“I’m wearing my comfortable robe!” Aquaria crowed, picking at a kale Caesar salad and sipping a Red Bull. The youngest of RuPaul’s shining stable of stars sat down with Jezebel for a chat before the screening of the third episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10, during which she was once again declared safe. So far in this nascent season, Aquaria’s made her mark by comparing herself to Miz Cracker and being combative with The Vixen, a queen whose tenacity and ambition will either propel her to the top or be her ultimate downfall.
Halfway through our interview, an unnamed coworker wandered over to where we were sitting and asked, “Whats the deal with Drag Race?” A wide-ranging question, to be sure, that could’ve been answered in a lot of different ways. But Aquaria, ever the businesswoman, walked right through the door left open by this hapless passerby. “It’s $50 at the door,” Aquaria quipped. “Have them Venmo me. You guys got the talent here tonight!”
Below, a condensed and lightly-edited version of our chat:
On her drag aesthetic:
It’s gone in a lot of different directions—it can be super feminine, it can be really masculine. My drag doesn’t really have a gender or much of a theme, but it does always stay in the same mindset. I don’t say that I’m the girl that only wears purple, but every look kind of has a taste of my brain in it. I think I have my own personal flair and that carries through a lot of my looks.
I always love to reference lady Gaga, Madonna, just lots of pop culture references in general and the way I go about styling a look or coming up with a performance is always.. those women who have been very influential in my creative life are always at the forefront of my imagination.
On her face, and how the early days of beauty YouTube influenced her:
When I first started getting into makeup, I was in seventh grade and I came across these videos on Youtube, and this was long before the current age of makeup and beauty guru-ness, you know, now I feel like—not in a negative or a positive way—the tutorials are a lot more for entertainment now, and before, it was just like, I’m just a person in my house teaching random people how to do makeup. I would watch all those videos and I would be amazed at how all the makeup artists knew just like the stupidest things—all the color names of the MAC eyeshadow, and all the numbers of the brushes and stuff. I was just really fascinated with that and then, I would just pick up makeup whenever I went to Target or whatever, and I would just play around with that. Halloween was always a great time to get some fun makeup and just play with your face.
Then I’d take pictures on my webcam and edit them in photoshop, beause I was a very techy teenager, so I’d edit the pictures to look like what I wanted them to look like so the next time I did my makeup, it would be a whole process of trial and error. I would just alter the pictures to look like what I was aiming for, or what I thought I was aiming for—like “OK, if I drew my crease a centimeter above where this line in my eye is, maybe, we do two of those,” because I’m an artist and I’ve always seen art that way—space and negative space.
On her relationship with Sharon Needles:
I was a big fan of hers when Season 4 came out. I was really young then, so whenever she would come to Philladelphia, which is the closest major city to where I was from, I would never obviously be able to go see the shows because they were always at the club. One time—maybe right after she won—she offered to have me over to her hotel room while she was doing her face, just so I could hang out with her and her friends and asisstants and you know, just have a very personal meet and greet.
The first time I saw her [in New York City] was at this party that my friend was doing. I went there as a clown and we talked for a couple minutes, and then she was like, “Oh my gosh, Gio, I honestly thought I was talking to Laganja Estranja.” I don’t think she was necessarily totally serious, but I don’t think she necessarily totally realized it was me. And then from then, it’s been me doing my thing in New York, her doing her thing all across the world and when our paths meet, they meet, and when they don’t meet, I think, every day, I say a prayer. A while ago we did this video for Mother’s Day for i-d, She’s not my draaag mother, but they asked me about it—it’s not as serious as you know in the South, and in other places. Everyone’s family.
On Miz Cracker, shooting reality TV, and editing:
Miz Cracker and I would both like to blame everyone but ourselves for the entire situation, and I think rightfully so. I think we have strong feelings that we’d both bring there, so we were expecting that. There was always an elephant in the room about it, but we were always very cordial and we’ve worked together plenty in the city, so it was always not a big deal, but then all these people would send me a text message and be like “Oh this is very you,” and you know, it gets in your head. I don’t take it that personally, but as a look girl, whose main thing is my looks, that’s what I’m the most serious about.
When we were at the show, I would jsut get asked about it by all the girls and all the producers, so it just kept getting brought up a lot and it [gets in your head]. Of course I’m annoyed with it! Everyone keeps fucking asking about it! But in reality, I don’t care that much to make a big deal out of it, and would have rather had gotten out of drag, get our fuckin’ shoes off, relax, stop the cameras rolling, and have a discussion about it rather than yelling, because I’m realizing that it’s nothing that I’m that serious about. Any time on the show you see me ask about it, it’s prompted by someone else asking, or someone else said something before.
Even with the stuff coming in with the Vixen’s wig. In the first act of Episode 3, Eurkea brings it up and her and Monique talk about it and then I proceed to talk about it and the later on in the episode, Asia brings it up again. Obviously, my comments weren’t the most playful, but I think I had a fair point for me as someone who worked my ass off to get my looks together. At the time I was feeling bummed that our runways weren’t weighted into the judging from that week, in Episode 2. Sometimes they’ll judge on our runway performances, but that one was just on the challenge.
I’m not mad because I don’t even mean to be starting any of the issues, but they’re only talking about me and not any of the other girls, so I feel bad for them but. They’re talking about me, and I’ve just been safe. That’s a lot of emotion for safe!