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Jaida Essence Hall: Drag Becoming Mainstream Helps All Queer People

Jaida Essence Hall: Drag Becoming Mainstream Helps All Queer People

The Drag Race winner talks performing on Vegas Live! and the possibility of appearing on the franchise again.

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All hail Jaida Essense Hall! Two years after winning RuPaul's Drag Race season 12, Hall is only just getting started.

Hall currently wows the Las Vegas strip five nights a week in the RuPaul's Drag Race Live! show at the Flamingo hotel. Thanks to the kind folks over at Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, PRIDE got the chance to watch the incredible show with Hall fully in her element and it's never been more clear she has not only has the uniqueness, nerve, and talent to reign supreme, but so much damn charisma...

Last week, Hall and her Vegas Live! sisters performed on stage during Katy Perry's residency show PLAY, even rolling around the stage with the superstar during her house-inspired track "Swish Swish." In our exclusive interview, Hall chats all about her deferred Drag Race victory lap, performing with her sisters in Vegas, the pros behind drag going mainstream, and more.

And yes, Hall will be a part of this year's live Season 14 finale!

PRIDE: Since the pandemic interrupted your season finale, it feels like you're just now getting to do your victory lap as a winner. Does it feel like that to you?

Hall: I've been having a lot of really incredible moments since the win. I did the Fenty show, I had the opportunity to work with the season 13 queens. I've had the opportunity to travel and meet some of the other queens when we did  Drive 'N Drag where we went to different cities. It was like kind of weird, but it was still fun. We did what we could in the way to still work and perform. I feel like I've been able to get a lot of opportunities since winning Drag Race but I think right now, because things are more open and we're able to be out, actually be in the world, I've been able to do things more often now. And it feels more like what I expected when the show was actually airing. Everything has been like constantly go, go, go, go, go, and it's been so busy. That's what makes it feel like, "Okay, this is what it was supposed to be to win the season."

Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I watch the moment after you won and the parade goes down your street congratulating you. It's so sweet, I'm obsessed. 

It was so weird, like you win and you have like this kind of moment where it's like slightly like... It's amazing but then it's bittersweet because it's like, "Wow, this is amazing that I did this, but then I can't see anybody, so I can't really celebrate." And then to walk out the door to a surprise parade.

I've always been the type of person who's loved little gay stuff like parades, to be a part of a parade, not to be the person of like being honored, so it's wild. And they had this huge banner of me that they started the parade with, that I have rolled up in my basement. I probably should bring it here, just like to have it wherever I go. 

Your win came at the perfect time because it was that June when everything was going down. Such a joyful moment that I think I know I really needed.

Everything was going crazy with George Floyd. People were like, "Okay, we'll be in the house for the pandemic. How long?" And then it was like, "We're sick of being in a house. We're sick of people treating black people crazy. We're sick of Jaida not winning Drag Race. We're sick of it not being the fucking summer." And everything just collided, and everybody went out and the world just was different. It was really almost the first moments when the pandemic was basically over, it was like, the win was like celebrating "Welcome back to the world!"

You're now appearing on RuPaul's Drag Race Live! show at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. What's been your favorite memory of the experience so far?

I love doing everything on stage every night, but I did not expect the backstage. I have so much fun with all the girls, especially if Coco is there. Honey, you know we are going to have a fabulous time. She's slightly delusional, but she is such a good time and she keeps all of us laughing and keeps the energy in the room really lit. That's one of the things that I did not expect at all was just like the sisterhood to come. Drag queens can be divas and we have big personalities and often drag queens usually work alone. We have the stupidest time and just do dumb stuff and have a lot of fun, even with like Derrick.

Derrick is one of my roommates and me and Derek, like when we get ready every day we like, we walk in and we're like, "What artists are we playing today?" The other day we were like, "Let's just listen to all the Babyface hits." It's really weird that me and Derrick share such a deep interest in music. Then at the end of the day, we were like, "I don't know. I was a little disappointed." She was like, "I was a little disappointed too." She was like, "I wanted more of the hits we know." And I was like, "Same." We click on this regular playlist and it was just like, "Where are the ones we want to hear?" We love the same songs. It's just this moment when we come together and we always just have a lot of fun backstage. When you come from like a show-girl background and you work at the bars, after you leave the bars you don't get to have that camaraderie as much as you used to. Being in the Vegas show, you get to have that fun kiki moment all the time when you go backstage. I love it.

Is there any hint of Drag Race Live! the reality series coming back?

I have no idea. I hope so, but I have no idea right now. I think the audience and the fans would love to see it come back, especially with a new cast, more girls, what the drama could be like or what the sisterhood could be like or what the dynamics of that would be. I would be ready for it.

Drag is becoming more and more mainstream every day and there are pros and cons associated with that. What are your thoughts about this drag boom? 

I know that a lot of people are apprehensive about drag becoming a mainstream thing because I know that drag has been underground, represents queer culture so much, but I think the more that drag is integrated into culture, everyday culture, then that's better for queer people. The more that everybody accepts drag and the more that people see it, that's the more that they're seeing accepting queer people and learning and seeing our stories and learning who we are and getting to understand us. So I love it.

I know that some people might think that it's like this thing that we should keep and hold like it's super sacred but at the end of the day, I know the world is influenced by what people do and what we do. They're going to want a part of it. People have been wanting a part of queer culture. They've wanted a part of us for the longest, like forever and whether we give it to them fully or not, they're going to continue to take a part of it because it's sickening.

This is the thing. If you showed up to the club in a really, really sickening jacket and somebody asked you where you got it from, you gave them the tea and they went and got the jacket. You can't be mad. You really can't be mad because the jacket is just that sickening, and drag just happens to be that girl.

Find more info on the RuPaul's Drag Race Live! show here.

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!