Ru Paul's Drag Race: All Stars season 3 is only two episodes in, and it's already proving to be full of surprising comebacks, startling eliminations, and, of course, Aja's crazy death drop off of a giant box.
The Brooklyn-bred queen seemed to be an early frontrunner in Season 9: we gagged over her Commes Des Garcons Gaga look in the premiere, which garnered her an endorsement from Mother Monster herself, who said in the episode: "This girl--she's gonna keep surprising you." But, by episode 3 Aja had already narrowly escaped elimination in the bottom two, and her nerves didn't seem able to recover from the judge's sharp critique: after a valiant effort lip-syncing against Nina Bo'nina Brown, she went home in episode 7. Terrified of elimination, she explains she had "really started to play it safe."
But Aja is perhaps best remembered on Season 9 for her biting clapback to Valentina's coronation as Miss Congeniality, which spawned the now infamous meme: "You're perfect, you're beautiful, you look like Linda Evangelista, you're a model." Here we saw Aja for the queen she truly is: fearless, outspoken, and with zero fucks to give.
That's the Aja that's joined us on All Stars 3. "When I said I was going to fuck shit up, I literally was just there to fuck shit up," she says of her time on the current season. "I wasn't there to make a statement. I wasn't there to prove anything. I was just there to have fun."
The queen of Tea sat down with us to talk about everything from Milk, to abusive ex-boyfriends, to which couples she'd ship from the world of Drag Race. And she proved to be serving some scalding refreshments: she says this season is the most "shocking" in Drag Race history and that her runway in tonight's episode is her favorite of any ever on the show. Read on to find out why.
How's this season been different from season 9? What's the vibe like?
This season has been so different--I kind of know all the girls in the room. There's more respect for everyone, we all look fabulous--but you don't expect anything that different from your normal run, until they start throwing all these challenges at you. It's not just how you use fabric--it's: can you go out into the wild and collect animals and berries, and then make the outfit out of that, without a sewing machine. It's like, what? I'll say filming season 9, sometimes I'd get back to the hotel and not even feel tired. With All Stars, there's not one minute of sleep that I did not miss out on.
Without spoiling anything, what can you say about what's coming up?
I can say that definitely on All Stars 3, there is untouched territory from any other season. There's things that happen on this season that have never happened before.
In terms of emotion, or in terms of challenges?
Definitely in terms of challenges, emotions, turnouts... there's a lot. I think All Stars 3 is going to be very shocking. To fans. I also think it was very funny because when the cast got revealed, there was speculation--a lot of people thought they knew who was going to win. Everybody thought, 'Oh, Trixie is going to win, this is going to happen, this is going to happen.' And based on what I've seen as a viewer, because I'm a huge fan of the show, if I didn't know what happened already I can't see a winner at all yet. It's so divided. And everyone is so talented and really showing out. These girls came to play.
Do you know what happens in the finale yet?
You know how Alexis Michelle was the producer of season 9? I'm the producer of All Stars 3. Just kidding--we all know basically everything besides the definitive winners.
I feel like there are a few people in particular who so far have been cast in this pretty unflattering light, based on the editing. Are people really being divas, or is that just how it's being edited?
You can't really blame the editing for anything. You have to rely on the footage, you can't just make someone look a certain way. Absolutely things in certain directions with certain sound effects can enhance something. But I really think it depends on how the viewer takes it. A lot of people forget that we're drag queens--it's OK for us to be cunty and stunty and have attitudes. This season a lot of people have been chastising, say, Milk for instance, who I don't even think Milk has been that much of a diva. Milk is one of those people who is very funny, but she also has this--I call it privileged humor. Obviously Milk is a widely accepted, attractive white male. And he makes these jokes that come off very privileged: 'I'm this, I'm taking a photo with a supermodel.' I don't think people should take it as being a diva, I think they should take it as him making fun of himself. But it can come off different on television. I think a lot of girls this season are being portrayed way differently than their first seasons.
Are there any unexpected friendships of yours? New allies??
I'm a pretty friendly person, so I feel like I ended up befriending most of them.
Most of them, but not all of them.
Of the Drag Race community as a whole, are there any couples you would ship as a potential couple?
That's so hard to tell--I feel like I look at things so asexually. I sometimes just don't think of things with a sexual eye, which is kind of odd as a gay person and drag queen. It's weird to sexualize them, or think of them sleeping with each other. But I will say there's a lot of personalities that go well together because they just have things to relate to. Like Chi Chi and Kennedy, Milk and Trixie. Me and myself. I really got along with BenDeLaCreme. Love her.
You'd already been eliminated once--what did you want to do with this opportunity in round two that you didn't in round one?
When a lot of people found out I was on All Stars, they read me to filth, they said, 'She's only back because all of the other girls on season 9 turned it down. Blah blah.' But I never really gave a shit. I never walked in to All Stars thinking, 'Wow, I'm going to win, I think I'm better than everyone. I have to prove anything.' I got the call, got to work, got my shit together, and came in. When I said I was going to fuck shit up, I literally was just there to fuck shit up. I wasn't there to make a statement. I wasn't there to prove anything. I was just there to have fun. I was not pressured. I was not going to let the stress of the competition overcome me. I feel like this season I've mostly so far come off as calm and chill. As opposed to season 9, where I feel I was always somewhere looking confused.
