Our newest crowned Ultimate Diva of drag, Whorechata producer Paloma LaMona is here to serve us all some much needed Chola. [Cover photo: Julian Briggs]
Thotyssey: Hey Paloma, thanks for chatting with us today! How are you?
Paloma LaMona: Hi! I’m doing pretty well, I’m currently away from the city for a few days. Last month was so hectic, so I decided to take a short vacation!
Much deserved! Belated congratulations on winning the latest Ultimate Diva crown, by the way!
Thank you so much!
Tell us what that whole process was like, from preparing to performing to winning.
It was honestly the hardest thing I’ve done in my drag career to date. I feel like my connection to the competition was a bit different than my other competitors, since I had actually started drag in NYC at “Are You the Next Diva?” a year ago. Since that moment, I decided that I would not return to the competition until I knew I could win.
When the new format was announced, I already had a general idea of what I wanted to do. Thankfully I had a whole community composed of my drag family (Cara Westwood, Freeda Kulo, Angel Au and Nicolás Mendoza, to name a few), my boyfriend Julian, and friends that I had made working the scene supporting me. I wouldn’t have been able to bring my vision to life without them. That night is still a whirlwind of emotions, sweat (it was like 80 degrees that day), and tears. When I realized I had won, it felt like a huge moment of relief; like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders from the past month of pouring myself into my package. It really didn’t set in that I had won until about a week after… it felt like a fever dream!
Well done! I didn’t know that Diva was where you started drag!
It was! I had played around in makeup and conceptualizing looks for a few months beforehand, but the day I originally competed was when I felt like my career as a drag queen in the city blossomed.
I’ve seen you slay “Lady Liberty” since that first shot as “Diva,” and I’m guessing you’ve done your fair share of the weekly competition shows as well?
Fun fact: I’ve actually only ever competed in Lady Liberty or Diva!
Oh wow! Do you think you function well in that kind of competitive, all-or-nothing situation?
I’m currently a senior at Columbia University, so that sense of competition has been drilled into me since I was just starting out in academia. However, I’ve learned to be frugal with that energy because it can often leave you feeling burnt out… so I’ve been very strategic about where and how to compete. In both Lady Liberty and Ultimate Diva, not only were you able to present your talent but you also got the chance to create runway looks specific to you. I love fashion, and creating looks is one of the big reasons I started doing drag… so I naturally gravitated towards spaces that let me do that!
So tell us a bit of your origin story! Where are you from originally, and what were your early creative interests?
I’m originally from the Bay Area, CA. I was raised near Oakland by my immigrant single mother, so it’s safe to say I was exposed to a lot of culture from a young age. I’m Mexican, so being able to see the intersections of traditional aspects of my heritage with more contemporary aspects of Chicanx and Cholx life shaped my own outlook on what it means to be Mexican-American.
Like I said, I’ve always been interested in fashion. I learned how to sew in high school, and remember searching the latest haute couture collections on YouTube and just drawing up designs that inspired me. I was also a professional dancer for about four years before I moved to NYC! Since I was a kid, I’ve leaned more towards the creative side of things… so when I found drag, it allowed me to combine all my interests into one mega passion!
When you started drag, how did your name come to you?
It came pretty quickly, to be honest. I sat down and tried to imagine who I wanted to be in drag. The first thing that came to mind was a Chola, just because I had been raised around so many of them. I then thought to myself: if I went out into my hood, what would a Chola with soft yet fierce energy be named? I immediately thought of Paloma, which means “dove” in Spanish. I added LaMona a few days later, which translates to “the prettiest” or “the doll” depending on who you ask!
You are still a young queen, but how would you describe the type of drag you do today, as far as your looks and numbers?
Chola!! That’s what I think makes my drag unique, especially since I’m bringing in the Chola-isms specific to the West Coast, where the subculture really blossomed. I like doing drag that makes me feel connected to something, because I know that’ll help the audience feel more in tune with me. Whether that means doing a song in Spanish or collaborating on a look that pulls from references in my own childhood, I aim to stay true to myself!
Here’s a broad question, but as you’re coming up as queen… what do you see as the State of Drag Today as far as diversity, originality, importance, etc… and what would you like to see more of in the future?
I feel like we’re definitely at crossroads when it comes to drag in NYC. QTBIPOC performers are still the most disenfranchised members of the scene. The fact that there are still casts of shows with only one QTBIPOC performer included every now and then is unacceptable. This is not specific to any one establishment, this is a general problem that needs to be addressed in its entirety. QTBIPOC performers are among the most original, kind, and talented members of the scene—its time we are treated with the same respect that our white counterparts receive automatically. As such, I want to see more inclusive spaces that nurture QTBIPOC performers, prioritizing them and their art in a way that feels safe, while also making sure that they get compensated fairly!
One forum where we will get to see you appropriately shine is Whorechata’s showcase “Everything Will Be Alright” at 3 Dollar Bill on Friday, July 22nd (5pm)! What can you tell us about Whorechata, and this night?
I’ve been working with Whorechata since I started doing drag; they were the ones that gave me one of my first big performance opportunities. I’m now a producer on the team in charge of coordinating all of the performance aspects of our events. We are a QTBIPOC led organization, so naturally we aim to make our events feel like home for QTBIPOC. Whether that’s through the music we play, our performance lineup, or the theme of the night, we will always de-center whiteness and re-center our own marginalities.
“Everything will be Alright” is a house / disco-themed night that aims to remind us of the healing power of community in moments of strife. Disco and house music have always been a constant for communities of color, specially due to its origin in the Black community. Our lineup is stacked with talented Black artists, performers, and DJs that all bring their unique takes on the genre! Its going to be an amazing night you won’t want to miss!
What else is coming up for you?
I have a bunch of new looks I’m working on, as well as pageant content, dropping over the next few weeks… so make sure to keep an eye out, its gonna be kawntt!
We definitely will! And finally, um… what are you getting Bennifer for a wedding present, lol?
A prenup, ’cause…ooof.
Wisdom! Thanks, Paloma!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Paloma LaMona’s upcoming appearances, and follow her on Instagram.