Jojo Zaho on Being the First Aboriginal Queen on “Drag Race Down Under”

"A win for one of us is a win for all of us, is how we look at it."

RuPaul’s Drag Race is taking over the world. No, seriously: The reality competition phenomenon has different international versions sashaying across screens in the U.K., Canada, Thailand, Spain, and now Australia and New Zealand, with Ru and crew on the hunt for Down Under’s next drag superstar.

On the first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, the queens proved to be camp and competitive — something Newcastle’s Jojo Zaho found out firsthand when she landed in the bottom two against Elektra Shock. While Jojo’s time on Down Under was brief, she made Drag Race herstory by being the first Aboriginal queen to compete on the show.

It never feels good to be the first one sent packin’, but anyone who watched Drag Race Season 13 knows that first out is the new in. Jojo spoke with NewNowNext about the pressure of representing her culture on Drag Race, her internal monologue during the lip-sync for your life, and her go-to Kylie Minogue song.
 

Hi Jojo! How does it feel to be the first Aboriginal drag queen on Drag Race?

There was a lot of pressure to be the first, in regards of not only representing my drag but also representing my culture as much as I can while incorporating it into my drag. Indigenous Australians don’t often get quite large platforms, so I definitely took the pressure upon myself to represent me and my culture and community to the best of my ability.

Is there a large Aborigine drag scene, and have any queer Aborigines reached out to you about how you’ve inspired them?

There is. I’d probably say there are about 30 of us, 30 indigenous drag queens in Australia. And we all kind of start at the same place. There’s an indigenous drag pageant held in Australia every year called Miss First Nation. That’s our launching pad for most of our careers is we start there. That’s how we get noticed, and we connect with other indigenous queens and build a sisterhood. There is a very close indigenous queer drag community. We’re all very supportive of each other. A win for one of us is a win for all of us, is how we look at it. And I’ve definitely had a few reach out to me, and I hope to see one of them on next year for Season 2. Fingers crossed there’s a second season.

Were you nervous when Elektra started pulling out all of the splits and moves during the lip-sync for your life?

So, I knew that she has a dance background ’cause she’s more of a dancer first, a drag queen second, so I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. Then she was behind me, and then I heard the giant thud of what sounded like maybe a death drop or a drop split, and instantly I was like, bugger. All right, well, look, she’s pulling out all the tricks. She’s got the skills to do it. If I’m going, I might as well have some fun on stage and enjoy myself.

What was the fabric wrapped around your ankle during the lip-sync?

They were ankle cuffs. I tried to take inspiration from very regal, both French and English, royal costumes, and they often have quite poof-y collars, so I tried to incorporate that in my wrists and my ankles as well. But I think there were like six different types. I think it was lace, cotton, satin, organza, chiffon…

Sadly, you didn’t get to see Kylie Minogue while you were on Drag Race, but I have to know, what is your favorite Kylie song to lip-sync to?

Stop Me From Falling.” I didn’t really have to think about that one. It’s just a beautiful song. It’s fun, it’s kind of slow, but it’s not constantly slow. There’s a nice wave of up and down.

The queens seem very competitive. Was that how it felt when you were on set?

We were definitely competitive, but a lot of us have worked together, so although we were competitive, we were also supportive.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under airs Saturdays on WOW Presents Plus.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
@chrisreindeer