RuPaul's DragCon

Review: Trinity Taylor's Love for the Art Tour in Minneapolis

The season 9 stunner and All Stars 4 frontrunner held the Flip Phone-presented competition at The Pourhouse

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Trinity the Tuck emerged on The Pourhouse stage with an energetic lip-sync performance of the hypnotic, dark pop Kim Petras bop “Turn Off the Light (feat. Elvira).” Her tight lip sync, gorgeous ruffled outfit and energetic strutting got the night off to a fun start. 

She then threw herself into full-on MC mode, introducing the concept of her Love for the Art Tour, a nationwide series of drag competitions starring local queens. Minneapolis was the sixth tour stop so far, and as the night went on, she declared it the tightest competition yet. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

The talented Trinity MCed the competition with self-effacing humor, like telling the audience she would weigh 100 pounds if it weren’t for the “85 pounds of silicon” in her body. The first round was a look presentation, with each of the contestants showcasing a gag-worthy drag couture. The audience took the competition seriously, too, as I noticed a few people with paper and pen keeping track of their favorites.

  • Carińo came out in a blush-colored belted gown, and vamped along to a monologue about drag that transitioned into a Spanish-language pop song.

  • Allota Shots brought everyone back to the 90s wearing by their best Magic School Bus drag (literally, they stepped out of a bus they was wearing around their hips). From planets on their head, to makeup and hair inspired by Miss Frizzle, and a galaxy-pattern dress, the look was out of this world. Their look presentation was soundtracked to the show’s theme song, too. Trinity the Tuck said, “If drag doesn’t work out for you, you’ll be an arts and crafts genius, bitch!”

  • Giselle Ovarmé showcased an iridescent, crystallized costume with a silhouette reminiscent of The Fame Monster-era Lady Gaga. A haunting atmospheric track played in the background. Trinity thought Giselle looked like a mermaid.

  • Drag queen and king Meshika Shadows first appeared in a pink glitter gown with a long, flowing white train. The train was so big someone had to help them walk it down the stairs. They showcased the sparkling, flowing beauty of the piece while P!nk’s “What About Us” played.

  • The statuesque Laydee Swallowz donned a slim-fitting, glittery, star-covered dress with a matching headpiece. It was accentuated with dark aquamarine drapes hanging off their arms. Old Hollywood music hung in the background. They went above and beyond by getting on a microphone to describe their look as “glamour and Lisa Frank.”

  • Victoria Boom Boom Gotti rocked a stunning curled wig, which was perhaps the best hair of the night. Their black glittered dress caught the eye of many fans, and they received some of the most generous tips of the night. The chill R&B song “Queen” by Jessie J was a sensual backing track to their presentation.

  • Ty Torres wore a large feathered piece around their shoulders, and a matching feathered headpiece. The shoulder piece came off in two, as handheld fans they waved around for the audience. Trinity the Tuck was impressed, shouting, “Come on full production, let’s get sickening!” 

  • Local favorite Martina Marraccino of Queer Circus wore an ornate green dress with plants coming from it. It contrasted beautifully against their bright red gloves and stilettos. Their silver headpiece sparkled, and had plant life bursting out the top. Trinity joked about being “hypnotized” by this performer in the dressing room. “Don’t ‘dickmatize’ me, bitch!”

  • The gorgeous Moéh stood tall in a pink dress with a squiggle design, a black belt and black shoulder pads. Their blonde-with-dark-roots wig recalled Madonna’s Hard Candy era hair looks.

  • Rosie Bottoms wowed the crowd wearing a red wig, and a floral print dress with a large bird puppet coming out the front. The puppet was hand-operated, and created the illusion that they were riding on its back. This was achieved by Rosie wearing long stilts on their legs, covered with bird leg-patterned material.

  • Priscilla Yuicy did their best runway walk onto the stage, soundtracked to Rihanna’s “Phresh Off the Runway.” They rocked a large updo, a green felt jacket, and long silver boots. The coat came off to reveal a silver, chain mail-inspired dress. The music transitioned into an audio recording of Samirah Raheem’s epic anti-slut shaming conversation with Jesse Peterson, which has gone viral. 

Round two was the performance category, which included lip synced performances and even some live instrumentation. DJ Izzie P kept things moving with minimal downtime between performers’ tracks.

  • The bouncy Carińo broke it down to a Spanish-Language dance track. Their intricate arm choreography and death drop were so good, Trinity asked them to teach the audience how to pronounce their name so they wouldn’t mess it up.

  • Allota Shots came out dressed like Mary Poppins, umbrella and all. They performed along to a dubstep mega mix of songs from the classic Disney flick. Shots even spiced Poppins up by taking off their overcoat to reveal a slinky bodysuit underneath. The performance inspired Trinity the Tuck to troll the crowd, saying, “If you can spell ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’ I’ll give you $500… and if you believe me, I’m lying!” 

