Confidence, biting wit and the performance chops to back it up, at only 21 years old Aquaria set a very high bar when she claimed the title of Season 10 winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Unlike many of the queens who have appeared on the show, Aquaria came armed with an existing social media following — that now numbers at over 1 million followers — and international touring experience. That pre-show preparation made her one of the most versatile contestants to ever grace the “Drag Race” stage, as she easily switched from hyperfemininity, androgyny, to everything in-between and back again. Her status as a winner and a fan-favorite queen also earned her a spot on the RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour, that highlights fan favorite performers. Now, local fans can get excited as she’ll be making her way to Detroit’s own Sound Board at MotorCity Casino Hotel on Wednesday, Sept. 12.
Performing alongside her will be “Drag Race” runner-ups Asia O’Hara, Kameron Michaels, Eureka as well as veteran queens Kim Chi, Valentina and Violet Chachki. In the middle of a busy international tour schedule, Aquaria found time to chat with BTL about the inspiration for her various looks, the secret behind her high-impact performance style and to lay down a little hard-earned insight for any would-be drag queens.
Watching you perform and work a room, one gets the sense that you’ve had a lot of experience on stage. Did you train professionally in dance or theater?
Yeah. Not necessarily theater, but I studied dance all throughout high school. I started a little late, but very often boys start dance late. I knew that I had to work really hard at that to get back on par with the rest of the girls in my classes, so that’s something that’s a big passion. I built myself up to a decent level of dance knowledge.
Were you always drawn to music and performing?
Totally. I think I have a strong musicality and I think that has definitely helped me emote and has helped my body language and movement, but also I am naturally a very athletic person. I’ve always been very into sports and dance. So, for me, when I do drag now, I love to get out a lot of energy on stage. Which can get a little out of hand, but I have learned to control the calmer moments of songs, and go harder for the fiercer parts.
How is preparing a performance for Werq the World different from what you normally do, or what you did on the show?
We start with a choreographed number which is on the easier side of choreography because everyone is doing it, but for my solo number, I love choreography. I love doing dances that are prepared and been tested. So, my number is me and dancers and it’s just like any drag pageant-type number. Lots of high-energy dance moves, a lot of exciting lifts and theatrical explorations, per say. And, you know, being a fierce, pop star-type entertainer, I want to give you the full show which comes with a hell of a lot of dancing — and it keeps me in shape so I love that.
At the start of your career, you’ve done a lot more than many other queens. Did you think that you were underestimated by the other contestants on season 10?
I feel like I thought that everyone kind of understood that I was fairly well-rounded when it comes to drag and very open to trying different things and trying to excel at them. I think they were kind of underestimating me, maybe because I was the young one or maybe because I gained a lot of my following and popularity through Instagram — a lot through social media prior to the show. Or just because they thought of me as, “Yeah, you put down fierce looks, but can you apply that to performances and stuff like that?” I guess some of that has to do with my age, but for sure plenty of the girls didn’t see me, at least initially, going as far as I did. I think also in the competition there were so many opportunities at areas where I could excel and really prove myself as a very legitimate competitor.
You’ve said before that you’ve been watching the show since it came out, around the time when you were in middle school, do you think it impacted your drag?
I had been watching the show for a good part of my life, so on the stage, definitely. There’s so much that drag is beyond “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but it’s still a very great example of a competition that has the well-roundedness of a queen. You know, if you’re not great on “Drag Race” that doesn’t mean you’re not great or well-rounded, but it is still a different barometer of that. And I think growing up per se with the show, it did help inform me on how to be the best me I could be. Whether that was being mindful of what my looks are because of critiques girls have had in the past, or I see some girls make a mistake in a lip-sync number and then I can learn from that and go, ‘Oh, when I do that, I’d better not do this one thing because this girl tried and it was really terrible.’ I think as someone who was learning about drag as the show was airing, it has a lot of great examples of what to do, what not to do and lots of things you can learn.
Is there anything you’re really looking forward to as a career milestone? Maybe exploring different mediums?
The other day (was) just the anniversary of the day that I got the call to be on “Drag Race” and we see how crazy things have become in a year. Obviously, not every year in my life am I going to be on a hit, Emmy Award-winning show and have all the craziness and opportunities that come with that, but there’s so much that can change in a year that I don’t know how I could even set a goal for myself or foresee anything for my future right now because everything is so unbelievable. I’m not certain where to go from already being at my best moment, all this craziness, but I really want to continue my work in the fashion field and art in general. So, whatever that means, I don’t quite know yet, but I love doing what makes me happy and finding a way of making a living off that. I’m really grateful for being able to do that so far and I can’t wait to continue to apply drag to all different areas of my life and hopefully make a living off that way past me being 30. And maybe I’m not even doing drag at that point, and I’m doing something else crazy and exciting.
What is some advice that you’d give to queens who are your age or younger who have always wanted to do drag, but haven’t been able to yet?
For me, I’ve met so many people at meet-and-greets and in other areas of my life who have just expressed how inspiring it is to see a younger person being so driven and hardworking and really going up and trying to get what I want out of life. So, for young people looking to get into drag or anything, my advice is the same: do whatever makes you happy. Put your mind where your heart is and just whatever you’re doing, do to the best of your ability that you can each day and know that you can’t succeed and get better and flourish and (be) stronger if you don’t practice and try new things and put yourself out there. Literally, my advice is the Nike slogan: “Just Do It.” You really do have to do it. Just fucking do it. Literally, whether you don’t think you’re good enough or don’t think you’ll succeed, there’s all these different barriers that we put up for ourselves or in general by society or financial situation or something. There are so many things in life that are trying to stop you from doing what you want, but you have to try for those things not to get you. You have to push yourself more and more each day to be the best.