Decade of 'Drag Race': Ongina Looks Back at Season 1
As part of our Decade of Drag Race week, we caught up with one queen from each season of the Emmy-award-winning series to reminisce about the show’s journey, share some never-been-told memories and throw shade where shade is due.
Below, we spill the tea with Drag Race's OG bald queen Ongina. Read all the interviews here.
Is there something that happened behind-the-scenes or off-camera that you’re surprised didn’t make the television edit?
One of the things that I was surprised about not seeing is when I first entered the workroom and there were Nina Flowers, Shannel, and Rebecca Glasscock. I think you could see from my face when I walked in that it was a very intimidating group of girls to walk into, especially meeting them for the first time, them being my competition, and seeing the way they do drag versus the way that I did drag back then. And, at point in time during our conversation, I stopped and paused and said, “Are you guys the hosts?” I just didn’t feel like my drag was up to par with these three people that I had never seen so I thought they may be part of the production side of crew when they actually happened to be competitors. So I said that and I don’t know if like it wasn’t clear enough or if the audio was bad but it never made the cut. The four of us always tell that story when we see each other. It was just really funny at the time. I remember Shannel said something like, “No, girl, I’m here to compete.” And Nina just laughed it off while Rebecca was off in her own world looking pretty.
Since your season aired, what have you gotten tired of fans bringing up?
More recently, I constantly get asked about All Stars. My fans are really supportive of me but I don’t know if they understand the invitation process for All Stars. It’s not like I get tired of it, I just get sad when they ask because I’m not yet in it. I want to respond in a full capacity but I’m still waiting for my time to be casted.
Has there been a starstruck moment since the season aired?
I met Vanessa Williams. I completely gagged when I met her for the first time and the next time I saw her was like a year later at one of those premiere parties in LA. I was walking by and didn’t see her and she goes, “Ongina!” I was like, “Excuuuuuse me? She just yelled me name!” Since, we’ve become really friendly. I am a big fan of hers. Also, I’m a huge fan of Teen Wolf, the rendition on MTV, and the mom on there, Melissa Ponzio, came to my booth for DragCon the first time. She was kind of standing on the sideline and I turn around and I’m like, “Oh my God. You’re the mom from Teen Wolf.” And then she was like, “You know me?” And I was like, “Yeah, you’re the mom from Teen Wolf.” I’ve sent her my t-shirt and she sent me these really big vintage earrings recently. She’s really cool.
Which one queen have you grown the closest to since your season?
I think I’m closest to Tammie Brown. She and my husband are really great friends. She’s come over to my house for dinner, in drag always because she says she likes to eat like a lady. She’s become a really close friend. I love her energy. She’s always so happy. It’s always really exciting to be around her because you never really know what the conversation is going to lead to. She keeps you on her toes.
Is there a lip-sync-for-your-life decision you would’ve changed if you were in Ru’s shoes?
I would've changed her decision to send me home against Bebe. However, in looking back and watching the actual show, I realize now that Bebe really won that lip sync. I think many of my fans will probably disagree with me but I’ve come to terms with it. I sort of froze in that moment and could’ve given it more. However, it could’ve been a double shantay because I was never in the bottom before then and I had a really good run.
What’s one of the most overrated runway looks from your season?
Something that I realized when it aired was that I don’t understand how Shannel did not win that makeover challenge and I think it was overrated that Rebecca won that because her makeover was not that excellent. They look similar. I get it. But if we’re talking about transformations, I think that was an overrated runway as opposed to Shannel who brought her character to a dimension that was far beyond everyone else. She should’ve won that challenge.
What’s the worst decision someone made during your season?
I think one of the worst decision made in my seasons was Shannel giving up when she was on the top four and saying that she wanted to leave. I know that at that time the competition got the best of her and all she wanted to do was give up because she didn’t feel like she was getting the praise she deserved. I think if she would’ve stuck it out, the competition would’ve been between her, Nina and Bebe and who knows? Shannel is a really fierce queen and she could’ve won the whole thing.
Did the right person win?
I always rooted for Nina Flowers and so she was always my vote to win but Bebe was not a bad winner from my season. I wasn’t upset when Bebe won because she definitely had a great run, though seeing what Nina brought to the table and her capabilities as a queen and the fact that she was really different was a representation for the drag that I did at the time. But I’m not saying that Bebe was the wrong winner. I was just rooting for Nina.