qv exclusive: in the green room at rupaul’s dragcon

Queer voices attended Rupaul’s Dragcon on Saturday May 7th at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where we caught up with some of the stars from Rupaul’s Drag Race. We had candid and fun conversations about all things Drag Race, Dragcon and much more.

Ongina, from Season 1, is the drag name of Ryan Ong Paolo. Her drag name originates from her middle name, which is also her mother’s name with a little ina added to it. Ongina was a vision of loveliness.

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Photo by Brian E. Everitt

WW: Did you ever dream something like Dragcon would happen?

O: I never dreamed it would be such a BIG thing.

WW: Why do you think it’s become such an attraction?

O: It has so many different dimensions and speaks to so many people from different backgrounds and genders. It’s amazing to see the acceptance.

WW: There’s such a good feeling out on the convention floor. Everyone seems relaxed and happy. What do you think is behind that?

O: The younger generation gets it. There are so many young people here. I think it has to do with an earlier education. I was talking to a Mom with her 3-year-old daughter. They are having a blast.

WW: How has Drag Race changed your life?

O: It was life changing that’s for sure. It gave me an opportunity to show the world who I am and to show another dimension of drag. It helped me to accept my HIV status and myself.

WW: That was a moving and memorable part of  Season 1. How do you feel about it in retrospect?

O: Coming out, as HIV positive, on the show helped me to overcome my own demons. I’m comfortable in my skin now. It helped me to become an advocate for the HIV community. I’ve meet many people, who have said that what I did on the show helped them to accept their HIV status and to start living a full life.

WW: What’s your message to people living with HIV?

O: Live! Dream your dreams and live a full life.

WW: What’s next for you?

O: I recently moved to LA, after living in San Francisco. I’m doing fundraisers for HIV awareness like the Red Dress Party. I have my series, for Logo.com, HIV + ME. I’ll also be traveling to colleges and universities, to help educate people about being careful, healthy and taking their own well-being into account. I’m working to create a dialogue with others not just an Ongina monologue.

Morgan McMichaels, from Season 2 of Rupaul’s Drag Race, is the drag name of Thomas White. Morgan, the drag daughter of Chad Michaels, was wearing a smart, chic yellow and black dress. She was a gay bumblebee buzzing with excitement.

Photo credit: Brian E. Everitt
Photo credit: Brian E. Everitt

WW: Morgan you’re like a drag superhero. How does it feel to be here at Dragcon?

MM: I think my feet are going to literally die. But seriously, it’s amazing. Rupaul has kicked in so many doors and made this great path, for all of us.

WW: The convention is teaming with young people. Why do you think it’s such an attraction for the LGBTQIA+ youth of America?

MM: There’s a lot of blurring of gender lines within the younger generation, which I think has to do with a sense of acceptance and LOVE. There is what society preaches is acceptable and what is truly acceptable. I’m talking about human rights, equal rights for all. We, in the LGBTQIA+ community, pay the same taxes as everyone else, so we should have the same rights as everyone else. I didn’t want to do jury duty before gay marriage?

WW: Would you do it now?

MM: Yes. As a matter of fact, I have jury duty this coming Wednesday.

Tatianna, from Drag Race Season 2, is the drag name of Joey Santolini. She hails from Falls Church, Virginia. Tatianna was fishy and gorgeous in a sexy little black dress.

Photo credit: Brian E. Everitt
Photo credit: Brian E. Everitt

WW: Did you ever dream something like Dragcon would happen?

T: Honestly, I didn’t think it would happen but Rupaul and Drag Race has made drag mainstream. There are so many Mom’s and daughters out on the convention floor. They are trying on wigs and loving all the fashion.

WW: What is the attraction for all the young people?

T: It’s cool and normal. It’s also about acceptance for anyone, who is deemed a little different by society. Drag has become family friendly.

WW: What’s on your dance card?

T: I’m doing a live feed of Hey Qween with Jonny Mcgovern in a few minutes. I’ll be networking and I’m really excited to checkout the Jeffrey Star make-up booth. Hopefully, get me some swag.

Check here to check out Tatianna on Hey Qween Live from Rupaul’s Dragcon.

WW: What will you be up to after Dragcon?

T: I’ll be traveling and performing, doing a lot of out of town gigs. I’ll be performing at Town Dance Boutique in DC.  It’s my home stomping grounds.

Mariah Balenciaga, from Season 3, was born Elijah Kelly. Mariah is a makeup artist, hair stylist and performer. Mariah received her drag name from the father, of the House of Armani.

Photo credit: Brian E. Everitt
Photo credit: Brian E. Everitt

WW: How do you feel about Dragcon?

MB: When it’s right. It’s just right. Dragcon is just right. Everyone is one place, free to be themselves, accepted for who they are and with no judgment. It’s like a big family reunion too. It’s great reconnecting with friends and there’s the shopping, the men and cocktails. It’s a lot of hard work. There’s a flask, the size of my face, calling my name.

WW: Did you ever dream something like Dragcon would become a reality?

MB: I’m always looking forward to the future, to what’s new and next. It was really just a matter of time. Dragcon had to happen. Of course, Rupaul has a way of making things happen.

WW: What is coming up for you? What’s next?

MB: I’m very excited to be touring with All for Youth.

WW: What’s All for Youth?

MB: Jasmine Masters came up with this idea of doing morning shows at LGBTQ youth centers. There are a lot of young fans of Drag Race and they are underage. They can’t go to the nightclubs to see their favorite queens perform, so we will be doing day drag at the youth centers around the country and a portion of the proceeds will go back to each youth center.

WW: That’s a great project. Who’s all involved?

MB: Jasmine has given an open invitation to the queens. I know that it’s me, Trinity, Jayden, Delta, Morgan McMichaels, Chad Michaels and a lot of other Drag Race stars and local queens too.

WW: What a great a project. I will be following up with you, as it develops.

MB: Please do and you can also find more from Jasmine Master’s Facebook page.

Click to find out more about All For Youth.

Dax Exclamation point, from Season 8 of Drag Race, is the drag name of Dax Martin. Dax is from Savannah. Dax was in her version of Wonder Woman drag. She looked fierce.

Photo credit: Brian E. Everitt
Photo credit: Brian E. Everitt

WW: What do you think of Dragcon?

DE: It’s a con and by that, I mean it’s a convention, honey. Rupaul has made drag mainstream and the hetero culture is beginning to catch up. Drag is on television.

WW: Well, it’s kind of always been on TV with the likes of Milton Berle and Flip Wilson.

DE: Yeah but they didn’t get it. They didn’t see it as drag but it was drag. Bugs Bunny was always doing drag. I had a Bugs Bunny stuffed animal as a kid. I was making clothes, dresses for it, using magic marker to put make-up on Bugs. It’s always been around but now there a new awareness.

WW: Drag Race has changed the perception?

DE: Definitely, I mean drag is now a career option. There are people who can do drag 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s a real career. I’m going to be touring a lot and traveling.   I have a Youtube series, What’s up nerds? It’s all pretty amazing.

Keep checking queer-voices.com for more interviews and behind-the-scenes excitement from Rupaul’s Dragcon.

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Will Willoughby is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s Cinema-Television production program. He has also worked in the theatre on such Broadway production as Grey Gardens, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Inherit The Wind. A Squirrel Story is the title of his first published book.