  • Double entendre queen Giselle Ovarmé straddled a venue staircase as they entered wearing large, holographic angel wings and a shiny costume. The iridescent outfit played well in the stage lights, soundtracked to a lip-sync of “The Cold” by Exitmusic. During the final chorus, the angel wings were revealed to be rigged with dazzling LED lights.

  • Meshika Shadows slayed in a green, glittery kimono-shaped dress. They showed off their lip-sync skills to P!nk’s cover of “A Million Dreams” from the film The Greatest Showman, before a high energy transition into Katy Perry’s “Part of Me,” including several many cartwheels back and forth across the stage. Trinity was impressed by the full costume change Shadows did between the two songs. 

  • Laydee Swallowz donned a short, white 1920s flapper dress. Their lip-sync was to Miss Shirley Bassey’s legendary vocal recording of “History Repeating.” She had a classy updo with gems in it. They had several layers which came off, including a chest piece that revealed a pink triangle, and a back piece that revealed the word “RESIST.” They ended the performance with a fist of power. Trinity the Tuck complemented their Bob Fosse-inspired moves. 

  • Victoria Boom Boom Gotti came correct with a remix of Kesha’s “Woman." Gotti led the crowd in a clap-along as they yanked off a smock that revealed a black body suit underneath, complete with revealing cutouts. Their high energy choreo stunned the audience, as did their death drop into a rain of cash. Trinity was also shook, stating “I wouldn’t wanna lip sync against her.”

  • Ty Torres came back to deliver an amazing performance of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” by Charlie Daniels. Torres’ denim cowboy look with human and devil makeup on either side of their face perfectly fit the song’s lyrics. Torres did not have a fiddle like the song references, saxophone, which they played live. “That’s a talent,” Trinity declared. 

  • Martina Marraccino returned to the mic for an impressive live vocal performance of “A Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga. Their singing showed restraint, was on pitch, and sounded great alongside a live-sounding acoustic guitar recording. Their yellow and black cow-print smock was hilarious and went with the country sound of the track. Their vibrato was gorgeous, and a fellow audience member agreed with me. Trinity couldn’t resist referencing her All Stars 4 sister Monique Heart by saying, “Yes, yellow cow stunning!” 

  • Moéh lip-synced Florence and the Machine’s 2018 cover of the classic song “Stand by Me.” The stage lights accentuated Moéh’s gorgeous white wig and pink and silver gown. 

  • Rosie Bottoms came for blood with a high-energy performance of “Scheiße” by Lady Gaga. Wearing an aquamarine, see-through lace jumpsuit and white slouchy boots, Bottoms brought the house down with big choreography. This included a death drop which went into high-octane floor choreography. An astounded Trinity said, “I’m out of breath just watching her. I need to go to the emergency room!”

  • Priscilla Yuicy also brought the heat with the Ciara song “Got Me Good”; cool timing, because Ciara was a guest judge on that night’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4. Their red glitter cape come off to reveal an orange dress with a black lace back. In a twist of events, that dress also came off, unveiling a jeweled red bodysuit. Like Bottoms before them, Juicy dropped to the floor to do intricate floorwork. Yuicy's dancing here was some of the fiercest of the night. 

After Bottoms and Yuicy almost literally brought The Pourhouse down with their savage, high-energy performances, Trinity the Tuck welcomed all the contestants back to the stage. She delivered a powerful speech about how much the night and the tour at large meant to her, before asking the crowd to vote for their favorite performers by cheering the loudest for their pick. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

One by one, contestants were lovingly eliminated and thanked for their work. Lots of standouts left the stage, before it was down to Rosie Bottoms and Priscilla Yuicy. Bottoms won by a small crowd noise margin, so Trinity declared Yuicy would also advance to the national round of the Love of the Art Tour competition. For their slayage, Bottoms won $500 and Yuicy snatched $100. Trinity thanked the Minneapolis crowd, which was audibly delighted to have two representatives going to Los Angeles. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com


Who’s your favorite drag queen, local to you? Tag them in a tweet to me! @DerekPlease

Exclusive: Aja and Director Assaad Yacoub Talk New Music Video in On-Set Interview

A joint music video for “Bitch I’m Kawaii” and “Ayo Sis” brings the barrier-smashing performer close to completing their visual EP.

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

Rapper and RuPaul’s Drag Race & All Stars 3 alumni Aja filmed their new music video for the killer tracks “Bitch I’m Kawaii” and “Ayo Sis” in Downtown Los Angeles, CA on September 12, 2018. Yours truly had the honor of being on set — observing the action, and interviewing both Aja and the video’s director, Assaad Yacoub.

I spoke one-on-one with Aja between the filming of two key scenes. Our discussion was candid, revelatory, and fun. As we spoke, the crew moved their camera and lighting set up from a stuffed animal bureau set to a New York-style apartment bedroom scene.


Aja

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

Derek: I’m really excited to interview you again. So, why did you chose this double track as your new single?

