Season 10 ‘Drag Race’ diva is ready to show Dallas her inner star
SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
I am definitely not going to sleep tonight!” Aquaria exclaims over the telephone.
The New York City drag queen is deep in the throes of packing teased wigs, stiletto heels, dazzling sequins and spidery eyelashes. It is the evening before her morning departure for RuPaul’s DragCon in Los Angeles. The unfinished task hangs ominously overhead when I jokingly ask about the number of steamer trunks she intends to take on the journey.
“That’s a fabulous question that I don’t think I can answer now,” Aquaria replies in all seriousness. “I wish I could, but I’m not going to know until I leave the door.”
As a contestant on the current cycle of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, Aquaria has found that participating in a reality TV show is no more predictable than the number of bags she will pack. Things were especially rocky for the diva at the season’s outset. She immediately clashed with rival NYC queen Miz Cracker over copied looks. Later, castmates chided the exuberant queen for being overconfident if not downright arrogant. On the phone, however, Aquaria comes across as levelheaded and grateful. (OK, maybe with a touch of ego, but that’s prerequisite for a drag queen.)
“It’s fabulous to have this opportunity so early in my life,” Aquaria, 22, says of her Drag Race tenure. (At press time, Aquaria and five other contestants, including Dallasite Asia O’Hara, remain.) “I go in with a little less knowledge and experience than some of the girls, but, at the same time, I have a bit of a fresher take on some things. I think that works to my benefit sometimes.”
Fortunately, Aquaria has enjoyed a couple of Drag Race triumphs to counterbalance the early adversity. The youthful queen’s winning performance during the now-iconic Snatch Game challenge has been a Season 10 highlight. Aquaria’s tongue-in-cheek impersonation of First Lady Melania Trump — one we hope she reprises when she appears at Marty’s Live in Dallas on May 26 — was both charming and funny. Aquaria considers this win to be one of her most memorable achievements. Furthermore, she was flattered when fans petitioned NBC’s Saturday Night Live to feature her in character as FLOTUS.
“I did see that once, and it had a lot more signers than I was expecting,” Aquaria says of the petition. “I would love it. That would be fabulous. Saturday Night Live is down for the queens. If they were ever so interested” — Aquaria suddenly shifts into character as Melania, replete with a heavy accent — “it would be a wonderful experience to perform on the Saturday Night Live.”
Aquaria describes her Drag Race experience as an unlikely fusion of camps: summer, boot and kitsch. Contestants inevitably emerge from the rigorous competition forever changed and with a deeper understanding of themselves. In Aquaria’s case, the outcome has been nothing short of positive.
“Everything I learned from Drag Race, I put to use in my everyday life … ways that I can be a better drag queen … ways that I can become a better human being … ways I can be a better friend … ways that I can be a better son,” Aquaria says. “As with any experience, there is plenty to learn and take away from it. This is one of the craziest experiences I will have in my life. If I didn’t learn or take anything away from it, [it would be] a horrible thing.”
Aquaria is also supportive of her castmates. Like sorority sisters unified by a secret initiation ritual, the competing queens share a special permanent bond. After all, no one better knows the things they have been through than each other.
“I don’t have any beef with anyone,” she says of her drag sisters. “I like to be supportive when girls put out new content or if there is something I can share or I can help with when they are in town. We all stick together because, as this Drag Race fandom has gotten crazier, it is very easy to feel alone. Our best bet is at least to have each other.”
While Aquaria’s Drag Race appearance has certainly increased the ranks of her social media followers, the diva has yet to see a financial windfall from the television exposure. She continues a daily hustle in order to earn a living and to keep her wardrobe fresh. But for her, pursuing a dream is worth the paycheck-to-paycheck existence.
“To this day, I’m still paying back college loans,” Aquaria, who dropped out of NYC’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology at the beginning of her second year, says. “I’m still struggling to pay rent and to afford drag. It’s a big sacrifice and a big commitment for many queens. I don’t think I am any different than that.”
As for the future, the hard working diva intends to broaden and strengthen her personal brand. Aquaria refuses to be pigeonholed as a certain type of queen and fully intends to keep her options open. With a little luck, she will also manage to entertain her fans along the way.
“Ever since a young age, my friends, my parents and everyone in my life have been very supportive of me and seen a star in me,” Aquaria says. “When you are little, you start to believe it. Once you get older you have to figure out, ‘How am I going to work for this?’ I continue every day building a fan base and my image and just trying to be the best me I can be.”
Aquaria appears at Marty’s Live, 4207 Maple Ave., on May 26. $20. For more information, visit www.onenightinbangkok.org.