Texas is back in the house,” Asia O’Hara proclaimed on the season premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Clad in a white skintight dress with fringe dripping from the arms, the season ten contestant came on strong. But it wasn’t just Texas that O’Hara—real name Antwan Lee—was so boldly representing. It was Dallas. Over the course of the past decade, six Texas drag queens have competed on the hit VH1 reality show, and four of them have hailed from the Dallas–Fort Worth area. Before the latest race to become America’s Next Drag Superstar concludes on June 28, we asked O’Hara to tell us why so many Dallas queens have gotten so close to the throne.
The Rose Room
This venue, which bills itself as “the Southwest’s premiere show bar for gender illusion,” has been fostering local drag ingenues for decades. After competing at a Rose Room talent night and winning an amateur pageant there, O’Hara started to work her way onto the permanent cast. “It’s like every other job: you get your foot in the door however you can and work your way up.”
“Dallas drag culture directly correlates with Dallas’s culture in general,” O’Hara says. “We’re a very competitive city. Anybody who’s a Cowboys fan knows that. We grow up doing some type of competitive thing—Little League, football, ice-skating—and that works right into our drag. We start drag and immediately we want rhinestones and feathers and fringe, and we want to enter a competition and prove that we’re the best. And I think we’ve done a very good job so far.”
Though the Dallas scene has diversified to include different types of drag—fishy girls, comedy queens, and celebrity impersonators have found a niche in Big D—one subgenre has long dominated the city. “Queens from Dallas are notorious for doing really well on the pageant circuit,” O’Hara says. “When I started doing drag, that’s what you aspired to be: a pageant girl.” Pageant queens—much like thousands of young women across Texas—tease their hair and wriggle into ball gowns to compete in what O’Hara calls the Olympics of drag, traveling across the nation for the chance to win money and fame. Miss Gay USofA, one of the country’s biggest drag pageants, which O’Hara won in 2007, is held annually in Dallas.
To boost morale before performances and public appearances, O’Hara swaps texted photos of outfits with longtime friends Alyssa Edwards (Justin Johnson) and Kennedy Davenport (Reuben Asberry Jr.), Dallas-area Drag Race contestants from previous seasons. “The friendships we had prior to this stuck. We still talk. We still call each other for advice.”