Most seasons on Ru Paul's Drag Race, some queens on the show are looking to be seen and gain a bigger audience by being contestants. Dallas native Asia O’Hara says her reason for being on Drag Race has more heart and meaning behind it.
O’Hara began her drag career at the Rose Room Theatre and Lounge 15 years ago.
“I found it was nice to have an outlet of self-expression,” she says. “It just stuck, and I fell more in love with it.”
O’Hara and Edwards grew up together in the drag community. Both are from the DFW area. They immediately became friends and were backup dancers together for Whitney Paige for five or six years O’Hara says, which led them to the pageant world.
“We kind of developed our drag alongside each other,” she says. “She was always a couple steps ahead of me. We met through the pageant world and just through the local drag scene here.”
O'Hara describes her aesthetic as evolving and ever-changing. She says Phi Phi O’Hara, her drag daughter, inspires her.
“She stays relevant in her aesthetic,” she says. “Her aesthetic and her art is constantly changing. I would say that is kind of my aesthetic, where it’s over the top and evolving to the next version of myself.”
In the days of Miss Gay America, O’Hara says, her aesthetic was more conservative. Since then, she “does not have the pressure to be perfect all the time.” This freedom allows her to be more creative with what she wants to present.
O’Hara’s drag has family ties to Drag Race season nine contestant Trinity Taylor, with whom she shares drag father Bob Taylor. Her drag mother is Josephine O’Hara, and her drag grandmother is Sweet Savage.
Bob Taylor is a big part of O’Hara's and Taylor’s lives.
“He was a staple in my career,” O'Hara says. “He has worked for and been a big supporter of [former contestants] Latrice Royale, also Kennedy Davenport and Alyssa. For almost all the Drag Race girls that come from the pageant world, he’s been there for us during that transition from pageants to Drag Race.”
O’Hara became a drag mother to Phi Phi and other queens by simply connecting with others.
“A lot of people in the LGBTQ community don’t have the 100-percent support of their families,” she says. “So when they come out, a lot of times they naturally gravitate toward people that already have a family. I became a drag mother just by meeting people throughout my time here in Dallas. Maybe someone needed a parental figure or a sense of belonging.”
O’Hara’s drag career began in 2003, and Drag Race didn’t begin airing until 2009. O’Hara says she didn’t see a need to get on the show because she had a “blessed drag career with early success.”
“I had gotten all of my success and notoriety through pageants,” she says. “It’s not that I didn’t think it [Drag Race] was for me, but I thought, ‘OK, great; I’ve been fortunate enough to have pageants to get my name out there, and now other entertainers that aren’t in the pageant world, they have this outlet to get their name out.’
"I admired it from afar, but there was a time where I thought it would be selfish of me to try and get on Drag Race because I already had so much happen for me.”
O’Hara feels now is her time to compete in Drag Race. She is in the process of starting a nonprofit to benefit other drag queens and others who work in nightlife, such as bartenders and dancers. She wants to help them financially when they are sick or can’t work. She feels Drag Race would help her accomplish her mission.
“People that work in the night industry don’t have health insurance, sick days or anything like that,” she says. I want to do that on a national level, and I can’t do that without the platform of this competition.”
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The goal, besides financing others, is to raise awareness that the people entertaining you or pouring your drinks don’t get sick pay and may not have insurance to see a doctor.
Drag Race has brought the biggest and best queens and has helped them grow in the process. O’Hara sees herself as a queen who is still growing, learning and falling in love with drag again and again. She believes staying true to herself and understanding that there is room for growth will help her stand out amongst her competitors.
“I hope to inspire anybody that is second-guessing their potential or thinking, ‘This is all I can be or all I’m ever going to ever be,’” she says. “I’m hoping to inspire people that have an inkling that there is something greater they can be doing in their lives but are maybe delaying or are not motivated enough to reach for that.”
Ru Paul's Drag Race airs 7 p.m. Thursdays on VH1.