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Asia O’Hara interview: the Queen has arrived

‘Drag Race’ season 10 favorite readies Capital Pride headlining appearance



Asia O'Hara interview, gay news, Washington Blade

Asia O’Hara says experience helped her go far on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 10. (Photo courtesy Project Publicity)

Asia O’Hara

Capital Pride Concert
Sunday, June 10
7 p.m.
Capitol Concert Stage
3rd and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Free admission

Asia O’Hara took home the titles for Miss Gay USofA in 2007, All American Goddess 2012 and Miss Gay America 2016 but still had to audition three times to compete for the crown on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Hailing from Dallas, the 35-year-old veteran drag queen has now fought her way to the final five on season 10 of the drag competition show and secured her spot as a headliner of the Capital Pride Concert. 

O’Hara will perform at the Capital Pride Festival/concert at 7 p.m. on the CAPITOL Concert Stage (3rd & Pennsylvania) as part of the HOT 99.5 event. It’s free. Details here.

Speaking with the Washington Blade, O’Hara dished on who she thought went home too soon, the truth behind reality show editing and what it was like getting slapped by RuPaul.

WASHINGTON BLADE: In the beginning of the season you went out of your way to help the other queens during one of the challenges and didn’t leave time for yourself. Do you regret doing that now?

O’HARA: Not at all. My viewpoint in competition is a little different than others. I feel like as long as you make it to the next week, it’s a win. Although it was scary to be that close to the bottom, once I realized that I was not lip-syncing or possibly going home, then I was fine. It’s like an investment. Sometimes it’s risky and it’s scary at the moment but once you realize that you’re going to be fine and it paid off, then there’s no sense in regretting the risk that you took.

BLADE: Why do you think the judges didn’t connect with your Beyoncé impression in Snatch Game?

O’HARA: The entire goal of the Snatch Game is to make Ru and the judges laugh. Beyoncé is not somebody that is known for being comedic. On top of that, she no longer does interviews, so it’s hard for people to connect with her personality because people don’t really know her personally. I thought that since her personality is ambiguous it gave me a lot of room to play and do whatever I wanted. Some people that are celebrities just have infectious personalities and they’re successful primarily because people just love them and their personalities. She, unfortunately, is probably not one of them. She’s a celebrity because of her talent. I think that’s why the judges had trouble connecting with her.

BLADE: You were one of the only people that broke down the Vixen’s wall and said you understood where both she and the others were coming from. Did you feel like she heard you?

O’HARA: Absolutely. I know for a fact that she did. It’s one of those things where approach is everything. I know that she heard me and understood where I’m coming from. I think that I just acknowledged that I understood what she was saying and didn’t think she was just bat crazy is what gave her the ability to be openminded with what I was saying.

BLADE: What’s your relationship like with her now?

O’HARA: It’s great. We don’t talk all the time but we text back and forth about funny stuff and talk about our goals in the future. Every time we see one another we hang out. I was recently in Chicago, which is where she lives, and she came out to the show and we hung out in the dressing room. Honestly, it’s no different than how it always was. Other than that brief moment where she was obviously upset that I said her name for who I thought should go home. But we’ve always had a great relationship.

BLADE: Where do you get your life wisdom from?

O’HARA: I don’t think that I’m wise. I was older than everybody. I think that’s just how that works. Mayhem (Miller) and I were the two oldest contestants. “Drag Race” was a new avenue for me but I’ve done drag in multiple facets of the community. Pageants, being a showgirl, being a backup dancer, being a show director, doing charity drag and now a reality show. So I’ve seen drag from multiple points of view. I think it’s sometimes easier for me to understand and communicate in the world of drag because I don’t have just a one-sided perspective of what drag is or should or should not be.

BLADE: Another memorable moment in the season was when you got accidentally slapped by RuPaul. What was that like?

O’HARA: To be honest, it was quite fun because it was so great to see her so concerned. She legitimately for a split second was concerned that I was hurt. She didn’t know what direction that was about to go in. That to me was the funnest part just to see how nervous she was. She was like, “Oh my god is she about to act a fool? Are we going to have to go stop the cameras so she can see the medic?” That was the funnest part for me because she’s completely in control of every aspect of the competition. So to see her in that brief moment not know what was about to happen was quite refreshing.

BLADE: How do you feel about the way the show has been edited versus how it felt in the moment? Do you think you were fairly represented?

