Drag Race royalty Aquaria on turning looks, stunting pretty, and why the season 12 queens are ‘being done a disservice’
Ahead of the Drag Race season 12 finale, PinkNews caught up with reigning fashion queen Aquaria about Zoom parties, keeping her queer fashion fantasy alive at home and what’s made this season so special.
Aquaria entered Drag Race a fully-formed fashion enigma. The drag daughter of season four winner Sharon Needles, she’d already carved a towering reputation in her native New York, attracting the eyes of Lady Bunny and club legend Susanne Bartsch — who also helped give RuPaul his big break in the 1980s.
Since winning season 10 (at the frankly ridiculous age of 21), Aquaria has achieved what only a handful of other queens have previously managed, becoming a true darling of the fashion world. She’s modelled for Moschino, MAC and Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty, and along with season seven winner Violet Chachki, was the first drag queen to attend the prestigious Met Gala in 2019.
Despite being under lockdown, Aquaria says she’s managing to fulfil her queer fashion fantasies at home.
“You just gotta sprinkle in the queerness everywhere, wherever you can,” she tells PinkNews.
“It’s always nice to put a metaphorical pep in your step by dressing up a little every once in a while. I do these Zoom parties and it’s nice to even just get on there and put on a funky hat, something like that. But then there have been times where I’m like: ‘Oh, I should actually try to put on pants that don’t stretch.'”
When ‘normal life’ resumes, Aquaria hopes to return return to her busy schedule of world tours and Las Vegas gigs, peppered with fashion weeks and magazine shoots. It’s a life she’s always thought was inevitable, in a way.
“I’ve always felt that drag and fashion have gone hand in hand,” she says.
She is careful to credit those who have paved the way for her – “Violet, Raja, even RuPaul”.
“A lot of my inspiration comes from that ‘Supermodel of the World’ aura, and the embodiment of that.
“Maybe a little bit of my success there stems from my naivety – or my delusion! – that they belong together. Throughout history they’ve definitely separated themselves quite a bit — if 10 or 15 years ago you were talking about drag fashion you’d be talking about some frumpy, corny sequinned dress with fishnets, it would be a much more unsophisticated view.
“But I’ve always seen drag as belonging on the runway, and I’ve always seen fashion in drag performers – even if they are in that corny sequinned dress. They stem from the same concepts and it’s all about creating a new image. Even fashion deals with gender and the norms that are presented to the world. And I hope that my success here will do the same and open the door for the next little fashion queen.”
That next little fashion queen will, more than likely, be season 12’s Gigi Goode, who has stunned audiences with her meticulously-crafted looks week in, week out.
Speaking before Friday’s virtual finale, which will see either Gigi, Jaida Essence Hall or Crystal Methyd join the winners’ league, Aquaria says she’s excited to see what comes next.
“It’s definitely been very uplifting and inspiring to see lots of really positive energy coming from this season. Especially from queens like Heidi N Closet who’ve brought a little bit of sunshine into the world. I think that’s very special.
“I think it goes without saying I feel very terrible for the kind of hand they’ve been dealt in all sorts of ways, but it’s pretty clear that it’d take a lot to bring this season down.”
She is, of course, referring to the double-whammy of Drag Race’s Sherry Pie controversy — which at the start of the season prompted producers to take the unprecedented step of disqualifying a contestant after the show had been recorded — and the way in which lockdown has impacted not only the season finale, but also the queens’ nascent careers.
“It’s all been uphill from the COVIDs and the Pies and whatnot,” she says. Given how well the producers have minimised the damage that could have followed, she feels that the biggest upset for the queens has turned out to be them being robbed of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I feel like it’s doing them a disservice, to not have the insane butterflies and fears and intimidation factor of doing it on the big stage, with an audience in front of RuPaul,” she explains.
“It’s definitely not the most ideal situation, but it might turn out to be something a whole lot more entertaining than you might expect. Who would have expected Sasha Velour to have that massive moment at her finale? You never know until you try it. Maybe digital is just the way to go. I hope not. But maybe it is.”
She jokes: “You might be going through Drag Race, but you ain’t gonna be a Drag Race girl until you experience that!”
When the time comes, Aquaria says she’s looking forward to welcoming the season 12 girls into the fold proper.
“Some of the most fun experiences – and some of the least fun experiences – of my Drag Race journey was all the traveling, being in the club working and doing meet and greets until 4am, when you have to be on a flight in two hours.
“That’s the struggle, the fun, the excitement, the exhilaration that you don’t really get to experience lip syncing from your house.”
While the season 12 queens have been robbed of this – albeit, hopefully only temporarily – Aquaria is heartened to see the support fans and her fellow alumni are giving them from afar.
“I know people will take the time and put a lot of emphasis and effort into giving these girls what they deserve. They won’t be yesterday’s news when All Stars 5 starts, people will still be really interested in meeting and supporting them and helping them grow, because they didn’t get to have this year to catapult them into this industry as much as they should and could. “
On the topic of All Stars, I can’t resist asking Aquaria whether she’d join in for the fabled winners season, should it ever materialise.
Mysteriously, she says she’d never say never – but admits the current circumstances might help.
“They could have me come back to work in the art department, or lighting or something – I’ll be the ‘five minute warning’ Untucked guy, just please give me something to do right now!”
Aquaria has teamed up with Motorola Razr #flipyourlook challenge, inspiring fans to create looks with old and/or unworn garments and accessories.
For every post tagged with #flipyourlook and @motorolaUS, $50 will be donated to Ali Forney’s COVID-19 relief fund – a cause close to Aquaria’s own heart which supports affected LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness in New York at this already stressful time. Aquaria will also be selecting a lucky winner to receive a new Razr phone.
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