The girls are going home on RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars season five. Just two episodes in and Drag Race season one runner up Ongina was sent home. The writing was a bit on the wall as the Filipino queen threw herself into the proverbial fire for elimination. She had come into the Werk Room on a high, in a traditional costume, and saldy it was a bit downhill from there.
Here we talk to Ongina about nerves, representing her Filipino heritage, and why she should have stayed one more week.
What was it like coming?
It was truly really incredible to walk on the All Stars stage and be back finally years later, but it was also very nerve racking and scary at the same time. So imagine all of those feelings and multiply it by 5000.
Do you think that ended up being sort of what we saw on the show?
Absolutely. I think that I had so much pressure that I put on myself. I was thinking about me and performing for myself and doing well for myself but also for my fans, and that pressure really got to me and it really like messed with my head. Ultimately my fire was a little bit put out — actually it went out all the way. But I'm happy that I found that confidence back on the very last episode, and I think you can really tell that I was having a good time. During the girl group challenge performance, even though I was sick and I was feeling a little bit down on myself.
Before All Stars you already had a pretty big legacy on the show having performed really well in your season and also revealed your HIV status. What's that been like over the past decade?
Yeah. So I was saying you know like mentally I really did prepare and I was very confident with the overall package that I prepared for all stars, and I was like, 'oh, I've seen every episode of every Drag Race season, I'm going to be fine.' But honestly, you don't know what and how you're going to feel until literally the very first moment you are picked up by the van, in your 25 pound entrance outfit, going to set. You don't know until you start sweating bullets, like of nervousness and getting on set. So going into it, I did, I had the confidence, I had the package, I had, you know, I had every emotional intent to do well. But unfortunately the performance was less than what I wanted, but overall, like I was happy to be able to show people who Ongina is how Ongina has evolved and really genuinely Ryan, as a person.
One of the things I felt watching you on the show was a more visible side of your heritage and I wanted to know if that was purposeful or if I just didn't see it before?
Yeah! Well starting with the last runway, being loving the skin you're in which was like a perfect runway to exit out of the competition, I got to showcase how proud I am of being a Filipino American immigrant, which I did not in my season. I hadn't been home to the Philippines since 2005 and went home two years ago, and I just fell in love with who I am, again. I think along the way, I may have forgotten or not been as vocal and showcased more of who I am. But now in reconnecting with my family and my culture I promised myself 'If ever I get back on All Stars I want to showcase that. I want them to know where I come from, why I am the way that I am.' It's because of me being Filipino.
That runway actually fell on Philippine independence day, which is like incredible was there challenge that you were really excited or looking forward to.
Was there a challenge you're really excited for?
I come from visual design and interior design and visual merchandising and the hotel suite design challenge and bitch ... let me tell you something. I am so mad.
You've been an activist and advocate around a few things from HIV/AIDS to being API and queer. In this moment when there's so many protests and so much activism going on, what is it like for you?
Everything is going fine. Mentally I am good, and I always said that I want to use my platform for good and. and I want to be able to use that for every everything that needs a voice. I have this platform in pop culture where I can really voice out what I believe in to really promote inclusivity so that's what I'm doing, and I have not been doing not incredibly consistently. So I was reminded that now more than ever I need to speak up for our Black brothers, brothers and sisters — LGBTQ+ and beyond. I think the injustices are so incredibly unfortunate so I want to be able to be a voice for those that don't have one in the same way that I have a voice for HIV and AIDS, and the same way I have a voice for our my API community and my Filipino community. That's what I promise to do and will continue to do because people are watching. The younger generation is listening so I hope that it reaches them. And I hope that change, and justice will come sooner than later because it's needed.