O’HARA: I think everybody is always fairly represented. People love to say that editing changes things. They basically take two or three days worth of filming and condense them into 78 minutes of footage. I feel like everything has been completely accurate for me and everyone. There were times I was terrible in the competition and it accurately showed that. There were times I was great in the competition and it was accurate as well. The editing has been exactly how I remember things happened.

BLADE: Was there anyone that you felt went home too early?

O’HARA: Absolutely. Now, when I say someone went home too early I’m saying they had more to offer the competition. I’m not saying I don’t feel like they deserved to go home based on what they presented that week. But two people I saw going further in the competition were Blair St. Clair and Monét X Change. Blair was one of the only people that on day one I thought to myself, “Clearly, she’s top four material.” I was really shocked when she went home close to halfway through. Monét  X Change also had some great moments. I was surprised that she didn’t make it. Not initially, but as I got to know her and see her talent level, she was another person I could see making it to the end.

BLADE: Speaking of Blair St. Clair, how did you feel when she opened up about her sexual assault? Did it just come out of nowhere?

O’HARA: It didn’t come out of nowhere. The lead question that prompted that may have gotten missed I don’t recall how that happened in person. As we got to know Blair personally, we knew that there was something there. Unfortunately, what you don’t get to see on television, in any reality competition, is sometimes just being in the same room with someone and having a conversation with them you feel like you need to ask them, “Something else on your mind?”

BLADE: Aquaria is one of the younger queens. What was it like watching her approach the competition as a more seasoned queen?

O’HARA: It was great. The thing about Aquaria is that although she’s young, she’s more mature than most 21-year-olds and more mature than I was at that age. She’s very talented. It’s refreshing to see someone so young, so talented and so self-aware about their art. Of course when I found out how old she was I didn’t know what to expect. But as the competition progressed and I got to know her I was thrilled to know she was only 21.

BLADE: Was there any moment that didn’t make the cut featuring you that you wish viewers had seen?

O’HARA: Not really. There are more moments that I forgot happened that I was pleasantly surprised with. One logistic thing that probably just wouldn’t have made sense on television is that during the “Breastworld” challenge when I was playing the Para Salin character, the first half of that challenge they went through multiple times. I was sitting on the sidelines for probably 45 minutes before it got to my part because I was the last character to enter the scene. When I entered the scene the judges just erupted into laugher because I think they forgot I was even there because I was off to the side while they were working with the other girls. I thought that might make the cut but it probably was something production wise than it was an actual piece of the story. I think Michelle (Visage) even said “Oh my god, I completely forgot you were sitting over there.”

BLADE: What can people expect from your Capital Pride performance?

O’HARA: I call myself a chameleon queen. I don’t travel around the world presenting the same creative ideas that I presented in the competition because I feel like people like to be surprised and like something fresh and new. People can expect to be pleasantly surprised and see something that is authentically Asia but not something they’ve seen already on television.

Asia O’Hara says Capital Pride audiences will see another side of her this weekend. (Photo courtesy Project Publicity)


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Taste of Pride celebrates LGBTQ and allied restaurants

Weeklong event will feature local eateries and bars



Kareem Queeman, known as Mr. Bake, will headline the opening event for Taste of Pride.

Get ready to celebrate LGBTQ-owned, managed, and allied restaurants at Taste of Pride from Oct. 2-8. 

The weeklong event is a new initiative by Capital Pride Alliance. In 2021, the organization put on a single-day brunch event in June at LGBTQ and allied restaurants, but this is the first weeklong iteration. 

About 15 local restaurants and bars are set to participate, including As You Are, Shaw’s Tavern, Jane Jane, and Code Red. There’s also an opening party on Monday, Oct. 2 featuring food and drink vendors without a traditional brick-and-mortar space, like Suga Chef and Vegan Junk Food. 

Taste of Pride will raise funds for the Pride365 fund, which supports local LGBTQ organizations. There will be a three-course prix fixe menu at several of the participating locations, with lunch and brunch menus offered at $30, and dinner menus offered at $40 or $55. 

Kareem Queeman, known as Mr. Bake, will be headlining the opening event on the evening of Oct. 2 at Lost Generation Brewery. Queeman, the founder and owner of the renowned bakery Mr. Bake Sweets and a James Beard Award semi-finalist, said he’s excited to spotlight LGBTQ chefs and mixologists. 

Queeman said he’s proud to be a part of bringing queer culinary experts together to celebrate the work they’ve all done and discuss what changes need to come to the industry — there will be a panel discussion on Oct. 2 covering those topics. LGBTQ chefs have long gone unnoticed, he said, despite the innovative work they’ve done. 

