Seen by many as Aquaria’s biggest competition for securing the crown, Asia O’Hara sputtered out quickly during the RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10 finale on Thursday night.
An attempt to reveal live butterflies hidden in her outfit during the night’s first lip sync against Kameron Michaels was an unsuccessful stunt, one where O’Hara apologized for endangering the live animals.
And though her exit was anything but dazzling, her time on the show was entirely the inverse. Between her stunning runways, her maternal instincts toward the other queens and her willingness to speak out for what she believed in, Asia may not have won, but she certainly did not lose.
Mic spoke with her about the elimination and what’s next for her drag career.
Mic: Gotta begin by asking, how are you feeling this morning?
Asia O’Hara: I feel great. I will not lie, in that it’s a sigh of relief that the competition is over. I’m very excited for Aquaria, and I’m very excited to see what she has to offer the world. I am excited to get on the road and get to meet some new people and share my art with the rest of the world.
How were you feeling immediately after the finale taping, ‘cause there’s been a few weeks between filming and now?
AO: You know, I think preparation for the finale probably starts the moment you realize you have gotten cast for the competition. You start to think, “What do I want to present?” “What can I do to win?” A lot of sketching and drawing and looking at fabrics and listening to music and really trying to decide who your authentic self is and how best to represent that on stage.
A lot has been made of your conversation with Ru during the reunion and your defense of The Vixen. I’m curious for your response to the response. Did you realize that would be the most talked about moment from the reunion?
AO: No because it wasn’t that big of a deal to me. To me it wasn’t me sticking up for The Vixen or pushing back at Ru, it was me having an intelligent conversation with like-minded adults about issues that I felt were important and prevalent especially at the time. So no, I didn’t expect people to pay it much attention at all.
Were you surprised with how many people connected with the sentiment you were expressing?
I was because I didn’t feel like it was a new story, a new narrative, a new conversation, and so I was surprised by how many people came forward saying “yes, I get it,” because I didn’t say anything that hasn’t been said a hundred times before.
For me, the biggest moment of the entire season was your conversation with The Vixen, and in particular, you telling her that she has to stop pretending that she doesn’t care what other people think. Can you talk about your own journey to that realization?
AO: I think we are all, of course, trained and taught “don’t pay too much attention what other people think or feel about you” but fortunately and unfortunately that is important to us as humans, and we all seek the approval of others, some more than others, but obviously that is something that we all on a most basic level seek from one another. And I think the sooner you can accept and learn how to harness that power, the better. For me that was a realization that for a long while had been holding me back.
Your head was covered throughout much of press week, which seemed like a bigger statement than simply fashion. Can you talk about the intention behind that?
AO: As lot of other non-majority Drag Race contestants will tell you, there comes a point in the competition where you become invisible to the fan base. And that happens every year, time and time again, and it’s actually something a lot of the alumni warn you about going into the competition. So for me, it was a direct reflection of that, and I felt that somewhat surprising that it was only when people were faced with a physical representation about how they actually perceive people, that they noticed that it was an issue.
Ironically, a fan on one of the photos from Trailblazer Honors, somebody had posted, “I didn’t even notice Asia was in the picture,” and somebody posted under it, “The thing is, you guys never notice some people are in the pictures so this is no different than how you always view the photos.”
I have to ask about a recent tweet in which you referenced a shift in your existence and then recounted a story from your youth about some neighborhood kids attempting to set you on fire. What prompted you to share this story?
AO: I shared this story because for me personally, I felt like I needed to say that. I had never told anyone that story, and I felt like I needed in order to free myself to let go of that. I thought I had let it go until it resurfaced. It also was to remind people that drag queens are people too and they go through things just like everyone else and they have feelings and thoughts, and I think sometimes people need a reminder that people that they see on television and people that they look up to — or don’t look up to — are people too.
Success on Drag Race is often predicated on a solid story arc for a queen, often centered on personal or professional growth. What do you think your arc was this season?
AO: I don’t know if it was a surface-level arc, but for me personally, I learned so much about myself and my natural tendencies around people. In watching the competition, I saw parts of me that I had never seen before, so I think my story arc was a constant idea of growth and evolvement and always finding new parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed.
Looking back at this experience, both the filming and the airing of the episodes, what was the high and what was the low?
AO: My high was probably my discussion with Ru and with the other girls during the reunion about The Vixen’s exit because I felt like that was a time when people listened the most. And of course my low would be being eliminated or not winning or being completely successful. That was obviously my low.
How is the Asia O’Hara that first entered the workroom different than the Asia O’Hara I’m speaking to now?
AO: I have a lot more confidence in myself as a person. How I view my drag, it’s funny, going into the competition I thought my drag was great and I didn’t have the most confidence in myself as a person, and after the competition, I’ve kind of realized I need to work on my drag a little bit because it’s not perfect. But I’ve also grown a great confidence in myself as a person because I saw so many positive attributes that I didn’t know where there.
What’s next for Asia O’Hara?
AO: I’m looking forward to spending time with my boyfriend, traveling the world and sharing my art, and creating new art from scratch and getting back to the things that I love about drag which is about creating things whether that be costuming or video or music or anything visual, I’m just looking forward to creating.
Check out Mic’s exit interviews with week one’s eliminated queen Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, week two’s eliminated queen Kalorie Karbdashian Williams, week three’s eliminated queen Yuhua Hamasaki, week four’s eliminated queen Dusty Ray Bottoms, week five’s eliminated queen Mayhem Miller, week six’s eliminated queen Blair St. Clair, week seven’s eliminated queen Monique Heart, week eight’s eliminated queen The Vixen, week nine’s eliminated queen Monét X Change and week 10’s eliminated queen Miz Cracker.