For most of the past two months leading up to the first ever Drag Queen of the Year Pageant, organized byRuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars season 2 winner Alaska, the Atlanta-based "trash queen" Abhora was rendered practically immobile.
"The minute I was alerted of the pageant I immediately went into an anxiety coma," she told Out in an interview. "The anxiety kept compounding and compounding as time went on. Like 'they are formulating ideas and gathering people and you're not doing that. You're not doing enough.' All of that just stops you from doing anything." That wasn't ideal since her seven competitors were pretty talented, with former pageant queens in the mix.
"I just had this fear that I was going to go on stage and my music was not going to start, my look was going to fall apart, I was going to fall off my stilts, and everything was going to go horribly wrong," the former The Boulet Brothers' Dragula season 2 competitor explained. "But if you go into it intending to do that, and that's the bit, then how do you fuck up?" Well, you fall upwards.
On Sunday night, that "bit" saw Abhora win the pageant at a sold-out event that boasted Gia Gunn, Peppermint, Jiggly Caliente, Sharon Needles, Willam, Nicole Byer, and Landon Cider as judges. The event also raised more than $6,000 for LA's LGBT Center.
"Last night we made Herstory!" Alaska said in a statement to Out, of her pageant. "I had no idea the level of talent and stunningness that would be brought to the Montalban Theatre last night in Hollywood. "I'm so proud of our winner, Abhora, and I'm so excited for the exposure this event will give all eight of our contestants." Abhora was joined in the competition's top three by LA's Aurora Sexton and Chicago's Kat Sass, reflecting the event's diversity with a trans woman and nonbinary person in the mix.
At the pageant, which was hosted by Jackie Beat, queens wore leopard print (some in the audience did as well) in honor of a track from Alaska's album Vagina, released last week. They alsoperformed an opening number to "One In A Million" from Miss Congeniality.
For her performance, Abhora said she put everything she had into the competition in the final two weeks of prep, after she got over her anxiety. For the narrative arc, she wanted to tell the story of her time since Dragula, where she placed fourth, losing out to eventual winner Biqtch Puddin.
"It was mostly a reflection on the past year, just getting to meet all the people that appreciate me and my art," she said. "And also having to do my art on repeat and on demand. Things sort of lost [their] luster for me and I felt like I was wearing a 'me' costume and going to places and having people endlessly tell me how much they love me. It didn't satisfy me." The story, which onstage featured the competitor on stilts and wearing a hoop skirt that was revealed to have six other queens beneath it, was a "guilt trip of a suicide note about coming to terms with drag as it is and conforming by doing the world's largest 'death drop.'" And though that name for the move fits the narrative, the maneuver, which originated in the ballroom scene, is correctly termed as a dip.
The conversation of conformity was particularly poignant for Abhora as her entry into the competition came at a time when she was considering exactly that. "I was actually considering auditioning forDrag Race," she said. "But the moment I put the camcorder up to start recording the interview, I just couldn't get myself to recite the phony answers I had written for myself so I would seem more glam." Choosing this competition instead allowed her to underscore who she is as a queen, and still walk home with $10,000 (via PayPal), a sash, a crown, and a bouquet of flowers.
For those who think that the self described "trash queen" will abandon her aesthetic and go the way of glamour, that couldn't be further from the truth. "My new wealth is not going to influence me or how I carry myself," Abhora said when asked. "My very first purchase will probably be a year's supply of Top Ramen and a year's supply of duct tape to fix my shower head; you know, all the luxuries of the modern working class."
RELATED | Willam, Miss Shalae, and Rhea Litre to Host Benefit for Trevor Project