Some of the biggest names that have come from RuPaul’s Drag Race are from large cities like New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago, but some of the girls with the most heart have emerged from the smallest corners of America. That is no more true than in the case of Season 12’s spooky sister Aiden Zhane. Her under the radar and small town sensibilities made her a target for some of the girls who did not think she was “bringing it”, but fans and the judges alike saw a queen that was slowly coming into her own. I sat down to chat with Zhane post elimination & we chatted about her small town beginnings, her current relationship with her Season 12 sisters, and how she’s keeping the creativity flowing currently.
Michael Cook: Congratulations on a polarizing and exciting season! You were definitely one of the most talked about queens in the season so far, that is for sure.
Aiden Zhane: Thank you, I definitely think I got plenty of screen time (laughs)! If one thing is true, I am leaving this season remembered, I can say that.
MC: When you look back on the season, are you happy with your time on the show?
AZ: RuPaul’s Drag Race definitely is high stress, and it is a competition; it is a lot to deal with. At the end of the day, no one goes into it not wanting to make it to the end and to win. It always sucks when you fall short and you don’t make it to the end. I am happy with what I got to show while I was on the show. I am happy that I feel like I made my mark with my time on the show, regardless of when I did go home. That is the most important thing.
MC: You showcased a style of drag that is from a smaller town with a different perspective and drag aesthetic than the larger cities like New York City or Los Angeles. What is the actual name of the town you are from in Georgia?
AZ: Where I live now and during the filming was called Acworth, Georgia. I was actually though, was raised in a tiny town in MIchigan called Cohoctah.
MC: When you decided to start doing drag, was it harder to get yourself seen and find places to showcase your talents? How did you navigate that in such a small town?
AZ: Oh definitely. That is my main reason for doing Drag Race in the first place. I have been doing drag for eight years now. I never really had anyone but me, myself and I. I never had a social media following, and I never accomplished making a name for myself in the Atlanta drag scene. Breaking into a bigger city is already a hard thing to do, but it got to a point where it was all or nothing for me. I said that I was going to take this all the way or not all. It had been this long and I hadn’t accomplished anything yet, so I just need to make this happen for myself.
MC: So I guess you have left your full time job at IHOP behind it’s safe to say?
AZ: Oh yes; first moment that I could *(laughs)
MC: Your interactions with your fellow competitors were slightly testy, and they definitely had issues with how you were being judged, specifically in the last Untucked. Many people related that to their own experiences of getting ganged up on. Did it feel like that for you on the inside as it was happening?
AZ: Well, I think on the outside I tend to be able to usually be a pretty strong person and I don’t let those types of things get to me. Even now with some of the crazy fans and some of the things that they say online, it really doesn’t bother me. In a situation like Drag Race, it is such an odd situation and such a high stress competition. It is never easy in any situation feeling like you’re being judged by someone or feeling like you’re not good enough or feeling anything like that. I am sure that how it felt for a lot of people viewing it is how it felt for me in the situation. Watching it back, I kind of enjoyed it. I have said many times, we went through this crazy situation so you guys could enjoy it. Let our pain be your pleasure (laughs). In that moment though, it did not feel good. I was already feeling insecure about myself and that just added onto it. It just kept supplying me with those negative thoughts and validating my own fears.
MC: Have you managed to smooth things over with your fellow competitors, like Brita Filter?
AZ: Yes. Actually, the entire cast after the show was done filming we all got in touch with one anther. We have all been friends and stayed in touch ever since.
MC: So it’s the craziest text thread ever?
AZ: Yeah sometimes if you aren’t on for half a day, you don’t even try to scroll back (laughs).
MC: The one thing that sticks out about you is that you are representative of so many people who come from small towns and don’t feel represented. Through you, they fit in and now have a place at the table. Do you finally feel that you belong and that you have that place at the table as well?
AZ: Yeah. Coming out of the show I think that my biggest takeaway is believing in yourself and feeling confident in yourself. I went into the show because I felt confident in myself and I had something to show. Obviously when I got there it was a little bit of a different situation. It is something on the other end though, that I am even better for it. I think that is the main thing; knowing who you are and what you have to offer, and staying and sticking with that.
MC: How are you making your art be heard now in the form of “suspended animation” our country is in?
AZ: The whole world is dealing with this right now, drag queens and performers especially. Not being able to go out and perform and do what they love. Not being able to meet the fans and do all of the things that they would normally be doing in this situation. I mean, you would think someone like me, being a bedroom queen before the show, I would be equipped for this; like ’this is my thing” (laughs)! It’s about finding ways to continue, and to create; that is what we do. No matter what our situation is, we are going to find different ways to create and continue to find different ways to connect with fans online. Just doing what we do until we can get back out there again.
MC: After the season is wrapped and the finale is filmed; what is next for Aiden Zhane?
AZ: As everyone knows at this point, I am someone who is totally a horror nerd. I would totally love to play into that. I would love to eventually bring some really cool drag horror shorts, different things like that. I really want to play in that field. There is definitely a lot of spooky drag that exists, but not a lot of content like drag short horror films or something like that. I am really going to look into doing that type of thing.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” airs on Friday night on VH1 (check local listings)