I love it when an established entertainer trusts me enough and respects what I’m doing here on my blog to offer some of their precious time and wisdom so I may in turn share the Tea your way. We all want to know the real deal, right?! I’ve had strong voices in the drag community speak to me here at my domain and my next guest is no different. Smart, accomplished, young, talented, trendsetting, approachable, professional, realistic, honest, poised. This is my time with the current reigning All American Goddess 2012 Asia T. O’Hara. The Tea is being poured. Grab a glass…
Steven Michael – Asia, I could Google the house about fishy dish, factoids and Tea about you but in your words tell me something that the average bio wouldn’t tell about you or that you’ve always wanted to be asked during an interview?
Asia T. O’Hara – “That is a very good question! I like to look at everything in retrospect. So something I have always wanted to be asked is what I would be doing with my life if I were not doing drag. And the answer is this… I would either STILL be in school or I would be a teacher. I am a huge nerd and I love to learn. So I would probably go to school as long as I could afford it or until they kicked me out for having the boys in the bathrooms. Then I would turn around and teach others. But since I didn’t take that route and I AM doing drag. I love to show and teach people little things I have learned along the way. I am always looking for ways to cut costs, and do things better and more efficiently. So when I learn something new, I love to call the other girls and tell them! So I guess maybe I am teaching in a way.”
Probably in more ways than you realize, girl. You won your first national title Miss Gay USofA 2007 at an early age. How did the old school entertainers handle Miss Youth coming through and really upsetting the folks? Describe your experience and your age. What do you believe set you apart from the others that year?
“I have been asked this a thousand times. I won the coveted title of Miss Gay USofA when I was 24 years old. I had only been doing drag for about four years. I believe Natasha Richards and myself are the youngest to capture the crown. Some of the old school entertainers were thrilled, and of course some were not so thrilled. That year was definitely life changing for me. I met so many old school entertainers that helped me along the way and taught me a lot. Of course, there were times when I would have to defend the fact that I won the contest from the moment I got off the plane, till the moment I got back home. But I think most entertainers go through that at some point.”
“As far as what set me apart that year, I think it was the fact that I was so eager and hungry for it. I was new to drag, but I was not new to competition or performance. I have five sisters that are all competitive dancers, cheerleaders, and gymnasts, and I had been teaching one of the top high school colorguard programs in the country for six years. On top of that, I toured as a performer in a professional drum and bugle corps for three years. So when I got to Miss Gay USofA, I just did what I had been doing my entire life. The only difference was, I was wearing a wig. LOL.”
I didn’t realize your incredible ties to the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps and would love to hear more about that over a spin, toss, catch sometime. I keep a flag around for an impromptu performance from time to time. How important is family within a drag community? Are there many out there and how does one get accepted into a new gay family?
“Family is very important in the drag community. So many people do not have the support of their biological family. Stepping into the gay community can be like being abandoned in a foreign country! Its essential to have a support system of people you can lean on and you can trust. ‘Gay families’ are also important because it’s a way to unite different parts of the LGBT community. A gay family can consist of drag queens, male entertainers, butch boys, regular ole sissies, lesbians, studs, transsexuals and much more. So it’s a way to connect many different types of people that possibly would not have met otherwise. There are many families out there but I like to think of it as one huge family with many different branches. I consider anyone who puts on a dress, my sister. Each family has different ways of being accepted in. I always tell people to just be themselves and right gay family will fall into their lap!”
Can you describe the feeling of rush that pours over you when you hit the stage and the applause begins? Are you a natural born performer?
“I definitely am a natural born performer. Nothing else makes me quite as happy. Unfortunately, it’s a feeling I can not describe. For those ten minutes that I am on stage, nothing else in the world matters. I often don’t even remember my performance when I get off stage. My friends will say they tipped me or I did this and that, and I have no recollection of it. It’s like being in a dream, you can’t remember exactly what you did or what happened. All you can remember is that feeling. Life becomes a blissful blur of music, love, and entertainment.”
