Raja’s return to "RuPaul's Drag Race" after over a decade was much anticipated and has without a doubt, not disappointed at all.
The very fashion, creativity and ability to set trends that helped propel her to win Season 3 are only amplified on All Stars 7 and every single runway look from Raja is more anticipated than the last. Additionally, Raja has proven herself to be a hilarious comedic performer, with star-turns during the acting challenges and "Snatch Game." After a decade, I finally got to sit down with Raja again to talk about her return to the Drag Race main stage, what it has been like watching Drag Race from afar for the past decade-plus, and what the return meant to her.
Michael Cook: Raja, you have not been on the RuPaul's Drag Race’s main stage as a contestant for over a decade. What was it like to return to the competition for All Stars 7?
Raja: I have to say that I really was terrified. I have been "resting on my laurels” and sort of “reigning" for the last 11 years in a very lazy and comfortable spot, just kind of enjoying being Raja without having to deal with any of the challenges or the new way of what Drag Race looks like. I just watched from afar, and did Fashion Photo Ruview and “tooted" and “booted" their costumes, with very lax ease through the entire show.
Coming back to Drag Race was a panic initially, like "Oh my God am I even prepared for this”? I think people had a certain expectation of what Raja should be and is. I panicked and I was afraid, but I am also the type of person that works beautifully under pressure. I am a Gemini, so I am a procrastinator, but once the project is together, I usually feel quite confident in it. So it was a combination of fear and this feeling of "I got this," I can do this. I know what I'm doing, I am an expert at what I do, so I am just doing to do my best, go in there, and give the best that I can.
MC: Now that you are back and you have seen the overly positive response that you have been getting from the fans, what has it been like to experience the almost "new" way that Drag Race is done firsthand?
R: I am elated. Each week as the episodes happen and I see how beautifully they have edited our stories together, I don’t look at any of this as being negative. I am so thankful, and appreciative, and my heart is about to explode because everyone has been so kind and so respectful. I feel like I have been placed in this moment of reverence and love, and I could not be happier; I am ecstatic at how it is all turning out. I am glad that people are appreciating the work that was so hard in putting together; I'm happy.
MC: When you returned and saw the girls that entered the workroom and that you were going to be competing against, were you familiar with all of them as competitors and performers?
R: I was familiar with them because I spend so much time watching all of the episodes of Drag Race, especially since the franchise has now gone global, I'd watch all of them. Some of them I had never met in person, so I was intimidated because I am also a fan of theirs. I have seen the work that they have put out, I saw their wins, and I am familiar with who they are as entities. I was definitely very excited to see them on day one and also intimidated. Mostly I was just excited because once I saw the whole group all of us together, I was like "Oh my gosh, this is going to be a blast".These people are so talented, so respected, and so loved, I just felt in really good company.
MC: So much has changed in the world of drag in the decade-plus since you last appeared on the Drag Race stage. What is one thing that you have gotten to see happen in the world of drag that you truly, never thought you would see in your lifetime?
R: I would say that Drag Race now, 11 years later, is so huge. There is a convention, it is an industry; it's not just performing in bars. It is global, huge, it is an industry; it is not like I ever imagined it. Especially for myself and in my own story, I never thought that drag itself could be my career. I always thought it was going to be something that I did on the side outside of my makeup career and whatever else I decided to venture into as far as work. I never realized that one day we would actually be able to have careers that surrounded itself playing dress-up.
Never in my mind, never did I think that I would actually get to have the same or something that had mirrored what RuPaul had created for me and others in the early '90s. It is still shocking to me. Whenever I am preparing for DragCon, I say to myself "What am I doing again”? Oh right, I get to be a superstar crossdresser and I have throngs of fans who are excited to see me do this. That part I never expected and I am very happy and pleased to see is a reality now.
MC: When you and Raven are tooting and booting on Fashion Photo Ruview, do you ever take a beat and look at each other and say "I cannot believe this is our life”! As longtime friends, you have gone on to massive success in the same industry, which is truly such a rarity.
R: Always, at least for me. I am not entirely sure what goes on in Raven's brain, but I am pretty sure that if we had a chance to sit down together, the two of us, we would be very pleased with where we are in our lives. We are also two people that started about the same time, Raven may have started doing drag after me. We know the amount of work that we have put in, so that part we are not surprised about. We put in the time, we've put in the work, we have made ourselves available to these moments. It doesn't surprise us because we have done the work. Now, all of those things are being rewarded and it makes sense to us; I would say that Raven would say the same.
MC: Now that you once again have this platform, what does this summer have in store for you?
R: Pride is upon us, and the last Pride is Palm Springs Pride and that is in November sometime. This entire season is about working, working, working, putting it all in and it is a little shocking to my body and system because previous to any of this, we were all working through Covid and doing things from home and doing drag from the waist up with zoom stuff. That part is a little difficult, but it is what we have waited for.
I am just going to ride the wave, and 11 years later, I am 48 years old now and I am just enjoying every bit of invitation to anywhere in the world that people want to see me make an appearance. I am enjoying the change in social media culture adding paid partnerships as part of our income; I am an influencer now, which I never would have never guessed would be part of the story that is happening now. I am just going with it and riding the wave. I am also allowing myself time to create, to me that is the most important part of drag. To have that time to just be the creative that I am.
Follow Raja on Instagram @sutanamrull
Read about the other contestants on the homepage.