“Queers have been in the industry doing the work for a very long time and we just haven’t really gotten that acknowledgment,” Queeman said. 

Providing this space for LGBTQ people in the restaurant industry is paramount to giving a sense of power and ownership in the work they do, Queeman said. He wishes there was this kind of space for him when he was coming up as a chef when he was younger. 

Taste of Pride is also a great opportunity for LGBTQ people looking to get into the industry to find safe spaces to work that are run by queer people, Queeman said. 

Rob Heim, the general manager at Shaw’s Tavern, said he’s looking forward to being a part of the event. And new fall menu items at Shaw’s Tavern will be available during Taste of Pride, which he’s thrilled to showcase. 

“I was really excited to help out and participate,” he said. “It’s a great idea.” 

The smaller number of participating restaurants in Taste of Pride is intentional, said Brandon Bayton, a volunteer executive producer organizing Taste of Pride. It’s so each restaurant can be well-represented during the week, and different restaurants will be highlighted on social media on separate days. Capital Pride Alliance is also partnering with influencers to get the word out. 

From left, food from 801 Restaurant and Bar and a drink from Code Red. (Code Red photo by Michael Emond; photos courtesy of Capital Pride Alliance)

Visibility — all year long 

It’s important to have events like Taste of Pride outside of June, Bayton said. 

“We exist 365 days,” Bayton said. “So we need to make sure that we continue the celebration and invite others to celebrate with us and just be authentically ourselves. We enjoy and do a lot of things other people do. There’s no reason why we should just be constrained to one month.”

Queeman agrees. His identity as a queer Black man doesn’t stop or start at any given month. 

“I’m not just a queer or gay man in June or I’m not just a Black man in February,” he said. 

And food is a major intersection that all people of all identities enjoy, Bayton said. It’s a simple way to bring people together. 

“We do the exact same things that everyone else does,” Bayton said. “We all eat. We all love to eat.” 

Taste of Pride will run from Oct. 2-8. For more information and to make reservations, visit

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Hip-Hop’s complicated history with queer representation

At 50, experts say the genre still doesn’t fully welcome LGBTQ inclusion



Rapper Lil Nas X faced backlash for his music video ‘Montero,’ but it debuted atop the Billboard 100.

I didn’t really start listening to rap until my college years. Like many queer Black children who grow up in the closet, shielded by puritanical Christianity from the beauty of a diverse world, I longed to be myself. But the affirming references I could pull from — in moments of solitude away from the wrath and disdain of family and friends — were in theater and pop music.

The soundtrack to my teenage years was an endless playlist of pop divas like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, whose lyrics encouraged me to sashay my hips anytime I strutted through a long stretch of corridor.

I was also obsessed with the consuming presence of powerful singers like Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, and the hypnosis that was Chaka Khan. My childhood, an extrapolation of Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays spent in church groups, choir practices, and worship services, necessitated that I be a fan of throaty, from-the-stomach singing. But something about the way these artists presented themselves warmed my queer little heart. LaBelle wore avant garde geometric hairdos paired with heavily shoulder-padded blazers. Houston loved an elegant slender gown. And Khan? It was the voluminous red mane that gently caressed her lower back for me. 

Listening to rap music in college was a political experience. My sociology classes politicized me and so it was only natural that I listened to rap music that expressed trauma, joy, and hope in the Black experience. However, I felt disconnected from the music because of a dearth of queer representation in the genre. 

Nevertheless, groups like Outkast felt nostalgic. While delivering hedonistic lyrics at lightning speed, André 3000 — one half of the rap duo — mesmerized with his sleek, shoulder-length silk pressed hair and colorful, flowing shirts and trousers — a style that could be translated as “gender-bending.” Despite the patriarchal presentation rampant in rap and Hip-Hop, Andr​​é 30000 represented to me, a kind of rebellious self-expression that I so badly wanted to emulate but couldn’t because of the psychological confines of my conservative upbringing. 

My discovery of Outkast was also sobering because it was a stark reminder of how queerness is also often used as an aesthetic in Hip-Hop while actual queer people are shunned, rebuked, and mocked. Queer people in Hip-Hop are like backstage wingmen, crucial to the development of the show but never important enough to make a curtain call. 

As Hip-Hop celebrates 50 years since its inception in New York City, I am filled with joy because it’s been half a century of Black people owning their narratives and driving the culture. But it’s fair to ask: At whose expense? 

A viral 2020 video shows rapper Boosie BadAzz, famed for hits like “Set It Off” and “Wipe Me Down,” rebuking NBA star Dwayne Wade and award-winning actress Gabrielle Union-Wade for publicly supporting their then-12-year-old daughter after she came out as transgender. 

