As one of the finalists on this season of Drag Race Down Under, Hannah Conda brought a bold personality, signature laugh and a patented Liza Minnelli impression to Drag Race, which brought her to the final three. While many got to see the endlessly hilarious performer throughout her run, she spoke with me at length about how she almost not to move forward with her drag journey. I sat down to chat with Conda at length about her drag career thus far, her Drag Race Down Under experience and how her biggest fan at home helped propel her to the next stage of her career.
Michael Cook: You had a phenomenal showing on Drag Race Down Under this year, rocketing all the way to the Top 3 and the finale! How does that feel looking back?
Hannah Conda: Thank you so much, I am proud of myself and so proud of everything that I got to do. It was very overwhelming.
MC: Getting into the finale is probably a truly surreal moment, when two years ago, the talent Down Under didn’t even have this platform to showcase their talents on.
HC: Yes, and two years ago I was so close to being cast and it all fell through, I was so upset, and I kind of gave myself a couple weeks to be a bit sad about it, then I decided to let it go; everything happens for a reason. I really do live by that also, that there is a plan that is meant to be unfolding for me and everything is going to happen when it is meant to happen. When I decided to audition for Season 2, I knew it might work or it might not work, who knows. I didn’t put all of my drag and what I do on getting into the show; I know I am a good entertainer and a good person, and I do what I can. I think I was putting too much weight into being on the show and I thought that is what I needed to “make” me. I have been doing this for thirteen years and working full time, I’ve made it. This is just another platform and another step and if it is meant to be, it will be. And it was.
MC: Drag Race Down Under encompasses such a large area, but so many of you on Season 2 have interpersonal relationships of your own prior to being on the show. What was that like?
HC: We have countries, and within the countries we are so close and we do know everybody. While the area is big, the queer community is even smaller, with drag artists being even smaller than that. We do know of each other and we are very familiar, and it has always been important to me to know who is working in each city, who is around, and I’ve been able to travel a lot and see some of these girls. Coming in, you do have these natural dynamic because we are so familiar with each other. I think it is quite exciting because you get to level out in a way. For me, Minnie (Cooper) has been such a mentor to me and I’ve worked really closely with Minnie. To be able to come into the show and be there together was really lovely. We were there on a level playing field with no past history, you are all the same and have been cast on the same show. It’s sort of a new chapter in our relationships. Same things with Faux (Fur), I love Faux she is a dream, we work together quite a bit here in Sydney. To be honest, I heard her in the hotel; I got into my hotel room and I heard this scream and I said “all right, Faux’s here” (laughs)!
MC: What do you think your rose and thorn are from your Drag Race Down Under experience is?
HC: My rose is definitely being with Kween (Kong) and Spankie (Jackzon) doing the BAB’Z (version of ‘Bosom Buddies’), that is an absolute highlight. To have those two beautiful best friends in my life that I get to share this experience with, I am just honored and I love them to bits. As for a thorn, I am very proud of the run that I had and the edit that I had and I never want to be the girl that “blames it on the edit”, I just feel like when I was watching it, I lost parts of my personality and my story; I didn’t get too much story. I was always there for a witty cackle or a comment, but they didn’t really get to really flesh out who I was as a person. I don’t know why that happened, because it was all shared. I am an open book, and will tell you whatever you want. It just felt like I didn’t get to share that with people a bit more. Now it is up to me to share that and to share my personality a bit more.
MC: What is something about yourself that you don’t think you don’t think you got the opportunity to share that you would have liked to?
HC: I had a very complex relationship with drag just before I came to the show. I always felt safe in drag, and then in the past couple years, I just felt all of the safety nets I had in drag started falling way, with the pandemic and turmoil that we were going through as a scene in Australia, trying to reconcile it’s history and the things that we need to do better as a community. I always felt safe in drag and now I didn’t. I wasn’t going audition for Season 2, I didn’t want to do drag anymore, I was just going to give it up completely. I just got into a deep depression and anxiety, and I …almost didn’t pull through. It was my partner Jack who grabbed me and said we would get me back on tour, into therapy. and an antidepressant to get me going again. He helped me push myself to find my love of drag and it was filming the audition tape when we were in a complete lockdown, we had nothing do. He told me “go in there, put on a face and film something. If you like it and you love the tape, send it through, I’m not going to let you give up on this, its what you love. I just need you to find the spark again for what you love best”. For him, I am very grateful. I shared that one the show and I think it would have given me a more of a human level.
MC: So the moral is, everyone needs a Jack in their lives..
HC: Everyone needs a Jack. I’m the Rose, he’s the Jack. I’d make room on the doors, I would not make him sink into the icy waters (laughs)!
MC: What do you think you want to do with the platform the Drag Race Down Under has offered?
HC: We are on tour now, so its just making sure I am ready. I can show people I can dance, I did say I enjoy park and bark, but I can dance! I am ready to showcase that, so I have to be ready my choreography is ready for this tour. We are going to focus on the Babz a little bit more, we are going to get some music going and do a little show ourselves. I have a one woman show that is in the pipeline that I wanna do and I would love to get into writing a children’s book. I love doing Drag Queen Story Time, so if I can’t be there physically in book form. I would love to come back to the show if I’m honest. I would love to come back and give it another try, whether it is in a vs. The World or an All Stars. Maybe I’ll re-audition and go right to the UK; we’ll see what happens. My partner is a Brit so I’m very much on the British sensibility. I’d love to go to the UK and sink my toes in there for a little bit, that would be fun.
MC: Drag consistently reveals who we are, rather than hide who we are. What does your drag truly reveal about you?
HC: My drag has been a clear reflection of where I am and who I am at any given moment. I find it difficult to plan the numbers ahead of an event I am doing because I need to know how I am feeling; drag is an emotional outlet for me where I channel my emotions. It’s become what I like to call my “magic”, I am very much in that fantasy realm and I do believe that there is magic all around us. I believe when I perform and entertain that it is like me doing spells. I can feel heat coming out of my arms when I am performing and I feel like I am bringing joy to people, sharing myself with them, bringing them a bit of happiness for a moment and making them feel validated and seen. I feel like that is one of my superpowers, it doesn’t matter how big the room, I can make people feel very seen and I know that I can do that. That is what I think that it shows, magic is around us…and I am magic.
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