Asia O’Hara is the true embodiment of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. But growing up, the Texas queen never thought she was destined for fame, nor did she seek it out as her end goal.
“I did know that I was very interested in the arts and performing, and you know, all the magic of being onstage,” she says. “But fame was never something that I really aspired to have.”
Extracurricular activities like band, color guard, and theater were an integral part of the Drag Race star’s formative years. O’Hara was encouraged by her family to participate in as many as she could. She recalls, “Performing was always a love of mine and it was always something that I kind of felt at home doing.” Little did she realize she was grooming herself for a future of runways, wigs, and television.
After a successful run in the pageant world, she felt it was time to push herself to “new levels of success,” O’Hara recalls. “Most of my career prior to [RuPaul’s Drag Race] had been in the world of pageantry, and I had come to a place where I felt like I had given all that I could give to the world of pageants… I was looking for new avenues to reach new people.” She auditioned for Drag Race twice before finally making it on season 10. “I felt like it was important for me to audition, or at least get onto the show, to create a new level of difficulty for me and to put myself into a completely different artistic situation than I’ve ever been in to see how well I did or did not do,” she says.
O’Hara catapulted to international stardom as a finalist on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10 and is now dominating stages on the Werq the World Tour. The tour will make its final stop in Miami on Saturday, October 27th, featuring O’Hara alongside Aquaria, Eureka, Kameron Michaels, Bob the Drag Queen, Kim Chi, and Violet Chachki. O’Hara and Bob the Drag Queen take turns hosting the tour’s shows now that Drag Race judge Michelle Visage is no longer on the tour. Visage is now in London performing in the musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
But It’s hard to believe someone so successful in the world of drag wasn’t initially interested in the art form. That all changed when O’Hara attended Miss Gay USofA in 2002. “I remember standing in the audience watching [the queen who ended up winning the pageant] and seeing how incredible she was and how captivating she was onstage,” she reminisces. “I just remember thinking how much time and effort and money went into everything that she was presenting in each category of the pageant, and that was a defining moment for me when I thought it was something that I really wanted to be a part of.”
Her drag persona didn’t develop overnight. She describes the development of Asia O’Hara as “slow and organic.” When she started out, she was unsure what style of drag she wanted to embody and didn’t have a clue what her drag name would be. “I kind of just jumped in feet first and over a couple of years, tried different things… Even today it’s still evolving.”
During O’Hara’s time on Drag Race, she turned out a series of memorable moments, from her hilarious Sarah Palin impression to her bold Tweety Bird runway look. But she didn’t take the crown after her shocking butterfly snafu on the Drag Race finale, where butterflies failed to take flight during her performance. She later apologized in an Instagram post and vowed to donate 100 hours of volunteer work to the ASPCA.
As a veteran queen who also recently released music and is a successful costume designer as well, O’Hara gives advice to aspiring performers looking to start a career in drag: “Jump in feet first and try as many different things as possible. That’s the best way to find your way in.” She adds, “It’s kind of frightening to go into any world of art, especially one like drag that changes so quickly… If [performers] start today, five years from now they will be the trendsetters.”
Werq the World Tour. With Asia O’Hara, Aquaria, Eureka, Kameron Michaels, Bob the Drag Queen, Kim Chi, and Violet Chachki. 9 p.m., Saturday, October 27, at Olympia Theater, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami; olympiatheater.org. Tickets cost $49 to $160 plus fees via tickets.olympiatheater.org.