Aja: Well, it was never supposed to actually be my single. “Art God” was going to be the next single. Then I just kind of thought, I have some time, I’m going to be in LA for a few days. I want to shoot a new music video. I couldn’t really decide between the two tracks, “Ayo Sis” and “Bitch I’m Kawaii.” So I said, you know what, why not Missy Elliot it. Who I actually rode with to LA, she was on my plane.

D: Oh! Really?

A: By the way, yeah, which is really random.

D: Wow, that’s awesome!

A: You know how Missy Elliot used to do like those combination videos, where it would be like two videos in one? I was like, why don’t I do that for the last two tracks on my EP, and I’ll be the first person to ever come off of Drag Race and have turned their entire EP into a visual collection of items.

I thought, if we’re going to do this, we should like make it into something very positive. I want to put it into a kind of project where I could promote something I was very interested in. So, we’re using “Bitch I’m Kawaii." The idea of the video is going to be that I’m sleeping with my trans girlfriend, as a male presenting person, and I go into this dream world where it’s kinda like taking a spin on the idea of having a wet dream and it’s kinda gone wrong. And the wet dream will be “Bitch I’m Kawaii,” so there’s like a bathtub and bubbles, and I’ll be in and out of drag in the scene. 

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

I kinda hated “Bitch I’m Kawaii.” I hate the track, so right before it hits the chorus, I wake up and I just had a nightmare. My girlfriend is supposed to be like, “Are you ok?” and I’m like, “No, I just had a nightmare.” Then it kinda starts going into “Ayo Sis.” Which, when I wrote it, it was a feminist anthem — or like an anthem for people who wanted to appreciate femininity. Something that happened recently to me was, I was told my gender nonbinary identity was invalid by these people that claimed to be “radical feminists,” and there are people that don’t believe in trans people at all. I actually got banned from Twitter for telling someone they were a senseless cow for being transphobic online.

D: Wow. 

A: I wanted to use “Ayo Sis” to push the narrative of appreciating femininity, but also very specifically, in the song, I name a lot of my own female icons. I wanted to use the video as a way of showing how normal like trans lives are. Trans people are normal people and there’s nothing wrong. Also, there’s a part where I’m in my female representation of my gender nonbinary identity. Which people get confused by, because you don’t adhere to any gender; you can present however you want. Which is what being queer is all about. So out of drag, I will be having a trans girlfriend, but in drag, or in that feminine character, I will have a very heteronormative looking boyfriend. To promote that straight men can have trans girlfriends, and straight men can have nonbinary girlfriends, and it’s okay. It doesn’t challenge society as much as people think it does. It is really not serious, and I think that there’s a lot said about the safety of trans women, especially trans women of color. People can just see for themselves, like if you watch this video, it’s just two people who are having fun, are in love and are celebrating.

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

D: Yeah, definitely. So, with your own gender identity, you have been living as and identifying as genderqueer for a while now. What are your preferred pronouns?

A: I usually just go by they/them, but I rarely like ever offended or slighted by like anything else, but I know there are some people who are. The best thing to do is just to ask. I actually just watched this video on YouTube. There’s this one dude, I think he’s a Republican or something, and he always does like the “convince me why this matters.” He was trying to find out why trans lives are normal, and people were teaching him about preferred pronouns and he was like, “Well if I want to call somebody this, I’m going to call somebody that.” So, like that I will never get around to. I’ll never understand why you can’t call somebody what they want to be called. It’s like, if you want to be called Tom, I’ll call you Tom. So, if somebody wants to be referred to as a he or she, or they or them, why can’t you do just that?

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

D: Yeah, that’s very valid. Actually in your first answers, you actually answered my second question, which was the inspiration behind the video, so we tackled that one (Laughs). So, this is your fourth music video with director Assaad Yacoub. Describe your collaboration process with him, and why are you a good fit together.

A: It works because I hate him. (Pause, laughs) I’m just kidding. You know what it is, me and Assaad are friends. We met on the set of “C.L.A.T..” It’s technically our fifth collaboration.

D: Oh, cool!

A: But, it’s my fourth solo with just him and me. Assaad is a very rambunctious person who has personality that’s similar to a dog with paranoia. He’s all over the place, and crazy, but he’s one of those people — 

Assaad, listening nearby, barks like a dog.

Aja: (Over their shoulder) Yeah, I’m talking about you! (Laughs) He knows how to bring to life a vision. The thing is, I’m a very hands on person like, I am like pretty much the stylist, visual director and creative director of all my music videos. Assaad will — (Over their shoulder) Assaad, I can see you listening to me, move over! — always put his input in. He will take everything that I tell him, and try to create the perfect shot for it. So, if I’m like, “Hey, this is the part where we’re casting a spell and I want mountains, and I want to wear a long robe, and I want to be doing this…” Assaad will be like, “Okay we need to capture from this angle, and we need to put it this way.” And, like whichever way will make it the most exciting. I think we work well together because he likes a challenge, and I’ll always give him a challenge.

