Every season on RuPaul’s Drag Race, a queen emerges from the pack to be what has now been coined the “lip sync assassin” of the season. While they may end up in the bottom two once or twice, their lip sync skills prove that they belong in the completion, and the viewers get to see a scorching performance in the process.
This season, Texas stunner Ra’Jah O’Hara quickly proved that she was one of the last ladies you wanted to go up against on the main stage. From James Brown to Donna Summer, O’Hara showed her extensive versatility and astounding lip sync prowess during her performances. While she’s departed the Drag Race competition, O’Hara is a must see when she comes to your area. I sat down to chat with her post-elimination on her beginnings in drag., her unrelenting honesty (and how it affected her during the competition) and what makes the truly perfect lip sync.
Michael Cook: Now that your experience on RuPaul’s Drag Race is over, how does it feel looking at the experience in hindsight?
Ra’Ja O’Hara: Time definitely flies (laughs)! First and foremost it feels amazing to even be a part of the competition, but to also to have made it as far as I did. I can’t really complain about doing well, because I could have been the first person to go home.
MC: So is the process as grueling as we all hear that it is?
RO: The process looks so much easier on television, but I can really tell you that it is like the Olympics of Drag; when they say that they mean it! We go through so many challenges, not only the challenges that you see, but we have mental and physical challenges that we have to deal with. It was challenging, I can say that much for sure.
MC: This year, there were definitely a lot of big personalities, and in Untucked in particular, we are seeing those personalities really come out this season. What was it like having that much personality in one room and how did you all manage to stay focused on the competition and not each other?
RO: For the most part, I can say that we all had a sisterhood. We really do have a sisterhood. It’s not RuPaul’s Best Friends Race, but we are close. When you go through something like that, the only people you can turn to, especially since we are so isolated, is each other. We had to rely a lot on each other, hold each other down, pick each other back up, and of course read each other (laughs). That is just drag culture; people are up in arms about their favorites getting read, and it’s like “girl, that’s life”.
MC: You are a very honest and straightforward performer, and that is reflected in your on stage performances. Was it hard being that honest when others not be as comfortable being so straightforward?
RO: Is it hard for me to be honest and stay true to who I am in a situation where there are people being disingenuous-no its not. Who I am is who I am. That is what I gave them in my audition tape, so I wasn’t gonna change who I am for television or just because there is a camera around. A lot of the time I actually forgot that they were filming. This is who I am; I feel like what I said is most definitely my thoughts. Am I extremely happy about the way that I have been portrayed?- not necessarily, but I am okay with it. I own every single bit of it. We can’t all be Perfect Patties all the time; or we find ourselves absolutely quiet and standoffish and no one gets to really know the true person and who we are. I know that my sisters know for sure that I am not as evil or as hateful as it may come off.
MC: One thing that we would have liked to have heard about you, as you actually mentioned, was to hear more of your story. Where does Ra'Ja O Hara come from?
RO: I actually started doing drag while I was in college as a dare for Halloween. My friends and I wanted to figure out who was the fishiest woman, and I won that competition amongst friends. I actually moved back to Dallas after leaving college due to dance injuries, as I was a dance major at SUNY Purchase in New York, and I had to move home after I was injured and recuperate. During my down time and recuperation, I went to my first drag club in Dallas and there was an entertainer on stage. She did a flip off of the stage into the splits and I said “I have never seen this and how do I be a part of it”!? I found the show director, got in the show and that was back in 2007. That’s twelve, almost thirteen years I have been doing this. I started out as a baby drag of course, it wasn’t anything that I took too seriously. Then I started competing in pageantry and that is when my drag took on it’s own life and actually became something serious that I like and wanted to do for sure. And now here we are!
MC: You are truly the lip sync assassin of Season 11 You tell me-what makes a sickening and epic lip sync?
RO: Owning the songs. Embodying the character and embodying the beat and the rhythm. Exuding confidence. Emoting the emotions of the song. Tapping into what the artist is saying. For example, when I lip synced “Living In America” by James Brown. That was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I felt like, as soon as that beat kicked in, I was nervous about it, but in the middle of the song, I turned into James Brown (laughs)!
MC: Snatch Game is next week’s challenge. Who were you going to portray for the challenge?
RO: I had a lot of characters lined up. Of course, Grace Jones is one of my favorite artists and I just feel like she has never really gotten the proper representation on Drag Race. A lot of people will do Grace Jones, but they typically do her as the character from Boomerang; here is more to her than that. The one character that I was probably going to end up doing was LaToya Jackson; it would have been amazing! There’s always All Stars, so you may see that just yet!
MC: Looking at your career and your life now, what gives you the most pride as a performer and a person?
RO: What gives me the most pride is that I wake up every day with new energy and new breath in my body. That is so rewarding it itself. When you think about the stresses that we deal with on a daily basis, as long as you get through those stresses and make it to the next day you are good. There is opportunity for you to do something differently or to take on the challenge of the new day. Getting through each day is really the most rewarding. What really makes me hold my head up is the fact that I know that I am always going to be true to myself, in every situation. Anything you throw at me I am going to attack it authentically as myself.
Whatcha Packin': Season 11 Episode 7
Check out all of SFGN, RuPaul's Season 11