If we’re going by who trumped expectations the most and made themselves a bigger star than ever, Aja is the true winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season three. She may have gone home in sixth, after fellow queen Bebe Zahara Benet sent her home, but the Brooklyn queen’s drastic improvement from season nine gives her plenty of reason to hold her head high.
INTO talked with Aja about her time on both season nine and All Stars, branding her angriest moment on Drag Race, and if she had a chance to confront Bebe about not giving her credit for helping make her Studio 54 Look.
INTO: Before you were even announced for season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race, I knew of you because of one performance on YouTube: when you lip synced Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now.” How did you get so good at performing such a fast song?
Aja (A): I feel like I’m a very hyper-aware person. Part of catching really fast lip syncs is being able to slow things down in your mind. That way, you can catch every single detail. That just comes into play with doing songs like that. When I was learning that song, I really only had to practice three or four times.
Speaking of that hyper-awareness, you had less than a year between filming season nine and All Stars season three. How did you improve so quickly in every arena?
A: I am a big critic, especially of myself and my art. I feel like a lot of people who are artists will understand that. Being put under such an insane amount of scrutiny after season nine, for several reasons people didn’t like my attitude, my art, or my this, or my that I’m just the type of person who, instead of sitting there saying ‘Why me?’, I want to make myself the best me I can be. People always say, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ And I’m like, well, if you hire the right people, Rome will be built in a day!
The Linda Evangelista monologue came up a lot this season, both referenced by you and Ru. Do you like that that’s become such a signature for you?
A: I’m not ashamed of that moment, even though it was I don’t even know what the hell I was thinking at that moment, honestly. But I think it’s better to laugh and make fun of those moments, because they’re real moments. Honestly, if that’s what people know you for, then unfortunately, it’s tied to your brand. When that thing first aired, for the first time, I was like, ‘Yes, I live for myself! Who is that bitch?’ But then a few weeks later, everybody was like, ‘I hate you, I hope you die, you ugly dumb bitch!’ And I never wanted to hear it again! But the people who work for my merchandising [suggested] we sell shirts that say it. It ended up becoming one of our top-selling shirts. So you know what? If you don’t like something, but you said it, and other people are saying it? Brand it, put it on a T-shirt, and it will sell.
It didn’t really get discussed on the show, because you were safe for Divas Live, but your Princess Disastah rework was stunning. How did that come together?
A: When I first found out about that runway, I hit up a good friend who’s a costume designer, Dallas Coulter. She lives in San Francisco. I sent her a picture of this anime fire warrior, and I told her I wanted to look like this a queen, royal, but also doesn’t take herself too seriously. And she was like, ‘Sure.’ She literally took the time out of her life to make that costume for me. When I got it, I was amazed, first at how small I could make my waist, but also how insane the image got put together after the jewelry and the accessories and the hair. It was basically Princess Disastah went on vacation to Colombia and got facial feminization surgery, came back, got the hair done, and she evolved.
— 𝔡𝔞𝔫𝔦𝔢𝔩 🏳️🌈 (@lgbtvelour) January 26, 2018
You contemplated doing Crystal LaBeija in the season nine Snatch Game, but ultimately went with Alyssa Edwards. Do you think you would have done it as well in season nine as you did it this season, or do you think you needed more time to develop it?
A: If I had done Crystal in season nine, I would’ve won the Snatch Game. Here’s the thing: I never really had to study the character of Crystal. I am Crystal. That’s just it. Crystal is how I act when I’m really mad, when I feel like something is not going the way it should. That Crystal comes out of me. That “Linda Evangelista” was Crystal. At the reunion? That was Crystal. Crystal is the part of me that calls it out and tells it like it is. It was definitely a missed opportunity [back in season nine].
Bebe didn’t credit you for helping make her look on the runway this week. We didn’t see you mention that in the edit, but did you call her out on that?
A: I didn’t actually, I don’t remember. But it’s just not my type of personality to be like, ‘Oh hey, girl, you should have.’ I’m above and beyond it. I don’t need to get validation from her for making the base of the outfit because I didn’t make the whole thing. I’m not in need of it. I’m just like, whatever happens, happens, we’re OK, we’ll move on. We’re two adults.
You’ve spent the better part of two years in the Drag Race machine. What are your goals now that you’re coming out of All Stars bigger than ever?
A: Right now, I’m working on music! I have an EP coming out soon, a single coming out next week, and an album coming out at the end of the year. I plan to take that music on tour, and I’ll be working on a lot of visual projects. Stay tuned, because you’ll be seeing a lot more of me whether you like it or not!