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

D: Yeah, it seems like you guys — because I was observing during the “Bitch I’m Kawaii" set up over there — it seems like you have a great dynamic. The last time we spoke, in the interview, you spoke about using drag less as a means of a theatrical performance, and more as a queer expression in your daily life.

A: Yes.

D: Where are you on that journey?

A: Honestly, like at this point, I think that I’m just expressing myself, still doing me. Like the thing is, the big reason I don’t want to just use the term of “drag” is because I feel like people who take drag seriously — who are doing the art of drag — they take their gig seriously. Like, they are doing it for the art of drag. My passion is not in the art of drag, my passion is in music and in burlesque and in different art forms. For me it’s not about being the best drag queen, it’s about being the best burlesque artist and the best musician I can be. There’s people where drag is their art; it’s their passion. For me, drag is a medium, an art, and also a representation of my gender identity. When I get in drag, I realize lately that I want to tone it down and just be more me, because I don’t feel the need to hide behind a character. Also, I don’t want to offend anyone. A lot of people have gotten offended by me saying that — they’re like, “But you were on Drag Race” — and I’m like, yeah. I still do drag, but I just don’t do drag in the same way as other people. It doesn’t make me punk or different. Like, there’s other people who use drag as a medium. Bianca Del Rio doesn’t do anything that drag queens do.

D: Yeah.

A: Would I consider her a drag queen? Yes, but would I say she’s just a drag queen? No, she’s more of a comedian.

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

D: It shows in your work, too, because your work is very personal. You can tell when you are rapping your lyrics that they actually come from you, and they are not any sort of like industry clichés or anything. These are your real experiences, and it really does come through in your work.

A: Absolutely, for me everything I’ve done, I’ve written myself. I didn’t have help from anyone. I am just sharing my personal experience, and like people don’t understand. Especially I think it’s something Drag Race fans are not used to. They’re not used to someone doing something serious, like something very personal. I remember when season nine came out, and people were saying Sasha Velour takes herself “too seriously,” — what, because this is more than just, you know, a character for some people? For some people, this is life, like this is who they are. This is who they are. This is their real actual self-expression… who wants people to criticize their self-expression?

D: Yeah, exactly — instead of Aja being a “drag character,” Aja is you; you are Aja.

A: Exactly. So, you know, it took me a long time to realize that these people do not understand that. They think that Aja is like my drag is. Like I’m trying to do something. I’m not trying to do anything. I’m just trying to be me, and trying to express myself. When I went on Drag Race, it was never to like, “Oh my God, I want to be the best drag queen,” or to be held to the standard of anybody. I wanted a platform where I can be me, and people would, you know, love me for who I am. 

D: Yeah, because I’ve noticed that on Instagram, you’ll post photos in a more traditionally male drag and then more traditionally female drag, and then also a very genderqueer drag, all as Aja. So, it’s really revolutionizing the way that people think about the identity of different drag performers. I commend you on that.

A: Thank you. I think that people need to broaden their spectrum for once. I think anybody can do drag. I hate this idea that drag is only for men, or for like only certain genders on the spectrum. Anybody can do drag.

D: Yeah.

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

A: I feel like there’s a lot of ignorance and there’s a lot of misunderstanding. Which is ironic, because everybody just wants to be accepted. Everyone just wants peace, and wants to be equal. It’s funny the mean things that these people will say. I love people who support everyone. I love people who don’t judge based on race, and based on things that have nothing to do with a person.

D: Yeah, I have seen some of your Instagram lives and it seems like you definitely are one of the leaders in calling out the ignorance within the fanbase, and in some of the performers themselves.

A: Oh, absolutely! I feel like I would never like go up to someone in person and be like, “Oh my God, I hate you,” or whatever, because nobody goes up to you in person and says mean things. There’s something about the magic of anonymity online. I think like every fan base has that, first of all. Like, Drag Race fans are not the only ones who do that. Music industry fans do it, too. Everyone does it. Personally, at this point I have PR; I have good people who run my social media. What we do is, we’ll go on and delete all the bad comments. We’ll just be like, “Hey, these people are clearly assholes, we are just going to delete the comments.” When people compare my art, which is literally just me, to other people? Delete. When people say negative things about me or my family or my friends? Delete or block. I don’t have time to debate why someone is a terrible person or not. 

D: I want to end on a couple of light hearted questions. Who are some of your own favorite musical artists?

A: Oh, wow. I have a lot of favorite musical artists. I listen to a lot of rap and since I do rap music. My two favorite rappers are Nicki Minaj and Tyler the Creator. I think Tyler the Creator’s a genius, under-appreciated queer rapper, who literally scammed his way into the industry — got the respect of everyone — and then was like, “I’m gay”. People were like, “What?” 