I love performing. Being on stage is my dream. Have lived it many times on many stages. Miss it greatly. Madame O’Hara, answer me this… What’s Asia doing on her downtime, off the stage and without the diving board eyelashes and heavy paint? Do you have much time like this?
“Well, I like to stay busy as I bore easily. But drag is a full time endeavour for me because I do all of my own costumes and most of my own hair. I finish with my last show of the weekend on Sunday nights. I am normally at the fabric store Monday morning to start on new costumes for the weekend. My next 3-4 days include sketching, sewing, beading, rhinestoning, gluing, curling, building, and so on… I also do creative artistry for CHANEL so that keeps me very busy as well. When I am not working, I love going to the aquarium, the zoo, museums, movies, and things like that.”
We have to hang out, lady. More than we did back in Orlando for Bob Taylor’s Miss Florida USofA years ago. I bet we could have a serious time and like the Scissor Sisters croon Let’s Have A Kiki. Do you consider yourself a drag queen or female impersonator? What’s the difference?
“Well, I consider myself an entertainer. Although I don’t see much difference in the terms. For me, both titles are a little constricting. I do a lot of specialty numbers and a lot of characters that would not fit into the female impersonation category like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Cat in the Hat, Smurfette, The Predator and The Mad Hatter, to name a few.”
Ooh, I live. YouTubing now! How do you feel RuPaul’s Drag Race has changed the face of competitive drag and are you a fan?
“Ugh, I knew this was coming! LOL. RuPaul’s Drag Race has definitely had a large impact on competitive drag, and drag in general. I have only watched one season of it (Season 2, I think) so I dont know a lot about the show. However, I have had several close friends and family members that have been on the show. It used to be that the superstars of drag were Miss Gay America, Miss Gay USofA, Miss Continental, National EOY, and Miss Black Universe. But that is slowly changing. Competitive drag has been affected because entertainers now have a choice. You can spend thousands of dollars on costumes and gowns, stay up all night rehearsing with dancers and sewing costumes, and do a pageant with the hopes of winning. OR, you can pack a bag, go do an all expense paid TV show for 30 days, and make more money in a year than most entertainers ever will. Which would you choose?”
“I think the show is a good thing because it creates an avenue for girls that are not pageant girls. It’s no secret that most pageants are looking for a certain type of entertainer. So until now, girls that didnt fit that, or couldnt afford to do pageants, were being overlooked. RPDR has changed that, and I am grateful for it. I will just say this, I hope that the few members of the LGBT community that have the power and resources to make change, will help even the playing field where the ‘work’ and the ‘reward’ are equal.”
I love asking that question. Queens and passionate gay men definitely have an opinion about it. It was one of my main questions last year when I judged AAG at Large. On the subject, congrats on winning All American Goddess. It seemed like a tight race. I was glued to my iPhone for the results on Facebook laying in bed with one eye open. What is it about AAG that made you decide to compete? Can you describe your experience in Dayton for the finals?
“Thank you very much. I went to the pageant last year as a dresser and backup dancer, and to secretly scope it out. I liked how laid back, yet structured the contest was. I also loved that all the formers were so heavily involved. When I got home, I went onto the website and saw something that stuck out to me. Scott Gonyaw states that he started AAG because he felt like there was a group of girls that had not yet found their place in the pageant world. And that spoke to me. The next morning I picked a preliminary and the rest is history. My experience is Dayton was amazing. AAG is a very contestant friendly competition. The dressing space is great, the hotel is close to the venue, and the staff is friendly. It’s a weekend I will never forget.”
Yes! The one thing I noticed was the contestants were feeling like family even in their first year. Many had also come back to compete again. I see AAG as an opportunity. The formers are all over the board with types, styles and talents. Other systems have found a formula that works and one should either use it or not bother. I appreciate Scott’s respectful mission to true entertainment. Could you share your feelings on the differences between the systems Miss Gay USofA and AAG and what are they?