“Don’t cut his dick off, bro,” said BadAzz with furrowed eyebrows and a gaze that kept turning away from the camera, revealing his tarnished diamond studs. “Don’t dress him as a woman dawg, he’s 12 years. He’s not up there yet.” 

The responses from both Wade and Union-Wade were a mixture of swift, sarcastically light-hearted, and hopeful.

“Sorry Boosie,” Union-Wade said to an audience during a live podcast appearance at Live Talks Los Angeles. “He’s so preoccupied, it’s almost like, ‘thou doth protest too much, Little Boos.’ You’ve got a lot of dick on your mind.”

Wade also appeared on an episode of podcast, “I AM ATHLETE,” and looked directly into the camera.

“Boosie, all the people who got something to say, J-Boogie who just came out with [something] recently, all the people who got something to say about my kids,” he said. “I thank you because you’re allowing the conversation to keep going forward because you know what? You might not have the answers today, I might not have the answers, but we’re growing from all these conversations.” 

This exchange between the Wades and BadAzz highlights the complicated relationship between Black LGBTQ individuals and allies and the greater Hip-Hop and rap genres and communities. While Black queer aesthetics have long informed self-expression in Hip-Hop, rappers have disparaged queerness through song lyrics and in interviews, or online rants like BadAzz, outside the recording studio. 

And despite LGBTQ rappers like Queen Latifah, Da Brat, Lil Nas X, and Saucy Santana achieving mainstream success, much work lies ahead to heal the trauma that persists from Hip-Hop’s history of  patriarchy and homophobia. 

“‘Progression’ will always be relative and subjective based on one’s positionality,” said Dr. Melvin Williams said in an email. Williams is an associate professor of communication and media studies at Pace University. “Hip-hop has traditionally been in conversation with queer and non-normative sexualities and included LGBTQ+ people in the shaping of its cultural signifiers behind the scenes as choreographers, songwriters, make-up artists, set designers, and other roles stereotypically attributed to queer culture.”

“Although Hip-Hop incorporates queerness in their ethos, ideas, and trends, it does not privilege the prospect of an out LGBTQ+ rapper. Such reservations position LGBTQ+ people as mere labor in Hip-Hop’s behind-the-scenes cultivation, but not as rap performers in its mainstream distribution,” he added. 

This is especially true for Queen Latifah and DaBrat who existed in the genre for decades but didn’t publicly come out until 2021. Still, both faced backlash from the Black community for daring to challenge gender roles and expectations. 

Queen Latifah dodged questions about her sexuality for years before acknowledging her partner and their son in 2021. (Photo by DFree via Bigstock)

Lil Nas X also faced backlash for his music video “Montero” with satanic references, including one in which he slides down a pole and gives a character representing the devil a lap dance. Conservatives such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem accused him of trying to scandalize children. 

“You see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am,” Nas X said in a note that accompanied “Montero.” The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.”

Regardless, “Montero” debuted atop the Billboard 100. 

In an article published in “Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society,” scholar C. Riley Snorton posited that celebrating queer visibility in mainstream media could be a problem as this kind of praise relies on artists presenting in acceptable forms of gender and sexuality expression and encourages representation that is “read alongside…perceptions of Hip-Hop as a site of Black misogyny and homophobia.” 

In the case of Frank Ocean, who came out in 2012 prior to the release of his album “Channel Orange,” his reception was warmer than most queer Hip-Hop artists because his style of music is singing, as opposed to rapping. Because of this, his music was viewed more as R’n’B or pop. 

“Frank Ocean ain’t no rapper. He’s a singer. It’s acceptable in the singing world, but in the rap world I don’t know if it will ever be acceptable because rap is so masculine,” rapper Snoop Dogg told the Guardian in 2013. “It’s like a football team. You can’t be in a locker room full of motherfucking tough-ass dudes, then all of a sudden say, ‘Hey, man, I like you.’ You know, that’s going to be tough.”

So what’s the solution for queer people in Hip-Hop? Digital media.

Williams, the Pace University professor, says that being divorced from record labels allows queer artists to be independent and distribute their music globally on their own terms. 

“We witnessed this fact with artists such as Azealia Banks, Cakes Da Killa, Fly Young Red, Kevin Abstract, iLoveMakonnen, Lil Nas X, Mykki Blanco, and Saucy Santana, as well as legacy LGBTQ Hip-Hop acts like Big Freeda, DeepDickCollective, and Le1f,” he said. “The music industry has experienced an increasingly mobilized market due to the rise of digital media, social networking platforms, and streaming services.”