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

Then, Nicki Minaj is just so intelligent. Everything she writes… you can tell it’s something she wrote, because it’s always on the same flow and it never changes — and it’s always referential. She’s just so smart, and it’s inspiring because she also comes from New York. She’s a perfect description of someone who can be colloquial, but then be very educated. Even in the recent events, like the fashion week stuff, I thought she handled it well. I think that she was smart in the way she played it out.

D: Last question: I love your tattoos, do you have a favorite?

A: My favorite tattoo would have to be my Clefable and Gengar tattoo. It’s a Pokémon tattoo. I have people spot that one anywhere. 

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

D: Oh, yes! I came up with that question looking through your Instagram today, and that was my favorite that I saw on your arm.

A: Everybody’s! It’s everybody’s favorite; it’s my favorite, too.

D: It’s awesome. Thank you so much for speaking with me again.


Photography by Dash Jones

Aja, now changed into their lingerie drag and a sexy, flowy wig, proceeded to film several sensual takes in bed with model Derek Richmond. Director Assaad Yacoub sat fully engaged behind his monitors, shouting words of encouragement to Aja to bring out the best in their on-screen performance. Once the scene was finished filming, the crew and cast of extras prepped for a rooftop night scene shoot, and Assaad and I had a chance to speak one-on-one.


Assaad Yacoub

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

Derek: So, it’s really awesome to interview you, because I love your work for the different top RuPaul’s Drag Race queens doing their music videos, and also your film Cherry Pop.

Assaad Yacoub: Oh yes, you watched Cherry Pop! I love that, thank you.

D: It was so funny and it had a good message.

A: Thank you so much.

D: So, what is your favorite part of collaborating with Aja?

A: Aja specifically is my favorite, is one of my favorite queens, to work with. I would say Aja, and Bob the Drag Queen are my top two queens I love working with, because they come with fully realized idea, and they put a lot of effort and money into their videos. They know the value of a music video. They are not just like, “Here is $5,000 and make magic.” They understand the value that goes into music videos, so I really enjoy working with them. That’s been the best experience, specifically Aja.

D: Definitely, because I know that this is actually like your fourth music video that you’ve done together, right?

A: This is the fifth one if you consider “Clack,” like the first time I’ve met Aja. “C.L.A.T.,” “Brujeria,” “Finish Her!,” “I Don’t Wanna Brag,” and now this one.

D: Wow, yeah.

A: Yeah, I can’t believe it. The first time I met Aja was on the set of “C.L.A.T..” I had not met them prior to that, and we just bonded right away.

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

D: They had mentioned that when I spoke to them. That’s cool.

A: That was a great experience.

D: So, for this video in particular, can you walk me through your concept for it?

A: Yes, so for this one, as we see, we are trying to do a pro-trans rights video, and non-binary video as well. So, it’s kinda of a looser concept. It starts with Aja waking up with a nightmare in bed. The nightmare is one of their songs “Bitch I’m Kawaii.” For some reason, Aja doesn’t like that song — and it’s their own song — so they made it a joke about it, and made it into a nightmare in the video. Then it goes into “Ayo Sis,” where we cut between Aja as a boy with a very famous trans model and activist, Cassandra James; she’s awesome, great actress, a lot of fun to work with. Then it cuts to Aja in drag with a guy (Derek Richmond), and kinda playing with gender. I really like that.

D: That’s really cool. What kinds of visual techniques did you use to evoke emotions and portray that concept?

A: One of the things we’re using visually is having a bunch of people come in at some point to form the lines of the trans flag and the nonbinary flag in the background with their shirts. That’s kind of a way that we want to show the message in the background of what’s happening in the foreground. Then we did Aja kissing Cassandra when Aja’s out of drag, and in drag kissing the guy, to show that you can love whoever you want at the same time. I like that message.

D: Cherry Pop was fantastic. Do you have any plans for more movies at all?

A: Actually, we are trying to do a TV show, but I haven’t had the time because of all of the music videos I’ve been doing. We finished writing — my writer and I, because I don’t write — so I work with writer and he wrote the pilot. It’s similar to Cherry Pop. We’re not calling it Cherry Pop, we’re calling it Friends of Dorothy. A nod to the olden days when gay guys could identify each other as “friends of Dorothy.” And so that’s happening now, and I don’t know, we have no further details. We are not moving forward with that because of these music videos. So, I hope to come up with something soon in that theme.

D: For fans who know you through these collaborations with the top talent from the Drag Race world and from Cherry Pop, could you give a bio of yourself for us to get to know you a little bit more?

A: I was born and raised in Dubai. I grew up there until I was 18 — and originally I’m from Lebanon though, I’m Lebanese — then, I moved to Lebanon when I was 18, for a couple of years. I pretty much moved to New York when I was 20. Never been to New York, and I was like, “I’m fucking going to New York.” That’s when I met Bob the Drag Queen actually, eight years before he was called Bob. His name was Kittin Withawhip. I was going to his shows illegally, with a fake ID, and it was a lot of fun. That’s my first experience with drag. I saw Bob and I was like, I need to put you in a movie. That’s how Cherry Pop came about, [originally] as a short film. Then we made it into a feature. So that’s kind of my little bio to America.

