Her name was etched in sorrow, but now it's blasted in lights - or so the story goes after Asia O'Hara's tear to the grand finale of RuPaul's Drag Race season 10 came to an abrupt end (along with the lives of several insects) after *that* butterfly-filled final lipsync performance.
It was an exit that didn't befit one of the season's most consistently starry queens, and risked overshadowing a 12-episode run in which Asia had provided some of the most candid and thought-provoking commentary in Drag Race herstory on issues like racism, acceptance, and the real meaning of community.
In true pageant fashion however, Asia is refusing to look back, and as she prepares for her first ever trip to the UK next month with fellow finalists Aquaria and Kameron Michaels in tow for 'The Trio Tour', Attitude's Will Stroude caught up with the 35-year-old Texan to discuss racism in the fandom, the future of RuPaul's Drag Race, and just what went down with Bebe Rexha...
How are you feeling now the finale’s aired and season 10 has come to a close?
I feel great. It was definitely a wonderful opportunity and a great experience. I think with all of us in the top four, there comes a little sigh of relief when the competition aspect of the season is over with. But it was a great experience and I’m very happy with how everything turned out.
I have to ask about that final lip-sync: What was going through your mind during that performance?
Well definitely the first second I realised it wasn’t going to work and of course there was a great deal of disappointment and panic, like ‘Oh my God, this is the most important performance of my career’. So definitely that, but also I just thought I can’t be completely 100% defeated, I have to make it through this moment, and I still have to hold my head high.
Did you feel a lot of pressure that there had to be a big reveal going in?
Absolutely. There’s a great deal of pressure. I think with anything that’s in a competitive nature, everybody’s’ always trying to be ahead of the game or have the next great idea.
Who did you consider your biggest competition going into the final?
Definitely my biggest competition would have been Aquaria. She proved time and time again throughout the competition that she had what it takes to go all the way, so definitely I went the final knowing that competitively she was my biggest competition.
Speaking of Aquaria, what did you make of all the drama between her and Bebe Rexha, after Bebe’s tweet that the final four were cold to her at an event?
I have no recollection of that at all. I mean, I was there hoping for the chance to meet Bebe Rexha and as far as I understood that opportunity never presented itself. I don’t recall ever being in the same room as anyone. That’s something we all went into hoping we would get the chance to meet her and I don’t recall that opportunity ever arising.
It was a season of big emotional reveals for a lot of the queens, and one of your most memorable moments was your conversation with The Vixen about racial bias within the show’s fanbase and world at large. What’s your experience of that been like since season 10 began airing?
I mean it’s inevitable for any non-majority queen that goes on the show. You’re going to encounter it at some point or another.
Would your message be to the LGBT community with that in mind?
I think it’s a double-edged sword to constantly demand our own validation and respect and rights from our [straight] counterparts but within our own community still be so separating and segregating. It’s counter-productive to what we’ve been fighting for for decades. People should just think about that long and hard when they’re building relationships and friendships with people.
We saw you get very emotional after The Vixen walked out of the reunion, and a lot of viewers praised you for the way you handled the situation and taking Ru to task about it. Were you worried about challenging him in that way?
I didn’t read much into it at that time, it was just natural conversation between two people at the time for me. I didn’t think of it to the magnitude that most people think of [it]. So I wasn’t worried, it was just a conversation with someone, sharing their opinions or viewpoint with me. I didn’t really consider it much more than that.
You’re heading to the UK on The Trio Tour with Aquaria and Kameron – what can fans expect from the show?
I think it offers a lot of versatility. Aquaria, Kameron and I are all very different entertainers and all bring a lot of different elements to the stage. There’s something for everyone. It’s packed with entertainment.
…will there be butterflies?
[laughs] You’ll have to come and see!
Is there a reason Eureka isn’t involved too?
It’s just logistics. It’s just conflicting schedules, and she’ll be working with us a lot later in the fall and winter. That was just logistics with people’s schedules thus far with who was available when. That’s all there is behind that.