“More importantly, Black queer Hip-Hop artists are historicizing LGBTQ+ contributions and perspectives in documentaries, films, news specials, public forums, and podcasts. Ultimately, queer people engaging in Hip-Hop is a revolutionary act, and it remains vital for LGBTQ+ Hip-Hoppers to highlight their cultural contributions and share their histories,” he added. 

(Hip-Hop pioneers Public Enemy and Ice-T will headline The National Celebration of Hip-Hop, free concerts at the West Potomac Park on the National Mall in D.C. on Oct. 6 and 7.)

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Cuisine and culture come together at The Square

D.C.’s newest food hall highlights Spanish flavors



(Photo by Scott Suchman)

Downtown got a bit tastier when “the next generation of food halls” opened its doors on Tuesday near the Farragut West Metro stop. Dubbed The Square, its half-dozen debut stalls are a Spanish-flecked mix of D.C. favorites, new concepts, and vendor-collaborative spirit.

After two years of planning – and teasing some big-name chefs – the market is, according to the owners, “where cuisine, culture, and community are woven together.”

Behind this ambitious project with lofty aims are Richie Brandenburg, who had a hand in creating Union Market and Rubén García, a creative director of the José Andrés Group who also was part of the team of Mercado Little Spain, the fairly new Spanish-themed Andres food hall in Hudson Yards.

Food halls have come a long way since the new Union Market awakened the concept a decade ago. Instead of simply rows of vendors in parallel lines, The Square has a new business model and perspective. This food hall shares revenue between the owners and its chef partners. Vendors are encouraged to collaborate, using one software system, and purchasing raw materials and liquor at scale together.

“Our goal was two-fold: to create a best-in-class hospitality offering with delicious foods for our guests; and behind the scenes, create the strong, complex infrastructure needed to nurture both young chefs and seasoned professionals, startups, and innovation within our industry,” says Brandenburg.

The Square has embraced a more chef-forward methodology, given that the founders/owners themselves are chefs. They’re bringing together a diverse mix of new talent and longtime favorites to connect, offer guidance to each other, and make the market into a destination. 

(Photos by Scott Suchman)

The first phase of The Square premiered this week. This phase encapsulates a selection of original concepts from well-known local chefs and business owners, and includes:

• Cashion’s Rendezvous – Oysters, crab cakes, and cocktails, from the owners of D.C. institutions and now-closed Cashion’s Eat Place and Johnny’s Half-Shell (Ann Cashion and John Fulchino).

• Jamón Jamón – Flamenco-forward food with hand-cut jamón Iberico, queso, and croquetas, sourced by García himself.

• Brasa – Grilled sausages and veggies are the stars here. Chef García oversees this Spanish street-food stall as well.

 Taqueria Xochi – Birria, guisado, and other street tacos, plus margs. Named after the ruins of Xochitecatl in Central Mexico, and from a Jose Andres alum.

• Yaocho – Fried chicken, juices, sweets, and libations.

• Junge’s – Churros and soft serve ice cream. Brandenburg and García both have a hand in this stall.

• Atrium Bar – The central watering hole for drinks. Atrium Bar serves cocktails, wine, and beer curated by The Square’s Beverage Director Owen Thompson.

“Having been part of Jose Andres’s restaurant group and getting to know Ruben and Richie, it’s amazing to see how their values align with ours at Taqueria Xochi. Seeing all these incredible chefs heading into Square feels like a full-circle moment,” said Geraldine Mendoza of Taqueria Xochi.

Slated for fall 2023, the next round of openings includes Flora Pizzeria, Cebicheria Chalaca, KIYOMI Sushi by Uchi, Shoals Market (a retail hub), and more. Additionally, chef Rubén García’s Spanish restaurant, Casa Teresa, will soon open next door to The Square.

The Square is just one of a handful of new food halls blossoming in and around D.C. Up in Brentwood, Md., miXt Food Hall is an art-adjacent space with tacos, a year-round fresh market, coffee, and beer. Across from Union Market is La Cosecha, a Latin marketplace with everything from street food to a Michelin starred restaurant and a festive vibe. Closer to The Square is Western Market by GW University, which opened in late 2021 with a buzzy, relaxed style.

For now, the Square is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Square plans to open on weekends and extend hours to offer dinner service in the coming months. A few alfresco seats will accompany the hall.

(Photo by Scott Suchman)
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