'Drag Race' star Aquaria on her journey to stardom and how she handles criticism: 'I feel that I sometimes get very misrepresented'

·6 min read
Drag Race Season 10 winner Aquaria is supporting New York City nightlife this Pride. (Photo Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Drag Race Season 10 winner Aquaria is supporting New York City nightlife this Pride. (Photo Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10 winner, Aquaria, is ending Pride month in the best way possible: with a tall glass of bubly sparkling water. The brand recently teamed with Pride Media for its bubly Out at Night campaign, recruiting staples of the New York City scene — including Aquaria — to champion the return of LGBTQ nightlife, which unfortunately saw a huge loss in queer safe spaces due to the financial difficulties brought upon by the pandemic.

Aquaria, the drag daughter of Drag Race Season 4 winner Sharon Needles, always knew she was destined for stardom. Her strong work ethic, profound dedication to her craft and drive to make people laugh has carried her all the way to the top. In a conversation with Yahoo Life, she speaks about how she got here, what she’s learned, how she handles criticism and the importance of companies supporting the LGBTQ community long after June.

When did you realize that drag was going to be your career?

I think I've always seen drag as a full-blown career option. I am sure that may seem very open-minded or even very privileged, but it's true. I feel like I'm young enough (and optimistic enough) to have grown up seeing drag in different types of media where it was viewed as a valid and serious profession. Drag has always felt normalized in my brain and it is something that comes so naturally to me, that I kind of think I've just always seen it as something someone could commit to for their life. That obviously completely glosses over the financial aspect of drag and the whole "needing to pay rent each month" thing, but I don't think those were stressful priorities when I was a kid growing up.

How do you handle criticism?

Not well! Kidding — sorta? I definitely appreciate any criticism, whether it be constructive, negative or somewhere in the middle. There is always something you can take away through constructive criticism, of course. As for negative criticism, even when I get nasty messages or read false or judgy things about myself, I try to sit back and kind of process where that opinion or comment may have come from and how I can either learn something from it, or learn to not believe the false criticism because I understand my talents, skills and character.

What were some of the lessons you learned as a young drag queen that you still apply?

There are definitely so many lessons I've learned over my lifetime of theater, dance and drag to really name anything specific, but I've always tried to make an effort to be kind, flexible and thoughtful whenever I'm backstage at work. I've been told by many promoters, queens, etc. that they really appreciate how mannerly and friendly I try to be whenever I'm in new cities. There's plenty of difficult entertainers to work with, so if I can be a tiny breath of fresh air for others, that makes me happy. I feel that I sometimes get very misrepresented and misunderstood because of the aura I give off or how I present myself. In all honesty, these misconceptions are almost never proper representations of me, as I believe being a humble, dedicated and caring individual is what has led me to such a great place in my career.

Where do you think drag is going?

I think drag is transcending itself. Drag is changing lives. Drag is saving lives. Drag is creating new life. Drag has never had limits and society is just finally really beginning to accept that.

What are the things that bring you joy?

I absolutely love spending a night out at the club with my friends in crazy looks. That's how I got my start in the nightlife scene, and it will always be a source of joy for me. I also love traveling and dining. I know those are definitely two separate things, but they go hand in hand whenever I am blessed with the opportunity to see new parts of the world. I'd say it was a guilty pleasure, but I am very open with it, but I'm so obsessed with Pokémon and almost anything and everything regarding the franchise brings me guaranteed joy.

What are the things that stress you out the most, and what are ways in which you de-stress?

Despite how blessed my life is, there's of course plenty of things that torture my mind all the time. I try to avoid stress as much as possible by always trying to have a backup plan in any given situation. My parents always stressed to me that accidents will always happen, but the important thing is always trying to avoid them and doing your best to resolve them whenever they happen. Stress comes out of nowhere and at the end of the day, you've just gotta roll with the punches because you're the only person who will truly care about it. For me, I feel that de-stressing happens more over time rather than with a particular method.

How important is it for companies, like bubly, to be visible and show up for the LGBTQ community?

When I see brands frequently working with friends of mine in the community or queer people online that I'm fans of, I can't help but think at least a little more highly of the brand. Visibility will always be so important for queer people, so any opportunity we have to potentially see ourselves thriving in media is very empowering. So many brands claim to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month, but we don't see substantial allyship for the rest of the year. Brands like bubly, however, continuously use their platform to amplify queer voices and provide resources all year round.

It's a really exciting time for NYC, and it's been a blast working with bubly to provide New Yorkers with a new way to celebrate! There is plenty of debate to be had about all sorts of marketing and advertising, but when I see a company like bubly going out of their way to support and employ queer entertainers in so many of their projects outside of Pride month, it definitely seems to say something about their commitment to not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk.

Do you have a philosophy by which you live?

I'm not sure I have a specific philosophy that comes to mind. I try to do good in the world. I try to be kind and thoughtful. I try to bring joy and be the excitement I wished to see in the world. I try to be the very best like no one ever was. I try to find peace in wherever I end up.

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