), such as Miss North America Supreme, Miss Heavenly At Large, Miss Duval Plus, and Miss Wessland Grand Empress.”

Chicago Drag Scene: “It's growing. I didn't know that so many amazing, talented Queens resided in Chicago until they were featured on RuPaul's Drag Race. So, to see the level that we have grown to, and the diversity in drag, it is phenomenal. We have some of the most creative, beautiful, colorful Queens (in) Chicago. It's truly a blessing to be a part of those ladies nationally and now internationally. I look forward to Chicago continuing to grow; I look forward to Chicago continuing to make a name for itself, to show the world that we are talented, and we are here.”

Socially speaking:

Instagram: @Chyennev

Twitter: @ChyValentino

TikTok: chyennevalentino