It’s been quite awhile since a nightlife performer has captured our hearts and minds in this way, using an arsenal of precisely edited looks, ferociously eloquent dance moves and a cool demeanor hiding hours of painstaking preparation. Has anyone not seen her Instagram by now, or caught her name in a hundred Buzzfeed lists? Where did this alien drag princess come from, and what has she done to us? We may be asking this question forever, even though Thotyssey’s gotten some answers. It really is the dawning of the Age of Aquaria!
Thotyssey: Aquaria, hello! So I’m glad we’ve finally found a moment to chat!
Aquaria: Hey hey! Thanks for having me.
I see that you did a sort of boy/mime look for “Straight Acting” at Metro Bar last week, and performed a Panic at the Disco number. When you work these types of mixed-up events (party/show), what usually comes first for you when you decide what you’re gonna do that night: the look or the number?
Well, it honestly depends. “Straight Acting” is a really special party for me, because performing there is super low stress. But I also like to go all out in some sense, and do something completely out of the box as far as your typical performance or drag looks go.
This month, I really wanted to take a cute colorful pic before the event, which explains the makeup. And as far as the number goes, I’ve been recently listening to a lot of the music that I loved when I was younger, and have been trying to find inspiration in it. Panic at the Disco, and recently Black Eyed Peas as well, have really been speaking to my style of performance. So it was fitting, since so many people gagged when the music started.
Your sickening looks are already legendary, and you’ve established quite an online following as a result. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I honestly don’t always have a lot to work with at home, so I try to find inspiration in color combinations, or ways to alter the way the face looks. I also have been recently inspired by memes and phrases, and have used these odd inspirations as the concept for a particular look.
So, where’s your hometown, and what were your earliest creative interests?
I’m originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, and just as most queens, I was always a creative kid. Because I’m a performer, dance and theater have always been main focuses in my life. But into high school, I became very obsessed with portraiture, and loved painting in a very particular style that I think actually translates to the way I do makeup quite a lot.
Am I allowed to ask how old you are?
Haha, of course. Miss Aquaria is twenty-one.
How and when did you become Aquaria?
I’ve always been interested in drag since I was a little kid, and my drag inspiration/mother Sharon Needles really is who got me interested in doing drag myself.
I remember during spring break of seventh grade, I came across Misty Maven/Petrilude on YouTube and I was forever hooked trying to learn the concepts of makeup and the beginnings of how to do drag. From there, I would experiment with different looks in my bedroom using the supplies I had. I’d take pictures on my webcam. I am very proficient in Photoshop, and I would edit the pictures and use the edits as a trial-and-error way of adjusting my makeup to the way I wanted it to be the next time I did my face.
What makeup products / brands do you swear by?
The NYC Color brush-tipped liquid liner is my all-time favorite liner. If I had no other products, I could totally do a full face with this. And as most drag queens are, I’m a sucker for a good Kryolan product, or anything Ben Nye. I love Sugarpill for anything color-related.
I honestly don’t come from much, and have always tried to make whatever products I could afford or find work for me. So I am very versatile with my tools and products, and can get a lot done with very little.
How did you “come up” in the highly competitive drag scene of New York? Were you doing all the competition shows and guest spots that so many queens do when they’re starting out?
Oh yeah, I totally went about everything the pretty standard NYC newbie way. Yuhua Hamasaki gave me my first guest spot at her show at the old Boots & Saddle, and from there I would try to pop up all over the city whenever I could.
I have always had a predisposition for turning looks, and loved attending Westgay back in the day and coming up with ridiculously whack looks. As a performance queen who also turns major looks, I also aspired to work with the nightlife legends of the city, and began working with Susanne Bartsch and then Ladyfag soon after.
What NYC queens made you gag in the beginning?
I have and always will gag over Monet X Change and Elizabeth James. They are both by far some of the most beautiful girls in the city, and can perform so well as well as turn amazing looks. They don’t limit their drag to one specific idea or concept, and they always have my jaw on the floor whenever I see any of their work.
You and Miz Cracker are passable for twins. Do people ever get you two mixed up when you’re out?
Haha! Occasionally, but not usually. I think over the years we have definitely made the separation between ourselves more apparent, and anyone who chooses not to notice the difference probably didn’t really know us at all to begin with.
I do, however, blame Bob the Drag Queen for the entire situation, for originally posting that we looked the same as *boys* first and then that opened a can of worms… and the rest was history.
*I also won scene queen, too.
Yes! I actually made the mix last February (2016), but never used it for a show until the Look Queen finale. I had all these silly stupid concepts that I wanted to incorporate. And not only am I happy that it was the winning number, but that everything went off so well and it was well-received… and that I was able to include some of my good friends in the mix to help. Miz Cracker making a spot on recreation of the Morgan McMichaels look from the “Gone With The Window” Drag Race challenge was honestly the icing on the cake for me. I still laugh my ass off til this day.
I think it’s safe to say that you have the most versatile drag week in NYC, equally at home hosting a very hip Ladyfag / Bartsch Brooklyn party or performing for a crowd-pleasing, “commercial” drag brunch. Do different venues call for different Aquarias, or are you always You?
I’m every woman; it’s all in me. But seriously… I consider myself the chameleon of drag, and I think that stems all from both my diverse creative and personal interests, as well as the fact that I work for everything I have. I’ve kept myself afloat in this city solely by working all of these gigs so hard. Some of the jobs I work even have conflicting interests, but my bosses have been nothing but supportive of whatever I need to do to create the career that I want.