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

D: Do you live here in the Los Angeles area now?

A: Yes, I’ve been in LA for seven years now. I love it here.

D: Do you have any other music video collaborations coming up with anyone?

A: Yeah, I have a ton. I don’t know if I can talk about all of them, but I do have some I feel like I can talk about. Mayhem Miller, Trinity Taylor, and then I just booked a drag trio in New York called Stephanie’s Child. I literally just booked them now. They performed with Jessie J on The Voice and stuff like that. So, they are doing pretty well, too. So I don’t just work with Ru girls, I’m open to working with everyone, which is my goal. It’s not just work with girls who are on Drag Race. I just like to work with talented people.

D: Definitely.

A: Oh, and Kelly Clarkson. I booked Kelly Clarkson’s music video. I forgot about that one. (Gestures) I should slide that one in.

D: Oh my God! That is awesome.

A: That’s going to be fun.

D: Is that from her current album (Meaning of Life)?

A: Yes, it’s from her current album.

D: I appreciate hearing that, because I’m a huge Kelly Clarkson fan. This new album is such a cool direction for her.

A: Oh, yeah! It’s amazing. I love the song they gave me, so I’m very excited to do it.

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

D: Obviously, when the queens get off of Drag Race — and some are not even on it — they have to create their own narrative, so what’s that like for you as a visual artist; to be able to help someone who may not otherwise be able to, with the technical and visual stuff, create their own narrative?

A: Narrative in the sense of their storyline in the video?

D: Yeah.

A: That happens a lot. Tatianna for example, when I just did her video, she called me up and was like, “Here’s the song, come up with whatever you want”. So, I try to come up with different ways to portray that drag queen. Like even Eureka, that was something similar we did. I’m like, let’s try something new with you. Like with Alexis Michelle, people are used to seeing her a certain way, and I was like, do a comedic video where people can see the lighter side of you. At the end of the day, that’s how you’re going to be portrayed — by how you’re portrayed in your video. You want to show a different side of yourself, if the way you’re portrayed on Drag Race sometimes isn’t the best. There are other ways to show people, “This is actually who I am,” so I think that’s the beauty of doing these videos. That’s why I love collaborating with them. I set out to come up with kooky ideas that help show different sides of these girls.

D: It seems like it’s such a one-on-one collaboration process.

A: One hundred percent.

Photography by Dash Jones

Photography by Dash Jones

D: You are working on an individual basis in these videos that you turn out. They each seem so unique, to the point where when I was researching for the interview, I had not realized you’d directed all of Aja’s music videos. They are all so different.

A: That’s good. I’m happy that’s the case. I hope that my style goes through all of them, but the goal is that each video is its own little story — its own little narrative, and it keeps changing and evolving — which I hope’s the goal with each video I do.

D: Did you do the Bebe Zahara Benet “Jungle Kitty” video?

A: Yes!

D: That was sickening! That was so much fun.

A: That was fun, that was a lot of fun. Bebe is awesome to work with. I really, really enjoyed working with her.

D: She’s from where I’m from, in Minneapolis.

A: Oh, nice!

D: She’s our hometown hero.

“Bitch I’m Kawaii / Ayo Sis” Music Video


Follow Aja on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Stream their music on Apple Music and Spotify.

What’s your favorite Aja song? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

Exclusive: Monét X Change Talks Touring & RuPaul's Drag Race

To know her is to love her. Monét X Change was not only a fan-favorite on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10, but a cast-favorite as well; her own competition voted her Miss Congeniality, in a special election after the public Internet poll was hacked. It was a privilege to speak to this wise and polished performer prior to her upcoming national tour, Murray & Peter Present War on the Catwalk: The Queens of Season 10.

Photo © Monét X Change

Photo © Monét X Change


Derek: How has your life changed since appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10?

Photo © Monét X Change

Photo © Monét X Change

Monét X Change: My life has changed by being able to travel and show the world all that I've learned by being one of the top queens in NYC; comedy, drama, “dancing," and singing.

D: What was it like being voted Miss Congeniality by your fellow cast mates?

MXC: Being voted Miss Congeniality was, seriously, very shocking to me. Like, I knew that I was genuine with the other girls during filming, but to see them acknowledge and honor me for that was very humbling.  

D: Your music video “Soak It Up (feat. Bob the Drag Queen)” wrings out your memorable, meme-worthy sponge costume for laughs. Do you have any fun memories from shooting it? 

MXC: First of all, ...it's a gown. How dare you?! Shooting with Bob was so much fun. My favorite memory was adhering the poof to Bob's head. He hated the poof when the show aired, and it brought me nothing but joy and pleasure to make him wear one. 

D: How did your collaboration with Bob come about? 

