“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 15 featured the largest cast in the show’s history, including, for the first time ever, three queens of Asian American Pacific Islander heritage in a single season.
The winner, native Hawaiian Sasha Colby, became the first Polynesian queen to be crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar over Anetra, a queen of mixed Filipino heritage. It marked the first time since Season 3 that the two finalists were of AAPI descent.
Colby was joined by Season 15 contestant Aura Mayari and executive producer Mandy Salangsang in a conversation with TheWrap about representation on the franchise — which is nominated for Outstanding Reality Competition and eight additional Emmy awards this year — and the unique challenges and rewards they faced as AAPI drag queens.
“I was a performer when I was a kid,” recalled Mayari, who immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. “As a viewer, I never saw anybody that looked like me. So that discouraged me. And even auditioning for musicals, even though you could have done better than the other person, [they got the part] because they’re Caucasian.”
But Mayari found drag to be an art that showcased her culture and her skills. “Drag really filled that emptiness that I had with my creative outlets.” Mayari’s drag name was even inspired by her heritage. “It’s gay lingo,” she explained. “I kept hearing this thing called ‘awra.’ It’s always a video of somebody strutting in the streets or being ridiculous. Over the top. I was like, ‘OK, that’s funny.'”
Colby grew up in a conservative Jehovah’s Witness family. “I was always discouraged from being creative and doing anything secular. You only did it for Jehovah.”
It wasn’t until she graduated and went to drag shows and met the queer “aunties and uncles” that she realized how prevalent the trans culture was, even before the term entered more Western/American lexicon.
“There’s so many trans people, trans men and trans women in Polynesian culture. In Hawaii, someone in your family’s trans; someone you know or that you are close with or even grew up with is trans. So that’s always kind of been there,” Colby recalled. “It’s very cool that I get to show the ease of that in drag.”
Colby paid homage to heritage throughout the season, beginning with her tattooed warrior goddess entrance look. “In Hawaiian culture, where you put your tattoos is very sacred… People get big tattoos to mark a big thing in their life: death, marriage, birth. So when we put them in certain places, it’s actually marking point of transition. What was perfect for me was a trans person who is in transition… having a tattoo I was saying yes, we are all in transition in life.”
She also stressed the importance of aloha or respect and love: “Anything I do — especially for work — I was always taught you remember where you came from, be nice to everyone and treat everyone with respect. You’ll get that back.”
Longtime executive producer Salangsang said the contestants’ background stories are the heart and soul of the show.
“There are 50 to 100 various Asian cultures,” she explained. “To promote an understanding and to combat myths, misperceptions and prejudice, [we] really tried to foster a real appreciation for these rich cultures that are full of pageantry and tradition and storytelling.”
Click the video above to watch the entire conversation, including how Colby and Mayari are giving back to their communities.
Season 15 of “Drag Race” is currently streaming on Paramount+.
The post ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Queens Sasha Colby, Aura Mayari Talk Showcasing AAPI Excellence in Season 15 (Video) appeared first on TheWrap.