Tue. Oct 20th, 2020

Interview: ‘Drag Race All Stars 5’ queen Ongina talks highlighting Filipino culture and that beef with Miz Cracker

Season 1 “RuPaul’s Drag Race” veteran Ongina had a brief stay on season 5 of “All Stars,” but she more than made her mark. Daniel Trainor and Sam Stone chatted with the queen about her drama with Miz Cracker (they’ve reconciled!), the evolution of the show since her first appearance on the franchise in 2009 (it’s a lot different now!), going to urgent care during filming (she lost her voice!) and how she’s learned to embrace her Filipino heritage (that gorgeous runway look!).

AwardsWatch: Hi Ongina! Thank you for taking some time to chat with us. 

Ongina: Thanks for having me!

AW: How the heaven and hell are you, girl? How do you feel?

O: I’m actually doing really well! There’s so much amazing love and support out there pouring into my timelines, my social media, my DMs, and from my friends and family. Ultimately, despite this short run on All Stars 5, I am happy! 

AW: On Instagram, you said you were dreading watching the episode based on how it all went down. What was it like to see it all play out?

O: The overall experience was super amazing. I got to walk onto the All Stars stage, which has been a dream of mine for so long. Finally being able to do it was one big success. My overall performance, obviously, was a little bit disappointing. I wanted to go back and fiercely compete and win. Given my track record on Season 1, with me doing so well, I really thought I was going to be able to bring that with me. I mentally prepared for that, however with the pressure and the anxiety and the competition all rolled into one, it really just played with my emotions. It affected me much more than I thought. You definitely saw me get in my head, which affected me a lot.

AW: How did the shadiness with Miz Cracker play into your performance?

O: At the time, I was really trying to wrap my head around why Cracker was saying and acting the way she was with me. I was very unsure about where we were, what our relationship was. I wrote an open letter to Cracker, hoping she would hear me, and she did. She reached out to me over the weekend and we are working on our relationship. I think it was me who put caution tape around myself against her, because I was just unsure. We talked back in April and I was still unsure. Now, since she’s apologized and explained why, I feel like we can work on this together. I told her we can’t move forward if one of the lanes on the twoway street is closed. I’m happy with that because I wanted to have the same genuine experiences and relationships that I did have with my Season 1 girls. I felt like I wasn’t having that with her. Having been able to talk to her over the weekend and really remind her of the pain that she put me in, which caused me to really doubt myself, her understanding and me understanding where she was coming from, I think we can say that we’re going to be okay. 

AW: Look at these “Drag Race” fences being mended!

O: Ultimately, I want to promote positivity from this experience. Television shows will have drama and that’s okay, but I have to be the better person to say ‘let’s move forward and work on it.’

AW: You talk about the differences between Season 1 and All Stars 5, when you take a step back and look at how the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” franchise has drastically changed over the years, how do you feel about that? Season 1 was a little less polished and now the show is a worldwide phenomenon. Was that transition difficult?

O: Well, I wouldn’t say that Season 1 was less polished, it was just given a Vaseline filter that we all didn’t know about. Ultimately that season is amazing and, I say this a lot, but it had a lot of genuine moments. When we were there, we filmed for like 15 hours and they just rolled the tape. They were like ‘whatever.’ Now, there are backstories, there are brands, there are business ways of thinking. You want to be on the side of right. All of these things go into what the new seasons are. It’s a much bigger platform, too. There’s a lot of pressure coming back for All Stars 5. It’s like 5000% different. But the experience is 100% the same. Being on All Stars is one of the best experiences of my life, so I’m happy I was there. 

AW: The maxi challenge was extra difficult for you because you lost your voice. What exactly happened there?

O: I had a viral infection and had to go to urgent care, actually. You can kind of hear it at the end of the first episode. And then, all of a sudden, I was like…great, we really have to do a fucking group number, singing live, when I have no voice. This would just be the icing on the cake at this point. But, Shea [Couleé] was so amazing. She was such a great partner and leader. She was like ‘just own the raspy voice and just give it to them as much as you can.’ But then we were recording and none of it was coming out! With her leadership and her giving me the confidence to sound like I do, even though I sounded the way that I did, and them really featuring me on the performance part and lifting me up in the air in stilettos was amazing. I’d never felt air up there before! It was great.

AW: You did sound a little bit like a dungeon dragon, to quote Nicki Minaj, the great philosopher. 

O: [laughs]

AW: You truly sold that performance. We hear the recording, but it’s all in the lip sync and the look. You had such amazing looks in this episode. Can you tell us about that final runway look? Where did it come from, what was the inspiration and who built it?

O: The designer is Patrick Isorena, who is from the Philippines. He made my entrance outfit. We really wanted to feature my Filipino culture, so that is a modern take on a  Filipiniana, which has sort of become a national dress for women in the Philippines. I really wanted it to represent me and my drag evolution. I wanted to be able to represent my country and my culture because I didn’t do a lot of that in Season 1. I always said that, when I had the opportunity to go back, that I would. It’s perfect because [the theme] was ‘love the skin you’re in’ and I love being a Filipino immigrant American living in this country, but also being really proud of who I am and where I come from.

AW: That’s really beautiful. 

Well, despite your All Stars run being brief, we loved the energy you brought to the show and it was such a pleasure watching you.

O: Thank you! And I’m just getting started. 

RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars Season 5 airs Fridays on VH1 at 8pm.

Daniel Trainor is writer, podcaster, son and friend from Los Angeles, California. Originally from Michigan, his love for all things pop culture started early, once using pancakes to bribe his way onto the Oscars red carpet bleachers with his mother. In addition to writing for AwardsWatch, he is an huge sports fan and hosts the LGBTQ sports podcast “Same Team.” One day, he hopes Jane Krakowski will win an Emmy.

Sam Stone is a writer and actor based in Brooklyn, New York. He writes humor, culture, and travel among other things, and spends his free time reading about all those things. You can find him on twitter @sam_the_stone or on Instagram @samstone000.

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