Which queens have you particularly stayed in touch with since the show ended?
Definitely Monét X Change. Her and I ironically grew closer after the show [ended]. After we got back from filming her and I really started to feel the love and nuture a friendship. So she’s the one I would put ahead of everyone else.
You’ve also branched out into music with ‘Queen for Tonight’ – though you said on the show that you didn’t consider yourself a singer! Was that something you felt passionate about doing?
You know, I’m passionate about creating things from scratch and creating art from scratch, and whether it’s wardrobing or costuming or fashion or music, sometimes projects inspire me. I definitely strand by the fact that I’m not a singer, but if I happen to be inspired to create something that’s musical, I’m definitely going to do it.
In the run-up to the final a lot of your outfits involved completely masking your face, which was a drastic sea-change from what we’d seen of you throughout season 10. What was the meaning behind that?
The thing is, there comes a point in each season where non-majority queens start to fade from the front-row, and they start to disappear and become invisible. And if you look at any non-majority queen’s work schedule or social media or anything of that nature, it’s very evident that that continues after the show is wrapped. So that style of dress was just a physical representation of how I felt I was being perceived in that very moment. It’s interesting that only when people are presented with a physical representation of how they’re perceiving [something] that they even notice.
Do you think there’s more that Drag Race can do as a show to address these issues?
I mean, I definitely think we could benefit from more positive opportunities that come from the show. We have things like the Reading Challenge, and things that just perpetuate the community focusing on things they don’t like about other people. Obviously it’s a competitions and each week’s someone’s going to go home, but I just think that the LGBT community as a whole has an underlying thing of singling out people that we feel are not ‘our’ symbol. Any LGBT outlet that has any kind of fanbase or influence can definitely do small things to tackle that.
I know you’ll have been asked a thousand times but I still have to ask: Would you go back into the workroom for another shot at the crown on All Stars?
I’m not certain at this very moment – and that’s not me being evasive. It depends if and when I get a call and what’s going on in my life a that moment. Today may be completely different to a month from now. I’m not opposed, but I’m not gung-ho about going back into the workroom and competing again.
Do you feel like you’d struggle with the format of having to send your ‘sisters’ home?
I don’t think so. You know, there were several times on season 10 when we were asked who should go home at that very moment – and for me it’s based solely on the competition. I would not be a person that sends people home based solely on personal feelings or drama between us. I think part of being friends with someone, especially in entertainment, is being able to tell them when they need improvement.
You were definitely very clear about saying Miz Cracker didn’t seem like a star to you, and we saw in the reunion episode that was something which clearly affect her. Have you talked about it further outside the show?
Yes, we’ve had extensive talks about it. We had almost six months after the season filmed before coming back for the reunion, so we’ve talked about it several times. We’ve always been good. Emotions are definitely at a level when you’re in competition an things get drawn out of proportion, but Miz Cracker and I are both adults and certainly don’t have any problems picking up the phone and calling each other and talking through our differences and problems and coming to an understanding and respect for each other’s point of view.
Aquaria is Drag Race’s youngest winner yet, and a lot was made of the fact that her fashion and looks represent a 'new generation' of drag. Do you feel that it can be slightly harder for the older, more established queens to break through on the show?
Yes, because the thing is, younger queens grew up seeing RuPaul’s Drag Race as the epitome of drag, so a great deal of their drag has been developed around what creates success in that particular outlet. For people who were doing drag prior to that, there were other things you had to look to for examples of how to be great or successful.
So going into the competition, for those of us that spent a considerable amount of time aspiring to be other things, you have to retrain everything you do and kind of go back to scratch in order to make sure everything you do is going to make you successful on Drag Race. It’s like being on a PC you’re entire life then having to learn how to use a Mac!
Asia O'Hara comes to the UK as part of The Trio Tour next month. For dates and tickets click here.