MXC: Because the thought of me doing anything without him makes Bob very jealous. So, he weaseled his way into my damn song! 

D: This summer you appeared on another iconic TV show, What Would You Do? Your segment explored bystanders’ reactions to two parents disapproving of their son being a drag queen. What was your main takeaway from that experience? 

MXC: My main takeaway was seeing how bold and understanding New Yorkers can be. Most of the diners were ready to stand up to those parents, without knowing anything about him. I think it really speaks to the hearts of most New Yorkers. 

D: You’re about to begin co-hosting Murray & Peter Present War on the Catwalk: The Queens from Season 10 with Miz Cracker. What can your fans expect to see on the nationwide tour? 

MXC: I think my fans can expect to see me in my natural habitat, telling jokes, being silly and making them laugh. Cracker and I worked together for a very long time in New York City, so we have a dynamic that you can't buy. We know each other very well, and are able to bring an audience into our realm of comfortability ...while making fun of Yuhua [Hamasaki]’s terrible "fashions."


Interview: Aja on Her EP "In My Feelings" and 'Drag Race' Musicians

The RuPaul's Drag Race Season 9 and All Stars 3 legend spoke exclusively to Twin Cities Gay Scene ahead of her Pride block party event at Lush nightclub.

Photo: AjaKween.com

Photo: AjaKween.com

Fresh off releasing her debut EP In My Feelings last month, the multitalented Aja is headlining Lush's Pride Kick Off Block Party this Friday, June 22. I had the chance to speak to the Brooklyn-based queer performance artist about her whirlwind rise to fame, creative music videos and more.


With RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 and All Stars 3 airing within a year of one another, multiple DragCons, and gigs around the world, have you had a chance to sit and process it all? 

Honestly, I can start to process it when I’m dead [laughs]. Being in an industry like this means nonstop work, and there really isn’t any time to process it. You just have to keep an open mind and let it flow. The only thing you can really do is direct the current.

What’s your favorite song on your new EP In My Feelings?

My personal favorite song off the EP would have to be “I Don’t Wanna Brag (feat. AVG JO)." Which is also my next music video. It will be released this summer and will feature some cool cameos. 

The music video for “Finish Her! (feat. WNNR & DJ Accident Report)” was gorgeous. Where did you get your inspiration for it? 

My inspiration for “Finish Her!” was pretty much Mortal Kombat. Basically, it was a huge metaphor for me saying I’m killing the game, and I am surpassing the expectations of the people who do not believe in me.

You join a long history of Drag Race alums who are also recording artists. Who are some of your favorites? 

I think there are some immense talents in the alumni. Some of the girls are very talented. I think Blair St. Clair has a great voice. Adore Delano has pretty much her own genre. And then there is Shea [Couleé] who is also killing the game. Trixie Mattel being the only country queen in the mainstream. Love all talents.

Photo: AjaKween.com

Photo: AjaKween.com

If you could have a Ru girl sing a hook on one of your rap tracks, who would it be? 

Honestly, I’m not sure, but it would be a pleasure to work with any of them.

You’ve kept it real when it comes to bad fan behavior at meet and greets. A lot of queens dance around those issues. Have you noticed a positive change in fan behavior since you addressed those issues on live streams? 

I never really pointed out fans having bad behavior at meet and greets. But I did bring attention to a mutual respect when it comes to big arenas such as DragCon. I think it is important for people to be mindful of all the sacrifices coming from all different places to make that amazing of [an event] happen. I received a lot of different reviews from these comments. But mostly they were positive. It’s good to know the fandom is respectful and understands mostly where we’re coming from as the artists.

Photo: AjaKween.com

Photo: AjaKween.com

With all the amazing things you and the other RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants are doing, it seems the sky is the limit. What would you love to accomplish next? 

I want to be signed on to a major record label and continue my work as a recording artist. I’m starting to use my drag less as a means of a theatrical performance, and more of a queer expression. So Aja is becoming part of who I am every day. I also want to tour the world doing burlesque shows. Violet [Chachki] got to tour with Dita von Teese, and I think that’s amazing. I’ve always wanted to channel burlesque like them and other queens like BenDeLaCreme, and now I have the resources to make it happen. 

Photo: AjaKween.com

Photo: AjaKween.com

What can fans expect at your Lush Pride Kick Off Block Party gig June 22? 

Expect lots of fun. I’m insane, I’m crazy. Expect emotions and love! I’m such a human. 


Purchase tickets for the Lush Pride Kick Off Block Party here.

A VIP meet and greet experience with Aja is available here.