But you did have that death drop. I don't know if I'd call that calm or chill.
Well, let me tell you something. It takes a lot of calmness to throw yourself off of a box and not think about it.
Were you terrified? Did you hurt yourself?
During the rehearsals I actually did rip my bodysuit and bled through my knee. I was going to wear a little mint ankle boot, but then I wore thigh highs because I ripped my knee. But I knew this stunt would take me over the top. I wanted to find as many elements to make my number not just dance, not just vogue. I incorporated fashion, and a reveal. And a theme that matched me, a little pastel ninja. And on top of that I wanted to add a stunt. I wanted to make the performance outstanding.
And I think you did that.
Yes, ma'am. I got my five night stay in Fort Lauderdale that I can't use because I'm booked.
How was your spot on 'Hey Qween?' You got to talk about your story on it, and how you got into drag, and your drag daughters came on. Was it scary sharing your story?
I'm never scared to share my story, or talk about what I've been through. I like to be extremely transparent. A lot of girls want their privacy. But I think when you talk to your following, and the masses, and tell them what you've been through, and things not everyone is comfortable talking about, people get to see you in a different light and begin to relate to you. I think in season 9 a lot of people didn't like me because they thought I was a bitter sour little cunt. They thought I was jealous of Valentina and this angry person. And a lot of people would meet me and be like, 'Oh, wow. You're actually really nice.' And I didn't really watch the season when it first came out because I was always on tour. So when I got to see the season I kind of disassociated and saw it as a viewer, and thought, 'If I didn't know me, it would come off that way.'
Opening up after the season, and talking about my story, a lot of people began to put things into perspective and understand me. So opening up with things like 'Hey Qween,' talking about me and my drag house and our struggles, it really just helps. So I don't fear it. I actually encourage it. That's what makes us relate to people like Lady Gaga, and Beyonce. When they talk about what they've been through, and how they got to where they are.
It's shocking how much it seems your life has changed so recently from Drag Race and now All Stars. Is there a biggest lesson you've learned from catapulting into this huge spotlight?
I learned a lot doing the show the first time, and even more doing it a second time. My life changed dramatically after the first season because before the first season I was in a very terrible living situation. So getting the call saying I was on season 9 was a blessing in disguise, but also it was me thinking, 'I'm not mentally ready for this. But if I don't do this now, I may miss the opportunity to ever get out of this situation.'
What was that situation exactly, if you're comfortable sharing?
Of course--at the time I was living with an abusive ex-boyfriend. And it was very hard to do anything because it was always a fight. It wasn't out of jealousy--it was more that there was so much tension and neither of us had the money to move out. So it was just boiling more and more every day. And when I got the call for the show he was really mad. He said, 'So you're just going to leave me behind like a piece of shit?' And I was like, 'Absolutely.' So I went on the show and walked in there like, 'I'm a bad bitch, lol.' Once I was in the bottom the first time I cracked, because I got really scared. I thought, 'Oh my god, it's only the third episode, what if I go home? I'll never tour, I'll never make the money I need to get out of this situation.'
So I really started to play it safe. I said, 'I'm not here to wow anymore. I'm here to be safe.' And somehow, I got off season 9, and people had it in their minds somehow that I was in the top, I guess because I had a big social media presence. And I capitalized on it. I got a manager. I milked it. I was like, 'I'm not going to tell you that I was in the top 3, but if you want to believe that that's fine.' I released content after content. I started touring. When the episode came out, a lot of people said, 'Oh my god, I really thought you were going to make it until the end.'
But this season you're not playing safe.
Absolutely not. I'm in a better living situation, I have a great support system, I have everything going in my favor. I saved a lot of money from touring, and I said 'Let me have this rainy day fun.' All Stars 3--I said 'I have the coins to splurge. I'm going to make sure every single one of my runways looks like I'm a fucking skinny legend.' I'm giving you silhouettes, I'm giving you fashion, I'm giving you Aja's perspective, my full look. I'm giving you just me. And on season 9 I feel like I had the opportunity to show me, and I let it slip out of fear. All Stars 3 was about being fearless. And I feel like I did just that.
Other projects/ collaborations you have coming?
I am working on an album right now, a rap album. Which I feel is not touched territory for Drag Race girls. I do plan to take the album on tour in 2018. I think I'd like collaborating maybe with another drag artist, like Adore Delano, who does completely different music, to see how that chemistry would work. There's this Brazilian drag queen who is huge, her name is Pabllo Vittar. She's got more followers than, like, all the Drag Race girls combined. She's done songs with Major Lazer, and all these big name DJs. She's won awards. It's insane. And if that's happening in Brazil, bitch that can happen here too. Imagine a Drag Race girl nominated for an Oscar, or a Grammy. Wouldn't that be insane? It can happen here.
Any last words about today's episode?
I'll say my runway on this episode is probably my favorite runway of any Drag Race ever.