RuPaul's Drag Race winner Aquaria: Drag gives 'hope' when 'we lose faith in our country and ourselves'
Every hole is a goal, and the latest winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race used her powerful charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to fill the biggest void of her life upon taking the sought-after season 10 crown Thursday night. After a spectacular one-two punch of dazzling lip-synchs against fellow top three finalists Eureka and Kameron Michaels, 22-year-old New York City queen Aquaria became the youngest victor in Drag Race herstory, bounding past her competition with charming wit, her signature woke sensibility, and (literal) pyrotechnic flair. The morning after her victory, EW caught up with the reigning royal to discuss all that’s on the horizon at the dawning of the age of Aquaria. Read on for the full conversation.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hello Aquaria! Congratulations, I’m so happy for you!
AQUARIA: Helloooooo! I did it! Winner winner, chicken dinner! I’m so [unintelligible].
I’m sorry, you’re breaking up a bit. You’re so what?
I might have won $100,000, but I still have Sprint. So, this is going to be difficult.
I do too, we have a double issue.
Well, f— both of our drag!
So, it’s the morning after. What are you feeling right now?
I’m feeling great! I just woke up, I’m like, eating some sushi from the market, and keeping it humble. Where I live there aren’t many people who congratulate me for being on the show, but just walking on the street on my way home, everyone was congratulating me for winning! So, I guess more people have cable here than I expected.
I mean, girl, you said it: Every hole is a goal, and it must feel like you’ve conquered the biggest hole of them all if people are recognizing you on the street.
There was a big, gaping f—ing hole in my life, and now I can just enjoy everyone’s love for me, which is extremely nice compared to what I’m used to.
You saw this win coming though, didn’t you?
I walked into the season saying I should win, and the entire season was just a struggle for me to try to convince the producers that I should win.
So you weren’t genuinely surprised?
I was definitely surprised that I won. I know that I had to overcome a lot of things to get to this point, and watching myself win was definitely a very shocking moment for me. I saw something great happening because of how well I did and how well I did on the night of the finale, but sometimes stats don’t matter in Drag Race and sometimes other things take a backseat, so this is a total blank slate for what could happen. I know I made it as far as I possibly could…and to watch that was surreal.
Did you hear from your drag mother, [season 4 winner] Sharon Needles, yet?
She may have texted me, but I literally have not gone through my phone yet. I literally woke up and went to get sushi. But that’s it.
As a queen does: picks herself up, goes to get some market sushi… just another day in the life of a royal.
Just keeping it humble! [Laughs]
Miz Cracker told me you once told her that you have so many faces that you’re a sphere.
That is what I said, yes!
So I’m wondering which face you displayed during the finale, and which one you hope people see over the next year as the reigning queen?
At the finale, I was very speechless the whole evening. I don’t think I necessarily knew how to deal with a lot of my emotions the best way that night. Not in that I didn’t deal with them publicly, there were just so many emotions. For me, I was speechless at the time. But for now, I know that a dark lip looks good on me — especially when I’m smiling. So, smiles all the way around! I could not be more happy. This is obviously everything I wanted going into the competition, and I finally made it to the spotlight. No one will make it further than I made it. It’s just a whole lot of smiles!
What do you hope to do with the crown? Do you think you have a responsibility to affect change, and what kinds of changes within the community are realistically possible while you have this platform?
I think we’ve seen for a couple of seasons now that substantial change is not necessarily totally possible, given a yearlong reign. I think change needs to come from the people who need change, you know? All I can do is continue to amplify the voices of others and try to get the current message across. That’s the best that I can do.
When Sasha Velour won, she told me she views drag as a form of activism, and that she plans to use drag as a tool of resistance. Do you feel the same way about drag in today’s political climate, that it’s a political or social tool — especially for young people, whom you really have connected with this season in terms of the fanbase you’ve built up?
Drag has always been very political and challenging of societal norms and other aspects of life. And for me, I definitely agree with that. Sometimes my drag is not as political as other people’s, but I think that coming from a perspective where I’m so used to it. I sometimes forget that my vision of the world is not remotely anyone else’s. I’m not like, “Woah, I’m political!” I’m more of a person who does and not necessarily says.
What do you think is the ideal world for drag to exist in, because, clearly, we’re not in a space right now where it’s accepted by everyone?
The world we live in right now continues to try us each day. There are many times where we lose faith in our country and ourselves, and I think drag is definitely a form of entertainment and a form of hope that tells us we have to hope for a brighter future.
One of my friends, Evan Ross Katz at Mic, just wrote something very sweet about you on Facebook that struck me: “Aquaria desires to understand others before prioritizing being understood himself.” What do you think he means?
Aw! I think that’s definitely true. Just as many queer people have experienced, there are times where people in school don’t understand us or people in society don’t understand us, so I feel like growing up [that way], I’m just used to not being understood. I understand that’s just the life that I live. I do know that there are so many other different viewpoints and perspectives and things for me to learn, and I know that is more important than what I have to say or whatever message I have to put across. I definitely understand the weight of more marginalized people, and that’s the reason why I’m more apt to understanding others than worrying about myself being understood. Me being understood, that’s something that is a lot more palatable to some areas of the society than others people’s. I’m just a skinny white girl, and that’s easy for people to take in. But that gives me the second to listen to the voices of others.
Do you think maybe that’s why you were regarded as the “woke white queen” of the season, to the point that some of your season 10 sisters saying they wanted “everybody black and Aquaria” to win?
I definitely did not just awaken on Drag Race, but there definitely was an outlet as far as the viewers were concerned of being present. So, being lumped in that “everyone black and Aquaria” category, it was very meaningful because it was coming from a lot of the girls I respect from the show, and it made me feel and know that whatever is perceived about me in the past is truly the past perception that was untrue. It was nice and validating to know that people didn’t think I was as rotten as they could have assumed me to be.
You are, though, the youngest winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race — and probably the first winner raised in a drag world that had already been impacted by Drag Race’s influence in pop culture. Is winning sort of coming full circle from what got you started in the medium in the first place?
For sure. I had many reference points to drag beyond RuPaul’s Drag Race, but it was something that was so impactful in the media in my early adolescence. From the second I saw it, I related to it…it came across as the Super Bowl of drag to me. And I think it continues to do that now. As a drag performer, I knew this platform was the most effective way to get my name out there.
RuPaul — as host, mentor, and creative inspiration — decides who's in and who's out.