What's your favorite Aja song? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

Interview: Bebe Zahara Benet at RuPaul's DragCon LA 2018

Hometown hero! The legendary Season 1 winner gave Twin Cities Gay Scene an exclusive interview for our Pride 2018 Part II issue. 

with bebe zb.jpg

Flanked by two ripped go-go dancers, the official Bebe Zahara Benet booth at RuPaul's DragCon was the definition of vivacious - much like the RuPaul's Drag Race Season 1 winner and All Stars 3 finalist herself. Our third time meeting, we spoke about past memories and enjoyed a lively interview full of boiling hot tea. 


bebewarmfilter.jpg

Derek: We’re here from Twin Cities Gay Scene magazine - your hometown of Minneapolis, in the house!

Bebe Zahara Benet: [Squeals excitedly] Noooo! Well, you guys know I represent Minneapolis because the past DragCons, you guys have not been here. Were you here last year?

D: No, this is my first DragCon.

BZB: How is it? How do you feel?

D: Amazing. It’s so fun! We’re here the entire time. 

BZB: Tomorrow is like, going to be ridiculous, now it’s more quiet. Tomorrow that is like when everybody decides to show up.

D: Yeah! I’ve seen some of your residencies in Minneapolis, like Queendom.

BZB: You have, like at the Pourhouse?

D: Yeah, at Pourhouse!

BZB: You see, this is called support.

D: And then you tried to teach us how to do fans at the Gay 90s. [Laughs]

BZB: Oh, did you see the “Jungle Kitty” fan? You’ll have to take a picture with it.

D: Oh, yeah!

I took a picture with the fan - and one of her dancers!

BZB: It says, “I'm Pussy Bitch.” YAAAAS! It does. [Laughs]

D: Oh my God, that’s amazing. [Laughs]

BZB: It’s an attitude, and it’s a state of mind! It’s very that.

D: What was it like going back to RuPaul’s Drag Race after all the years between Season 1 and All Stars 3?

BZB: Oh my gosh, what was it like? You know what’s so funny is I was very - when I was asked to do the show - of course at first I turned it down a couple of times because I wasn’t sure why, when had already won the show and the title. It’s not as if I needed any validation. But, when I thought more about it and to see how far the show has come many years from when I started. I was very excited to come, you know I would say the seasoned queens can always learn new tricks, but it was very important to also show this whole new generation of fans a different aesthetic and a different point of view of drag. I think that coming to the show and coming a voice there was very very, necessary. For people to know where the foundation all started. So, I was very excited and honey, I was excited to come and see my face on HD, honey! [Laughs]

D: Oh, yes! It’s beautiful.

BZB: I wanna see my face on HD! You know? It was amazing and I had such a good time, I really did.

D: Yeah, that iTunes HD… you look SO good! Oh my God.

BZB: Oh honey, I said I was going to come and make sure she’s painted now.

D: The big twist of the season was that you were coming on, and you weren’t announced right away. How was it keeping that secret, even though a lot of people had already kinda figured it out?

BZB: You know, it was very easy for me to keep it a secret because remember when we started Season 1, being able to be quiet about the season or anything about that was very, very important. I mean even worse than now, you know. So when Season 1 happened, when I did Season 1, nobody knew - even my family. So going to All Stars was like “okay, whatever,” you know what I mean? Plus, I didn’t want to ruin the surprise because I knew people were going to be SO surprised at seeing me walk through the door. And I just really wanted them to have a moment for them to be like, “oh! Did she really show up?” [Laughs]

D: Yeah. To be gagged!

BZB: Yeah! We needed a gagging moment. And I’m sure that was… Was that a gagging moment for you? 

D: Yes!

BZB: Because I knew there were rumors around, but was that really a gagging moment when those doors opened?

D: Yeah, ‘cause I don’t trust anything except for the actual show. [Laughs]

BZB: [Laughs] When it happens, right! 

D: I don’t trust Reddit, or whatever. 

BZB: Did you love the show? What did you think of All Stars?

D: Oh my God, yeah. I was so happy that you made it to the end, ‘cause if you hadn’t make it to the end, I would’ve been… 

BZB: Well did you have any doubts that I was going to make it to the end?

D: No, I just mean because of the fact that everybody was voting each other, I was worried that they were going to like, snub you out sooner.

BZB: Oh, they tried it! [Laughs]

D: Yeah. [Laughs]

BZB: They tried it, because what I had to do was to be good - and even better than good - to not be voted out. Because I knew coming into the show, as much I love the entertainers, they were like, “She’s already a winner why is she here?" So, if I was in the bottom, I would have been gone. 

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D: Yes!

BZB: I love the glitter [gestures to my cheeks], it’s like you are trying to copy me. I live! Minneapolis in the house. Thank you guys for representing.

D: Thank you.

BZB: We got to represent Minneapolis, so say hi tomorrow.

D: If I see you I’ll be like, “Hey!” [Laughs]

BZB: I will know exactly who you are. Thank you guys!

D: Well, thank you so much!


Special thank you to RuPaul's DragCon and World of Wonder for giving us the opportunity to cover their Los Angeles 2018 convention. Buy tickets to RuPaul's DragCon NYC 2018 here.


What are you doing for Pride this year? Let me know! @DerekPlease on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter