Asia O'Hara Talks New Single 'Queen For Tonight' & Racial Bias in 'Drag Race' Fan Base
On Thursday (June 14), the top four finalists of RuPaul’s Drag Race were officially announced: Aquaria, Asia O’Hara, Eureka O’Hara and Kameron Michaels. Now, one of those queens is riding that momentum to release her debut single.
Titled “Queen For Tonight,” Asia O’Hara raps over a worldly track that mixes Middle Eastern sitars and tropical marimbas with a classic hip-hop drum machine. In the empowering rally cry, the Texas-based queen invites listeners to “a land with infinite possibilities/ A house of trust/ A house of color.”
O’Hara spoke to Billboard about her inspiration for the track, what the expect from next week’s reunion episode and how the Drag Race fandom treats her different as a person of color.
What was the inspiration for "Queen For Tonight"?
I wanted to kind of set the scene for a place that I feel like all of us kind of struggle to get to our entire lives and it's right there in front of us. So I wanted to kind of talk about something that was a little bit more real for me and real for a lot of people, as far as just always having a place that they're trying to get to, both mentally and spiritually, and that seemingly being a struggle sometimes.
When you were creating the song, did you think about how you would be performing it?
I did not. I focused on just the content. I didn't want to be limited by knowing that I'm gonna have to perform it live. I wanted to put out the content the way that I wanted, and I would worry about the performance aspect of it later.
What kind of music inspired the sound of the song?
I wanted it to definitely sound like the music was from a different place, but I didn't want it to be too specific sounding -- Indian or Asian, or anything like that. I wanted to just kind of have a somewhat tribal, tropical, kind of ambiguous sound.
Have you always wanted to be a musician?
I have not. I've always just wanted to put out content, whether it be word or music or fashion. I'm just always inspired to create something artistic from scratch. It just happened to right now be music.
There's been a lot of talk about race-based politics on this season of Drag Race. Season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen tweeted out a graphic showing that aside from RuPaul, no black queens have over one million Instagram followers. Meanwhile, several skinny white queens do. I'm curious what your experience has been with the fandom of Drag Race, in terms of racial bias.
I've been on gigs in the past couple weeks that have basically told me that the only reason I'm there is because Kameron or Aquaria or Miz Cracker are too expensive. So it's definitely part of the gig. Fortunately, if there's any upside to it, most of the “non-majority queens” -- as I like to call them -- that have been on the show in the past kind of set you up for it. They kind of let you know, "Hey, just so you know, you're never gonna be an Alyssa Edwards or Trixie Mattel or Katya."
And I think everybody goes into it thinking "Well, I'm gonna be the one to break the mold." But that's not normally the case. For me, it's a very new world, because I've been fortunate enough to grow up and live a life where I've never felt like I was held back or didn't get what I deserve based on either my sexual orientation or my racial identity, until Drag Race. The last couple months have been the first time in my life where I have ever felt that I wasn't treated equally because I'm a person of color.
On that note, I’d say that season 10 is one of the most talented groups of queens we’ve ever seen. And particularly, it had a lot of very strong black queens, but you were the only one to make it to the top four. Were you surprised by that?
I went into the competition not looking at it as a whole. I really focused on each day and each task at hand. And I was a little surprised by things that myself or Monét may not get away with that was praised by what I call majority queens.
But again, I wasn't really surprised, because like I said, other girls do reach out to you and say, "Hey, just so you know, not to put a damper on it, but just so you know what to expect, not only in the competition but afterwards, just so you're not completely blindsided."
I thought it was really great that The Vixen made it a point to address racial bias within the Drag Race fandom on the show -- and I’m glad that those conversations aired. Do you feel an added pressure headed into the finale, especially after all this racial dialogue, as the only queen of color?
Absolutely. I wouldn't say there's added pressure, but I do feel like there is added focus. There is a part of the fan base that, since Monét was eliminated, that reaches out to me and say, "Thank you for being a positive light for people of color. I see a lot of myself in you."
So I do get a lot of that, but to be honest, there's a huge part of this RuPaul's Drag Race fan base that is anti-anyone that's not young and thin and Caucasian. So I wasn't as much a part of that in the beginning, because I don't think people were looking at me as a threat. But as the other black girls left one by one, I started getting more backlash. After Monét left, all of that focus and attention came to me.
Thank you for being so open about that. On a lighter note, can you tease anything from next week’s reunion?
You know, I can say this. There is a grand and great opportunity for everyone to say and to get anything off their chest. I think that's probably one of the best parts of the reunion. You see a lot of conflict revisited and some of it resolved -- and you also see a lot of things come to light that a lot of the fans, or even a lot of the other girls sitting in the reunion, didn't even know was an issue or happened.
Listen to "Queen For Tonight" below.