I owe my ability to be so versatile to not only my own talents, but also to those who encourage me to not only do one type of gig, even though that’s what they want. People see the star in me, and I’m thankful that they allow me to let it shine.
Ladyfag is, of course, a legendary partymaker of NYC, and she has switched things up a bit: putting an end to her long-running Friday night party 11:11, and making the year-old Battle Hymn at Flash Factory (formerly Sundays) her new Friday Night beat. You were there hosting the debut of the new night; how did it go?
The new night had the same incredible beats of The Carry Nation and Eli Escobar as it always does; there were just many, many, many more people and an even crazier party. It’s Friday night and we still start early, so you know the kids will be getting wild!
What’s Ladyfag like?
She’s truly been so cool to work, with and has taught me a lot about being professional and how to become respected in this city. I was originally very intimidated to work for her, and I still always get butterflies whenever I receive and email from her about anything. But she has very set morals, like loyalty and commitment. And I’m glad she’s helping me learn about life sooner than later, because that will hopefully be what makes me a more professional person.
Well, unfortunately due to my super crazy schedule nowadays, I can’t commit to being a part of the cast full-time because I am not able to commit my all to it. But I do still come back every so often if they are down a girl or two.
How is day drag for you?
It’s the same as night drag, pretty much. It’s a little more of a flawed fantasy, but it’s just as fun as entertaining people at night.
Lots of Drag Race girls came through to guest perform that brunch. Who have you really enjoyed working with, out of those RuQueens?
I think the most fun we’ve had with any of the girls was with Chi Chi DeVayne at the old Seńor Frogs location. She was nothing but sweet, humble, and hilarious, and really made herself feel a part of the cast… even for just that one day. We all had such a wonderful time with her, and she even gifted one of the girls a new wig of hers! She was so down to earth, and so awesome to work with.
And speaking of Drag Race, you co-host the Friday night viewing party with Thorgy at Metro Bar in Brooklyn! Does hosting with a former contestant of the show give you a unique perspective on how it all works?
Oh, totally! Working with Thorgy’s always been a blast, but now that she’s been a contestant on the show, she definitely has a unique perspective into the competition. Every week she will even get quotes from some of the more popular sisters of Drag Race past on the girls of the current season. So, I think it’s pretty cool that not only does the audience get to see someone from television, but they also get the inside opinions from Drag Race alum like Bianca Del Rio, Trixie Mattel, and even Michelle Visage!
I find that it’s common for queens to go home in “their best look.” I specifically remember Jiggly Caliente leaving the competition during Season 4 in the most gorgeous yellow gown that she was completely slaying. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles!
And it was super hard to see Aja go home. But she went out with grace, and she’s already made such a name for herself that I don’t think she has anything to worry about with her future. When I met her working one of my first gigs in NYC, I could see she was super-talented and energetic; but I was so thrown off by her look. Now though, she has clearly grown into her own, and presents herself as a much more mature and professional entertainer. It’s been such a pleasure to watch her blossom into the stunning diva she is today.
You and Andora have been co-hosting the popular Legend Wednesdays at Rise Bar for a minute now, where you two invite guest performers and create some illusions of legendary divas past and present. This show must be a big creative peak for you, right?
We just recently celebrated our one-year anniversary, and it has been a LABOR of love. Serious emphasis on “labor.” Some queens do tons of shows a week as themselves, but in my opinion and through my observations, that has nothing on doing three different impersonations a week (on top of our already busy schedules). I love having guests come in, because they always have such a blast coming up with impersonation numbers, since most queens in the city don’t go anywhere near them. They also, however, find out how difficult it usually is to strategically choose three celebs that they can make work and transition through a show with fairly rapid quick changes.
I understand that Legends is getting a bit of a makeover very soon!
Yes! As of May 17th, we’ve officially added a third host, the incredible Brenda Dharling, to our mix. We will still usually have one month out of the week where we celebrate one artist or genre or period, and that will be the week where Brenda switches out for another guest.
I want Aquaria merch. Where should I go?
You’re in luck! I just released a line of shirts on DragQueenMerch, and I will be adding more designs as time progresses. I also have an exclusive shirt coming out very soon for Hot Topic online, so make sure to keep an eye out for that!
Anything else coming up, or any other topics, you wanna discuss?
I’m glad you asked. I’d like to take a minute to talk about SquareSpace…. just kidding!
But I do, however, want to make sure to pimp out one of my favorite parties of the year, Susanne Bartsch’s summer spectacular, On Top. We are back again at the top of the Standard on the West Side, and I cannot wait for all the looks and fun times! Where else in the city can you get a glass of champagne and a crepe while in an insane look on a rooftop overlooking downtown?
Okay, in closing: what is the worst thing about drag for you… and what is the best?
Worst is all the bodily discomfort. The best is that I get to do it every day of my life. Couldn’t be more grateful for that!
Aquaria co-hosts “Legend Wednesdays” (with Andora, and soon also with Brenda Dharling, at 11pm) at Rise Bar. She also co-hosts this season’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” viewing party with Thorgy at Metropolitan Bar on Fridays (8pm), and is very frequently hosting at the Flash Factory’s “Battle Hymn” (Fridays at 10pm) and Le Bain/The Standard’s “On Top” (Tuesdays at 10pm this summer). Follow Aquaria on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.