Known for her pristinely powerful vocal chops, Texas native and star of “American Idol” and “Queen of the Universe” Ada Vox is serenading New Yorkers this summer.
Thotyssey: Hey Ada, thanks for chatting with us today!
Ada Vox: Hi! Thank you so much for wanting to chat with me! I am so beyond excited to be there with you in NYC!
It’s an exciting time here as we approach the warmer weather, but things of course were looking pretty bleak during the Covid lockdown. What was your experience like, getting through that?
Coming out of this lockdown and getting back onto the stage and being able to share my voice with people in the flesh, instead virtually over social media, is so wonderful.
The Covid lockdown was rough for many different reasons, but the fact that it happened when I was on the verge of making big things happen for myself is what really put a damper on my mood throughout the first half of the lockdown. I was just about to go on my second tour and was in the planning phases of my first album, music videos, a talk show, and so many wonderful things to finally move my life and career in the direction I had always dreamed of.
I was living in Los Angeles at the moment… and when living in Los Angeles and losing all of your work and plans to a global pandemic, it becomes very difficult just to try and survive. It’s expensive out there, and I was doing the best I could to keep as much money coming in as possible by going entirely virtual and singing every single day on Instagram, Facebook, and even picking up contracts with entertainment streaming apps to make the most of the virtual situation we had all been forced into.
We moved from Los Angeles too, and then finally back to my hometown of San Antonio, Texas where we waited out the rest of the lockdown. The only saving grace through all of this was that I was lucky enough to have my partner with me… so I didn’t have to do it all alone.
You did release a sultry single in 2021, “Burn.”
Yes! I actually wrote “Burn” what must’ve been nearly ten years ago. We just hadn’t gotten around to releasing it, but I’m glad we did.
Do you enjoy the recording process at all, or do you prefer singing live?
I actually do very much enjoy both the recording process and live performance. They are entirely different experiences, but I enjoy the creative process that comes with both.
You’re such a dynamic and distinctive singer! Did you have any big influences in your music career?
Thanks so much! My biggest influences have always been the big divas of the past. People like Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Donna Summer are always the first people that come to mind. They were big powerful vocalists who always put the music first in everything that they did. They helped me to learn to put my passion at the forefront of everything that I do on stage.
As far as TV drag queens go, you have had a really interesting career because you were not on one of the flagship RuPaul’s Drag Race shows–but you were on World of Wonder’s Queen of the Universe, and two seasons of American Idol. And especially because of that latter show’s universal popularity, you’ve probably been seen and are known by thousands more TV viewers than the most popular queens on Drag Race! Do you feel like your fanbase is more mainstream and less niche than the RuGirls?
This is an interesting one, and it is something that crosses my mind quite a bit.
Being on American Idol did allow me to be in front of quite a mainstream audience. And whilst I don’t think it makes me less “niche” than the Drag Race queens, I do think it has allowed me more types of opportunities that the Drag Race girls might not get. As we all know, Drag Race has been going on for quite a while now, but I still have people tell me that they had never even seen a drag queen on TV until they saw me on American Idol… much less a drag queen attempting to wiggle her way into the mainstream music industry since RuPaul with “Supermodel.”
I think that I have the capability to draw in a much more mainstream fanbase because of what I do as a vocalist and musician, but I do also wish that the huge RPDR fanbase would be more willing and ready to jump on to support queens like me who haven’t been on the franchise, but still have been working for years–even before I was on Idol in drag–to make a career for ourselves outside of the franchise.
Are you able to mix it up with the Drag Race girls often, or do you feel like you’re in different camps?
I have actually mixed up with the Drag Race girls quite a bit. We’ve co-headlined and attended a lot of the same events, and I have good relationships with quite a large number of them who have been so kind as to support me since I was on Idol as Ada… and some even before that, when I was just a chubby queer latin boy on Idol back in Season 12.
You really won over the judges during both of your seasons of Idol… especially the second time around when you were in drag. Did your second run feel like a completely different experience than the first time, or did you kind of know what was coming?
I definitely felt more ready the second time around, but it wasn’t anything that I didn’t expect. I went in to do my best and I think the judges saw that I really did put my heart and soul into everything that I did, and they appreciated that. As of right now, I have been singing on stages professionally for 16 years, so I had plenty of experience behind me… and it really just felt like another day on the job.
One of your great Idol moments was dueting with Lea Michele! Is that something you remember fondly, or was it all kind of a blur?
As the years have gone by, a lot of my Idol experience has become fuzzy… but I do recall this particular performance and experience as one that I was at first unsure about. I had of course never met Lea before, and all I could remember thinking was, “I hope she’s not like her character on Glee!” Thankfully, she wasn’t. She was quite sweet and very supportive and complimentary of me, which I found very refreshing. I remember thoroughly enjoying working with her, and being grateful that things went the way that they did.
