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Raja on All Stars, The Eyeconic Tour and the ‘5 original RuPaul costumes’ in her closet

Exclusive: "Ru gave us local queens trash bags of clothing assigned to each of us!" The icon talks balance, identity and owning RuPaul's robe from the ‘Supermodel (You Better Work)’ video

By Jamie Tabberer

Raja of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars: All Winners fame
Raja of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars: All Winners fame (Image: Provided)

“My mum, who’s a Virgo, used to get angry with me [as a kid] because my favourite thing to tell her was: ‘Whatever!’” says a Clueless-channelling Raja of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars: All Winners fame, after we praise the franchise veteran’s famously chilled and balanced energy.

“That’s really how I feel about life,” explains the star. “You get the day, and some duties and responsibilities you’re meant to go through… But really — fuck it! Whatever!”

Suffice to say, after this mind-expanding chat, we want the Queen of She Done Already Done Had Herses as our life coach. 

You’ve started a cult, what is it about?

Duality. Finding a balance. A connection to nature. But also super-duper loving high-end and luxurious things as well! 

What do you want on your gravestone?

I don’t think I’ll have an epitaph for myself. It doesn’t sound right. I’d prefer my ashes spread somewhere important — the ocean in Indonesia.

What’s your earliest memory of living in Bali as an infant?

Playing marching band with makeshift instruments with my older sister and some of the children from the neighbouring village, through the grid of rice fields over the fence of our house! 

How would you describe your relationship with spirituality?

I’m connected to the higher power, but I don’t subscribe to anything in particular.

How did you spend your All Stars winnings?

Honey, it was $50,000. That’s six months of bills! And there are taxes involved! I spent it responsibly. I’m still spending it — that’s how responsible I am!

What do you have coming up?

I have a wine coming up, finally. I joked about it on Drag Race: “Wine and complain!” And I’m putting together The Iconic Tour for next summer, taking my time, piecing it together. So far it’s only in the US, but we’re talking about the UK. 

Raja on… the genesis of her name

My rejected drag names were Sister Dominion — it lasted a week — and Crayola; all the colours in the box. Raja came in the early 90s. My friend worked at Disneyland and told me about this new film, Aladdin, and the tiger in it, Raja! It clicked. I’m Indonesian, Raja means ‘King’. At that time, it was popular for huge stars to have one name. Madonna. Cher. And I was born in the Year of the Tiger! 

Raja on… her earliest memory or RuPaul

It was here in LA. The early 00s, while she had a lull in her career. She was figuring stuff out; I believe she’d got sober. Her favourite thing to do was to make an appearance at every drag show available — pre-Drag Race, of course, so still in that stage of being a subculture — no matter how high or low end. Sometimes she’d hold the spotlight for us! 

She was a huge presence. When she moved to New York and was emptying out her closet, she gave us local queens trash bags of clothing assigned to each of us; costumes that she knew would fit us. In my closet right now I have five original RuPaul costumes, including the very robe she wore in the ‘Supermodel (You Better Work)’ video! 

Raja on… her gender identity

I’m doing my best to adopt the vocabularies. I suppose I’d say I’m they/them. I’ve been nonbinary my entire life, before that was even a term. But I’m learning about it and trying to use it. But I don’t really care, actually. I don’t mind if people call me he, she, they, them. To me, it’s whatever makes others feel comfortable. There are more important things in my life than words and terms — personally, for me. I feel that’s the same for anyone in my generation. I still know well-known people of trans experience who are not afraid and offended by the ‘T word’, if you will. They find it funny, endearing. But that’s where we come from: a different time. Those things don’t offend me unless they’re used offensively. You feel the tone of it when they’re like: “He!” 

The Podium: Raja on whose drag of these SE3 queens she relates to least and most  

3rd – Shangela 

Shangela is a huge talent. Her drag is more about that flawless beat and look. I relate a little less to this because I like to get messy and string things together by hand. There’s power in both approaches. 

2nd – Alexis Mateo 

I love Alexis Mateo’s drag because it’s a complete brand. Her and I have that in common: we have our signatures and there’s a confidence that comes from knowing this is a look that is so her. I love that she is willing to take risks. 

1st – Manila Luzon 

We relate the most because we channel a lot of the same inspiration. We understand the importance of references to build a layered look. I could tell her: “We’re going 18th century, a touch of McQueen…” and she’ll understand it.