Goldfish Not Returning to Music, But Loved Swimming to ‘Masked Singer' Win: ‘I Will Always Have It in My Back Pocket'

goldfish not returning to music, but loved swimming to ‘masked singer' win: ‘i will always have it in my back pocket'

Goldfish Not Returning to Music, But Loved Swimming to ‘Masked Singer' Win: ‘I Will Always Have It in My Back Pocket'

Spoiler alert: This story contains the identity of the winner and runner-up unmasked on Wednesday night's (May 22) season finale of The Masked Singer.

It was a fierce scramble for the golden mask on Wednesday's (May 22) season 11 Masked Singer finale in an action-packed battle that pitted powerhouse male vocalist Gumball against season-long favorite Goldfish.

When the confetti fell at the end of the night, though, it was veteran singer/actress Vanessa Hudgens who triumphed over her former Bandslam co-star Scott Porter (aka Friday Night Lights‘ Jason Street).

To recap, former High School Musical movie star Hudgens got her perfect run off to a killer start early on in the season with a fierce take on fellow High School Musical universe alum Olivia Rodrigo's "Vampire," throwing down the gauntlet that this was a performer with killer pipes and casually cool stage moves. The singer, who released two albums on Hollywood Records early in her career, showed off her performance chops throughout by expertly ruling the stage in the peach-colored costume with a towering mohawk and diaphanous gills.

She continued to swim upstream all season with a smooth-as-butter cover of Player's 1977 AM radio classic "Baby Come Back" and further proved her arena-ready bona fides with a Broadway-worthy take on Queen's "The Show Must Go On."

The flawless march kept going with a showstopping run through Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" - which again showed off her impressive range - as well as last week's fierce rumble through Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" that had Robin Thicke jumping on the judges' table for a standing ovation.

On Wednesday, before her reveal, Hudgens, 27, confessed that she was never good at expressing herself as a young girl, but has lately been on a "journey of self-discovery" that allowed her to express herself "so freely" on the show. And while she said music has taken a "back seat" as she's focused on film for the past 15-plus years - appearing in Second Act, Bad Boys for Life and Tick, Tick… Boom!, as well as the upcoming Bad Boys: Ride or Die - her victory-sealing covers of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" and Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" proved her pipes are as strong as ever.

The judges were close in their guesses but didn't quite nail it, with Rita Ora suggesting former Glee star Lea Michele or Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev; Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg guessing Selena Gomez, Vampire Academy star Sarah Hyland or Julianne Hough; and Thicke going with Hilary Duff. Always-wrong Ken Jeong missed it by a mile once again, tossing out such wildly disparate suggestions as Carly Rae Jepsen, Kristen Stewart and former panelist Nicole Scherzinger.

Billboard spoke to Hudgens before her elimination about why this was the right time to dip back into singing, how she managed to move like such a pro in her costume, and why her "witch" powers were the key to giving the expectant first-time mom something special to share with her baby. Check out her answers below.

You've been a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance and RuPaul's Drag Race, but never really a contestant on a singing show. Why now?

This opportunity came up at a really interesting time when we [actors] were on strike and this was a category I could actually work in and my fans had been asking for more music, more singing, anything of that sort. I was like, "This would be a really fun and interesting opportunity to give my fans what they want and see who the real ones are."

People complain about the size and sweatiness of the costumes, but you seemed to be able to move with no problems. What was your secret?

Reckless abandonment? [Laughs] It definitely had its own challenges because I couldn't see straight ahead because the eyeholes were so far apart. If I wanted to see straight ahead, I had to turn my head one way or another and I was really using a live mic and holding it up to the little opening in my mask. So I had to split my vision and look sideways out of one eye and then look down with the other in the mic hole to see the ground. I just went for it and left it all out there. They would be like, "You're kind of here and then walk over there and if you want to maybe do a verse there and move over here." I just really let it fly and they gave me the freedom to play, and play I did.

Which performance meant the most to you and why?

I feel so lucky in that I got to work really closely with my producer and pick songs that meant something to me, from the cheeky nod to High School Musical singing "Vampire" by Olivia Rodrigo to "Baby Come Back," which I sang at 16 as a cover song for my first single [2006's "Come Back to Me"]. "The Show Must Go On" for a vulnerable, special performance to "Unforgettable," which I'd wanted to sing from jump because I just want to sing jazz all the time, to a female empowerment moment with Alanis Morissette.

Did singing "Vampire" make you long for the good old days?

I just think [Rodrigo]'s really great and I really vibe with her. It's always great to support a fellow Filipina, and it was just a cute, cheeky nod to how things always end up being connected.

It looked like you came to play from jump. How badly did you want to win the golden mask?

You know, it wasn't really about winning, honestly. I am my own worst critic and I will always be my hardest critic in the room at all times. I just wanted to have fun, and it was a really freeing experience for me to be anonymous and have nothing to do with my name or fame or celebrity. It was a really special experience.

You said your run surprised you and allowed people to really see you for who you are and what you do. Might you go back to music after this?

No. I always say life is about priorities, and that is not a priority right now. I feel like it's something I will always have in my back pocket.

You said winning would be the "ultimate pat on the back" and really mean a lot to you because you always thought of yourself as an actor first and singer second. Did you give people the "music moment" you hope for?

I think I got to give myself the music moment I was hoping for and in turn my supportive fans got to enjoy it as well. I got to show up every day and put my best foot forward, and I was so uplifted and supported by such an amazing team over there and I got to work on my voice every day with someone who helped me expand my horizons.

On tonight's show, you said you couldn't wait to have kids so you could tell them, "Look at mommy go!" Did you know when you taped the show that you were expecting? [Hudgens revealed in March on the Oscars red carpet that she's expecting her first child.]

No! I'm just a witch! [Laughs] I've always worked in a way that kept people guessing and gave me something to show my kids at every stage of my life. That's always been important to me.

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