Sashay away. Shantay, you stay. Good luck and don't fuck it up. Condragulations. “Ru-isms” from the juggernaut reality show RuPaul's Drag Race on VH1 have transcended television to become synonymous with not only drag, but pop culture in general. The show, which began in 2009 on Logo, has since aired 11 regular seasons, 4 All Star seasons, a companion series Untucked and a British version set to air in the U.K. On top of all this, DragCon was first launched in 2015 in Los Angeles and has only gotten bigger every year, even expanding to New York two years ago.
“When Randy [Barbato] and I started out, drag shows were on a tiny stage. We just thought, oh my God, the artistry is off the charts,” says Fenton Bailey, executive producer of RuPaul's Drag Race and co-founder of World of Wonder, the production company behind Drag Race and DragCon. “I think it was always our dream to see this incredible work on a larger platform. And I think that's what Drag Race and DragCon have been able to provide.”
Los Angeles was a top destination for drag even before Drag Race, but with the show filmed here, and many staying here after their big break, the queen quotient is off the charts — and with the arrival of the 5th Annual RuPaul's DragCon at Los Angeles Convention Center this Memorial Day weekend, even more so. It's going to be a very queeny weekend in L.A. indeed, and to celebrate, we're spotlighting a mix of “wo-men” who have been on the Emmy-Award winning show and some who haven't. Either way, they're all L.A. drag royalty. Here, a rundown on Raja Gemini, the L.A. club scene's pride and joy and inspiration to countless queens to come.
Originally from Baldwin Park, Sutan Amrull, better known as Raja Gemini, lived in his father's home country of Indonesia for six years before returning to the U.S. when he was 9. Raja first appeared on television on America's Next Top Model from 2005-2009 as a makeup artist. In 2011, the Angeleno won season three of RuPaul's Drag Race, impressing the judges with unconventional, un-pageant like punk-inspired looks, from her famous recreation of Carrie to her chocolate lava inspired cake couture dress.
Being the first and only Los Angeles queen to win RuPaul's Drag Race, Raja showed the rest of the country that the L.A. drag scene should be taken seriously. And she's kept on carrying that torch for this town ever since. As Raja wrote in an exclusive essay for L.A. Weekly about her experience at last year's DragCon, “I was there representing as one of the few (game show) winners and I was also representing Los Angeles, the city I am so fortunate to have lived in, doing and being inspired by the nightlife here. It never got the focus NYC did, but we were like, 'Who cares, let's party!' The show helped change that, putting our city on the map for drag and thus performance in general.”
Raja can often be seen performing at LGBTQ venues throughout the city, as well as co-hosting World of Wonder's Fashion Photo Ruview, where she helps break down the looks on current episodes of Drag Race.