Pride

Eliminated 'RuPaul's Drag Race' Contestant Yuhua Hamasaki Talks Reviving the Spirit of Drag, Gender Neutrality & More

Yuhua Hamasaki
Krista Schlueter

Yuhua Hamasaki photographed on March 21, 2018 at TRL Studios in New York.

On Thursday night (April 5), RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10 tasked the queens with a classic Drag Race challenge. After making brief, bizarre screen tests for RuPaul’s chocolate bar in a mini-challenge, the girls were separated into three groups and tasked with creating advertisements for three new dating apps, “End of Days,” “Fibstr,” and “Madam Buttrface.”

Instead of judging by team, the judges decided to examine individual performances. Asia O’Hara won her first challenge of the season, while Mayhem Miller and Yuhua Hamasaki landed in the bottom two for their less-than-stellar showing. Lip syncing to the iconic '90s alt-rock hit “Celebrity Skin,” Mayhem was able to dig herself out of the Hole classic, leaving Yuhua on the chopping block.

Yuhua talked to Billboard the day after her elimination about the drama with her teammates, bringing drag back to its roots, representing her culture via her drag and more.

I'm sorry to be talking to you today!

Oh don't be sorry! It happened a while ago, I'm feeling fine. [Laughs.] I was in Chicago last night, they had a viewing party at Roscoe's. We all watched it together with an audience in front of me. They were very lovely, they were very sweet, very supportive of the whole situation.

You had a little drama with your teammates on this episode, where you got heated when Aquaria and Monét were telling you what to put on your face. What were you feeling in that moment?

I think if I went with my own idea, I think it would have been... better. But then again at the end of the day, I have no regrets, you know? Those were my teammates, and I wanted to work as a team. I didn't want to be the one that said, "Oh, I'm gonna do my own thing, I'm gonna put on a nose, even though you're telling me not to." At the end of the day, I listened to them about the nose, I put the moles and the hair on my face. I have no regrets about that, because I chose to do it.

I also want to thank you for turning it out in that lip-sync, especially after last season's pretty underwhelming early lip syncs. What was your thought process on how to approach the song for this lip sync?

I was picturing how Courtney Act — wait not Courtney Act, Courtney Love! Ahh, Courtney Act. [Laughs.] No, how Courtney Love would have performed that rock song. She's this punk-rock rebel girl, so I was picturing how she would be performing; she'd be banging on the guitar, so I had an air guitar on. It was about getting into that moment, and envisioning how she would have performed it.

And Mayhem slayed it, too! It's a hard pick. Honestly, while I was up there, I didn't watch her -- because the worst thing you could do while you're lip syncing and trying to make yourself stay is to look at your competitor. So I did not pay attention to her at all, I just stared straight at the judges and made sure I delivered every word, every movement and every characteristic of that song.

I've seen you talk about how you want to bring drag back to being about art, and about making a statement. How do you want to do that?

By just being vocal about it! Like, my runway yesterday, it was a feathers challenge, and I wanted to show through my outfit that I am Asian, and that the crows in Asian culture mean death. I went for this whole "Queen of Death" look, and that's why I had the crows flying to me. And I had the characteristics, walking down the runway, looking like I was grungy, I am death, I am evil.

That's one of the ways I feel like I'm doing my job of bringing it back there, just being proud of who you are, representing your culture, and being vocal about it! Even though other people might not agree, explain it to them. Michelle calls it "clap backs," but I call it "explaining."

What direction do you think drag has been going, and why do you think there needs to be a course correction?

Drag as we know it started as a political statement decades ago. It was fighting for equal rights by trans people and drag queens. But for some reason, within the last decade or so, drag has gone to a point where it's now about fame. It's about getting Instagram followers, it's about an easy way of making money, or an easy way of getting out of whatever situation you're in. So I think that we need to go back to the roots of drag, and say, "Hey, drag wasn't about getting fame or taking fabulous photos, it was about a movement, and that's why we do drag."

You also often have to remind yourself not to take yourself too seriously! Some of the girls out there today, they are taking themselves way too serious. I'm a silly person, I'm just trying to have fun. More people should try and just have fun with it. Life is too short, girl, it's only three episodes!

As you mentioned, you moved to the U.S. from China when you were seven. Something that I've noticed with your drag is that while you often make a lot of Chinese references, you also make references to Japanese culture, Thai culture, etc. Why is it important for you to make reference to other Asian cultures as well?

Because the media portrays this narrative that all Asians are the same, and we are really not. Thai culture is different from Chinese culture, Chinese culture is different from Japanese culture, and Japanese culture is different from Korean culture!

For example, I wore a red kimono for my entrance look (below), and then I wore a red qípáo for the premiere (above). People were asking me, "Why are you wearing the red kimono again?" And I was like, "This is different!" The kimono is from Japanese culture, and the qípáo at the premiere was from Chinese culture. And I think people need to realize that we are all different. They might look similar, but they are actually very different, and I think that we need some education on that.

You identify as gender-neutral. What stereotypes regarding the gender binary are you trying to address and break down with your drag?

You know, gender neutrality has been around for a long time, but it's still not really talked about! People feel like they have coming out as gay or lesbian, and then more recently, as being trans. I think we also need to focus on the fact that there are people who are queer, gender-fluid, gender-neutral, gender nonbinary. And also, as someone who does drag, drag is for everybody. So if I'm gender-neutral, I should have the ability to do drag if I want to as well, because drag is for everyone. If you're trans, cisgender or gender neutral.

We're asking all of the queens; who is your favorite local queen in New York City?

Ooh, can I pick two? Because I would say Honey Davenport and Pixie Aventura. Both of them are very talented, and they don't take drag too seriously — they just have fun with it. And like I said earlier, they're making a statement with their drag, they're not trying to be famous, they're just doing it because they love it. And that's an important thing! Do it for the art, not because there's all of these attachments that come with it.