Aquaria, the high-fashion model and social media personality, is best known for winning the 10th season of TV’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in 2018.
But when the 27-year-old Pennsylvania native comes to Baltimore on Thursday, June 15, for a Sweet Spot Pride Party at Baltimore Soundstage, Aquaria will showcase their lesser-known talents as a DJ.
“I absolutely love to share space and create a fab experience with a crowd, so expect tons of uptempo dance tracks and remixes that will hopefully keep your serotonin bursting at every turn,” said Aquaria, who was born Giovanni Palandrani and grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania. (Out of drag, Aquaria goes by he/they pronouns. In drag, Aquaria goes by she/they.)
Aquaria, who has been DJing for six years, began experimenting with music from an early age.
What’s going through Aquaria’s mind when making a mix?
“[It] definitely depends on the circumstance for sure,” the New York City resident said. “I like to try to play to a crowd’s vibe as well as taking into consideration other factors like the venue, the occasion, the time of year, etc. There’s a time and place for everything, and I really try my best to play what I think the audience will appreciate hearing at any moment. You definitely can’t win ’em all, but I’d like to think I always try my best to curate a playlist that will perfectly complement the other elements of the experience.”
In addition to the “obvious technical aspects” of performing in drag as opposed to performing as a DJ, expect Aquaria to emerge from behind the turntables to rock the stage.
“Like I won’t really be doing a proper drag number; however, I love to enjoy the stage and dance and will often lip sync and give a light performance for some of my favorite tracks,” Aquaria said. “I’ve always got to get back in time to transition the tracks, though, so I try to keep things a lot more contained and realistic versus giving a crazy, sweaty, intense dance number.”
In advance of Aquaria’s appearance in Baltimore this week, the DJing drag queen answered questions from The Baltimore Banner.
Who is the most surprising celebrity fan you have encountered? One of my favorites that I share a mutual love for is my queen Cascada. I love how supportive of me she is, and it’s surreal to be loved by someone who is the soundtrack to my youth.
How often — if at all — do you keep in contact with RuPaul? The lady’s busy, so definitely not very often, understandably. But she’s welcome to call anytime.
Do you have any makeup tips for our readers? Everything can change — lighting, your facial structure, your perception of self, your end goals, your creative process — so always try to remain present and informed with the fantasy you’re trying to achieve for any given occasion.
How has “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” or “RDR,” changed the art of drag? The show has been such an incredible launchpad for so many different drag entertainers in many different areas of interest. It will absolutely go down in history as one of the most influential and important presentations of drag. It establishes legitimacy within our art form and provides countless LGBTQ+ people the opportunity to create a path towards their dreams that we otherwise may not have similar access to.
Has “RDR” hurt local drag? I think they can definitely live in a symbiotic environment. However, it isn’t lost on me the excitement that some fans may have toward a queen from TV versus a “local” entertainer. There’s no shame really in being extra excited to see someone you’ve looked up to from TV, though, but as fans of a TV show that can make a queen a household name within a season, it’s important to remember that everyone was once a “local” queen and that the only difference when boiled down is really just the opportunities presented to each at any given moment. Most “Drag Race” fans I’ve encountered have so much love and respect for their hometown queens, and it’s always a pleasure to see them showered with just as much love — if not more! — whenever I have the chance to perform alongside them.
If you didn’t do “RDR,” what would you be doing right now? In New York and plenty of other areas, you need to network and prove yourself to survive and create a thriving career. It would definitely be more of an uphill battle if I had to continue to climb the mountain of success with my own bare hands, but I would never let an uphill battle deter me from finding happiness and success in my craft.
What other talents do you have that the public might not know about? I’d like to think of myself as a fairly open book, and I assume that people who follow me are able to engage with my content and see the different types of things I do. However, that’s not always the case in reality since people have got way bigger things to worry about than knowing every little detail about me. Especially for those who know me mainly only from “Drag Race,” they may be shocked to learn that I’m incredibly humorous, intelligent and kind (beyond what I may have shown on “Drag Race” at times). But, beyond that, I’m a great dancer and I play the keytar … I definitely post plenty about it, but I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this who would find that as an unknown talent!
Have you ever been to Baltimore before? Yes, a few times. [I’m] very excited to be back in Maryland.
What are you most looking forward to on your visit to Baltimore? I’ve heard the best things about the Sweet Spot events from my friends they’ve booked in the past, and I’m looking forward to creating even more memories with the audience.
How did your appearance with Sweet Spot come about? Somehow they came to me early enough with the perfect date, considering how busy my June calendar can become! Was super happy to make it work for them.
What does Pride Month mean to you? Pride is a month of reflection and celebration. It’s important to remember how far we’ve come and assess what we can do moving forward to create a more equitable existence for all marginalized people domestically and abroad. There’s plenty to rejoice in, but it is much easier and more accepted for white cisgender people in the community. It’s our duty to each other to make sure everyone has just as much opportunity and reason to celebrate this month and every month.
What is the biggest challenge facing the LGBTQ community? Sadly, sometimes it seems like there are too many challenges to count, but it’s very clear that, across the world, we need to put extra support behind fighting for the Trans community and specifically our Trans friends of color who historically have been leaders of our community and continue to push forward despite setbacks from outside of our community and often a lack of support from some members within the community.
How can the LGBTQ community create better unity? Selflessness. It seems understandable for each human to be most worried about themself, but once you separate the concept of your own survival from the greater overarching concept of the survival of your community, you will find that everyone will be able to continue to thrive, including yourself! If we all look out for each other, that doesn’t mean that you will be stranded and won’t be looked out for — it means we as a community will have created a strong social contract where everyone feels safe and looked after.
If you could perform with any musical artist, dead or alive, who would it be? Definitely too many to name, but any opportunity I have to marry my love for music and performance is a blessing to me. I’ve already had so many special opportunities with the likes of Lady Gaga, Madonna, Rihanna, and that feels so surreal to me, but also quite earned. It’s very fulfilling to feel respected and to be highlighted for my talents by those who I personally respect and adore.
What “RDR” contestants do you keep in contact with the most? I’m always texting and bothering my sisters, but specifically I love chatting with Asia O’Hara, Kameron Michaels, Naomi Smalls, Monet X Change and so many more. I also feel like I retweet 9-10 posts Yuhua Hamasaki makes, so I definitely love honoring my queen.
Are there any “RDR” contestants who you don’t particularly care for? Why? There are definitely girls I can butt heads with from time to time if we get under each other’s skin but, for me, my time with “Drag Race” family is way less about the drama than it is about getting to experience every joy this LGBTQ+ life has awarded us. It’s a blessing to get to share incredible work opportunities and travel experiences with people who have similar stories to me, and it’s much easier for me at the end of the day to know that I love what I do and that I value everyone’s art and existence.
Was there anything juicy that the public didn’t get to see during any of your appearances on the show? Hmmm, not particularly, if I recall correctly. I’d like to think that, given all that went down while filming, and the constraints of trying to cram it all into an entertaining 90-minute television block, that our stories were told to the best of the editors’ abilities with both detail and brevity.
If money wasn’t a factor, where would you live? The moon.