'RuPaul's Drag Race': A chat with America's Next Drag Superstar Raja
America’s Next Drag Superstar Raja was crowned in last night’s season finale. And while we didn’t get to hear much from her afterward — “The cash is mine, and I am America’s Next Drag Superstar!” was her post-crowning quip — Raja just spoke with EW in a quick interview in which she addresses everything from how she’s feeling at this moment and her philosophy of drag to what she really thinks of Shangela and where she thinks she’ll be in 10 years. The most poignant moment of the phone call? Probably when Raja copped to being frustrated by all people out there who hate her. “I can’t say that I love having haters,” Raja said. “I would rather not have that because I’m a very sensitive person, and I don’t think I’m as big of a villain as people would like to portray me being.” Read all that and more below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hi, Raja! Congrats! How are you feeling with the win?
RAJA: You know, every time I watch the episodes, it’s kind of like reliving the moments again. It definitely felt emotional. You know, you just relive the whole thing. All the emotions come flying back in. It’s a great feeling.
You were a front runner from the beginning, at least from the viewers’ perspective. Did it feel that way on the inside?
I definitely went in very confident. You have to go into this with your boxing gloves and your dukes up. You have to be ready. You have to be prepared for it. There were moments where I actually started to question myself, where I thought maybe my ideas and my philosophy of drag were too progressive for the show and it might have been misunderstood. I started to question myself, you know, for a moment. I thought that might have been the reason why I may have been kicked off sooner.
You mentioned your philosophy of drag. What is your philosophy of drag?
I feel like drag is just an expression of femininity — or masculinity, if you’re a drag king. And it’s just kind of playing with the idea of gender a little bit and toying with it and being provocative about it. You know, making people think a little bit. Some have called it “smart drag,” and that’s the greatest compliment I could ever get.
When you went into it, did you have a strategy? If you did, what was it?
My only real strategy was to really put 110 percent in, to really show off what I do and put as much of myself out there as I can so that people can truly see what it is that I do. And again, I just wanted to use my brain and make my drag feel more thought out and educated.
In the promos, they called you “the chameleon.” How do you feel about that?
I love it. I am a karma-chameleon who will bring the house down.
That’s what made you exciting every week. We never knew what to expect with you.
I’m a person who’s very voracious for new ideas, to see new things. I’m constantly taking inspiration from the the things that are around me. It could be the slightest thing. I think we’re being given a gift every day of the things around us, and we should raw inspiration from everything.
Your look last night — the judges called it an All That Jazz look. What was your inspiration for that?
I’ve always said that, if there were ever a great memorial or funeral for me, “Cabaret” would be the song played for me there. I really wanted to play homage to that idea of Liza, but I gave it my own modern, more fashionable, take. I wanted to take my crown without tips. That was my whole point. It wasn’t about all those little bits and pieces. It’s really more about what’s going on in your head and how you portray what is feminine and masculine.
Was that your favorite look? If not, what was your favorite look from the season?
I think my favorite look was probably my Amazonian avatar or whatever that tribal look was. I remember when we were asked to wear our own drag and what looked like us, I toyed with a few different costumes that I wanted to wear and that one was the one that I chose. Of course, I kind of questioned myself a little bit — I was like, Wow, this might be a little bit too scary for everyone — but I put it on and it just made so much sense. This is me, this is what I look like, and it was definitely a great representation of who I am as a drag queen. I love the idea of things that are global.
It was striking, and it stands out for sure. It reminds me of something that’d be in that movie Apocalypto, that movie that Mel Gibson directed in 2006.
I love a Mel Gibson movie, oh my gosh.
What was your favorite challenge?
I think my favorite challenge was the first one that I happened to win. I’m a big thrift shopper, I’m all about a flea market. I was like, This is a challenge? How difficult is this? I’ve been doing this my whole entire life. I’m always remaking or reinventing old clothes and found objects, and that was like, wow, it was handed to me on a plate.
Let’s do a little word association, where you tell me what comes to mind when I say something. First up: Shangela!
Stacy Layne Matthews.
Sweet tea. How about that?
The Pit Crew.
If you could lay out your career going forward, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ideally, I would love to have an influential career like RuPaul has had, you know? He’s definitely a template, and he’s the one to look up to and to want to emulate and follow. I would like that ideally. But in between now and 10 years, I think there’s going to be a lot of experimentation, maybe with music. I don’t know. I’ve always been kind of that person who just goes with it. So we’ll see what happens. I really don’t have a clear idea. Right now, it’s just this really beautiful, bright mosaic in front of me. I can’t really tell what it is yet, but it’s definitely there and it’s vibrant and it’s really exciting.
You mentioned music. People are wondering: Will we see an album from you soon?
We’re playing with some ideas now. I have a song coming out on May 3. We’re just doing something for fans to nibble and chew on before the really big stuff comes. I experiment with a lot of ideas — it’s kind of what I do as an artist — and it’s kind of the thing to do now if you’re on Drag Race, you kind of put out an album. We’ll see what happens. I’m just having a great time toying with the idea of it and getting to record a little bit. Putting the headphones on and screaming into the microphone a bit is so much fun. I never thought I would get to do so many fun things.
On our message boards here on EW.com, there’s a lot of love for you — and a lot of vitriol. Some people think that any reaction is a success, but how does all the love and hate make you feel?
I can’t say that I love having haters. I would rather not have that because I’m a very sensitive person, and I don’t think I’m as big of a villain as people would like to portray me being. But going into this I knew that that was going to happen because that’s been the case for most of my life: Either people really absolutely love me and understand me and want to support me, or they don’t quite understand. So it’s fine. It’s a part of the territory. I’m okay with it, but I have to say, I don’t really like the idea. I don’t prefer having haters. I want everyone to love me, but it is what it is.
Is next week’s reunion episode juicy? What can we expect?
I can tell you it’s going to be a visual smogasbord. I think we all really showed off this time. The outfits are terrific. I really found that it was a really warm moment. We actually got to connect and apologize and forgive and hash things out. I think the most exciting part of it, though, would be the visual. We got to put everything on at once, and I love it.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans out there?
I just want to thank all of anyone who has supported me throughout this entire competition. You know, I am very appreciative to have such a great group of fans, and I love it, and I just would suggest that everyone question reality. What is that you find real in your life? That would be it.
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