With her long legs, exotic features and edgy style, Raja is a force to be reckoned with! This isn’t the talented makeup artist’s first time at the rodeo, he was responsible for adding the glamor to America’s Next Top Model – so he’s no stranger the the world of reality TV and, with over 20 years experience as a drag performer, he looks like he could be in for the long haul! From Top Model to Top Queen – can this self-professed supermodel strike the right poses to become the tops in the drag world?
Socialite Life: What was it like to find out you made it onto RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Raja: I was in shock, really. I spent some time on television just being the background guy. So when this opportunity came up, I was just like, “Oh my God! This is finally my moment to actually shine and be in the limelight and showcase what I do.” So there was that initial panic, and then you go numb a little bit and after that, it’s just full competition mode. I turned into this crazy, bug-eyed, strong man drag queen. I was really into it, you know? There’s really different levels of shock and emotion that happens when you find out you’re going to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
SL: It seemed RuPaul‘s really raised the bar this year with the queens selected for this season. What was your reaction when you saw your competition?
Raja: Well, before I even met the queens, I knew what level of performance and style I had and I assumed that everyone was going to be at my level, so I was ready. I had my game face on and I was ready. And you know what? A lot of them really challenged me and I was pretty shocked. I don’t mean to sound boastful, but I am the oldest person in the competition and I’ve been doing it a lot longer so I wasn’t sure what level of drag I was going to be competing with and a lot of them really did shock me – and a lot of them had less experience than I did.
Learn more about Raja after the jump!
SL: I know you’ve been doing drag for 20 years, how did you get your start?
Raja: I started out just as a teenage club kid, sneaking out of my parent’s house in the middle of the night to go to clubs, so a lot of my drag and experimentation happened from just being a crazy little club kid. There was a lot of Saran Wrap costumes and trash bag costumes and duct tape costumes and you know, just being a crazy little artistic kid, that’s how drag started for me – and it evolved to what it is now.
SL: How would you describe Raja’s style?
Raja: I think Raja’s very eclectic. She’s very provocative. I think she’s fashionable. I really put a lot of focus in drag on style – that’s really my thing. I love wearing clothes and I love fashion.
SL: Do you model as Raja?
Raja: I do. I have and I do.
SL: Do you also model as a man? You’re very handsome!
Raja: Ummm…yeah. I haven’t really done a lot of it, I’ve really placed a lot of focus as far as modeling on the female part – just because it’s so much fun and the clothes are a lot more fun. But now, I think I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable in my male skin – if you will – and I think I would look into doing more stuff like that.
SL: How would you describe your performance style?
Raja: I think my performance style is very different. I like to perform and really sort of seduce an audience and I like to feel an emotion. I love music and I love feeling an emotion through music – and that’s what I want to translate. I’m not always a celebrity impersonator doing pop music; I really like to find interesting music from different places.
SL: What do you enjoy the most about performing?
Raja: I enjoy giving a little piece of theater – creating a vignette is always fun, so it’s different for me.
SL: What was it like working with RuPaul?
Raja: Working with Ru was great. I grew up with RuPaul and he’s always been an icon to me and someone that I admired – and secretly I wished he was my personal mentor – and I just think it was really great to have that experience to work with someone who is a pioneer at what they do, a person who is so legendary and so amazing. It was an absolute privilege.
SL: In addition to RuPaul, are there any other perfomers who inspire you?
Raja: I’m inspired a lot by people like Dita von Teese – who is a personal friend of mine – and people who do raise the bar and push the limits a little bit. I love Leigh Bowery. Those are definitely some of the people I admire – and Ru, definitely RuPaul.
SL: Since you’re a veteran, this question may not be relevant, but did you take anything new away from your experience on the show?
Raja: Yes, I learned a lot about myself from this process. I learned that I am a harder worker than I thought I really was, because the whole time I was there it was really more about challenging myself as an artist and really showcasing exactly what I did as a creative person. That part was really enlightening for me – it really opened my eyes to so many different parts of me I didn’t realize were there.