There were some great moments on the premiere season of Queen of the Universe, but it seemed to move at such a rapid pace (especially when compared to Season 14 of Drag Race, lol). Was it a much different experience performing and competing in a setting where everyone was in drag, as opposed to Idol where you were the only queen?
Queen of the Universe was an absolute dream. Not only were the call times and schedule much easier to manage on and around show days, but I also didn’t feel like I was the “token gay” that was cast for the sheer purpose of being edgy and being the equivalent of a diversity hire.
On Idol, I was constantly having to censor myself… and was very limited in how I was allowed to show and express myself. During live shows, we’re not even allowed to do our own makeup, hair, or dress/style ourselves. On Queen of the Universe, I was allowed to express myself as I saw fit and to show myself as an artist; I chose to do so to the best of my ability.
I wonder if the Queen of the Universe contestants will ever be invited to compete in a Drag Race All-Stars season! Would you partake if you could?
Here’s the thing with me and Drag Race. I absolutely adore the show and have watched every episode of every season. I am a huge fan… but in its current format, I just don’t know if it’s the right platform for me. I have never lip synced a day in my life, and I always want my talent and passion as a vocalist to be the forefront of everything that I do. If they reached out to me, I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity, but I’m just not sure I would be 100% in my element as an artist.
Do you have a favorite song you like to perform now?
I honestly just love singing so much that almost every single song I get to do is an absolute joy. However, I do think I’ve got some new favorites! Whenever I have access to a live accompanist or band, I have found so much joy in performing both “Pure Imagination” and “I Put a Spell on You.”
And do you have a favorite venue or city that you’ve performed in throughout your career?
I can’t say that I have one single favorite place, but I can tell you that my favorite shows are when I have live musicians and an intimate audience. Truly, nothing beats the connection that can be achieved through fully live music and the ability to look people in the eye while pouring yourself into a song.
You are going to be performing in our city this summer, starting with a concert at soon-to-open, Daniel Nardicio-owned venue Red Eye NY on Thursday, June 30th! Are there any specific New York queens that you know well, or have worked with, or just admire from afar?
In terms of “know well,” I can’t say that I’m extremely close to any of them… but I have looked up to queens like Brita Filter, Lagoona Bloo, Jasmine Rice LaBeija, Jan and Rosé for their accomplishments. I hope to one day become good friends with all of these fabulous divas, and many more in the area. New York is just one of those places where it would be nearly impossible to list all of the queens who I love, and I would feel really bad if I made a super long list and forgot someone… so I’m going to keep it short.
You’ll have another great show coming up later this summer: Saturday, July 2nd, you’ll be at the Fire Island Pines’ Whyte Hall performing a full concert, once again care of Daniel Nardicio. This is going to be the ticket! Have you ever been to Fire Island before?
I’m so fabulously exited! I haven’t been to Fire Island before, but I’m going to show up and give it to Fire Island just like I do everywhere I go! I am going to be entirely in my element, performance-wise; I will have just me and a piano to give you a beautiful, intimate show. The meat and potatoes of the show will be me reminding everyone why I am “The Voice of Drag” while performing multiple of my songs from Queen of the Universe, as well as covering many others by some of my all-time favorite powerhouse divas. I always like to take time to chat with the audience as well–make fun of some people in the front row, usually–and tell some stories of my life!
What else should the kids be looking out for in the world of Ada Vox?
Be sure to keep an eye on my website to see new shows as they are confirmed and added to the roster. Also, I am actively working on writing and creating new music… and if all goes well, I will have a new single coming soon. So be sure to stay tuned to all of my social media pages for that wonderful announcement!
What might your best advice be for a queen who’s going to appear on either Idol or Queen of the Universe?
My best advice that I can give to anyone wanting to do any singing competition show in general is “sing pretty, and have a thick skin.” We all have to go in knowing that none of these appearances are all stardust and ruffles. It all will have sour parts, win or lose. And you absolutely need to be prepared for anything and everything, from a mental standpoint.
Finally: if you were invited to be a judge on a TV competition, which one would you like to do: American Idol, Drag Race, The Voice, or something else?
I would absolutely to be a judge on any singing competition, but being a guest judge or mentor for a singing challenge on Drag Race is something that I have wanted to do since I was on American Idol as Ada. However, if an offer ever came in to be a judge on Queen of the Universe, I would absolutely drop everything and jump on a plane. The show really encapsulates everything that I am so passionate about, and I would love nothing more than to read these singing queens down, lol!