“Sure. For starters, AAG has a creative costume category and Q&A which USofA does not. But actually, I think the contests have more in common than different. Both are derived from a comparative scoring system, which takes a lot of the ‘guess work’ out for judges and contestants. And both have a “Let’s see who can put on the biggest show” feeling to them. Also, they both have a reputation for crowning whoever is the best girl that night. Miss Gay USofA has crowned more girls on their first try than any other pageant. Alyssa Edwards, Alexis Gabrielle Sherrington and Raquel Lord to name a few.”
“You will notice the same trend with AAG. I think the biggest difference would be that AAG grows, and evolves every day. Scott and the staff at AAG do a remarkable job of constantly doing whatever they can to make the pageant bigger and better. Miss Gay USofA on the other hand has a lot of prestige and tradition. They have branded an image for themselves in the community that has been steady and strong for over 20 years now.”
Well put! Is it hard to date as a successful traveling entertainer? I traveled for years performing but never worried about a man. I loved being on the road. Thoughts?
“YES LORD! It can be hard for entertainers to date because you are always away from home. It’s difficult to meet guys because you never want to go out when you are not working. But right now I am having an intense love affair with a box of peanut butter cookies and I could not be happier! But who knows I might trade these cookies in for a ‘BTT’ sandwich! LOL.”
Hmm. That’s too many things! Is it easy to get caught up in the drama of the industry because as we all know drag queens can be drama streams from time to time? How do you separate yourself?
“Yes it is easy to get caught up in it. But I have a philosophy. There is so much drama because we pour all of ourselves into the art form of female impersonation. When you are so emotionally invested in something, there is bound to be drama from time to time. I separate myself by doing one thing. Keeping my mouth shut when I know it could lead to drama.”
Biggest misconception about:
Asia T. O’Hara? “That I am rich. NOT TRUE HONEY! I just am very good about recycling feathers and rhinestones! LOL.”
Doing drag? “That all drag queens do drugs and are prostitutes. NOT TRUE HONEY!”
Being a national title holder? “That it’s all glitz and glamour. NOT TRUE HONEY! It’s a lot of hard work and probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
On that note… What’s the biggest challenge of being a national title holder?
“The biggest challenge of being a national title holder? The entire thing! Ha-Ha. You have to go straight to the airport at the crack of dawn after doing a show in your home town and get on a plane. Then you land, try and eat, go to registration, greet all of the judges, staff and contestants. Then go paint up for the night and look like a million bucks all night long. Dance, twirl, flip your hair, do a toast, say hi to people, smile and wave, loan out bobby pins, shake hands, hug the girls, the whole nine yards. Then wash your face, head to the airport and do it all over again. Notice I never mentioned sleep. Not to mention you have to have try and cram 100 pounds of fabulous into one suitcase and one carry-on. We are not national titleholders, we are super heroes!!!”
WOW! Whurq it, Mamma! It takes a special individual to carry such an important task of responsibility and honor. Future plans, dreams, schedules?
“I do hope to compete again, and I have a lot of other things I want to accomplish in my personal life. But right now I am solely concentrated on having an amazing year as All American Goddess 2012.”
Oh, hypothetically… If I were to do drag again, what would I need to know to beat you? No Tea, No Shade…
“Unfortunately, your efforts would be futile…”
Well I guess she told me! I’ve seen Asia in action and she is force to be reckoned with! Interesting enough to note here, I realized that I had used an image of Asia years ago when I had pitch a reality show on competitive drag to my agent in L.A. Coming across these pictures brought all that to the forefront in my mind. I’m lucky I have a connection to these entertainers because I really feel their stories are worth being told and should be heard. I’m thrilled many of them take trust in the fact what I do always comes from a place of passion for the art and love for what they do. If you have an established professional someone in mind for a special featurette here on my website, drop me a line here or on Facebook and I’ll see what I can do. Thanks for reading my interview with the fabulously accomplished All American Goddess 2012 Asia T. O’Hara.