SL: What do you think separates you from the rest of the queens on the show?
Raja: I think I have a different insight and a different philosophy to drag. I definitely look at drag in a different way than most people do – and most of the people I was competing with. For me it’s a higher art form than they actually understand it as.
SL: Is drag your full-time career?
Raja: No, I’m actually a makeup artist as well.
SL: I saw something on some random Internet site, so I’m not sure about the reliability of this bit of information, but have you done makeup for Adam Lambert?
Raja: Yes, I’m Adam’s friend and personal makeup artist, I guess. And also I worked on America’s Next Top Model for eight seasons as the lead makeup artist.
SL: Do you think being a professional makeup artist gave you an advantage on Drag Race?
Raja: Not necessarily. I think I definitely had a different insight on what happens in reality TV. I understood that there were cameras there all of the time so I think I was less afraid of that, or maybe no, that could be wrong. I think I was more afraid of it – because I was more aware of it. I’d been around a lot of the cameras from doing Top Model and stuff so it did become a little intimidating.
SL: You’ve performed with the Dreamgirls Revue, which includes a lot of Drag Race alums. Did they give you any advice?
Raja: Oh, absoultely. I’m really close friends with Raven and Morgan McMichaels – we’ve known each other for many years. I’ve been around a lot longer than them and I’ve actually gotten to see them grow as drag queens and performers – and as men. But yeah, they were able to give me a lot of advice. My big concern was that I’m going to have a lot of haters – as much as I’m going to have fans, I’m probably going to have a lot of people who are going to dislike me, and I was afraid of that – and they gave me a lot of great advice about that and that’s really what our conversations were like.
SL: What kind of advice would you give to aspiring drag queens?
Raja: I’d say think outside of the box, definitely folow your gut instincts and it’s okay to say “F**K you!” It’s totally okay – you don’t have to be likable all of the time. Just do what you do and it’s okay to say “F**k you”.
SL: What is your top beauty tip?
Raja: I’d say always wear false lashes. I just remembered there was a moment a few days ago when I was about to do a show, and I couldn’t find my false lashes in my bag and I freaked out and I thought to myself, “Oh my God, this must be the most important thing of my makeup!”, because I wouldn’t freak over anything else but if I don’t have my eyelashes, I’ll lose my mind.
SL: In your drag career, have you ever had a moment when you “f**ked it up”?
Raja: Yeah, definitely. There’s been a lot of times. I love the nightlife, I love to boogie and I love to drink and I love being out in the club and there have been times when I probably drank a little more than I needed to and I f**ked it up! (Laughs) I’m getting a lot better with that.
SL: What are you hoping to get from being on the show?
Raja: You know, I think I want younger kids who are coming up as queens or young little freaks or the little social misfits and the little f**gots in their schools that get picked on – I really want them to know that they can hang on, it’s going to be okay and one day….You can continue doing what you do and be your own person and have a life that is glamorous and it’s fun and beautiful and you can create and always express yourself. I really wanted to leave a legacy, I didn’t just want to fade away and disappear one day and not have anyone remember who I am and this is the perfect way to do it and the perfect way to get the message of positivity to young kids who are having a hard time. That’s it, that’s all I really wanted to say.
SL: Did you make friends on the show?
Raja: Absolutely! A few of us made some really great alliances within the competition and we try to keep in touch all of the time and we’re still gossiping and we’re sorority sisters at this point. I’ve definitely made some great friends.
SL: As far as your career goes, what are your future plans?
Raja: I’m really going to enjoy the fact that I’m going to get to travel more, traveling is definitely one of my favorite things to do. It’ll be fun to go around the US or perhaps even the world – because I’m not looking at Drag Race as just being America’s drag superstar, I feel that with the exposure we’re given that it could actually be global. I’m looking forward to traveling, I’m looking forward to performing, I’m looking forward to expressing myself in front of millions and millions of people.
Don’t miss Raja and the rest of the queens competing on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Monday, January 24th on Logo!