“Drag Race” contestant Aja says Drag is performance, look and “brand”

"RuPauls Drag Race" contestant Aja
"RuPauls Drag Race" contestant Aja
“RuPauls Drag Race” contestant Aja

Aja may have been eliminated from RuPaul’s Drag Race after a scorching lip sync with Nina Bonina Brown, but she shows no signs of showing down. From her single “C.L.A.T.” with her fellow Season Nine New York sisters, to her world travels promoting both her drag and her brand, bet that we will be seeing a lot more of Aja. I sat down with her and we went deep on the political movement that exists within drag, and what it takes to make it as a queen in today’s drag world.

You are the first of the New York ladies to go. How does it feel to have been eliminated at this point in the competition? 

Aja: It was definitely a wake-up call, and I realized that I should have looked into my gut feelings about a lot of things on the show before I did them. I think it really helped shape me to be a better queen though, and I am kind of happy with where I placed regardless. I think if I had made it really far, I would not have grown as much. You know, it’s not really about winning to me. I went on the show ready to have fun. To me, having fun is what it’s about because you don’t let anybody sweat you!

I ended up getting really competitive, and then it turned into becoming me vs. me. That is a big thing with competitions, where you really get in your own head. That definitely had a lot to play in my departure. I believe that if I had not gone through that, I would not have been able to really learn from the experience.

Your legendary remarks about Valentina in Untucked are now going to go down in Drag Race history!

Aja: You know what’s funny about that, I got home and had some of that good old vodka and thought I was going to look like a crazy person (laughs).

I thought it was hilarious! I watched it and said to myself I am insane! A lot of people thought I was really angry or really mad at Valentina, but I was just having a day. I don’t give a shit, fuck everybody; I was just in that mood. I was just ready to explode at any moment; like a volcano, I was hot-headed, what can I say?

That scene has become its own house track now and really taken on a life of its own. 

Aja: You know, that’s what is so insane about it. I never thought something like this would blow up. You know what, I may not have won the challenge, but I won something!

"RuPauls Drag Race" contestant Aja
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant Aja

You are now moving past Drag Race and the world is yours! What do you want to do with the platform that Drag Race has given you? 

I am going to do a lot. I am already on tour and traveling the world. You know, performing at bars and nightclubs, it is really essential to being a Drag Race girl and I love it, but I want to do so much more as well. I am also working on music, and working on short fashion films. I am really working on a lot of content to remain memorable, but at the same time, I am going to be a voice for our community. As someone who is part of this big queer community in New York, I think it is necessary to travel and make people feel comfortable and included. Many people have this stigma that Drag Race girls are really stuck up, and also that there’s this local girl vs. “Ru Girl” competition that popped up a few years ago and I just don’t think that makes sense. Everywhere I go I want the queens to feel like they are superstars. Because we are all in the same business doing the same thing, you know?

The “Ru Girl” vs. local girl undercurrent has become much more spoken about now, and it is refreshing to hear you talk about it and do your part to be inclusive. 

Aja: Let me tell you something. There are a lot of girls, including myselfwho were traveling before RuPaul’s Drag Race; Peppermint and Shea Coulee were traveling as well. There are a lot of people who can achieve their dreams if they just work for it, and you can’t blame anyone else. If you put your mind to it and worry about you and just tunnel vision to the end, you will achieve it.

That is really how you make it on Drag Race, period. I think it’s all about remembering that drag is about a performance and look, but it’s also about a brand. You have to sell your brand to people and sell yourself. If people don’t want to buy you, you are not selling yourself properly. I think that applies to Drag Race and I think it applies to getting bookings in the real world. I think if anyone is complaining about that, it is more about coming down to Earth, putting your ego in check, and taming that ego. At the end of the day, we all have the same problems; we’re drag queens! [Laughs]. It’s aaall bout having a little more humility, a little of that goes a long way.

You are a New York City girl, and there are so many queens who could really rock it out on the main stage. What hometown girls do you think would be incredible on the show?

Aja: From my city, there are a lot of queens, and these young girls that are coming up, they are beyond. They are talented, they look gorgeous, all of it. To name one would be impossible; I have too many names to name. Any young queen from New York who has a dream and is ambitious enough, that’s the girl I want to see. Any girl that is going to go on the show and be real, and speak her mind and not care what anyone is going to say, that is who we want to see. We don’t want to see someone who is just pretty or talented, I want to see someone who has something to say. Drag does not have to be political, but it sure can get political. I love it when a queen has a lot to say.

In terms of politics, do you think that you have a responsibility now to be an even larger voice than ever before?

Aja: I’m going to say yes. I think there are a lot of ways to speak up without necessarily saying anything at all. It’s like Martin Luther King said when he said, “Resist.” You don’t have to literally get up and antagonize anyone, or be the offender. All you have to do is work in the background and change little things. Even if those little things are enlightening others and lightening the mood of our community as a whole, those things all go a long way. With Drag Race on VH1 and hitting the mainstream, it’s really doing it.

We would be remiss if we did not talk about your new club track with your fellow New York Season Nine sisters, “C.L.A.T.Â.” Looks like Mitch Ferrino did it again!

Aja: When they told me that they wanted to do a song about New York, I said it either has the potential to be really terrible or really good. It all came together and we all wrote our own parts. I did kind of like a ’90s house track, Peppermint wanted to do the vocals, Sasha directed and art-designed, and Alexis helped piece it all together. It was a great collaborative effort.

What do you want everyone to know about Aja going forward?

Aja: I just want everyone to know that I am just like everyone else. I am a crazy person living in this crazy world and I am just human. I think my actions speak for themselves and I think something that people will gather from the show is that I am just a normal person. You can see, when I react on the show I am really reacting. If anyone is kind of like antagonizing me, they have to realize, we may be drag queens, but we are human. We have feelings too.